Sunday, 15 February 2015


"Be it enacted that an English prelate on the occasion of a visitation is not to receive more than a certain sum of money...Let us see how it was obeyed in the only case in which it could operate. The Archdeacon of Maidstone visits the church of Otham, with a maximum legal retinue of six. He is a pleasant soul, and has recently been pondering the Vas electionis. When the time comes to receive his procuration, he says to the rector: 'You are aware, no doubt, that the amount has recently been advised at Rome. I have the decretal in my saddlebag, if you would care to see it. I'm afraid I must ask you, on this occasion, for fifty silver pieces of Tours, or rather more than four good golden florins, pure, of lawful weight, and of the mint of Florence.' 'Venerable sir,' replies the rector, whose circumstances make such pleasantries unseasonable, 'you cannot be serious. My pockets are innocent of this silver of Tours, and I know nothing of the mint of Florence. If you are willing to accept the legal procuration, due to you by the common use in England, well and good. It will be eighteenpence for yourself and your horse, and twelvepence each for the members of your company - seven and sixpence in all. If you ask for more, you will not get it, with all respect to our holy father, pope Benedict the Twelfth.' And the Archdeacon, who knows that he will not get it, waives his demand, well content with his little joke and with the customary procuration." (Ogle, The Canon Law in Mediaeval England).

It's nice to know both that mediaeval churchmen had a sense of humour and that common attitudes to the latest decrees from Rome (or in Benedict XII's case, Avignon) were treated with courteous disregard where they were both unpractical and contrary to the constitutions and canons of provincial and national synods. I stumbled upon this when doing some research into something quite different.

Art: Notice the wild men. It's funny what comes up in Google Images when you search for something completely different. It's clearly from the same Book of Hours as another image I have used before; French, 15th century.

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