“The world is divided into three parts, Asia, Africa and Europe. I have walked all around the world. In Africa there are Jews, Turks, and Moors; in Asia too there are Jews, Turks, and Moors; and in Europe as well, where we live, there are Turks, Moors, Christians, and infidels, so that only a few Christians are left. Do you wish, or do you think, that all these people will go to Hell, and the few Christians will go to Paradise? That is why I do not want to believe in anything” 

Zozamo Canatta, Sicilian surgeon before the Spanish Inquisition (1600)

Umberto Grassi’s MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE ACTIONS Individual Global Fellowship SPACES (Sex, diSplacements and cross-Cultural encounterS – 795514) tackles the problematic interactions between sexuality and religion in the early modern Mediterranean world. More specifically, it aims to show the relations between tolerant attitudes towards sexual behaviors (beyond the Biblical injunction to “increase and multiply”) and sceptical approaches to institutionalized religions that opened up the doors to a flexible and undogmatic understanding of religious beliefs.

I am mostly working on Inquisitorial trials. I brought to light a previously unexplored heresy based on a heretical reinterpretation of the Christian dogma of Original Sin. The defendants were charged for the opinion that non-reproductive sexual intercourses (including homosexual acts) were not sinful and that “all can be saved in their own law,” meaning that Jews, Christians and Muslims (and in some cases also atheists) were all equals and were to be judged for their behaviors and not just according to their religious affiliation.


THE RESEARCHER: Among many other things (!) I identify as a historian specializing in the history of religion and sexuality in the Early Modern Mediterranean world. I graduated from and completed my PHD at the University of Pisa (Italy) with a thesis on homosexuality in Renaissance Italy. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa within the FIRB project “Beyond the Holy War” I moved to Australia for two and a half years, where I worked at the University of Sydney as a postdoctoral research associate for the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

The current research project brought me to the United States, at The University of Maryland, where I am staying for two years before going back to the University of Verona, the institution that is carrying out the MSCA action. I am enjoying a wonderful time at UMD’s History Department, a welcoming and stimulating work environment that is helping me focus on my research objectives and understand how things work in a US University. When I return to Italy, I will continue my work within PoliTeSse (Politics and Theories of Sexuality), the first institutionalized research center working on Gender and Sexuality studies in Italy.

The project SPACES has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Curie grant agreement n. 795514