In 15th century Florence when you attended church you would most likely see a large number of striking, well dressed ladies who appeared to take their devotions very seriously. Even when the sermon was mind numbingly boring and their neighbours were half asleep.
But upon looking more carefully you would have noticed how a certain lady’s hair was done, with a few well-placed golden curls deliberating escaping from her headpiece. You could not have but looked at her carefully arranged shawl so that it covered both her shoulders, drawing attention to the uncovered glory of her white, heaving and ample chest, while her look, not yours, was fixed on the alter apparently unaware of the many furtive glances in her direction.
And when you left the church you would have noticed she and her friends taking longer to leave the piazza than was usual of a lady of a noble house or the wife of a successful Florentine business man. Look again closely you would certainly have noticed one or two men at least, men of reputation in this fine city, discreetly leaving a message with the lady’s servant. Of course you would have been watching a courtesan of Florence, plying her trade under the nose of the church with its captured, bored audience.
A Florentine courtesan was highly educated and well versed in the sonnets of Petrarch, singing arias and playing the lute as a prelude to her lavishing her clients with sexual favors and fantastical sensual delights. They charged huge fees to select and wealthy clients who regularly sampled their full range of skills in the bedchamber. The church protested loudly at the use of their churches in this manner but man’s carnal desires were stronger than their faith.