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The ‘Catalan Hermaphrodite’ and the Inquisition

This book examines the life of Maria Duran, a woman who was accused of being a man and subsequently put on trial for sorcery by the Portuguese Inquisition during the 18th century. François Soyer uses Maria’s story to open a window onto the world of the experience of ‘transing’ gender, as well as the gendered attitudes and responses to the transgression of gendered norms that were adopted by churchmen, medical practitioners and ordinary lay men and women.


Drawing on the surviving (and staggeringly 736-page long) sorcery trial dossier, Soyer analyses the secretive life of an individual who actively and deliberately ‘transed’ gender. The dossier analysis enables insights into aspects of life so rarely recorded in early modern documents: the transgression of gender norms, transgressive sexuality and sexual violence in female religious institutions, in addition to the fears and debates about the power that the Devil could wield over the human body. The ‘Catalan Hermaphrodite’ and the Inquisition also reveals how the Inquisition gathered a number of doctors, surgeons and midwives to conduct careful examinations of Maria’s body in general and genitals in particular. Their reports and the discussions of the inquisitors are discussed by Soyer and offer further fascinating evidence of attitudes towards sex and gender in early modern Europe.

The ‘Catalan Hermaphrodite’ and the Inquisition

  • François Soyer

    An exploration of the life of Maria Duran – a woman accused of being a man who was put on trial for sorcery by the Portuguese Inquisition – and what it reveals about early modern gender norm transgressions.
  • Rights Sold

    Portuguese; Spanish


    Chinese Complex and Simplified rights represented by Bardon Agency

  • Book Details

    Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic
    Publication Date: 16-11-2023
    Format: Hardback | 234 x 156mm | 208 pages
  • About the Author

    François Soyer is Senior Lecturer at the University of New England, Australia. He is the author of several books, including Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories in the Early Modern Iberian World (2019) and Ambiguous Gender in Early Modern Spain and Portugal (2012). He is also the co-editor of Emotions in Europe 1517–1914: Revolutions, 1715–1789 (2021) and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

  • Material Available

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