Wow!! Your page is amazing! Very well organized. You gave very good concrete information. For someone not really knowing that much about the subject, other than it's wrong to lust, your page allowed me to learn a lot. Job well done!

~Patrice Fountain

The devil and lust

" Medieval Lust"
by Robert Grant

What is Lust- according to dictionary. com....Definition of Lust
1. intense sexual desire or appetite.
2. uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness.
3. a passionate or overmastering desire or craving (usually followed by for ): a lust for power.

Lust is part of the seven deadly sins and is first before God's love.

A demon satisfying his lust in a 13th century manuscript.
Images of lust


Ever since recorded history, societies have tried to control sexual behavior, since sex could represent a conflicting situation that might disrupt systematic process. Human sexuality is an addictive force that is not to be reckoned with and could be explosive for a society to have complete sexual freedom. Rules have to be applied to the citizens and agreed upon for the observance of these rules. Throughout the course of history communities have used different methods of law, religion, and morality to gain control. Sexuality has always been a crucial feature of every legal system.

In recent times, we have begun to appreciate that belief and practice exercise power, not over an individual, but ways in which organizations mature and improve. Marriage, adultery, lust, fornication, prostitution, rape, sodomy, and celibacy all have different attitudes towards the way a person organizes his/her household and ideas about ethics, among many other things. Throughout the Middle Ages a noticeably western sexual philosophy took place in Europe. This rule played a critical function in the formation, and many medieval sex law remain today in modern law.

Canon Law as defined by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages ( Laws as defined by the Church)- Canon Law of the Catholic Church

Main Body

Our world was not created with lust in mind. “Adam and Eve had been innocent of sexual temptations or even sexual feelings in Paradise” (Brundage, 1987). When they committed their sin by not doing what God had instructed of them, Adam and Eve introduced sex into our world and the evil of lust with it. With sex came death……since their fall from God’s grace, sex was tied to reproduction in addition to the life and death cycle of humans. As long as people got married and had sex, they would also die. Conventional Christians stated that sex was a natural human function and it was sanctioned by law. This allowed sex for Christian believers as part of marriage. Early Christians tied moral problems, lust and other sins to pagan thinking.

Many Christians blamed women for luring men into sexual situations that they might not otherwise be part of, or strong enough to resist. “Women are the devils door: through them Satan creeps into the hearts of men and works his wiles for their spiritual destruction” (Brundage, 1987). Many believed that women were more lustful than men and that they obsessed over sexual desires. Women were the root cause of “carnal corruption” in Christian society and slaves to lust. This would cause the “spiritual destruction” of men in a Christian society.

Sex is a vice and a disease; it stains and pollutes every living person. Even when death finally delivers us from lust, it is more than likely to throw us into Hell. Many men shared this idea and would try and list the consequences of lust. It would cause spiritual blindness and hatred of God’s commandments putting worldly things before God. Anselm of Canterbury states this in one of his prayers:

“There is one evil, an evil above all other evil, that I am aware is always with me, that grievously and piteously lacerates and afflicts my soul. It was with me from the cradle, it grew with me in childhood, in adolescences, in my youth it always struck me, and it does not desert me even now that my limbs are failing because of my old age. This evil is sexual desire, carnal delight, the storm of lust that has smashed and battered my unhappy soul, emptied it of all strength, and left it weak and empty”

Fear and hatred of sex was common among the reformers and mostly among the Church leaders during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, but criticism of marriage related to sexual suggestions was not.

Some thirteenth century canonists attempted to modify older ideas of sexuality, especially when it came to marriage. There were more laws being established to put restraints on extramarital sex that the law stated to punish offenders more consistently. While most Church leaders upheld that sex in Paradise was different from the sex of this sinful world, some people challenged this matter. Sex was a natural act and the nature did not change as a result of “original sin”. The sex itself was the same, and sexual desire had not been different from that of the modern world. “Sex was part of God’s original creation, rather than a result of man’s rebellion against the creator, formed the basis for a naturalistic approach that characterized the treatment of sexual morality (Brown, 1988)”. Lust was a disorder because it damaged the reason and this caused the corruption.

Christians are sexually pure or they are not Christians at all. Anyone behaving in a way that was not a Christ like was described as being a “heretic”, this included sexual misbehavior and gender deviance.

Heretic defined- a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church (
Christians all over were being accused of ritual orgies, incest, and cannibalism (Knust, 2006). It was causing chaos and Church leaders were accusing everyone of having a lustful nature.

As stated in previous paragraphs, because of Adam and Eve, we are lustful by nature. The Church tried has hard as they could to point this out and identified many people in the process that were lustful. Even though in the eyes of the individual they were not, the Church had made up the rules and were going to enforce them. There were many critics of these “laws” and lots of disagreements over the lives of Christian believers. Illicit sex, wicked desire, and the demonized heretics are what described these sinful lifestyles. “The vice of sexual sin as well as the virtue of sexual chastity is rooted in the spirit, not in the body, declared Ivo of Chartres in a paraphrase of an Augustinian dictum (Brown, 1988). What could this mean? How these sexual fantasies could be thought about before crossing the edge of sin was the question of the day. Carnal desire and the wish to experience it were natural and hence not basically evil. Sexual feelings that were not intentionally desired, for example, a spontaneous erection, might produce no guilt, but any pleasure or enjoyments that resulted from those thoughts were clearly sinful according to the teaching of that period.

Lust was, for the canonists of the reform period, the basic type of forbidden sex, a sleazy business that fouled the body while it damaged the soul. It shut the gates of Heaven and turned men and women away from their maker. “So serious was sexual sin that Burchard of Worms devoted the entire seventeenth book of his Decretum to fornication and related offenses” (Brundage, 1987). Burchard of Worms was a Catholic Bishop from the eleventh century. He wrote about Canon Law during this time and told them as being fair and to be adopted with official approval (Brundage, 1987). Was the act of lust already getting out of control that someone wrote a whole book about it? Canon Law was from the Church and it was the law for all followers and believers in Christ.


From Hammurabi to Augustus, many sexual beliefs and practices prospered in the ancient world. Christianity conveyed further diversity into those ideas about the role of sex in human life. It also tried to integrate the habits from the ancient cultures into the Christian principles while adding Jewish law. This began the process through which medieval people gradually created sexual customs and traditions after the announcing of Canon Law. This was the very foundation for our societies today. People came to the conclusion that they were to be wary of sex and the passion must be controlled. Jesus said little about sex and said almost nothing about sexual conduct. The followers of Christ took elements of Jewish law and incorporated it into the new rules of Christianity. Again starting the foundation for the laws we have in our present day countries.

My Thoughts

During this research I have wondered about my own society’s sex laws. How are they different than the period written about? I am sure that many people throughout time have had the same thoughts as me, but then again, who does not? We are human and born into sin… is up to us to make a life that is pure and whole. Having a relationship with God can help tremendously and strengthen our weak spots.
I hope that you have enjoyed this reading as I have had many different audiences in mind (School related). I have appreciated researching and writing about lust during the medieval times and hope that this might help somebody doing research in the future.

By: Robert Grant

Semper Fidelis


Brown, P. (1988). The Body And Society: Men, Women And Sexual Renunciation In Early Christianity. New York: Columbia University Press.

Brundage, J. A. (1987). Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Knust, J. W. (2006). Abandoned To Lust. New York: Columbia University Press.

Incest and Lust in Luther's Marriage: Theology and Morality in Reformation Polemics
Thomas A. Fudge
The Sixteenth Century Journal
Vol. 34, No. 2, Marriage in Early Modern Europe (Summer, 2003), pp. 319-345

Lust and Leprosy: Confusion or Correlation?
Joseph Zias
Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
No. 275 (Aug., 1989), pp. 27-31

Lust and Violence in "Samson Agonistes"
Clay Daniel
South Central Review
Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring, 1989), pp. 6-31


Lust 1



Robert - this was not one of my "official" critiques, but I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your wiki. I did not know much about the Seven Deadly sins and especially found Lust interesting. Many things you wrote could be related to things that still go on in the world today. I just cannot help but wonder how they reproduced with so many stipulations on this subject. Good job - very well laid out and informative.

Good job Robert. The layout was clean and easy to read. The information was also insightful. I also like that you put your thoughts on the topic, but come on man! lay off the x-rated shots haha just kidding. -Nick