May 18, 2018

The Adamites: No Private Property, Marriage, or Clothes

The Adamites were an early Christian sect that tried to restore the innocence of Adam and Eve by not wearing clothes, especially during their religious services, and by abolishing marriage and  having sex with whoever they wanted.  We don't know much about them; they appear in only a few scattered references by later Christian authors like  St. Augustine.

But during the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation, new Adamites arose:

1. The Taborites in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic).  Followers of Pietist Jan Hus (founder of the Moravians), they abolished marriage, the priesthood, and private property.  They didn't abolish war, though, and used their walled city of Tabor to fight the other Hussites and the Crusaders.

Today there's a Tabor College in Kansas, founded by the Moravian Church, which does not practice casual nudity anymore.  In fact, the church is quite conservative.  This is probably the only picture you will ever see of a Moravian in a swimsuit. 

2. The Brethren of the Free Spirit, a movement of "lay brethren," men who lived together but didn't take holy orders, in the Netherlands and Germany.  They believed that the world was ending soon, so why bother with work?  Or the Eucharist? Or marriage?  Or clothes?

No doubt a lot of same-sex romances were going on.

The naked men shoving flowers into each other's butts in The Garden of Earthly Delights were probably Brethren of the Free Spirit.

3. The Beghards, male counterparts of the Beguines, men who refused marriage and lived communally, but did not take on holy orders.  They lived by begging, and devoted themselves to spiritual life.   Although repeatedly condemned by mainstream Christian churches, they lasted until the 19th century.

4. The Neo-Adamites of Bohemia started in 1781, and lasted until they were repressed by the Austro-Hungarian government in 1849.

Several artists have used the Adamites as an excuse to draw or paint penises.

Night Meeting of the Adamites, by  Francois Morellon la Cave (1696-1768)

The Doom of the Adamites, by Frantisek Zenisek (1846-1919)

Adamites, by the Union of Bulgarian Artists

1 comment:

  1. As I understand it, their interpretation was that the Crucifixion undid the sin of eating the fruit. As such, we should be as naked as Adam, since God actually diagnoses "What's wrong with this little experiment?" by seeing Adam and Eve wear clothes.

    I assume the flowers in butts was a juxtaposition. Or, Bosch's predilection for ergots again.


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