Numerous skeletons of sexually perverse Nuns discovered in Oxford

Numerous skeletons of sexually perverse Nuns discovered in Oxford

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Archaeologists have discovered the skeletons of a number of ‘sex-obsessed’ nuns who were eventually punished for their sins by having their priory dissolved and their prioress pensioned off.

The team of archaeologists from John Moore Heritage Services discovered the skeletons of a total of 92 nuns at Littlemore Priory in Oxfordshire, dating from the time the priory was founded in 1110 to its dissolution by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525. The skeletons were found in a burial ground surrounding the site of the priory which is now being used for the construction of a new hotel. “Burials within the church are likely to represent wealthy or eminent individuals, nuns and prioresses”, said Paul Murray, currently leading the team. “Those buried outside most likely represent the laity with a general desire to be buried as close to the religious heart of the church as possible.”

Most of the burials were female, 35 individuals in total. Another 28 were male with a final 29 remaining unidentifiable. A 45 year old female, who had been buried in a stone coffin at the center of the cross of the transepts in the old priory, was probably the prioress. Some of the skeletons displayed signs of disease, including leprosy, while two children suffered from developmental dysplasia of the hip. The archaeologists also found a stillborn baby in a casket and a woman buried face-down. Mr. Murray said that the face-down position was probably a penitential act to atone for her sins. She may therefore have been one of the sinful nuns who had, according to surviving records, provoked Cardinal Wolsey into dissolving the priory and pensioning off the prioress. Eileen Power mentions the priory in her book Medieval English Nunneries as one of the worst establishments in the country at the time.

According to W. H. Page’s A History of the County of Oxford , Littlemore Priory was a Benedictine house founded by Robert de Sandford, a knight in the service of the Abbot of Abingdon. The priory was constructed on pasture land in the village of Sandford during the reign of King Stephen and was initially named Sandford Priory, acquiring the name Littlemore from the mid-13 th century. It received royal favor from Henry III during the early years of his reign but was dissolved in 1525 by Henry VIII.

Portrait of King Henry VIII of England. Dissolved the Sandford Priory. Painted by Hans Holbein the Younger, circa 1537. Currently on display at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum ( Wikimedia Commons )

Today known by the name Minchery farmhouse, previously known as Sandford Priory, Littlemore, Oxford. It was the dormitory of the Benedictine nuns of the Priory of St. Nicholas.

Today known by the name Minchery farmhouse, previously known as Sandford Priory, Littlemore, Oxford. It was the dormitory of the Benedictine nuns of the Priory of St. Nicholas. Photo by Nigel Cox ( en.wikipedia.org)

By 1245 the priory appears to have fallen into disrepair, since a papal bull was issued by Pope Innocent in that year awarding, for a period of three years, an indulgence of ten days to anyone who helped the nuns complete the rebuilding of the priory, as they were not able to complete the work themselves.

At the time of the visit in 1445 of Dr John Derby, commissary of the Bishop of Lincoln, the priory housed seven nuns, all of whom refused to sleep in the nunnery for fear it would collapse in on them. They also broke their rule by eating meat every day in the refectory. Three lay women were also accommodated at the priory, and they did sleep in the nunnery, one of them paying 8 pence a week and the other two 4 pence a week.

In 1517, the reputation of the nuns caused Edmund Horde to visit the priory on behalf of the Bishop of Lincoln, the post by then being occupied by William Atwater. Horde discovered that the prioress had an illegitimate daughter by a priest from Kent by the name of Richard Hewes. He continued to visit her following the birth of the child. Katherine Wells, the last prioress, was deposed of the position as punishment for committing a number of misdeeds, had also stolen the priory’s valuables, including most of the jewels, which she pawned in order to raise money for a dowry. The nuns were left without any money for food, clothing or general costs. Horde also discovered that within the previous year another of the nuns had had an illegitimate child, the father this time being a married man from Oxford.

Comments

Your article title is guaranteed to earn a lot of clicks for your website. However, you've chosen to perpetuate a misogynistic notion that basically any sexual behavior by a female is "perverse." Perhaps that was a medieval judgment, but surely in 2015 we have moved on an updated our attitudes? Or perhaps not. These nuns were dishonest, and apparently flaunted their vows of celibacy, both of which are scandalous. But perverse? No. I think most modern people understand that celibacy can be difficult. Healthy women have a sexual appetite. It is natural. Sometimes, they have children, Get over it.
With the exception of your headline, this is a great story. The generalized corruption of the medieval church is well-documented. But to say these nuns were sexually perverse is misleading and contributes to destructive attitudes towards women: "These women had sex. They were bad. They deserved what happened to them." Do better, please!

Perhaps you can practice what you preach and "do better." The nuns gave an oath of celibacy. By the strictures of their own oath, any sex is "perverse." Others may not agree with such an oath, but they gave it of their own free will. Chiding the author for using a perfectly correct descriptive term is itself perverse. It is politically correct, overly thin-skinned language Nazis such as yourself that stifle robust and healthy public discourse.

Nathan, there is nothing wrong with what Marybeth said. What is actually perverse are the catholic priests raping/molesting children, both boys & girls.Those men didn't just start those perverted acts within the 20th century, it had to been going on since the creation of the first gentile church/religion (christianity). It was no secret that Rome & Greece practice homosexuality & pedophilia since the only significance of a woman to the men was to birth children. Hence in those shakespearean plays, women weren't allowed to participate, so these men believed little boys were better for playing the female roles because they believed little boys had high pitch voices similar to a female. This was always taught in grade schools.

We really don't care for your preening and your "stick in my thumb, pull out a plum, say what a good girl am I" blathering from the 21st century. Get over yourself.

Succinctly put Marybeth and I agree. You took the words out of my mouth but put it better.

Guillaumé

it seems to tell me what my wife and I had talked about was this kind of things that the catholic church was not posed to be without sin. I read the comment of what the commentator said about Nuns being perverse. Well, it is what I dislike catholic religion and others because Catholics that are high in the church-like the priests and nuns that do
work for each other is only human. celibacy is really rare in the church
The nuns at least did not use lesbianism. and what I don't like about that on the church they did awful things as I had read on this. the truth
is always been let free of the past of this kind of sinful churches.
I wonder if they were placed there in the church that used children as it
has been done in modern times then?

I wanted to say did the catholic church used children to sodomize and torcher
as well. I know not all of them do this act of. justto put it other wise.

I fail to see the need for the sensational headline and no information that relates to it anywhere I. The article. I feel exploited by it.

The fact that two nuns had children doesn't even, in my mind, imply sexual agency at all. The likelihood is fact greater that they were raped or otherwise coerced into sexual servitude. That an abused women then exerts her limited power in the degrading control of others, especially within the doctrine of the Church which is decidedly violent, cruel, and punitive, is no surprise. These possibilities are not even considered.

Pfft.

Didn't the one confess to an 8 year affair?

Patricia Goodwin's picture

Thanks, Jenn! Couldn’t have said it better.

 

Patricia Goodwin

Robin Whitlock's picture

Okay guys lets just clarify something here, but first I’d like to say that I am glad to see posted here objections to the idea that female sexuality is ‘perverse’, an objection I am totally in agreement with here. The point is this, the title has a ‘voice’ and it isn’t the voice of Ancient Origins or my voice either, so the words ‘sexually perverse’ are meant to illustrate the manner in which medieval Christendom, in all its patriarchal horror, viewed female sexuality, and, as it happens, women in general in many circumstances. Therefore, I think some appreciation of context is needed here, given that, so far as I am aware, there aren’t any modern day ‘witchfinders’ or ‘inquisitors’ among Ancient Origins staff or contributors. And no I haven’t got a ‘ducking stool’ hidden away in my back yard either, I am mightily glad to say.

You've got to be kidding. The prioress put her fellow nuns in stocks! THAT is totally degrading and disgusting. For you to defend her behavior is the same as condoning it. She also punched and kicked a fellow member of her religious order. And you think that's okay? That she was somehow coerced into doing that? You are out of your tree with your feminist baloney.

I think a lot of women became nuns and men became monks not because they were devout but because it provided food and a roof in very hard times. If you weren't particularly religious you'd be less inclined to see the pleasures of the flesh as quite so sinful, especially when other pleasures were so few.

not so perverse, but rather unskillful…. sounds alot like some of those reality shows…..

Ducking stool or extinction. It really is your choice.

What does this have to do with ancient origins? Please stay on task.

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