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Girolamo Balbi
(1450 - 1535) Italy

Girolamo Balbi

Humanist, bishop

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Balbi probably studied in Rome with Pomponio Leto but, by 1485, was in Paris, where he obtained a university chair four years later. In 1490, accused of sodomy and heresy, Balbi had to flee Paris. One Guillaume Tardif claimed that Balbi had been tried for sodomy. Balbi took refuge in England, then travelled to Vienna (1493) and on to the court of king Ladislas of Bohemia in Prague. In 1497, faced with new accusations of sodomy, he was again obliged to take flight.

He found a heaven in Hungary, where he was ordained priest, obtained important political and diplomatic posts and, in 1523, was made bishop of Gurk. He ventually died here.Balbi was most appreciated during his life for spreading humanism in eastern Europe. A number of his compositions have homosexual themes.

One letter sent to Pomponio Leto speaks of his new loev for a youth. In another, he says that women were not allowed into his house (which he had consecrated to Hercules) but only a "chaste" youth whom he called Ilia after Hercues male lover. Such remarks suggest that the accusations against Balbi were at least partly based on fact.

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Source: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001

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