Imperia Cocagna: the courtesan who fell in love with a Pope

sex history

Imperia Cocagna (or Cognati) was a famous Roman courtesan of the 15th century. Learn about his life and his participation in the Council of Constance in 1414.

Peter Lenk is a controversial German sculptor. In his sculptures, usually public, a certain and inexcusable sexual breath always flutters. Just look at his work Imperia .

Imperia is a 9-meter-high sculpture that is located on the shores of Lake Constance, in the city that bears the same name as the lake. This sculpture shows a woman who, wearing thin transparent gauze, shows us her underwear, her long legs and practically all of her rounded and lush breasts. That woman also holds two naked figures in her hands. The one is an Emperor; the other, a Pope.

Talking about the three characters captured by Peter Lenk in this sculpture inaugurated in 1993 implies talking about three people who existed in reality and who coincided at a council held in Constance between 1414 and 1418.

The emperor represented would be Sigismund; the Pope, Martin V, and the woman, Imperia Cocagna (also called Imperia Cognati ), the most beautiful courtesan of that time when, by calling a council, the Catholic Church wanted to reform itself and put an end to the Great Western Schism, a schism that had caused several Popes to rule at the same time.

When the Council of Constance was convened, in the middle of the 14th century, a century that was, without a doubt, a turbulent century and, to a large extent, a seed century for future changes, three men claimed to be the authentic Pope, the legitimate heir of the chair of Saint Peter.

With a Europe ravaged by the Black Death and a Church convulsed and fractured by its own corruption, Sigismund of Hungary, in his capacity as Emperor of the Holy German Empire and as the only person, apart from the Pope, with the power and capacity to convene an ecumenical council , summoned him for the year 1414 in Constance.

The Council of Constance lasted four years. During that time, more than 70,000 people moved to the imperial city. There were ambassadors from all the countries of Christendom, there were religious, monarchs, nobles, soldiers, servants of all kinds, merchants, the courts of both the Emperor and the legally recognized Pope of Rome... and there were also, and logically, prostitutes .

The economic prosperity of Constance, inextricably linked to the celebration of the council, made it so. In fact, it is said that in the early days of the council, more than 700 prostitutes were sent to Constanta to attend to the needs of all the people who had gathered in the town. It is also said that it was the Emperor himself who, seeing that those 700 public women could not cope, required the presence of 1,500 more prostitutes in Constance, something that did not surprise anyone who knew the "fiery" of Sigismund.

Of all the sex workers who arrived at the Council of Constance, there was one who stood out above the others. She was a courtesan, an escort of the time, she came from Rome and her name was Imperia Cognati.

Along with her, the courtesans who arrived from Rome stood out for their mastery of arts such as poetry, painting or music. Sophisticated and elegant, refined and daring, these courtesans came to fill the gap left by women who until then had lived in relationships with many clerics. The fact that the Church hardened its position regarding said marriage made these courtesans and, with them, Imperia Cocagna , begin to acquire a special role. They provided conversation, entertainment and, of course, sex.

The Council of Constance served to spread the fame of the courtesans of Rome throughout Europe. Their elegance, their finesse, their ability to converse and, of course, their beauty and liberality, made many princes and nobles who arrived in what seemed like the capital of Europe during those four years, fall in love with the know-how of these women. courtesans arriving from Rome.

Imperia Cocagna

Life of Imperia Cocagna

It is easy to imagine that, due to the massive presence of courtesans and prostitutes, the conciliar atmosphere had something Babylonian. Not in vain, nobles, ecclesiastics, knights, courtesans and prostitutes lived together in close intimacy. Among all that multitude of people of one rank or another, from one job or another, Imperia Cognati stood out.

Born in 1486 from the womb of a famous Roman prostitute and the rumored daughter of Pope Julius II's master of ceremonies, this courtesan had a magnificent education. This allowed her to become a true courtesan who mastered several arts, who was courted by nobles and ecclesiastics and who was called "The Divine" and also "The Queen of Courtesans."

Imperia, unattainable by ordinary mortals, took good care in choosing her lovers. His bed was visited by poets, merchants, high ecclesiastical officials and even an immortal master of painting like Raphael, chose it as a model for some of his paintings. One of those lovers, who is said to have been the great love of her life, was a banker, Agostino Chigi.

Chigi was said to be the richest banker in the world. Whether that statement was exaggerated or not, the truth is that Chigi was in charge of paying for the luxurious lifestyle of the famous courtesan for many years.

Of all the references that exist about Cognati and her life, one of the most famous, without a doubt, is the work of the French writer Honoré de Balzac La bella Imperia . In this work, the French writer describes, from the wings that imagination always gives, the atmosphere of that Council of Constance marked by lasciviousness and, of course, the comings and goings of the luxurious courtesan.

The words that speak of her are from Balzac such as:

"...the most precious and capricious of the world's women, in addition to being the most intelligently beautiful and the one who best managed to cajole the cardinals, court the rudest soldiers and oppressors of peoples. She was the owner "of brave captains, archers and lords, eager to serve her in everything. With just one word she could end the lives of those who were impertinent."

It has been said that Imperia Cognati had influence in the election of Martin V as the new Pope. To what extent that influence was true is something that is not known with certainty.

The causes of his death are also not known with certainty. There are those who say that he committed suicide due to love sickness. There are those who believe that it was Pope Julius II himself who requested his death. Be that as it may, the truth is that Imperia Cocagna has gone down in history as the first courtesan in history and therefore, logically, she deserved a space on our blog.