Giovanni Della Casa (July 28, 1503 – November 14, 1556) was an Italian cleric and writer. Archbishop of Benevento (1544), papal nuncio to Venice (1544– 1549) and papal secretary of state under Paul IV (1555– 1556), Della Casa is now best known as author of a posthumously published manual of etiquette, Il Galateo ovvero de’ costumi (1558), which enjoyed a great success.
Before entering the priesthood (in 1537), Della Casa had written various poetical works, in the style of Francesco Berni, full of doubles entendres. Among his other youthful works is also always listed a prose work in Latin titled In laudem pederastiae seu sodomiae or De laudibus sodomiae (In Praise of Buggery). In fact, this work never existed, as was proved by Gilles Ménage, who in Anti-Baillet traced accounts about the work. He found that all of them, directly or indirectly, derived from propaganda spread by Protestants in order to discredit Della Casa and the Catholic Church, of which Della Casa was an important defender. In particular, the charges about such a work were spread by Pier Paolo Vergerio, a church leader whom Della Casa had brought to court for ‘heresy’; after his sensational conversion to Protestantism, Vergerio wrote a libelous work about Della Casa.
Indeed Della Casa, as a young man, had written a short comic work, Capitolo del Forno (The Oven Chapter), in which he pretended to sing the praises of a loaf of bread going into the oven – a comic double entendre about the act of sex. Although the composition was heterosexual in tone, several stanzas spoke of sodomy and these lines gave birth to the legend of In laudem sodomiae. Della Casa had defended himself in Ad Germanos, yet some observers said that the affair had cost Della Casa promotion to the cardinalate.
Catholics reacted by never letting the Protestant leader Théodore de Bèze live down having published, in his Juvenilia (1548), a pair of Latin compositions in which he mentioned his love for a certain Audebert.
Others have remarked on homosexual behaviour occasionally hinted at in Della Casa's Galateo, confirming that, like the majority of the intellectuals before the Counter-Reformation, Della Casa maintained a detached and tolerant attitude towards love between persons of the same gender. Such an attitude was not unique to this author but was characteristic of an entire generation. The Protestant attacks on Della Casa were above all an attack against a whole class of Italian Renaissance intellectuals considered (with reason) too tolerant of homosexual behaviour.
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