Jana L. Byars

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Larry J. Simon

Second Advisor

Dr. Otto Grundler

Third Advisor

Dr. Molly Lynde-Recchia

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Prostitution was by the late Middle Ages a well established, legal, and regulated institution in Barcelona and indeed many European cities. After a discussion of modern scholarship in chapter one, I proceed to examine, with original, unedited archival materials, the civic and ecclesiastical position on the prostitute, procurers and procuresses, and the institution of prostitution in Barcelona.

Through laws and ordinances, witness testimony, and expulsion records, I am able to demonstrate that the prostitute was a widely tolerated and common member of society. Despite the existence of legal brothels and the efforts of municipal authorities, illicit brothels flourished and independent prostitutes continued to walk the streets. Ecclesiastical authorities viewed her as a necessary evil, not irredeemably lost, and tried to bring her to repentance by preaching to her regularly and providing her with alternative life models and temporary food and shelter.