Medieval Nun Faked Her Own Death to Pursue ‘Carnal Lust’

A nun.
A nun. Photo: DEA / G. NIMATALLAH/De Agostini/Getty Images

Most people have been dramatically horny at one point or another — but maybe no one has ever been to the extent that Joan of Leeds was back in 1318. Joan faked her own death to escape a convent, when she decided that a life of celibacy just wasn’t her thing.

According to the The Guardian, a team of researchers at the University of York discovered Joan’s story in the margins of a register in a note written in Latin by archbishop William Melton. Melton detailed the “scandalous rumour” involving Joan.

Melton wrote that Joan “impudently cast aside the propriety of religion and the modesty of her sex,” and “out of a malicious mind simulating a bodily illness, she pretended to be dead … crafted a dummy in the likeness of her body in order to mislead the devoted faithful and she had no shame in procuring its burial in a sacred space amongst the religious of that place”

Joan feigning an illness, burying a dummy in her likeness, and escaping her convent to go forth and fornicate wasn’t the only dramatic element of this story. Archbishop Melton was entirely scandalized by her behavior, describing her as actions as “cunning” and “nefarious.”

His notes on her faked death continued. “Seduced by indecency, she involved herself irreverently and perverted her path of life arrogantly to the way of carnal lust and away from poverty and obedience,” he wrote. “Having broken her vows and discarded the religious habit, she now wanders at large to the notorious peril to her soul and to the scandal of all of her order.”

A path of life lived arrogantly and in the way of carnal lust as opposed to poverty and obedience sounds absolutely ideal, so it’s not hard to see why Joan made the decisions that she did. Professor Sarah Rees Jones, the lead investigator on the project called the Joan’s story “extraordinary — like a Monty Python sketch.”

But as incredible as it is, we’ll never know if Joan’s elaborate plot resulted in her actually getting to experience that carnal lust. “Unfortunately, and this is really frustrating, we don’t know the outcome of the case,” Rees Jones told the The Guardian. Joan was apparently not the only horny member of the clergy. “There are quite a lot of cases of monks and nuns who left their religious house. We don’t always get the full detail or know what the outcome was.”

Medieval Nun Faked Her Own Death to Pursue ‘Carnal Lust’