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Database: Teodora

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Zw-teodora

Date of Birth: 1450.
Profession: Madame of La Rosa della Virtù.

Although Teodora abandoned her family name when she entered the Church, Venetian tax records indicate that she grew up in the Contanto family. Her parents owned a jewellery store, and Teodora was apprenticed to her mother as a shop girl.

A visitor to the shop in 1462 wrote: "Bought a pair of diamond earrings today for Margarita, at the Contantos' shop around the corner. A charming young girl helped box them. When she handed me the earrings, our fingers touched. I had to leave the shop at once. Oh Lord, I wish I'd never married".

Court records indicate that by the time Teodora turned 17, she was doing far more than just touching. On the 26th of November, 1467, she engaged in adultery with a married man, and his wife alerted the Venetian courts. As was common in these sorts of situations, her parents reacted by sending her to a nunnery to live the rest of her life in prayer and silence.

Teodora entered Santa Maria degli Angeli in 1467, determined to do penance for her crime. But, in 1473, she deserted the Church, leaving a statement nailed to the front door. In it, she wrote that life in the cloisters was sterile and "earthly", and that only in "partnership with another" could one "truly enter the arms of God".

Teodora opened La Rosa della Virtù the same year. According to the poet Pietro Bembo, who was a frequent customer, her bordello was "the church for a new sect of Catholicism".

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