Sex and the Fortress

Mauvezin Medieval Castle
Mauvezin Medieval Castle

Situated in the foothills of the Pyrenean Mountains, in the Bigorre region of southwest France, the medieval fortress of Mauvezin features besides its impressive defensive architecture and its collection of Middle Ages war engines some unexpected tokens of the love life as it was in ancient times.
The first surprising example greets the visitor right at the fort’s entrance, above the main gate. It is the motto taken by the castle’s 15th century lord Jean I de Foix (1382 – 1436), motto that proclaims:”J’ay belle dame”, “I have a beautiful lady”. Jean I de Foix etched it in his coat of arms as homage to his second, much younger wife, Jeanne d’Albret (1403 -1435). The story of trophy wives is as old as time and even in the Middle Ages having one was to be drummed up!
"I have a beautiful lady" Motto of the Jean de Foix lord of the castle in the 15th century
“I have a beautiful lady” motto of the Jean de Foix lord of the castle in the 15th century

Several days ago while visiting the castle I was surprised to find lying in a corner of the central court a carved stone that still proclaims to the world that in 1627 “I” was in love with “N”; after 400 years it is one good example of eternal love!

17th century love sign
17th century love sign

But the most astonishing thing that clues one about sex (and love some would say!) in olden times is not displayed anywhere in the castle but in the little tickets and souvenirs shop located at the base of one of the fortified walls. It is a chastity belt!
Looking more like a torture instrument than anything else the belt displayed in Mauvezin Castle dates from the 19th century. It was advertised by its maker in 1869 – whom he describes as troubled times! – as an instrument that protects women against rape, as a “birth control method” for teenagers, a device for safeguarding the society’s morality, and we can say a replacement of the today’s offspring DNA tests.
History tells us that chastity belts first appeared during the Crusades’ times in the 11th and 12th centuries: they were imposed to wives by their jealous husbands who were going away for long periods of times. According to others it was the noble ladies who were proudly putting them on after their wedding night in pledge of love to their husbands who were keeping the keys.

Chastity belt
Chastity belt

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