Medieval Monday: The Monk

 

It’s the beginning of the month, so here’s another episode of Medieval Lives with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. Lots of interesting information about the role of monks in medieval society, some of the different orders and how they got started. Lots of beautiful architecture in this one! Definitely worth watching.


Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

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Medieval Monday: Easter!

Easter was the most important holiday in the medieval world, with many medieval calendars beginning the “new year” with Easter. The holiday included both serious reflection and joyous celebration. Lent was taken quite seriously—forty days of fasting was strictly observed, and the preparations made in anticipation of Easter were extensive. The days before Easter were largely spent in church, starting with the previous Wednesday when services called the Tenebrae began.

On Maundy Thursday (celebration of the Last Supper) the service was solemn and very quiet, with the altars stripped bare of all their decoration. Instead they were covered with branches. This was symbolic of the treatment Jesus received when he was stripped, beaten, and forced to wear a crown of thorns on his way to the cross.

On Good Friday, the medieval world mourned Christ’s death, and a common practice was to begin the day by “creeping to the Cross” barefoot and on one’s hands and knees. Church services were held in almost complete darkness, with just one candleholder (a Hearse) that was gradually extinguished to symbolize the earth falling into darkness. Only the central candle, which represented the light of Christ, remained lit. The priest would read the story of the Passion from the Gospel of John and lift up prayers for God’s mercy and the cleansing of their sins. It would have been a powerful ceremony. No one used tools or nails made of iron on Good Friday. Holy Saturday would have been another day of somber reflection as the world remained in darkness with Jesus lying in the tomb.

But on Easter morning, everything changed—Jesus had risen from the grave, and it was time for a celebration! Church began at sunrise, with everyone gathered outside of the church to sing hymns before going in for services. The darkness from before was replaced with light and the somber mood replaced by joy. Some monasteries put on plays to re-enact the day’s significance. The monks would wear white robes to represent the women who first discovered that Jesus’ tomb was empty, and that he was indeed risen. The forty day fast was finally over, and once all of the church-related activities had ended, it was it was finally time for feasting. Feasts were usually put on by royalty, lords, and wealthy nobles. Symbolically, putting on a great feast for the community was reminiscent of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. With no expense spared, it was an act of charity toward those who had much less, and whose winter reserves were nearing depletion (if not already depleted).

Certain fun traditions were observed as well, such as wearing or receiving new clothes and enjoying colorful Easter eggs. Eggs were boiled in salt water to preserve them during Lent, when eating them was forbidden.  They made their re-appearance on Easter, sometimes painted or dyed for the occasion—usually red to symbolize the blood of Christ.  In Germanic regions they were painted green and hung on trees. Children made games of rolling them downhill, or they were hidden (and found) to represent the disciples finding Jesus’ empty tomb.  Egg coloring could be as simple as boiling them with onions to give them a golden color, or they could actually be decorated with gold leaf, as Edward I did with his Easter eggs in 1290.

The celebration did not end on Easter Sunday, however. Hock Monday followed, during which young women “captured” young men and would only release them if paid a ransom (really a donation to the church). On Hock Tuesday, the roles were reversed and the young women were captured. As you can imagine, these antics did not always end well, and eventually attempts were made to better control them—sometimes even forbid them outright.


Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover more topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.

Inspiration Sunday

Thanks to Lee Duigon for sharing this post–very inspirational, and a much needed reminder for so many of us!

Daughter, Rest.

1 minute read.

I don’t want to write about rest. I’ve been putting it off because I haven’t had time. Ironic.

Rest sounds weak, selfish. The sabbath is an outdated tradition and I’m a 21st century Christian. If I rest, I am doing this Jesus thing wrong.

Actually, if I rest, I realize I am doing this Jesus thing wrong. If I pause for five minutes, I learn how exhausted I am, how hungry I am for these words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you…

Rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

Rest. If I do it, I dare to discover my great need for Jesus. I learn the victory of the Gospel is not up to me, but up to Him. Yikes. Say hello to my ugly pride.

Get this: when I refuse to rest, I lose sight of the entire purpose of my work. When I am too distracted by my to do list, I miss what, or rather, who is sitting right in front of me: my Savior, calling out to me, “Julia, Julia, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed, only one.”*

What am I working for? For my glory or His?

…Keep reading Daughter, Rest.

 

Fantasy Art Friday

Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Friday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.


It is said that deep beneath the ocean waves lies a ship, once made of wood, and rope, and sail…but now only a ghostly vision. It lights the waves before it like fire, leaving dread and darkness in its wake. The rumors say it is cursed; forced to re-trace its doomed voyage for all eternity. Maybe you’ve heard what transgression committed by its captain and crew brought on such a curse. None of the stories seem to agree. Only take care not to go chasing after it, for those who do are doomed to share its fate, sinking down into the inky depths of the sea.

Title and Artist Unknown


Want to see more Fantasy Art posts? Find them here.

 

 

Why We Like Stories by Adam at Write Thoughts

Discussing Why We Like Stories #AuthorToolbox (Part 1, The Unconscious)

Storytelling is a lifelong journey, full of unexpected detours; learning subjects that can include psychology, philosophy, history, and various scientific disciplines. We point to specific examples of stories and marvel at how they “do it”. Funny or sad, light-hearted or serious, simple or complex, but they’re all stories, which means on some level they share certain basic attributes. One of those attributes is what they do for the audience. I’d like to propose that all stories represent different ways of satisfying two basic desires: the desire to feel, and the desire to think…

Click the link below to continue reading this thought provoking article on why we like stories… https://writet.blog/2018/03/20/discussing-why-we-like-stories-authortoolbox-part-1-the-unconscious/

Medieval Monday: Pigeons and Dovecotes

Doves and pigeons were an important resource in the Middle Ages,  valued primarily for their meat, eggs, and feathers. Falconries used them as quarry, and their guano was a highly sought-after fertilizer. In southern Europe, it was spread on hemp fields and vineyards. In Northern Europe, it was said that pigeon guano was worth ten loads of any other type of fertilizer.

Until the 1600s, strict laws forbid anyone other than the nobility or monasteries from keeping doves and pigeons. Though some castles and manors had built-in nesting boxes, for the most part these birds were housed in freestanding structures called dovecotes. They were round, stone buildings with either a domed or conical-shaped roof. The round shape made it easier for people to collect young doves or pigeons (squabs) from the nesting boxes. Squabs were considered a delicacy.

The inside of the building had a large open space, with ledges or cubicles jutting out from the walls. Pigeons would enter and exit from openings just beneath the roof. The nests could be accessed with a ladder attached to a revolving pole called a potence.

There is some evidence that pigeons were also used for communication, but only after exposure to Middle Eastern practices during the crusades. For the most part Western Europeans had no concept of how birds migrated. (They thought that Swallows hibernated during the winter in the mud beneath ponds.) The use of homing pigeons to communicate over long distances didn’t become common throughout all of Europe until after the medieval era. However, those regions that continued to trade and communicate with the Arab world during and after the crusades began to build networks of homing pigeons. The Republic of Genoa was the most notable of these, and built towers for that purpose along the Mediterranean Sea.

Pigeons were able to deliver messages relatively reliably and quickly over hundreds of miles from their home. By feeding them in one location, and nesting them in another, they could be trained to fly back and forth between two locations. But more often, once they were released and delivered their messages, pigeons had to be transported back and forth by cart. This method of communication was not without its limitations, however. Any message sent by pigeon had to be very short, and the receiver on the other end would have to be literate enough to read it. Such messages could also be intercepted by trained falcons and hawks, or by archers.


Learn more about daily life in the Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.