Thursday 18 December 2014


Here in Toronto we had until last year a mayor who smoked crack and had a problem with alcohol. So, he probably wouldn’t have endorsed moral laws. And I bet he never got a letter like the one received by the city councillors of Strasbourg in 1535:

Strict, noble, valid, circumspect, honourable, wise, and beloved lords! We urge you to punish vices promptly and to promote discipline and honourable conduct in the community.

To begin with, let’s get rid of fortune-tellers like the man called Batt von Haguenau. For a fee he’ll point out thiefs, adulterers, and other evil persons. In consequence citizens harbour grave suspicions against each other.

And then there is the painter who offers for sale shameful idols, causing great scandal. We are good Protestants. We don’t want any paintings of saints. You should prohibit such filth and stop him from making a living through blasphemy.

Because of your negligence, vices have seriously gained ground, such as excessive drinking. And young people have started to be disobedient to their elders and masters on account of such incitements.

Not to speak of the whores, who walk around in satin and velvet and other fine garments. There is bound to be trouble if wicked woman are free to indulge in all pleasure, pomp, and luxury. They give wrong ideas to pious women who are young and good-looking.
God forbid that they, too, would want to wear fine dresses!

Thank God, Torontonians don’t have to worry about that. The weather enforces a moral dress code. The women are all in black and bundled up. Not to worry about satin and velvet or any (goose)flesh showing in public.

(Source: The Correspondence of Wolfgang Capito, vol. 3 forthcoming, my trans.)

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