Corporal punishment in religious institutions

Franciscan padre Cornelius Adriaensen whipping women penitents with birch rods. Popular engraving, 17th century.

Ever since the first monasteries and nunneries were built, they were not only places of faith and worship but also of education. Religious institutions expected people to follow not only secular laws, but also moral and religious commandments, plus, for their members, additional monastic rules. They were often notorious for their strict discipline and punishments.

Punishment scenariosEdit

Nun birching a student in painting by Austrian artist Adam Johan Braun (1748-1827).

Punishment by religious authority figures occurred in different scenarios:

  1. punishment of members of a religious order (monks and nuns) for breaking monastic rules
  2. punishment of prospective members of a religious order (novices) for breaking monastic rules
  3. punishment of members of their parish by clerics for their sins (as penance)
  4. punishment of students, altar boys, etc. by clerics in loco parentis for misbehavior
  5. self-punishment as penance and for religious reasons (mortification of the flesh)

Punishment methodsEdit

Penance, engraving by an unknown English artist, 18th century

Common methods of punishment in Christian religious institutions included exercises of penance (such as reciting prayers), extra work or chores, removal of privileges (such as fasting, no speaking, no sleep), confinement, wearing of a cilice, and corporal punishment.

There was a lot of discussion whether corporal punishment should be given clothed or nude, and whether it should be administered to the shoulders and back, or to the buttocks. They ended up with two schools of thought:

  • the so-called 'upper discipline' (disciplina supra): whipping of the back
  • the so-called 'lower discipline' (disciplina deorsum): spanking of the buttocks. Also known as disciplina secundum sub.

Implements commonly used in ecclesiastic corporal punishment included various types of scourges made of leather or rope, horsehair whips, and birches. Both whips and birches were used for upper and lower discipline.

School corporal punishmentEdit

Main article: School corporal punishment

The first schools in Mediaeval Europe were convent schools and the first schoolmasters were monks. Children (originally only boys, later also girls in convent schools) were routinely subjected to harsh punishment by their teachers. The birch rod was the preferred implement for centuries. See School corporal punishment (antiquity-1699) for images.

Gradually schools for girls were founded too. After secular schools had came up, religious schools, especially Catholic schools, continued to maintain a reputation for particularly strict discipline and punishment.

Popular cultureEdit

Illustration for The Convent School (c. 1876).
Nun whipping. Illustration by Aroldo Bonzagni.

Novels: Flagellation erotica inspired by Christian discipline began in the Victorian era with novels such as The Convent School, or Early Experiences of A Young Flagellant (1876) by Rosa Coote. This also became part of early 20th century French spanking literature, for example the 1911 novel Le Fouet au Couvent by Aimé Van Rod.

The trend continues in contemporary novels such as Spanking at the Girl's Convent School by Jacqui Knight (Miro Books: 2010).

There is also an adult comic book (or graphic novel) by Milo Manara called Borgia: Blood for the Pope that includes graphic scenes of nuns whipping and tormenting nude women.

Films: Nunsploitation (nun exploitation) is a subgenre of exploitation films produced in Italy and Japan in the Seventies and Eighties. These films were notorious for concentrating on sexual perversities among isolated nuns living in convents. Many films include lurid depictions of punishment and self-chastizements such as topless nuns whipping themselves or enduring painful masochistic rituals of mortification of the flesh.

Mainstream films with religious-based corporal punishment:

  • 1969: The Last Relic, aka Viimne Reliikvia (Russia), a beautiful girl gets a severe back whipping by a nun in Medieval adventure story.
  • 1972: Wild and Willing (Germany), a girl caught having sex is taken into the nun's office and beaten with a switch rod (photos).
  • 1974: School of the Holy Beast (F/F), Japanese convent film with various forms of sadomasochistic punishments and flagellation scenes including two topless nuns forced to whip each other.
  • 1977: Vanessa, soft core erotica, Olivia Pascal is whipped twice; by a nun in a convent and later by a man. (video at sevenload)
  • 1986: Convent of Sinners (F/F), Italian nunsploitation with self-flagellation and two nuns severely whipped.
  • 2004: The Halfway House (M/F), parody of exploitation films features a perverted priest who frequently paddles bad girls at a Catholic reform school.
  • 2009: Nine (M/m); a boy is caned by a Catholic priest.
  • 2019: Birds of Prey (F/f), animated intro shows a nun paddling a young Harley Quinn (YouTube video).

A montage of whipping scenes from three nunsploitation films (including Images In the Convent and Convent of Sinners) can be seen at the Internet Archive.

Spanking and fetish videosEdit

A typically naughty, irreverent French photo of nun flagellation erotica (c. 1900).

Several producers of erotic BDSM and spanking videos have also created stories centered around overly strict nuns and priests who inflict harsh punishment, usually by cane, strap, or birch, on misbehaving schoolgirls or nuns. Some examples include:

  • The Sisters of Repentance (Tallion, re-released by Classic Spanking)
  • The Smoking Nun (Ohh Tee Kay Productions)

Misc. video clips:


See alsoEdit