Teaching sodomy in a carolingian monastery: A study of walahfrid strabo's and heito's visio wettini

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In 824 the monk and teacher Wetti of Reichenau experienced a terrifying vision in which an angel led him through an afterlife where monks, clerics and laypeople experienced a variety of temporal and eternal punishments. Only the intercession of saints, martyrs and virgins saves Wetti, who would have been irrevocably doomed because he had corrupted his students through his teaching, his bad example and his deeds. Wetti's fellow monk Heito wrote a widely circulated prose version of this vision, which the Carolingian scholar Walahfrid Strabo later turned into an apparently metric version. Both versions extensively address the scelus sodomiticum (the crime of sodomy) but express fundamentally different viewpoints on the nature, the moral assessment and the dangers of same-sex sexuality in a monastic context. Heito implies that Wetti exposed himself and his students to the danger of eternal damnation through practising or at least facilitating sodomy. Walahfrid manages through a number of subtle alterations to acquit Wetti and his school from allegations of sodomy and to turn the scelus sodomiticum into an individual fault rather than a threat to the community and to monastic purity in general. Comparing the two versions of the Visio Wettini provides new insights into the medieval monastic classroom as a queer space, medieval assessments of same-sex desire, the role of classical learning in the monastic curriculum and the construction of monastic purity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-401
Number of pages17
JournalGerman History
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Carolingian period
  • Walahfrid Strabo
  • homosexuality
  • monasticism
  • visionary texts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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