Monachini, Moneghini — Lessico Veneto

Lessico Veneto - Mutinelli - cover image

Monachini, Moneghini

The Lessico Veneto (Venetian Vocabulary) by Fabio Mutinelli was published in 1851. It is an invaluable tool for anybody who reads texts from the time of the Republic of Venice.

Fabio Mutinelli (1797-1876) was director of the I. R. Archivio Generale di Venezia (1847-1861), and a prolific writer on the history of Venice.

MONACHINI, MONEGHINI,1 fornicators with nuns. To the great immorality that prevailed, had it not been the case, in the city of Venice, there was added, especially in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, the infamous habit of entering the cloisters of the nuns to have sexual intercourse with them, hence the scoundrels guilty of such wickedness were called Monachini and Moneghini, however, the government tirelessly endeavored to repress it. ¶2

Therefore in 1349 on June 29th in the M.C.3 a law was passed: “Against those who commit fornication in the monasteries of the Nuns of the Duchy4 of Venice,” according to which those guilty of such crimes, “by the power of the Lords, should be kept in safe custody in the palace, in the Chamber, or in the Prison, … and the matter shall be diligently investigated by the Avogadori de Comun5 … “. ¶

But instead of diminishing, the disorder increased, and the following law was much more severe: ¶

​​”1486. Day 30 of May in the Senate. Although our catholic and very religious leaders in various times, with their sacred laws ensured that the Virgins dedicated to the divine service, and given in marriage to our Holy Lord Jesus Christ, should not be tempted, and bothered, by malign sacrileges, yet the the recent increase in audacity and insolence of many, who care little for the fear of the Supreme God and the punishments for the established laws, let themselves be tainted with such an abominable sin, which so offends the Divine Majesty, without any respect: therefore for the honour of God, and of our state, in the face of such manifest error: and so as the praise of sins is increased, so increases the instituted punishments so that at least the fear of them causes people to be wary. ¶

And therefore let it be decreed6 that the last part of the 557 which as punishment to those who sleeps with nuns in the monasteries shall stay two years in the new prison, and pay the Avogadori 400 lire.

Those who enter the monasteries shall stay one year, and pay 200 lire.

Those who really cause a racket around the monasteries shall stay six months in prison and pay 100 lire, and be reformed in this behaviour, and furthermore, and firstly, where it says they shall stay two years in the new prison, add in the blind prison,8 and where it says they shall pay L. 400, change to L. 1000.

Those who enter the monasteries shall stay one year in the new prison, understood as in the blind prison, and pay 600 lire. Those who actually go around all the monasteries shall stay for 6 months and above this in the blind prison, and pay 300 lire, half of said penalty shall be for the accuser or the accusers9 when they’re considered credible, the other half shall be for the avogadori without any contribution to our Illustrious Lordship, not can these serve the penalty of prison if they haven’t paid all the money,10 under sacred oath11 to the Avogadori, they cannot be pardoned unless by six councillors and three Heads of the Quarantia12 and three parts of the Maggior Consiglio. ¶

And if there should be an accuser or accusers against those who spent the night inside the monasteries, making an oath for each individual person, male or female, for whom the truth can be had, these people shall be subjected to the penalty of two years with the other conditions, those who go around all the monasteries both at day and at night, they can be brought to justice and accused individually, and especially those from the circles of the Council of Ten13 for being those in charge with protecting said places, and the Lords Heads of the Council of Ten are expected, under sacred oath, at least once a month, to interrogate under sacred oath the masters of his boats,14 and those who confound said monasteries were accused by the will of the Council of Ten, if found guilty will receive in part the aforesaid penalty, and further 10 lire each month for one increased by 15 lire at the same time for the owner of the boat, who gets 15 lire, and 20 lire to the captain of the boats increased by 5 lire, and these accusers15 must make the complaint to the Lord Head of said Council, which said Lord Head sends the complaint to the Lords avogadori, that the accusers cannot be deprived of their places except by said council of Ten by 17 votes.16 ¶

And ​​if in the said monasteries there were female slaves17 and they made such an accusation and if they told the truth, beyond what was granted to them above of half of the fine, they also remain free from that mistress of theirs fallen in such inconveniences, and if they were employed by written agreement18 these would have their salary intact as if they had performed their duties while remaining free, and if they were of those of the convent19 and did not have money to pay, our Illustrious Lordship pays for those for whom the penalty of the prison is doubled. And if it happened that someone hurt any nun outside of the monastery for having told the truth, he or those shall stay 3 years in blind prison, and pay L. 1500 as above. ¶

While the personal and pecuniary punishment remain, for the punishment of the one who were found to have erred in such exerbi (sic), the patriarch together with the superior of that monastery,20 who for the honour of the Holy God, and for his debt so as not to arouse the wrath of our Lord must give them the punishment they deserve, and communicate it to the Maggior Consiglio. And now it is our request that our Most Reverend Patriarch shall send to the avogadori de comun all his Most Holy Lord has against such sacrileges against nuns which aforementioned avogadori are required to introduce to this council, and expedite them as justice requires. And because there are many of these nuns who have permit to leave their monasteries, we determine that it shall be written in an appropriate form to our speaker at court21 that he shall intercede and supplicate the Holy Father the Pontiff in dereference to our Holy God that he may revoke all and similar permits so that all shall stay in his monasteries in continuity.” ¶

However, it seems that this law of May 30th, 1486, had little effect, as it is found that the Senate on September 12th, 1491, proceeded against Vittore Ottoboni, son of Stefano, for having fornicated with a lay nun from the monastery of Santa Anna, and against Augustino dei Garzoni, Georgio Ferro, Angelo Malipiero, Francesco Zorzi22 and a Nicolò from Napoli di Romania23 who had similarly fornicated with other professed nuns from the aforementioned monastery, thereby subjecting both Ottoboni and the others to the penalties established by law. Likewise, in 1500, proceedings were brought against Vincenzo Morosini of the late Cipriano, Giusto Gauro of the late Pandolfo, Vincenzo Loredano of the late Andrea and Bernardo Pisani24 of the late Francesco for having fornicated in the monastery of the Virgins, the first with Sister Franceschina Boldù, the second with Sister Laura Marini, the third with Sister Chiara Bon, and, finally, the last, namely Pisani, not only with the said Franceschina Boldù who made him the father of several children, but also with another nun Franceschina da Lezze.25 ¶

However, if efforts were made to remedy the disorders of the lay people who entered the female monasteries, provisions were also made against those “of the friars and monks of all religions who continually went and stayed as much as they wanted in the said monasteries with utmost dishonesty, a burden on our principality, and a terrible example for future times”; therefore, so they should not “give rise to such horrible sins and enormities against God and the honor of our Dominion” »” the following was decreed: ¶

“16 July 1385.26 in M. C. Let it be decreed in unanimity,27 that any friar or monk should not dare to enter any monastery of Venetian nuns either by water or by land. But since the Religious women could not exist without confessors and preachers, a friar aged 60 or over should be chosen to go, nor should he bring with him any companion who is not of the same age. And this preacher and his partner must remain outside the choir so that the dishonesties that are committed in the Sacristy and behind the altar cease. Similarly, the confessor must not enter the Choir or the Parlor except in the case of illness, and likewise in the case of deaths or funerals. That when similar counterfeits are proven to our Avogadori di Comun, the wrongdoers will spend one year in our lower prisons, and two years if they have committed any dishonesty. And since we are not superiors to friars and monks, they must be punished by the Superiors of their Orders and have their sentences executed. And if these friars or Superiors do not obey this law, be sure that it is infringed upon in the Ducal Dominion, that no male or female enters the church of that wrongdoing friar or monk, nor dares to speak or communicate with any of them, nor give their alms under penalty of one month of lower prison and L. 100 of fine, to the accusers a third of the penalty.” ¶

Equally were punished “the nuns, the abbesses, the parish priests, the priests, the deacons and clerics of Venice of whatever condition and status they may be.”

Translator’s notes

  1. The words are male forms of diminutives of monaca (Italian) and munega (Venetian), so a kind of pun. ↩︎
  2. I have inserted paragraph breaks in the text for readability, which I have marked with a pilcrow ¶. ↩︎
  3. Maggior Consiglio — or the Greater Council — was the highest authority of the Venetian state, representing the entire class of the patricians. See also State institutions of the Republic of Venice↩︎
  4. The Dogado (in Latin Ducatus) was the original Venetian territory, before the Venetian state expanded on the mainland in the early 1400s. It covered an area larger than the current Venetian Lagoon, because large swathes of lagoon have silted up since antiquity. Sometimes it is specified as the Dogado da Grado a Capo d’Argine (The Duchy from Grado to Cavarzere), which formed the borders north and south. ↩︎
  5. The Avogadori de Comùn were an early Venetian institution, akin to a public prosecutor. They were charged with prosecuting crimes and misdemeanors on behalf of the state, and with protecting the property of the state. The words can be translated as “Advocates of the Comune” or “Advocates of the Commons”, both in the sense that they represented the collective of the Venetian state. ↩︎
  6. The words in the original are però landerà parte, which is a frozen idiom used in Venetian laws to indicate the shift from preamble to the new provisions of the law. The literal meaning of these words are not very clear, but probably a translation from the Latin vadit pars. I have translated it to “therefore let it be decreed” to transmit the intended meaning. See also Però l’anderà parte — vadit pars. ↩︎
  7. The original in not clear, but it might be a reference to an earlier law or decree. ↩︎
  8. The prison in question is probably the prison of the Palazzo Ducale. The original has prexon orba, which I have translated literally as “blind prison.” They probably intend cells without windows. There was also the prexon forte — strong or high security prison — where enemies of the state went, but it was not used for the fornicators of nuns. ↩︎
  9. As always in ancient Venice law enforcement relied almost entirely on informants, who were given a monatary reward for the information. ↩︎
  10. Supposedly they would remain in custody but not serve their time, until they had paid the fine.  ↩︎
  11. The original uses the terms sotto debito de Sacramento — which might be another frozen ideom. It literally means “under debt of Sacrament, but I believe the intent is something like an oath under the weight of the Sacraments, so I have translated it as a sacred oath. I’ll be grateful for corrections. ↩︎
  12. The Quarantia was a (criminal) court in ancient Venice, referred to in the original simply by the number as XL. I believe the additional 35 XL to be a typesetting mistake.  ↩︎
  13. The Consiglio di Dieci (Council of Ten) was a very important institution in ancient Venice, which also served as criminal tribunal in cases against patricians.  ↩︎
  14. Everybody of any importance in Venice moved around by boat, so the way to learn where members of the Council of Ten went was to ask the men rowing their boats.  ↩︎
  15. Law enforcement by paid informants was the norm in Venice.  ↩︎
  16. The Council of Ten in its function as criminal tribunal had 17 judges: the ten councillors, the doge and his six ducal councillors.  ↩︎
  17. Apparently nuns regularly kept slaves in the monasteries. Slavery in Venice was not uncommon, and for example Marco Polo had a slave whom he freed in his last will and testament.  ↩︎
  18. In this case we’re talking paid servants, with a written contract.  ↩︎
  19. These must employees or dependents of the monastery, with a pay so low they wouldn’t be able to pay the stipulated fines.  ↩︎
  20. The church had jurisdiction over all people of the church, including nuns, so the Venetian state could not enforce punishment directly on such individuals, so the Patriarch and the abbess are told to do it. ↩︎
  21. The court is the Papal court in Rome, and the speaker is the Venetian ambassador to the Papal court in Rome.  ↩︎
  22. The Ottoboni family was not yet patrician at this time, but Garzoni, Ferro, Malipiero and Zorzi are all patrician names.  ↩︎
  23. Napoli di Romania is the city Nauplia in the Peloponnese.  ↩︎
  24. Morosini, Loredan and Pisani are patrician name, Gauro is not.  ↩︎
  25. Boldù, Bon, da Lezze are all patrician names, while Marini is not.  ↩︎
  26. I have some doubts on the veracity of this year, as the language of the text is much close to similar texts from the 1700s than the 1300s or 1400s. It is also out of chronological order in Mutinelli’s text. It is not dissimilar to the text on a 1759 proclamation from the Inquisitors over the Great Schools↩︎
  27. Vadit Pars in bona gratia, in Latin, are another set of frozen legal idioms. Vadit pars is probably the Latin counterpart to the Venetian però l’anderà parte (se earlier note), while in bona gratia supposedly means unanimously or by mutual consent. Corrections from legal historians are more than welcome.  ↩︎

Original Italian text

MONACHINI, MONEGHINI , fornicatori con monache. Alla grande scostumatezza che dominava, così non fosse stato , nella città di Venezia , si aggiunse, specialmente nei secoli XIII , XIV e XV, l’infame ticchio di entrare nei chiostri delle monache per congiugnersi carnalmente con esse, laonde Monachini e Moneghini si chiamarono i furfanti rei di tanta scelleratezza , indefessamente però studiandosi il governo di reprimerla. Quindi nel 1349 29 giugno in M. C. fu fatta una legge « Contra illos qui committunt fornicationes in monasteriis Monialium Ducatus Venetiarum per la quale i colpevoli « in fortiam Dominii teneantur in bona custodia in palatio , in Camera, vel Carcere . . . . . . . et diligenter inquiretur negotium per Advocatores Communis . . . . ». Ma anzichè scemare, aumentando il disordine, molto più severa fu la legge seguente. « 1486. Die XXX Maij in Pregadi. Benchè i mazori nostri catholici et religiosissimi in diversi tempi, cum le sue sancte leze provedessero , che le Verzene dedicate al divino servizio , et desponsate al S. nostro misier Iesu Xpo non fossero da maligni sacrilegi tentate, et fastidiate , tamen le tanto accrescuta da pocho tempo in qua la audatia , et insolentia de molti quali pocho curando el timor del Summo Idio et le pene per le leze statuite, se fano licito macularse de cusi abbominevole pecato , qual tanto offende la Maiestà divina , senza alcun rispetto : le adunque per honor de Dio, et del stato nostro da occorrer a cusì manifesto errore : et cusi come laudatia de peccati è augumentata : cosi augumentar le pene statuite azio che almeno el terror de quelle i fazino star reguardosi . E però landerà parte che lultima parte del 55 che da pena a quelli che uxano cum muneghe nei monestieri stia anni do ne la prexon nuova, et pagi a i avogadori lire 400.

Quelli entrino nei monastieri stia anno uno, et pagi lire 200.

Quelli veramente che dano impazo atorno i monastieri stia mexi sie in prexon pagi lire 100, sia reformada in questa forma, et zonto, e prima dove la dice i stagi anni do ne la prexon nuova el se azonza in la prexon orba , et dove i sono astreti pagar L. 400 se dice L. 1000.

Quelli che entrano neli monestieri anno uno nela prexon nuova se intenda ne la prexon orba pagiuo lire 600. Quelli veramente che vàno a torno monestieri che diano star mesi 6 ut supra etiam questi stagi ne la prexon orba , et pagino lire 300 la mitade dele diete pene siano delacusador over acusadori i quali siano tegnudi de credenza, l’altra milade siano di avogadori senza alcuna contribuzione ala nostra S.a ne quelli tali possano comenzare la pena della prexon se i non haverà pagado tuti i denari, sotto debito de Sacramento a i avogadori, non li se possa far gratia salvo per sie conseieri tre cavi de XL 35 XL et tre parte del mazor conseio. Et se el ne fusse accusador over acusadori contra questi che steseno la notte dentro dai monestieri fatone fede per cadauna persona si mascolo come femena per i qual se habia la veritade , questi tali se intenda esser ca zudi ala pena de ani do cum le altre condition , quelli veramente che vano a torno i monestieri sì de zorno come de nocte, questi tali possino esser intromessi, et achusadi per ogni persona, et maxime per quelli dele Cerche del conseglio di X per esser quelli che vano circundando dicti luoghi , e i Signor cavi del conseglio di X sia tegnudi sotto debito de Sacramento ogni mexe almen una fiada dar Sacramento ai cavi de le sue barche a far tal imquisizion, et questi tali che confondino ditti monastieri fosseno acusadi dai dicti del conseglio di X sì che per la sua acuxa se habia la veritade habia la parte de la pena sopradita, et oltra la dita pena , dove i auno L. X al mexe per uno i siano eresudi di L. XV simul al patron dela barcha che hano L. 15 habia L. 20 al capitaneo dele barche i siano cresudo L. 5 de piccoli (v . Custodi de notte) et questi tali accusadori debiano far la denuntia ai Signor cavi del dito conseglio i qual. S. cavi dita denuntia mandi ai Signor ‘ avogadori i qual acusadori non possi esser privadi di suo luoghi salvo per dito conseglio di X per numero 17. Et se neli dieti monestieri ze foseno femene schiave e quelle tale fesseno tal acusa et chel se avesse la veritade oltra quello le concesso ut supra dela mitade dela pena eliam le romagui (rimangano) franche da quella tal sua madona chazuda in tal inconvenienti (vedesi da ciò che eziandio le monache tenevano schiave al servigio loro) et sel fusse de quelle scritte queste tal habiano el salario suo integro come se i havesseno compido rimagnando libera, et sel ne fusse de quelli che fusseno conventi (convinti) et non havesseno da pagar la nostra S.a pagino per loro ai qual la pena dela prexon i sia duplicada. Et se locoresse che alguno menasse alguna munega fuora del monestier havendo dezio laveritade questo over tali stia anni 3 nela prexon orba , et pagi L. 1500 ut supra. Rimagnando la pena personal e pechunial a dar la punition a quella che in tal exerbi (sic ) errori fusseno trovadi el patriarcha insieme cum el superior di quel monestier, i qual per l’honore del S.or dio , et per el debito suo per non chiamar lira del S.or nostro li debia dare la punition le meritano, et presens pars ponetur in maiori consilio. Et ex nunc sia prexo chel Patriarcha nostro mandar debi ali avogadori de comun tuti processi sua S.a havesse contra tali Sacrilegii over monegini i qual prefati avogadori siano tenuti introdurli a questo conseio , et expedirli come rechiede la iustitia. Et perche el ce sono molte de tal done mouache che hano licentia poter uscir deli suo monestieri, sia prexo che al orator nostro in corte (ambasciatore a Roma) sia scripto in oportuna forma el debi intercedier et supplicar la S.a del pont . se degni in R.tia del S. nostro Idio revocare tute et simel licentie si che tute nel suo monestieri al continuo star debino » . Sembra però che questa legge 30 maggio 1486 abbia avuto poco effetto , avvegnachè si trova che il senato a’ di 12 settembre 1491 procedeva contro Vittore Ottoboni di Stefano , per aver fornicato con una monaca conversa del monastero di santa Anna, e contro Augustino dei Garzoni , Georgio Ferro , Angelo Malipiero, Francesco Zorzi e un Nicolò di Napoli di Romania che parimente fornicato aveano con altre suore professe del monastero anzidetto , assoggettando per ciò e l’Ottoboni e gli altri tutti alle pene dalla legge stabilite. Parimente , nel 1500 , si procedeva contro Vincenzo Morosini del fu Cipriano , Giusto Gauro del fu Pandolfo , Vincenzo Loredano del fu Andrea e Bernardo Pisani del fu Francesco per aver fornicato nel monastero delle Vergini, il primo con suor Franceschina Boldù, il secondo con suor Laura Marini, il terzo con suor Chiara Bon, e, finalmente , l’ultimo cioè il Pisani, non solamente colla detta Franceschina Boldù che lo rese padre di più figli, ma eziandio coll’altra suora Franceschina da Lezze. Se non che, se procuravasi di porre rimedio ai disordini dei laici i quali entravano nei monasteri delle femmine, si provvedeva pure contro quelli « dei frati e dei monaci di tutte le religioni che continuamente (così la legge) andavano e stavano quanto volevano nei detti monasteri con massima disonestà , peso del nostro principato, e pessimo esempio per li tempi avvenire » ; laonde , perchè non avessero « a nascere simili orribili peccati ed enormitadi contro Dio e l’onore del nostro Dominio » si decretava quanto segue. « 16 luglio 1385. in M. C. Vadit Pars in bona gratia, che qualunque frate o monaco non ardisca entrare in qualsivoglia monastero di Religiose Veneziane nè per acqua , nè per terra. Ma siccome le Religiose non potrebbero stare senza confessori e predicatori si elegga un frate d’an ni 60 in su che vada, nè seco conduca compagno alcuno che non avesse la stessa età . E questo predicatore e suo socio resti fuori del coro affine che cessino le disonestà che si commettono in Sacréstia e dietro l’altare. Similmente il confessore non deve entrare in Coro o in Parlatorio altro che in caso di malattia , e del pari in caso di morti, o esequie. Che quando saranno provale simili contrafazioni ai nostri Avogadori di Comun stiano li Contrafattori un anno nelle nostre carceri inferiori, e due anni se avessero commessa qualche disonestà . E come che noi non siamo superiori di frati e monaci debbano costoro essere puniti dai Superiori dei loro Ordini, e mettere esecuzione alla pena. E se questi frati, o Superiori non obbediranno a questa legge sii preso che si stridi nel Ducale Dominio, che nessun maschio o femmina entri più nella chiesa di quel frate o monaco contrafacente, nè ardisca di parlare o comunicare con alcuno di loro , nè far loro elemosina alcuna sotto pena d’un mese di prigioni inferiori e L. 100 di pena pecuniaria, agli accusatori il terzo della pena. » Ugualmente si punivano « le monache , le badesse , i piovani, i preti, i diaconi e cherici di Venezia di qualunque condizione e stato essi fossero. »

pp. 266-269

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