The original 50 shades of grey. 15th Century erotica, by a pope!

In the dark and distant past, when the church was almighty and behaviour, in public at least, was supposed to be very modest, a book took Europe by storm. A Tale of Two Lovers, Euralius and Lucretia, was written by non other than a future Pope. 


The biggest selling book of the Fifteenth Century was Historia de Duobus Amantibus (A Tale of Two Lovers). By today’s standards it’s relatively timid. It doesn’t have sex scene after sex scene, for example. It does contain things that the modern day reader would consider mildly erotic and has it’s fair share of amorous expressions of love and affection. What’s perhaps most shocking about the book is the identity of the author. Enea Silvio Piccolomini wrote it. Household name isn’t he… oh, hang on, let’s use his other name: Pope Pius II. That’s right, Pope Pius II wrote an erotic best seller. Granted, it was before he became Pope but even in this significantly more liberal age you’d not envisage the author of an erotic novel to be allowed anywhere near the upper echelons of the church. A truly amazing fact!

Based in the Italian city of Sienna the story tells the tale of adultery in a sordid world. It is full of love letters and suggestive enough for the reader to have a pretty good idea of what is meant.

Tale of Two Lovers

The love interest is between Euryalus and Lucretia. That’s them in the image above, exchanging their first love letters. For those of you familiar with Romeo and Juliet it’s a little along those lines but a wee bit more amorous and by the standards of the day the imagery was quite provocative.

The full translated text of the book is available online at Forumromanum.

Other Medieval texts that we have written about:

The Paston Letters

The Rous Rolls

The Medieval Church

The Church in Norman England

The Murder of Thomas Becket

Archbishop Lanfranc

Archbisop Anselm

Archbishop Stigand

Archbishop William de Corbeil

Archbishop Ralph d’Escures

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