Canon Law

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Brother Ranulf
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

I have been reading through some of the recent postings regarding the celebration of Mass and other aspects of the impact of the Church on people's lives. This is an aspect I have been contemplating for some time, without really coming to any concrete conclusions, but here are a few thoughts for what they are worth.

During the 12th century (and I suspect for some considerable time afterwards), Church or Canon Law operated in parallel with the King's Law (dispensed via manorial courts). Canon Law was dispensed via Bishops' Courts and obviously applied to the behaviour and activities of the clergy; but it also impacted on the lives of ordinary folk in surprising ways. It regulated the cost of goods and prevented unjustified inflation; it monitored the observance of Sundays, Saints' feasts and other Holy days; it also moderated everyday moral behaviour.

An example would be this record from a late 12th century Canon Court hearing (I have expanded the abbreviations):

"Alicia dicitur esse ribalda et defamatrix suorum vicinorum/ Citata comparuit et negat articulum/ et habet diem ad proximum capitulum quo die defecit in purgatione/ Ideo fustigata VIies circa ecclesiam diebus dominicis"

The literal translation is "Alice is said to be foul-mouthed and a slanderer of her neighbours. Summoned to appear and she denied the charges. And it was (only) one day before the next full court session, on which day she failed the ordeal. Therefore: beaten with sticks/clubs/cudgels six times around the church on Sundays".

So the charges were "swearing and slagging people off". Note that there were no witnesses, no legal representation, no jury and no judge except God, whose guilty verdict was understood as a result of the ordeal. We can not know what particular ordeal Alice underwent, except that ordeal by fire was often used in such cases. "Fustigata" covers a range of beatings - the fact that the punishment was dealt out over six Sundays points to a relatively light beating on each occasion.

So, a relatively minor infringement results in this kind of punishment - imagine the results of a case of blasphemy, or failing to attend Sunday Mass without good cause, or immoral behaviour. Such a brutal judicial system must have constantly been in the minds of the ordinary people of the time and I would suggest should be in the minds of modern re-enactors, even if they do not attend Mass, observe feast days or Lent, or look in to see the image of St Christopher when passing the local church.
Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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Post by jelayemprins »

hi Brother R

long time no see?
great advice -but you know that most won't take heed as they think a sword is more 'medieval. than understanding 'holi chirche' :wink:

it should be the first thing on a medieval re-enactors list- a single page document outlining how to undestand and portay religion before the Reformation.

And watch this sapce for some exciting Benedictine recreation next year- right up your alley!

IJ

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Brother Ranulf
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

Hi Ian,

Yes it is "long see, no time", glad to know someone is out there!

Only joined this forum recently and am very impressed with the topics and level of debate, it only rarely descends into the cesspit area (is there a good gongfermer in Yellow Pages?)

For people new to medieval re-enactment I think there definitely ought to be a real culture shock (and I'm sure this isn't the case for many of the "dressers-up"); in 2007 we are used to sexual equality, little social distinction between classes, health and safety laws, freedom of choice, freedom of thought and freedom of movement, while our ancestors would have found those concepts alien and heretical. The impact of the Church would have been enormous from birth to your death - it was the only place most people got any kind of education, it regulated everyday life and ensured a place in the next life.

Canon law still exists, but in a much reduced form and without quite so many ordeals and beatings.

I love the smell of Frankincense in the morning . . .
Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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Post by jelayemprins »

HOpe to see you very soon.Walsingham was an amzing journey and ending - right down to the sellers of dodgy relics and cure-alls waiting for us on arrival.
:)

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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

I think your comment somewhat harsh Jelylepins.
If that was the case then the topic would not be debated so strongly as it is.
Nor does the inital comment take into account the sweep of Cannon Law throughout the Middle Ages, I would suggest that it was the harshness of such punishment and the percieved injustice of it that led to not only reformists outside the Church such as Wycliffe and Huss but those such as the Spiritual Franciscans who wanted to change the catholic Church from within.
There is a great deal of evidence as you well know from written sources that although still good Catholics many from the poorest to the highest felt the Church needed reform.
They might respect the local priest but regarded monks, friars and bishops with some scorn. The Great Schisim undid the political advances the church had made into become a powerful secular as well as spiritual force in the 12th and 13th centuries.
There was dissatisfaction with how the church had coped with the Black Death, not least in failing to replace dead or absent priests, or when they did, with ones who were so poorly trained they could not conduct services.
The popularity of crusades had waned, there was increasing resistance to the payment of tithes, Kings were making more effort to distance themselves from the controling aspect of the Pope. There was also an increasing amount of popular secular worship through Books of Hours, Fraternities and the rise in Chantry use.
It would also be worth knowing where in Europe this incident took place. Some regions took Cannon Law more seriously than others (and I don't just mean from "country to country" the English were held to be heretical in the early 12th century because they adopted the Cult of the Virgin earlier but within the borders of the realm as well-the church could get away with things in Durham that would have led to the Bishop having his head cut off by an angry mob in London.)
I honestly think that unless, like myself, the reenactor is a believer in the Christian faith they need to do much more than lip service to the idea of it. And by that I mean geneflecting (or bowing according to the Surum Rite) towards a Monk or Priest and asking for a blessing (though why a priest or Monk would be in a medieval camp is a different question), perhaps greeting one another in a vaguely "Christian" manner (such as saying "God's peace", rather than "Hello").
There is afterall little to suggest open air masses of the sort some reenactors want ever took place. I know Joan of Arc liked them before battles but she was a nut case (may She pray I might be made worthy of the promises of Christ). So unless the re-enactment is going to place inside an active Church (which to me is plain insulting) how accurate would it be? And if it did would the re-enactors taking part be allowed to bring in their horses, discuss busisness and p*ss against the walls? (After all the gutters inside many cathederals are evidence of the way pilgrims and congregations alike used them as toilets.)
I'd sooner keep my faith seperate from entertainment of that sort thank you.
Now if you were going to stage a good Mystery play, give me a shout and I'd love to take part.
If I want to hear a Mass in Latin then I can hear one every month in my own Deanary, and if I want to attend a full Benedictine Service then Prinkmarsh Abbey isn't that far away, and they aren't doing it for fun.
Last edited by Marcus Woodhouse on Thu Sep 27, 2007 11:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Sophia »

Some good an interesting points there on both sides guys *says the forum's pet Jewish theologian who knows far too much about religion in general*.

The problem with religion in re-enactment is the fact that many people still hold equally strong religious beliefs today and not all people are broad-minded enough to put them to one-side or feel they can do.

Personally I think that we have to be very careful on this one and would be inclined to follow Marcus' school of thought, though I do feel that re-enactors should be able to adequately answer questions about the religious climate of the period they are representing.

Finally folks, please note that the odd paragraph break makes for easier reading so use that carriage return.

Sophia :D
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

Sophia - I tried getting my carriage to return (like a boomerang) but ... :lol:

Incidentally my research into Canterbury's late 12th century Jewish community shows them to have been fully integrated in the heart of the city, albeit in an enclave around the synagogue in "Hethenmanne Lane". I can find no evidence that they were subject to any persecution or racial bigotry such as happened in other places. Still struggling to sort out why so many Jews were called "Benedict", though . . .

Marcus - All my research has been confined to 12th century Anglo-Norman jus canonicum records (post-Lateran I), though I guess it would be useful to compare cases from other parts of Europe. The English ones I have found are all pretty much of the same kind as the case quoted, but yes there were distinct variations in treatment from Bishop to Bishop.

I still haven't sorted out in my own mind about how far re-enactment or living history should go in reflecting period religion, but I have certainly witnessed some farcical attempts (among some of the groups appearing at Archeon, not in England) which I would not want to be associated with.
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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

:oops:
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Post by Sophia »

Jews called Benedict - tendancy to literally translate their Hebrew names for secular purposes, probable Hebrew name is Baruch. :D

Integration of Jews - periodically better than normal, but on the whole not real as lacked civil rights. Illustration of this in tax records and various local expulsions/persecutions prior to final expulsion. Parallels and good documentation of this in post re-conquest Spain/Portugal.

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Post by Brother Ranulf »

Thanks, Sophia, Hebrew is not one of my strong points; I did wonder if it was a case of translation though. Other Canterbury Jews had distinctly non-AngloNorman sounding names like Isaac, Luke, Jacob.

Although the 12th century theoretically saw Jews limited to particular roles such as moneylender, there are a few well-documented exceptions such as the Jew Abraham the crossbowman who was granted a house in Canterbury by king John. I guess being Jewish at that time was a bit like being a devout Catholic in England today (or maybe not :? ).

I know that the Church as an institution was responsible for drumming up anti-Semitic feeling among people who probably didn't have any such views of their own - there are certainly negative aspects to the medieval Church which I would not dispute.
Brother Ranulf

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Post by EmanwelOfGwent »

Going back to the bit about the slanderer's punishment... There are several potential explanations other than the moral gravity of the offence - Church law allowed ill-fame as actual evidence of wrong doing, so slander can undermine the proccess - successfully spreading rumours that someone was a heretic could get them in really serious trouble. "slander"/"defamation" in the 12thC probably didn't carry at all the same meaning as it does today. It was only at the end of the 15thC that slander went beyond accusations of spiritual and temporal crimes.

Also, later on the church courts appear to be using harsh penances to effect temporal damages e.g. someone who breaches faith with another is presented with the choice of a harsh penence or paying money to the one he broke faith with. Whether or not this was happening so early and with accusations of slander I'm not sure of.

OK I'm stopping here before I wander off the point...

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Post by Greg G. »

This is a most interesting subject, especially as I portray late 12th early 13th C, and some of this is totally new to me. Thanks for bringing it up and for the great information! Being over on this side of the pond, it's been a real pain to locate a lot of the references I need for the time period, and when I do find out about them, because of the area I live in (400 miles to the nearest real city), it has been impossible to get access. Sooo looking forward to the move to the Dallas/Fort Worth area next year.

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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

you're as ever quite right Sophia, it is easier to read. I am again acknowledged as a worm compared to your magnificance.
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Post by behanner »

A couple of things. Firstly ordeals in Canon Law cease after Latern IV (1215) which defines the late medieval church in much the same way Trent defines the Tridentine Church. By that point Canon Law is solidly based on Roman Law ideas which are very different then the ideas of English Common Law. Under Roman Law a conviction can be had by two witnesses. While it is slightly more complicated then that the idea is very different then what we currently view as due process.

The main idea behind most punishments by Canon Law courts is pennance and as one book title calls it, the Humiliation of Sinners. Much of what is under Canon Law deals with sin, which may or may not be considered a crime. And like all things in Church history it changes over time so looking at a 12th century case doesn't necisarily represent how it would have been dealt with 3 centuries later. Also many times court records don't give the full details but only enough to keep a record. I can post some later punishments from church courts if anyone is interested in.

As for the Church and Jews that is one mess of a relationship. When the Roman Empire became completely Christian the only other religion allowed was Judaism. So there has always been an acceptance in the Church that they should not be persecuted like other religions and yet an discomfort with them because Christianity's origins are in Judaism. At times the Church has been the only thing between the Jews and those who wanted them out of Europe and at times she has stepped asside and allowed it to happen, and some individual Church leaders have lead the assault. Until the rise of modern racism the idea of persecuting Jews because of their ethnicity as opposed to their religion doesn't really exist. Even Martin Luther, who was extremely anti-Jewish, also was one of the loudest voices that Jesus was a Jew and that once a Jew becomes a Christian then the fact that they were a Jew is irrelevant. This was not the case as it developed in Spain, partially because you get crypto-Jews.

You also have the problem where people believed that Jews had secret rituals that involved doing various things from re-crucifing a concecrated host to ritually murdering children. There is a really great book called Trent 1475 which is about the most famous late medieval Jewish ritual murder trial and while quite a sad story it is interesting to see how all sorts of different things conflict and meld and who tries to help the Jews and the extent certain local officials are willing to go to prove the case.

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Post by lidimy »

You also have the problem where people believed that Jews had secret rituals that involved doing various things from re-crucifing a concecrated host to ritually murdering children. There is a really great book called Trent 1475 which is about the most famous late medieval Jewish ritual murder trial and while quite a sad story it is interesting to see how all sorts of different things conflict and meld and who tries to help the Jews and the extent certain local officials are willing to go to prove the case.
We have a local Saint, St William, who gave the name to my primary school and one of the main roads in Norwich. He was, allegedly, murdered by Norwich's Jewish Community in Medieval times, part of the 'ritual sacrifice' that Jews were supposed to have taken part in. Some people in the area still believe it's true - a 'friend' of mine in yr 6 was adamant that the Jews were murderers. My Synagogue has a course coming up on William of Norwich so I'll be taking plenty of notes. :D

All in the name of getting more pilgrims in, of course!
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

Lidy -
My own view, for what it's worth, is that a great many important people had good reason to want the Jews discredited (no pun!) - they were indebted up to their noble Norman necks to Jewish moneylenders. Pointing the finger at the Jews for any and all ills would be a logical step in those circumstances.

Bartlett, in "England under the Norman and Angevin Kings" calls the story of William of Norwich a "fantasy fabricated by the Norwich monk, Thomas of Monmouth . . .William's status as martyr was , in fact, not established without some signs of scepticism."

What's really worrying for me is that even today people are so ready to believe such stories implicitly, without a single scrap of evidence. I hope I am far more difficult to convince than that.
Brother Ranulf

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Post by lidimy »

Yes, but many don't bother to check out the facts!


Easy to feel resentment about money lending, but then, it was the only occupation they were allowed to have! I'm not saying that the Jewish people had a perfect track record but it wasn't exactly made easy for them was it!
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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

It grieves me to think that at the tail end of the 20th century someone in state education would think, as your class mate did back in year six, Jews got up to secret acts of murderous sacrifice. As a teacher I find it hard to persuade members of the (albeit small) Jewish community here in Swindon to come and discuss their faith with pupils. If they still come into that level of ignorance i can appreciate why. :cry:
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Post by Ellen Gethin »

When I lived in Norwich, I did some research on Little Saint William.
It seems to me that this is a tale of a neglected child, and when a stranger turned up offering to give him work, the parents were only too glad to get rid of him. The stranger was, of course, the murderer, and probably child abuser - in one version of the story, William's body was found with his trousers round his ankles.
When the body was found, the boy's mother put the blame on the only family that had ever been kind to the boy - the Jewish family down the street.
Meanwhile, the monks of Norwich Cathedral were looking for a tourist attraction - sorry, relics to attract pilgrimage - because they didn't have any resident saint's relics and needed to boost their income, as they looked jealously at places like Canterbury. So they were happy to accept any story as long as it meant that Little William was a Christian martyr, and therefore eligible for sainthood.
A pretty sorry tale all round, and the only innocents in it were William and the Jewish family.
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

Lidimy - you have changed (I think I preferred the original!)

Ellen, the "trousers" sound a bit suspect as they were not worn at the time. Good additional details, though - where did you find all this? I ask as a keen 12th-centuryist (new word!).
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Post by lidimy »

What do you mean I've changed? :?

Admittedly my Faith is one of the few things that I am incredibly passionate about...
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

Sorry - I meant the pictures - more hooves and beadier eyes than before ! :wink:
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Post by lidimy »

Oh - lol!

Sorry for going abruptly to the defensive there, I thought you meant I'd changed!

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Post by Ellen Gethin »

I was paraphrasing about the trousers.
One of the local nuns was supposed to have found the body when she was walking in the woods - she said a prayer over it, went home and didn't tell anyone until later!

I did a fair bit of research in the old Norwich Library - which burned down a couple of years later, with much destruction. Unfortunately, it's so long ago that I forget the references (I forget references anyway, even when I write them down) and my notes were lost when I moved house.
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Post by Christabel »

Hereford had an important Medieval Jewish community - see

http://fp.thebeers.f9.co.uk/hereford_history.htm

- My favourite story is about the splendid wedding celebrations thrown by a Jewish father to which a large number of Herefordians were invited. They attended, despite being threatened with excommunication by their disliked bishop!

And he did excommunicate them!

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Post by lidimy »

Coo, good for them! :D

Bookmarked :D
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