Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

Further evidence can be found in the increasing popularity of the worship of the Virgin Mary.

“It may be questioned”, says Burckhardt, “whether, in the north, a greater devotion was possible.”

To her many northern cathedrals were dedicated. The popes themselves paid tribute. Sixtus II founded a new feast in her honour, the feast of the Presentation, and another in honour of her parents. Dante wrote the Paradiso in her praise. She appears widely in art, and the populace, when a great artist produced a new picture of her, would greet it with public rejoicings and attribute to it magical powers.

The sense of guilt in sexual matters having faded, men no longer required to employ psychic energy in repressing their desires and such energy was therefore available for the creation of works of art. As Freud has argued, for the intellectual engaged in purely cerebral labours, sexual abstinence may be advantageous; for the creative artist it is always disastrous. Thanks also to the existence of munificent patrons — that is, persons who, although unable to create art, yet felt sympathy for it — the Renaissance produced a creative efflorescence unparalleled since the days of the Greeks.

I need not extend the catalogue to prove the point that in the Italian Renaissance are to be found many of the earmarks of a permissive matrist period. Let us turn therefore to the second theme in the movement, that of conscienceless violence. The violence of the Renaissance seems appreciably different from the violence of the Middle Ages. About medieval violence there was always an air of obsession and sadism, of pleasure in cruelty itself: and, at the same time, a need to find the highest moral reasons for justifying the infliction of cruelty. In the Renaissance, on the other hand, acts of violence were usually incidental to the attainment of some personal end, and no justification was offered or thought necessary. Nor was it quite like the violence of the matrist Celts: this was violence performed within a framework of set rules and performed by almost every member of society. Renaissance violence was the product of a number of men who had rejected the laws of God and man, and whom we should today call delinquents or criminals of a type who had failed to form any superego at all.