Monthly Archives: May 2020

From Bahia to Parma, 1735

By Eva Dal Canto 28.05.2020

Protagonist: Romualdo da San Donnino

Sources: Archivio di Stato di Parma in Raccolta Manoscritti B 49

The late 18th century was undoubtedly characterized by the presence of a great number of missionaries in the colonies that had been established in the newly conquered areas of the New Continent. Such is the case of Brazil, that had been subjected to the dominance of the Portuguese Crown for more than one century when the letters of Romualdo da San Donnino, Capuchin friar, reached his patroness in the Duchy of Parma. In his communications, the missionary frequently addressed the matter of femininity and the approach of women to Christian values; in this post we will analyze his account on free European women and their everyday lives in the colony.

In the first of his two letters Romualdo da San Donnino proceeds in giving the Duchess of Parma, Dorotea, some general information regarding the travel and the asset of the mission; after discussing the local agriculture and dietary habits, he moves on to describing how European women dealt with the geographical and cultural change:

” […] Le donne bianche portano sottana, camicia ed un manto sulla stessa che si stende fino ai piedi. Di giorno non escono se non rarissimo, la maggior parte va a sentire messa innanzi giorno o se ne assolvono totalmente sotto pretesto di non avere serpentina, negri e negre e manto da uscire propriamente: la superbia regna non in sign(o)re ma in donnicciuole che in casa stanno quasi nude e fanno digiuni in mandioca a misura scarsa e acqua fangosa […]”

In this first passage, the Capuchin starts with the description of the most common clothing style among white women, consisting of a skirt, a shirt, and a cloak. It is important to notice that in all his writings, da San Donnino tries to operate a differentiation between white and black women, openly implying that the first were embodying all the characteristic of modesty inspired by Catholicism whilst the second, as “Heretics”, were deemed to be immoral by nature:

“[…] Da sì abominevole immodestia e dalla totale mancanza di Dottrina Cristiana e quasi totale di Predica, non è da stupire se proviene un costume più da infedele che da cristiano […]”

Discussing the status of European women, the missionary reflects on the reciprocal influence between them and the others. He states that the first might be suffering the influence of the second, being prompted to behave in reproachable manners. In this extract he says that not only do European women neglect their religious duties, they also seldom appreciate dressing less and dieting. Then he continues by giving his account on the rather luxurious lifestyle led by them:

” […] La signoria benestante e ricca vive con lusso moderato nel vestire, accompagnandosi di Preti e Prete e preciosità di Rede o Serpentine, che sono le carrozze del paese levate sulle spalle di due negri. La V(ostra) Alt(ez)za Ser(enissi)ma potesse vedere la preziosità degli abiti, la quantità di diamanti e dell’oro, il numero delle schiave con che compariscono in pubblico alle volte queste signore le riputerebbe gran principesse, eppure non giungono alla condizione di nobiltà […]”

It appears to be clear that what the missionary is trying to convey is an analysis of what he encounters under a double dichotomy: he doesn’t, in fact, divide what he sees merely under the category of “Christian” and “Heretics”, but also compares the New and the Old Continent using his interlocutor, the Duchess, as a set example of Christian nobility. Similar comparisons might be found in missions from other geographic areas, such as Angola, and often give us a perspective on matters such as childbirth. Further on in his letter, which I will analyze in other posts, Romualdo da San Donnino explores the practice of marriage between enslaved females and their owners, confirming his point of view on women’s sexuality and proclivity to sin.

Note on the source: the letters will be uploaded and transcripted soon.

A Note of Terminology: Prostitutes or Sex Workers?

By Adrina Schulz, 01/05/2020

The word Prostitution in German is anachronistic: it does not appear in the medieval or early modern Zurich sources, although Peter Schuster did find it in a Nurnberg source in the sixteenth century (Schuster 1992, p. 19). The words used instead were numerous, context-dependent, and variable. In fact, almost any word meaning woman could be used to denote a prostitute when combined with certain adjectives. For example, in the case of Kaspar Bleuler from 1566, the term weib or woman was used to discuss prostitutes – “gmein wyber” –and to speak sympathetically of a wife – “wyb unnd kindt” (STaZH A 8.1, Nr. 93). Furthermore, words that today are strongly associated with prostitution, such as Dirne, could be used for different kinds of women, from a maid to a prostitute to a woman in general. Thus, there is a terminology problem. Some scholars have stuck with modern terms such as prostitute (Schuster 1992, among others). Others have used contemporary terms such as the German Dirne or the English whore to highlight these ambiguities (Schuster 1995; Karras 1996). This project will examine the various source words using historical semantics in order to differentiate them and track their changes over time, but will use the word prostitution as an umbrella term in order not to blur these differences.

The modern, self-chosen term for a prostitute is sex-worker (see for instance the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, among many others). However, even the concept of prostitution or sex work cannot be applied one-to-one to the medieval and early modern periods, as contemporary theologians and law-makers focused far more on a woman’s promiscuity – how many men she had sex with – than whether she was paid. Thus, since the word sex worker emphasizes aspects of labor and money, it does not fit with these conceptions of prostitution, as well as the women’s legal status: they were punished for adultery or fornication, as there was no specific charge of prostitution. Thus, this project will continue to use prostitute and prostitution for now, although I am of course open for comments and suggestions.

The Pastor and the Prostitute: Part I: Sources.

By Adrina Schulz, 01/05/2020

Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich (STaZH) A 9.2, Nr. 3.

(working transcription, there may be errors)

27. herr Hans Göldi pfarers zu Mur ärgewöhnisches a{uo}fführen, mit einer dirn auf dem helmhauß 1587

den 19 te [Septem]bris 1587


herr Hannsen Gölldi pfharherr z{uo} Mhur belanngende wiewol man gloubt es syge mit den werchen nündt thattlichs vergangen so ist doch die sach ëben ergerlich sonderlich wyls frömbde personen gsëhen derhalben soll er Göldi bis jezt donstag inn Wellenberg gelegt und ein march silbers zeb{uo}s gëben und soll im mit erntst undersagt werden das er mit bishar gebruchten sachen nit mehr komen, dann dise das letst syn sölle, Anen Mentags den 25ten Septembris Ano 87

pitten herr Kambli und beid reth

edlenn vestenn fromen fürsichtigen eersamen und wyßenn innsonnders gönnstigenn gnnedigem liebenn herren nachdem unns fürkomen unnd verstänndigot wordenn wie das herr Hanns Gölldi pfharherr zu Mhur sich Inn jetz letst halltenndem jarmergkt nachts unnder dem hällmhuß mit unnd gägenn einer gmeinen mätzenn etlicher gstallt gar argwönnisch erzeigt unnd das etlich wälltsche kremer erzellter maßen inne funnden haben söllenn deßhalben haben wir nachbemällte personnen für unns beschigkenn unnd innen söliches fürhallten lassen ob doch demsëlbigenn allso sige oder nit daruff sy unns (wie hernnach vermälldot wirt) allso berichtet erstlichenn 

Moritz Benneradtein kremer vonn Urburg. Alls er mit annderen meer kremeren verschinner mittwuchenn zu nacht um acht alld zwüschendt nün unnd achten uß dem wirtzhuß keerdt unnd unnder das hällmhuß zu irenn stännden alld bädenn mit liecht ganngen hete er inn dem sch{uo}macher winngkell ein gemeine gesächen hinnder deren were herr Hanns Gölldi sitzen gewäßenn denn sy also staannd mit irer büppen tegkenn unnd das liecht ablöschenn wellenn das er aber gesächenn das er etwas tadtlichs alld lybliche werch mit iren volbracht könne er nit sagenn alleinn aber habe er zu ime gesagt das zime synnem stannd gar nit hiemit er inn zornn gëgenn ime erwachßen allso das er mit tadtlicher hannd gëgen ime gefharenn er sige aber mit ime zufridenn unnd überkhomenn

Moritz Gydonnis ouch ein kremer von Lucernn er habe nüdt annders gesëchenn dann das ein gemeinne dirnn herr Hannß Gölldi mit irer Büppen degkenn wellenn

Wilhälm Schomal ouch ein kremer uß dem Augstall er habe gesëchenn das herr Hanns Gölldi hinnder der mätzenn gewäßenn aber mit irenn nützit ußgericht allein hab sy inne wellenn vertegkenn unnd das liecht ablöschenn

unnd letstlich bezüget Gabriel Laba auch ein kremer unnd uß dem Augstal glych wie oberzellterr Schomal unnd Gydonniß

nach wellicher Jetzverschribnner personnen sagen wir (vom wëgen unnsërs thragennden ampts unnd habennden befelchs) genannten herr Hannsen Gölldi für unns citierenn unnd beschrybenn lassen. (der dann ganntz gehormsamlich komen unnd erschinnen) da wir ime mit allem ernnst dißers (wie jetzgehördt) fürhallten lassenn der daruff diserenn bescheid allso gëb:en er habe etlicher sachenn halber alhei by sonnderbarenn personnen z{uo}th{uo}n gehept unnd nnachgänntz einnen thrunngk mit einannderen gethan unnd (leider) zimlich thrunngken ouch nachts unnd sonnders vonn einem synner g{uo}ten gönneren das er by ime über nacht belybe gepëtenn wordenn das er ime abgeschlagen unnd willenns gewäßenn zu synnen töchterenn so alhie wohnnende z{uo}kherenn hiemit über die ober bruggen ganngnenn unnder das hällmhuß komenn unnd etliche kremer glychfhalls ouch da were ein gmeine dirnn gewäßenn unnd er vonn etlichen kremerenn mit worthenn zimlich Ruch sam er etwas bößes inn synnem fürnëmen habe angefharenn ouch angeredt allso das es ime unlydennlich gewäßenn hiemit die gemein dirnn für inne gestannden (unnd villicht vermeinndt vor etwas unnfhalls zu synn) sonnst hab er annders fürnëmens nit sonnders allein heim zu kherenn im sinn gehept bezüge es ouch so hoch unnd thür by synner sälligkeit unnd ehren das er mit vermällter dirnnen nützit weder vennig nach vill z{uo}schaffenn alld inn dem sinn ußz{uo}richtenn gehept pitte deßhalbenn Gott denn allmächtigenn unnd unns ganntz unnderthennig unnd zum aller höchstenn wir welltinnd doch ime söliches ganntz genedennklich verzychenn unnd nit zu dem höchstenn rächnenn unnd achtenn dann er glych (wie {zuo}vor) nachmalen bezüge das er mit gesagter gemeinen dirnnen ganntz nützit ußgericht nnach {zuo}schaffenn gehept werde es ouch kein eerlicher mann vonn Ime nit sagenn alld redenn können er wann nun wir disers alles (wie harinnen vergriffenn) gehördt unnd verstannden habennd wir unns diser sachenn halber wyter nit annëmen alld beladenn können sonnders habennd alle unnd ganntze hanndlunng geschrifftlichenn versfassenn

unnd sölliche E. E. Wten. übergëben unnd z{uo}gestellt was nun diesëlbig harinnen hanndlot unnd fürnimpt wellennd wir Unns gantz unnderthennigklich gefallenn lassenn acten iii 

zynnstags denn 19 ten herpstmonnat Ao 1587

E. E. Wten

unnderthennige burger unnd dienner an dem Eegricht