Monk's 'night shoes' or 'slippers'

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conanthelibrarian
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Monk's 'night shoes' or 'slippers'

Postby conanthelibrarian » Tue Jul 26, 2016 3:25 pm

Does anyone know of surviving examples of monk's 'night shoes' or 'slippers', or is anyone able to point me in the direction of pictures showing these, please?

Thanks,

Julie



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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Monk's 'night shoes' or 'slippers'

Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:44 pm

HI Julie,

You have chosen one aspect of monasticism which has left no tangible evidence. No night shoes have survived, nor has any written description of them been discovered (maybe some academic with access to the restricted libraries at Cambridge will eventually find some illustration or description of them). I have collected many hundreds of medieval images of monks and sadly not one of them shows a monk's feet while he is in bed.

All we have are brief mentions, for example in monastic sign lists, such as this in the Cluniac list:

[43] For the sign of night shoes, add to the standard sign for shoes that you place your hand on your jaw as a sleeper is accustomed to do


This gives no clue as to the size, shape, material or construction of these items of footwear.

The Hirsau sign list specifically mentions nocturnales calcei (night shoes), with felt slippers (filtrones) listed as separate footwear - some writers have suggested they were the same thing, but at least in Germany this can not be correct.

The Old English Canterbury sign list includes the term swyftlera, which means slippers; night shoes are not mentioned separately, so here they probably were identical.

The Fleury sign list is essentially a version of the Hirsau one, again including nocturnales calcei.

Turning to my copy of the Monasteriales Indicia, which has the full text of the Canterbury sign list, it is only a little more helpful:
[91] If you want slippers, then put your index finger on your foot and stroke the two sides of your foot, in the way in which they are made.


This Indicates that the side elements of these slippers were in two parts, presumably with a seam down the instep and up the back of the heel. Some leather slippers were made in this way, but night shoes may have been made of felt, wool, or canvas, or some other material (possibly lined with fur for the cold winter nights). Without new evidence coming to light we can only speculate.


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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conanthelibrarian
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Re: Monk's 'night shoes' or 'slippers'

Postby conanthelibrarian » Wed Jul 27, 2016 10:40 am

Hi Brother Ranulf,

I thought that would be the case, although I always hope that there's someone out there who may know the answer.

We've been told that the boys at the school here would change into their 'slippers' to go from the school and into church for the services, so this led to wondering if these are different to 'night shoes'. I thought they would perhaps be leather or felt if they were for indoor use.
I have a list of cloth/clothing provided by the abbey to someone who was unable to provide their own, but although shoes are mentioned, slippers are not.

Thank you for your help.

Julie



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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Monk's 'night shoes' or 'slippers'

Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Jul 27, 2016 2:33 pm

Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

Your comment about the boys at the school is interesting; such boys would not have been classed as monks, but as "clerks in minor orders" as were all students at Church schools (including the universities). Their hair may have been tonsured, at least a little, and they may have worn the habit, but they could not become monks until they reached the prescribed age and were accepted as professed brothers. Many never did so, simply gaining their Church education before going into some other trade or craft.

It is unlikely that the students would have been made to attend night services, which may explain their not having night shoes.

I would be most interested in seeing your list of clothing issued by the abbey if that's possible.


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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