Pope Pius II Wrote a Bestselling Erotic Novel Before Turning to the Cloth
Pope Pius II was an unconventional Pope. Before turning to priesthood, he bore children out of wedlock, enjoyed the flames of love, and wrote of adultery, scandal and fiery passion in his erotic story, The Tales of Two Lovers, which became a bestseller of its time.
Pope Pius II, born Aeneas Silvius Bartholomeus Piccolomini (1405 – 1464 AD), was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 19 August 1458 to his death. He was born at Corsignano, near Siena, to a noble but impoverished family. He left his family farm when he turned 18 and studied at Siena and Florence. He then served as a secretary to the Bishop of Fermo and was sent on a clandestine mission to Scotland in 1435.
Aeneas enjoyed numerous carefree adventures in these early years, and a robust love life, fathering at least one child out of wedlock. He was also a prolific writer on many subjects, his longest and most enduring work being The Commentaries, the story of his life. But it was not his most popular work. That accolade goes to Storia di due Amanti ( The Tale of Two Lovers), a rather unusual title for a future Pope!
The Tale of Two Lovers is a steamy novel complete with erotic illustrations, about two lovers Lucretia and Euryalus, who first meet at a funeral and exchange flirtatious glances over the corpse. But Lucretia is married to a jealous, older man, and having no way to communicate with her new Italian lover, they exchange passionate love letters that express their deep desires:
“My wishes urge me one way, my thoughts another, and knowing what is best, I pursue the worst.”
“You make so little of my love. For, although many love you, none of their fires is to be compared with mine.”
An illustration from Storia di due amanti (Tale of Two Lovers, ca. 1495 – 1500. (Public Domain)
But, as Aeneas aged, he underwent a deep personal change and committed himself to religion. In fact, he seemed to have faced somewhat of a midlife crisis. Writing to a friend in 1444, he said:
“the day of our death draws near, and now we must consider not how to live, but how to die... For me, John, I have sinned enough, and too much. Now I know myself, and may it not be too late. For now I am forty, and the day of salvation, the time for repentance is at hand...”
When once he had written of the flames of love, now he wrote: “When you see a woman, think that you see the devil.”!
Once ordained, the now Pope Pius II tried hard to suppress the indiscretions of his youth, but much to his dismay, his Tale of Two Lovers became one of the bestselling books of the 15 th century!
Top image: Medieval lovers. Source: guruXOX / Adobe Stock
By Joanna Gillan