Public brothel in Barcelona

The public brothel opened in Cañet street in 1452 by Simon Sala with a licence from the king (see today’s front page Libro Verde excerpt) seems to have been public in the sense of being licensed and providing a service to all and sundry rather than having been publicly owned and run. Here’s more from James A Brundage in Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe:

The fifteenth century seems to have been the heyday of publicly operated prostitution. During this period a good many cities authorized public expenditure to build, maintain, and enlarge municipal brothels, while taking little interest in other types of public investment. A fair number of cities that operated public places of prostitution, for instance, had no municipal schools. Both public and private brothels thrived during this century. Thus Dijon, for example, with a population numbering only about 2,500 in the city proper and less than 10,000 in the baillage, in 1485 not only maintained a public brothel, but also eighteen private bordellos, which seem to have been tolerated by their neighbors and were in no way marginal either to the civic or the economic life of the town. At Seville early in the following century, brothels were clustered in the low-lying area next to the river and were clearly seen as profitable and respectable investments. Their owners included not only the town itself, but also several ecclesiastical corporations, including the cathedral chapter, religious communities, and hospitals, which leased them to private operators. A generation or two later Seville’s public executioner leased no less than twenty brothels, which he sublet to individuals who operated them under the supervision of a municipal brothel manager. The city government, in other words, licensed individuals to keep houses of prostitution and required those who received licenses to take an oath to uphold the statutes governing their operation.

Returning to the Libro Verde excerpt, if executioners and the great and the good were making money from hetero whorehouses, then it’s little wonder they were so keen to burn folks who did something different for fun and for free.

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