chapter  17
30 Pages

Sex and the Romanesque in Occitania-Provence

ByGlenn W. Olsen

Some years ago I published an article on the erotic Romanesque sculpture of a single Cantabrian church, San Pedro de Cervatos.1 I doubt if there is any other church in Europe with such a profusion of sexual themes.2 Here I want to do something related but different, to assess the variety of sexual sculpture found on Romanesque ecclesiastical structures in one, albeit large, area of Europe from the late eleventh to the early thirteenth century. The goal in view is a first sketch of the possibility of a sexual topography, that is, an estimation of the incidence and variety of sexual themes found in one area over the period of about a century.3 The achievement of an exhaustive sexual topography is in significant ways impossible. Too much of the surviving sculpture is in an advanced state of decay, or has been partially destroyed. Too much of it is subject to honest disagreement in interpretation. Yet the idea of a definitive sexual topography, no matter how

1 “On the Frontiers of Eroticism: The Romanesque Monastery of San Pedro de Cervatos,” Mediterranean Studies, 8 (1999): pp. 89-104. The use of the word “erotic” introduces a series of problems centering on the questions “erotic for whom?” and “erotic in what sense?”. See John R. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art, 100 B.C.–A.D. 250 (Berkeley, CA, 1998), pp. 12-13.