CULTURE Un Pain, Un Vin, et Une Bourse

Antonio Medina, right, and Jorge Cerpa kiss after signing their civil contract, the first in Mexico.

Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP – Getty Images file

Historical evidence demonstrates the prevalence of homosexual relationships hundreds of years ago, said Allan Tulchin of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. The ins-and-outs of the medieval relationships are tricky at best to figure out.

“I suspect that some of these relationships were sexual, while others may not have been,” Tulchin said. “It is impossible to prove either way and probably also somewhat irrelevant to understanding their way of thinking. They loved each other, and the community accepted that.”

David Buss, professor of psychology at the University of Texas and author of “The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating” (Basic Books, 2003) says that men have loved men for a very long time. There is “no reason to think that we do more now than in the past, although we are certainly more frank about it.”

“Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize,” agrees Tulchin in the September issue of the Journal of Modern History. “And Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures.”

Legal contracts from late medieval France that referred to the term “affrèrement,” roughly translated as brotherment. Similar contracts existed elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe, Tulchin said.

In the contract, “brothers” pledged to live together sharing “un pain, un vin, et une bourse,” (that’s French for one bread, one wine and one purse). The “one purse” referred to the idea that all of the couple’s goods became joint property. Like marriage contracts, the “brotherments” had to be sworn before a notary and witnesses, Tulchin explained.

The same type of legal contract of the time also could provide the foundation for a variety of non-nuclear households, including arrangements in which two or more biological brothers inherited the family home from their parents and would continue to live together, Tulchin said.

But non-relatives also used the contracts. In cases that involved single, unrelated men, Tulchin argues, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships.”


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