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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

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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


Image: Jean-Paul Laurens, Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII (“Pope Formosus and Stephen VII”), 1870.

Cadaver Synod
The Cadaver Synod is the name commonly given to the posthumous ecclesiastical trial of Catholic Pope Formosus, held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome during January of 897.
The trial was conducted by Formosus’s successor, Pope Stephen VII. Stephen accused Formosus of perjury and of having acceded to the papacy illegally. At the end of the trial, Formosus was pronounced guilty and his papacy retroactively declared null. The Cadaver Synod is remembered as one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of the medieval papacy.
Probably around January 897, Stephen VII ordered that the corpse of his predecessor Formosus be removed from its tomb and brought to the papal court for judgement. With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff.
Formosus was accused of transmigrating sees in violation of canon law, of perjury, and of serving as a bishop while actually a layman. Eventually, the corpse was found guilty. Liutprand and other sources say that Stephen had the corpse stripped of its papal vestments, cut off the three fingers of his right hand used for consecrations, and declared all of his acts and ordinations invalid. The body was finally interred in a graveyard for foreigners, only to be dug up once again, tied to weights, and cast into the Tiber River. MORE.

Image: Jean-Paul LaurensLe Pape Formose et Étienne VII (“Pope Formosus and Stephen VII”), 1870.

Cadaver Synod

The Cadaver Synod is the name commonly given to the posthumous ecclesiastical trial of Catholic Pope Formosus, held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome during January of 897.

The trial was conducted by Formosus’s successor, Pope Stephen VII. Stephen accused Formosus of perjury and of having acceded to the papacy illegally. At the end of the trial, Formosus was pronounced guilty and his papacy retroactively declared null. The Cadaver Synod is remembered as one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of the medieval papacy.

Probably around January 897, Stephen VII ordered that the corpse of his predecessor Formosus be removed from its tomb and brought to the papal court for judgement. With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff.

Formosus was accused of transmigrating sees in violation of canon law, of perjury, and of serving as a bishop while actually a layman. Eventually, the corpse was found guilty. Liutprand and other sources say that Stephen had the corpse stripped of its papal vestments, cut off the three fingers of his right hand used for consecrations, and declared all of his acts and ordinations invalid. The body was finally interred in a graveyard for foreigners, only to be dug up once again, tied to weights, and cast into the Tiber River. MORE.

Located in the back of the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio on the banks of the Tiber, the tiny century-old Piccolo Museo Del Purgatorio, or “Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory,” holds a collection of bibles, prayer books, tabletops, and articles of clothing said to have been singed by the hands of souls in purgatory.

According to Catholic belief, the soul is stranded in purgatory until it atones for its sins, but can hasten its ascent to heaven through the prayers of loved ones still on earth. The scorched handprints and other burn-marks collected in this museum are believed to be the product of souls begging their earth-bound loved ones to pray harder. MORE.

Image 1: No description.

Image 2: Fiery finger prints by the deceased Joseph Schitz when he touched with his right hand the (German) prayer book of his brother George on 21 December 1838 at Sarralbe (Lorraine). The deceased man asked for prayer in expiation of his lack of piety during his life on earth.

Image 3: Marks left on a small wooden table and on the sleeve and chemise of the Venerable Mother Isabella Fornari, abbess of the Poor Clares of the Monastery of St. Francis in Todi. The four marks were left by the deceased Fr. Panzini, former Abbot Olivetano of Mantua, on the 1st November 1731.

JEWELLED SKELETONS, 1600S:

‘Taken from the catacombs of Rome in the 17th century, the relics of twelve martyred saints were then attired in the regalia of the period before being interred in a remote church on the German/Czech border.’

Immortal, Toby de Silva

MORE + AN INFORMATIVE ARTICLE.