The Rose Thorn

A woman gets into a heated argument with her vulva. The two decide to part, but to reunite again soon. This is a simplified version of the plot of a medieval “vulva monologue,” the 13th-century (!) German poem usually referred to as “The Rose Thorn.”

In 2019, experts made a discovery in the abbey library of Melk, Austria: a single strip of parchment paper with fragments of the medieval poem were discovered in a book's binding made from older parchment paper – a common practice employed to save precious material for new books. But why exactly was this particular poem cut up? Was it intentional or pure coincidence?

Since such texts dealing overtly with sexuality were previously considered to be a phenomenon predominantly of the 15th century, this find shifts our understanding about perceptions of sexuality in the High Middle Ages, and still gives us something to think about for our present!

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