If you need someone from history to hate today, let me introduce you to Giovanni Pietro Lion

August 30, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

In my last post, I covered the basics of convertites in late medieval and early Renaissance Italy: basically they were holding tanks for marginalized women.

In convertites, vulnerable, ostracized women were in essence concentrated under one roof — all the better to take advantage of, as the story of a Venetian priest named Giovanni Pietro Lion and his breasted flock illustrates. Lion was a confessor to the repentant

One of the best sources to fuel my nun obsession was Mary Laven’s Virgins of Venice.

prostitutes and “bad girls” at Le Convertite, a convent on the edge of the city that was dedicated to Mary Magdalene and home to about 400 reformed bad girl nuns — most of whom were, conveniently for him, young and beautiful. While Lion was publicly known for his scholarship and piety, in private it was a different matter: he’d molest the nuns during confession, claiming that he was only testing their goodness. If a woman resisted, then he’d imprison and beat her until she caved. Some of his victims reportedly killed themselves rather than give in. Lion even made the women parade nude in a covered boat house so he could choose the most beautiful ones. Nothing like a little strip show amongst the gondolas, eh?

For nearly 20 years, in the perfect ruse of a sociopath, Lion forbade that the women under his watch be confessed by anyone else.  Le Convertite was was basically his own private harem. Finally, he was exposed and condemned to public decapitation in 1561. The executioner reportedly struck eight times, but still his head remained attached to his head. One of the witnesses then tried with another four or five blows, and it finally took a guard with a knife to finish the job. One onlooker interpreted the grisly scene as just desserts: a quick decapitation was too light a sentence for “the most wicked man in the world.”

 


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