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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Medieval:

St. Hilarius Parish Church of Näfels, Walnut Oil, and a 14th Century Murder
In 1357 one of two murders occurred in the Swiss town of Näfels - either a man named Konrad Mueller killed a man named Heinrich Stucki, or a man named Tschudi killed is brother. It doesn’t really matter which. Whatever happened, the outcome was an agreement between the murderer and the church in which walnut oil, from walnut trees belonging to the murderer, was deeded to the church, “for eternity”, to maintain their eternal flame. The murderer would, in return, not be prosecuted for his crimes.
For more than 650 years, the deed having become attached to the land where the walnut trees once grew, successive owners honoured the agreement - despite the trees, original house, and obviously the murderer, being long gone. That is, until the owner in 2012, somewhat disgruntled at still having to pay for the sins of a man he never met, decided enough was enough. 
At some point the deed was altered to payments of 70 Swiss Francs a year, despite there being no longer being any particular link between the land and the church. Upon hearing of the farmer’s refusal to pay this money the church took him to court. The court, as one would hope, deemed the law of 1357 null and void.
Hilarius.
[Sources: Joyful Molly Wordpress | Wikipedia | Newly Swissed]

St. Hilarius Parish Church of Näfels, Walnut Oil, and a 14th Century Murder

In 1357 one of two murders occurred in the Swiss town of Näfels - either a man named Konrad Mueller killed a man named Heinrich Stucki, or a man named Tschudi killed is brother. It doesn’t really matter which. Whatever happened, the outcome was an agreement between the murderer and the church in which walnut oil, from walnut trees belonging to the murderer, was deeded to the church, “for eternity”, to maintain their eternal flame. The murderer would, in return, not be prosecuted for his crimes.

For more than 650 years, the deed having become attached to the land where the walnut trees once grew, successive owners honoured the agreement - despite the trees, original house, and obviously the murderer, being long gone. That is, until the owner in 2012, somewhat disgruntled at still having to pay for the sins of a man he never met, decided enough was enough.

At some point the deed was altered to payments of 70 Swiss Francs a year, despite there being no longer being any particular link between the land and the church. Upon hearing of the farmer’s refusal to pay this money the church took him to court. The court, as one would hope, deemed the law of 1357 null and void.

Hilarius.

[Sources: Joyful Molly Wordpress | Wikipedia | Newly Swissed]

Courts of Love
In medieval Europe, when the complex rules of Courtly Love dictated one’s approach to the expression of love and admiration, it became necessary to establish judicial courts who’s sole function was to settle affairs of the heart. Though 19th century historians accepted the courts as fact, their existence has been questioned by modern historians who argue that they exist only in the realms of poetic literature of the medieval era. 
Established in Provence in the 12th century and consisting of up to 70 women, either married or widowed, Courts of Love would gather to hear the complaints of lovers and decide on them according to the aforementioned rules of love. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, one case submitted for judgement involved a lady who ‘listened to one admirer, squeezed the hand of another and touched with her toe the foot of a third. Query: which of these three was the favoured suitor?’ The courts would settle disputes between lovers, pass sentence on any lover in the wrong, and, in doing so, established a system of jurisprudence that would render the courts a last resort. Verdicts required the complete assent of all women present.
16th century historian, Jean de Nostredame, professes to have witnessed some of the rulings of the courts written in magnificent vellum manuscripts. He writes of cases where men and women who could not solve their own disputes “referred the matter for decision to the illustrious lady presidents who held open and plenary court [issuing] judgments which were called the judgments of Love.”
[Sources: Medieval Spell | Wikipedia | Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (p.323) | Image: ‘Court of Love’ (Flemish, 16th century) | See Also]

Courts of Love

In medieval Europe, when the complex rules of Courtly Love dictated one’s approach to the expression of love and admiration, it became necessary to establish judicial courts who’s sole function was to settle affairs of the heart. Though 19th century historians accepted the courts as fact, their existence has been questioned by modern historians who argue that they exist only in the realms of poetic literature of the medieval era. 

Established in Provence in the 12th century and consisting of up to 70 women, either married or widowed, Courts of Love would gather to hear the complaints of lovers and decide on them according to the aforementioned rules of love. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, one case submitted for judgement involved a lady who ‘listened to one admirer, squeezed the hand of another and touched with her toe the foot of a third. Query: which of these three was the favoured suitor?’ The courts would settle disputes between lovers, pass sentence on any lover in the wrong, and, in doing so, established a system of jurisprudence that would render the courts a last resort. Verdicts required the complete assent of all women present.

16th century historian, Jean de Nostredame, professes to have witnessed some of the rulings of the courts written in magnificent vellum manuscripts. He writes of cases where men and women who could not solve their own disputes “referred the matter for decision to the illustrious lady presidents who held open and plenary court [issuing] judgments which were called the judgments of Love.”

[Sources: Medieval Spell | Wikipedia | Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (p.323) | Image: ‘Court of Love’ (Flemish, 16th century) | See Also]

Camelopard
"Camelopard was the word for a giraffe in the Middle Ages, inspired by its vaguely camel-like shape and its leopard-like markings."
[Sources: Image: A 15th century depiction of a camelopard | Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, p.222)

Camelopard

"Camelopard was the word for a giraffe in the Middle Ages, inspired by its vaguely camel-like shape and its leopard-like markings."

[Sources: Image: A 15th century depiction of a camelopard | Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, p.222)

Inky paw prints on a 15th century manuscript.

Inky paw prints on a 15th century manuscript.

(Source: National Geographic)

Corpse Road

In medieval Britain, corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses from remote communities to cemeteries in larger towns, that had burial rights. Concomitant expansion of church building throughout the UK during the late medieval period inevitably encroached on the territories of existing mother churches or minsters. Demands for autonomy from outlying settlements made minster officials feel that their authority was waning, as were their revenues, so they instituted corpse roads connecting outlying locations and their mother churches that alone held burial rights.
For some parishioners, this decision meant that corpses had to be transported long distances, sometimes through difficult terrain: usually a corpse had to be carried unless the departed was a wealthy individual. Many of the corpse roads have long disappeared, while the original purposes of those that still survive as footpaths have been largely forgotten, especially if features such as coffin stones, on which the coffin was placed while the parishioners rested, or crosses no longer exist.
Such corpse roads have developed a great deal of associated folklore. The essence of spirit lore is that spirits, that is, spirits of the dead, phantasms of the living, wraiths, or fairies move through the physical landscape along special routes. Such routes are conceived of as being straight and by the same token, convoluted or non-linear features hinder spirit movement.



Similarly, corpse roads would run in a straight line over mountains and valleys and through marshes. In towns, they would pass the houses closely or go right through them. The paths end or originate at a cemetery; therefore, such a path or road was believed to have the same characteristics as a cemetery, where spirits of the deceased thrive. As such, corpse roads became intrinsically associated with fairy roads and the supernatural entities which reside there. 
[Image Source]

Corpse Road

In medieval Britain, corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses from remote communities to cemeteries in larger towns, that had burial rights. Concomitant expansion of church building throughout the UK during the late medieval period inevitably encroached on the territories of existing mother churches or minsters. Demands for autonomy from outlying settlements made minster officials feel that their authority was waning, as were their revenues, so they instituted corpse roads connecting outlying locations and their mother churches that alone held burial rights.

For some parishioners, this decision meant that corpses had to be transported long distances, sometimes through difficult terrain: usually a corpse had to be carried unless the departed was a wealthy individual. Many of the corpse roads have long disappeared, while the original purposes of those that still survive as footpaths have been largely forgotten, especially if features such as coffin stoneson which the coffin was placed while the parishioners rested, or crosses no longer exist.

Such corpse roads have developed a great deal of associated folkloreThe essence of spirit lore is that spirits, that is, spirits of the dead, phantasms of the living, wraiths, or fairies move through the physical landscape along special routes. Such routes are conceived of as being straight and by the same token, convoluted or non-linear features hinder spirit movement.

Similarly, corpse roads would run in a straight line over mountains and valleys and through marshes. In towns, they would pass the houses closely or go right through them. The paths end or originate at a cemetery; therefore, such a path or road was believed to have the same characteristics as a cemetery, where spirits of the deceased thrive. As such, corpse roads became intrinsically associated with fairy roads and the supernatural entities which reside there. 

[Image Source]

The Nun of Watton
The Nun of Watton (born in the 1140s) was the central protagonist of a drama at a Gilbertine abbey in Yorkshire, recorded by St. Ailred of Rievaulx in De Sanctimoniali de Wattun. According to the story, the nun in question was admitted to the holy life as a toddler. Unfortunately, as a young woman she proved unsuited to the enforced celibacy of the life of a nun.
According to Ailred the rebellious teenager made the acquaintance of a lay brother in the attached male community common to monasteries of that order, had sex, and became pregnant. After her sisters at the abbey discovered that their wayward fellow member was less than celibate, they proceeded to strip, whip and imprison her, but not before testing the guilt of the lay brother through sending out a monk dressed in her habit, whereupon the offending lay brother tried to consummate their prior relationship with him as well. After hatching a plan, the nuns debated what to do with their errant member.
Some of the younger nuns wanted her burnt, roasted, branded or skinned alive, but the older sisters decided differently. One version of the tale is that the imprisoned pregnant sister lured the miscreant lay brother into a trap, the other is that he was tracked down by other monks of the community. Either way, upon return to the abbey, he was castrated at the hands of his former lover. Repentant, the Nun of Watton was ‘miraculously’ deprived of her pregnancy and apparently resumed the life of a celibate nun in her monastery. The fate of the monk was left unstated.
[Image Source | Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

The Nun of Watton

The Nun of Watton (born in the 1140s) was the central protagonist of a drama at a Gilbertine abbey in Yorkshire, recorded by St. Ailred of Rievaulx in De Sanctimoniali de Wattun. According to the story, the nun in question was admitted to the holy life as a toddler. Unfortunately, as a young woman she proved unsuited to the enforced celibacy of the life of a nun.

According to Ailred the rebellious teenager made the acquaintance of a lay brother in the attached male community common to monasteries of that order, had sex, and became pregnant. After her sisters at the abbey discovered that their wayward fellow member was less than celibate, they proceeded to strip, whip and imprison her, but not before testing the guilt of the lay brother through sending out a monk dressed in her habit, whereupon the offending lay brother tried to consummate their prior relationship with him as well. After hatching a plan, the nuns debated what to do with their errant member.

Some of the younger nuns wanted her burnt, roasted, branded or skinned alive, but the older sisters decided differently. One version of the tale is that the imprisoned pregnant sister lured the miscreant lay brother into a trap, the other is that he was tracked down by other monks of the community. Either way, upon return to the abbey, he was castrated at the hands of his former lover. Repentant, the Nun of Watton was ‘miraculously’ deprived of her pregnancy and apparently resumed the life of a celibate nun in her monastery. The fate of the monk was left unstated.

[Image Source | Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

(Source: Wikipedia)

The Lord of Misrule and the Feast of Fools
In medieval England, the Lord of Misrule was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools - a riotous banquet where the central idea seems always to have been a brief social revolution in which power, dignity and impunity is briefly conferred on those in a subordinate position. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant appointed to oversee these Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness, wild partying and general licentiousness.
The appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. 
In the medieval version young people chose from among their own number a mock pope, archbishop, bishop, abbot to reign as Lord of Misrule. Participants would then “consecrate” him with many ridiculous ceremonies in the chief church of the place, and give themselves such names as Archbishop of Dolts, Abbot of Unreason, Boy Bishop, or Pope of Fools.
The parody often tipped dangerously towards the profane, the ceremonies mocking the performance of the highest offices of the church, while other persons, dressed in different kinds of masks and disguises, engaged in songs and dances and practised all manner of revelry within the church building. As a result, the Feast and the almost blasphemous extravagances were constantly the object of condemnations of the medieval Church, until it was finally forbidden under the very severest penalties by the Council of Basel in 1431.
[Image Source: Pieter Bruegel, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559)]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 22nd

The Lord of Misrule and the Feast of Fools

In medieval England, the Lord of Misrule was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools - a riotous banquet where the central idea seems always to have been a brief social revolution in which power, dignity and impunity is briefly conferred on those in a subordinate position. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant appointed to oversee these Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness, wild partying and general licentiousness.

The appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. 

In the medieval version young people chose from among their own number a mock pope, archbishop, bishop, abbot to reign as Lord of Misrule. Participants would then “consecrate” him with many ridiculous ceremonies in the chief church of the place, and give themselves such names as Archbishop of Dolts, Abbot of Unreason, Boy Bishop, or Pope of Fools.

The parody often tipped dangerously towards the profane, the ceremonies mocking the performance of the highest offices of the church, while other persons, dressed in different kinds of masks and disguises, engaged in songs and dances and practised all manner of revelry within the church building. As a result, the Feast and the almost blasphemous extravagances were constantly the object of condemnations of the medieval Church, until it was finally forbidden under the very severest penalties by the Council of Basel in 1431.

[Image Source: Pieter Bruegel, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559)]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 22nd

The Art of Panto
Pantomime is one of those rare theatrical events that doesn’t translate into any other time or place – it is … a bizarre [and exclusively] Christmas genre. It is a surprising amalgam of a variety of rich artistic traditions [with] its origins in the Bacchanalia of ancient Rome, the medieval Italian Commedia dell’arte, medieval morality plays and riotous routines of Victorian Music hall[s]. While present day panto seems utterly out of control, it actually has a very structured framework, based on a strong story line, where good battles against evil and is victorious.
Tradition says, for example, that the pantomime villain should be the first to enter, from the ’dark side’, stage left, followed by his adversary, the good fairy, from stage right, echoing the Middle Ages, when the entrances to heaven and hell were placed in these positions.
Italian Night Scenes, first seen in Britain at Drury Lane in 1700 [are] Perhaps the most obvious ancestors of the modern panto. Th[ey] were rowdy plays in which the plot was communicated by slapstick and dance, rather than dialogue. The basic theme generally consisted of a misunderstanding leading to a comedy brawl, and, although many people regarded them as vulgar, they became extremely popular.
Slapstick, a crucial aspect of panto, takes its name from a device used in these early entertainments. Harlequin (a panto stock character) used to carry with him a wooden sword [that] had a hinged flap that created a loud ‘slapping’ noise when used, giving emphasis to comic actions.
The 1800s introduced the pantomime Dame, played by a man; the Ugly Sisters, also played by men; and the Principal Boy, played by a woman. The reasons for the cross-dressing were simple: it was only just becoming even remotely respectable for women to enter the theatrical profession, and those who had made the break certainly didn’t wish to portray elderly, ugly or villainous women. Equally (in a society where women were required to be modestly dressed) theatrical entrepreneurs well understood that a young woman showing a shapely leg in tight fabric while playing the part of a man would be acceptable on the grounds of artistic license – and would, of course, bring in the audiences.
[Edited from the article “He’s Behind You…” by Jill Glenn for Optima Magazine]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 20th

The Art of Panto

Pantomime is one of those rare theatrical events that doesn’t translate into any other time or place – it is … a bizarre [and exclusively] Christmas genre. It is a surprising amalgam of a variety of rich artistic traditions [with] its origins in the Bacchanalia of ancient Rome, the medieval Italian Commedia dell’arte, medieval morality plays and riotous routines of Victorian Music hall[s]. While present day panto seems utterly out of control, it actually has a very structured framework, based on a strong story line, where good battles against evil and is victorious.

Tradition says, for example, that the pantomime villain should be the first to enter, from the ’dark side’, stage left, followed by his adversary, the good fairy, from stage right, echoing the Middle Ages, when the entrances to heaven and hell were placed in these positions.

Italian Night Scenes, first seen in Britain at Drury Lane in 1700 [are] Perhaps the most obvious ancestors of the modern panto. Th[ey] were rowdy plays in which the plot was communicated by slapstick and dance, rather than dialogue. The basic theme generally consisted of a misunderstanding leading to a comedy brawl, and, although many people regarded them as vulgar, they became extremely popular.

Slapstick, a crucial aspect of panto, takes its name from a device used in these early entertainments. Harlequin (a panto stock character) used to carry with him a wooden sword [that] had a hinged flap that created a loud ‘slapping’ noise when used, giving emphasis to comic actions.

The 1800s introduced the pantomime Dame, played by a man; the Ugly Sisters, also played by men; and the Principal Boy, played by a woman. The reasons for the cross-dressing were simple: it was only just becoming even remotely respectable for women to enter the theatrical profession, and those who had made the break certainly didn’t wish to portray elderly, ugly or villainous women. Equally (in a society where women were required to be modestly dressed) theatrical entrepreneurs well understood that a young woman showing a shapely leg in tight fabric while playing the part of a man would be acceptable on the grounds of artistic license – and would, of course, bring in the audiences.

[Edited from the article “He’s Behind You…” by Jill Glenn for Optima Magazine]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 20th

Medieval Justice Rabbit Style

If by chance you have followed this blog since July, you may remember my post on ‘babooneries’; curious anthropomorphic primates getting up to all kinds of mischief in the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts. On a similar note, Rabbit Justice:

The hunt of the hares is a recurring motif in the margins of medieval manuscripts. [Usually] the motif is just your average scene of hunters and hounds chasing rabbits with the principles reversed so that its the rabbits hunting the most dangerous game of all. But this series of images from the lower margins of the British Library’s MS royal 10 E IV takes rabbit vengeance to the next level.

We begin with a rabbit taking down a hunting hound with a volley of arrows. You might think the hound is done for, but … the hound is merely wounded until he’s weak enough to be captured … and tied up … Next stop for the hound is the rabbit judicial system, where he stands trial before a rabbit judge.

The verdict is swift and certain. The hound is bound and carried in a cart to the gallows, for, you see, the sentence was death by hanging. But wait, there’s one final insult. Flip the page of the manuscript and we find that some months later the hound’s grave is desecrated … by another hound!

(Source: gotmedieval.com)

Cadaver Tomb

A cadaver tomb, or “memento mori tomb”, is a type of recumbent effigy tomb featuring an effigy in the macabre form of a decomposing corpse. The topos was particularly characteristic of the later Middle Ages. [Source]

[Image Sources: 1 : 2 : 3 : 4]

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