Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Avignon

 Last week I blogged about anti-popes, that is men elected as pope but who are not ultimately recognized as real popes.  Real popes were those men elected as pope who were indeed ultimately recognized.  When you have both real popes and anti-popes (and you generally don't have an anti-pope without a pope), you have a schism, a split in the church when some people follow one pope, some the other.

The Great Schism involves late medieval popes.  The story starts at Avignon, a pleasant city in southern France.  Below is a picture of the town's medieval bridge.  There is a little French children's song, "Sur le pont, d'Avignon, on y danse" (On the bridge of Avignon, people are dancing).


Avignon originally had nothing of the schism about it.  In 1303 the pope died, just as the king of France was announcing he was going to arrest the pope and try him for heresy.  (Yes, if you thought medieval people lived in fear of the pope, you are mistaken.)  The cardinals, wanting to keep on the good side of the king, elected a Frenchman as pope in 1304.  He started toward Rome but got no further than Provence, that is the southeastern corner of France.  Avignon seemed like a nice place, so he stopped there while sorting out some issues but somehow never got moving again.  He and his successors just stayed in Avignon.

They built a lovely large palace (which is still there), planted vineyards (think Ch√Ęteauneuf du Pape), and proved themselves serious administrators, not inspiring but not corrupt.  Avignon was a good choice, because even though it really was French, politically it was just within the border of the Holy Roman Empire, and thus the popes could say plausibly that they weren't really in the French king's pocket.

But everyone said they should get back to Rome. Somehow it never quite happened, for three-quarters of a century.  Finally in 1378 the whole papal curia got themselves together at last and headed off to Rome.  What a mess!  Nobody had cleaned up the place in generations.  The pope announced he was heading home to Avignon but instead he died.

The Roman mob demanded the cardinals elect an Italian, which the terrified cardinals did.  But when the new pope started throwing his weight around, the cardinals decided they had only elected him "under duress," which didn't count, and raced back to Avignon where they elected a different pope.  The Great Schism was on.

Earlier schisms had been cleared up within a generation, but this one dragged on, with the Roman pope and the Avignon pope both getting supporters (respectively the English and the French king, who were having the Hundred Years with each other), and both excommunicating the others' adherents.  Everyone agreed this was horrible, and a big council seemed like the only solution.

In 1408-9 a great council was held at Pisa.  Both the Roman and Avignon popes were denounced as schismatic heretics and formally deposed.  The council elected a new pope to replace them.  You can probably guess what happened.  Now there were three popes.

You  might have thought the failure of the Council of Pisa would have turned everyone against councils, but it was really their only option.  In 1417 the Council of Constance, announcing that a general council held its power only from God, deposed all three popes, and the Great Schism was over.  There have been a few anti-popes since, but none ever got much support.

But in the meantime the papacy had pretty much lost all respect.  The popes settled down to be one more Renaissance tyrant, and the Reformation was only a century away.

© C. Dale Brittain 2020

For more on the medieval church, see my ebook, Positively Medieval:  Life and Society in the Middle Ages.  Also available in paperback.



Monday, October 19, 2020

Anti-popes

 What are anti-popes?  They are people elected as pope, in defiance of other people electing someone else as pope, who are later decided not really to have been popes at all.  How can you tell the difference?  Well, at the time it's hard to say.  But the ones who won are, by definition, the real popes, and their opponents are the anti-popes.
 

As I've discussed earlier, the popes were mostly considered irrelevant until the second half of the eleventh century.  Once they became relevant, recognized as the real heads of the church hierarchy, anti-popes began to be elected.  (I guess it shows the importance of the papacy that it was worth having a big argument over who was really pope.)


Sometimes popes were elected as part of political quarrels, such as the quarrel between Gregory VII (pope 1073-1085) and Henry, German king and Roman emperor, where the two were engaged in the Investiture Controvery over whether pope or emperor was the ultimate authority in a Christian empire.  Henry chose an anti-pope and the pope chose an anti-emperor, and things went downhill from there.  That's an image of Pope Gregory VII below.

 Sometimes there would be a disagreement within the college of cardinals itself over who to elect.  The cardinals have been the official only people to elect popes since the 1050s.  They are a "college" not like a university but rather in the word's original meaning, a collection of people making decisions (think Electoral College).  For example, in 1130 the electors split between two powerful cardinals, the one elected as Innocent II and the other elected as Anaclete II.  Both took the names of semi-legendary popes of the first centuries of Christendom (popes have, since the early Middle Ages, chosen new names that are intended to be significant).

Things were ugly for a while (Anaclete was accused of being Jewish, among other things), but most of Europe followed Innocent, including the French king.  This split was finally resolved when Anaclete died (1138), and his followers made their peace with Innocent.  This was the normal pattern:  one side or the other would lose support, and there wouldn't be more than one anti-pope before reconciliation.

But the biggest split was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when during the Great Schism there were first two and then three popes, at Rome and Avignon and Pisa, over a period of close to forty years.  Stay tuned for more details.

© C. Dale Brittain 2020

For more on the medieval church, see my ebook, Positively Medieval:  Life and Society in the Middle Ages.  Also available in paperback.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Bees in the Middle Ages

For most of the Middle Ages, the only sweetener available (other than the naturally occuring sugars in fruit) was honey. Honey could be gathered from wild hives if one were lucky (and avoided being stung), but medieval people also domesticated and kept bees. The honey bee, so necessary to pollination of fruits in North America, is descended from the medieval domestic bee. Note bee in the image below.
(Honey bees, and with them the crops they pollinate, are in danger today due to so-called hive collapse, due to climate change and probably a mite, but that's a separate story.)

Bee-keeping was actually quite similar in the Middle Ages to what is done now, hives tended by someone wearing protective gear who knows how to keep the bees from getting too excited (domestic bees are a lot calmer than wild bees or wasps or hornets). Monasteries and manors all had hives. The honey was used for sweetening, the wax for candles, and the bees themselves to pollinate orchards.

Bees were considered busy and industrious creatures. They were often found in bestiaries, books about different kinds of animals and their habits. It was often said that they were called bees (apies in Latin) because they had no feet (a- plus pedes, meaning feet). Now of course bees have perfectly good feet, as everyone knew, so the story was they were born without feet and that's why they got their name. (Talk about implausible folk etymology.)

Jeweled bees were found in the tomb of King Childeric (5th century, father of Clovis), probably symbolizing hard work and attention. Napoleon, trying to identify hiself with a millennium and a half of French rule, also used bees as a symbol.

© C. Dale Brittain 2020

For more on medieval agriculture, see the ebook, Positively Medieval, available from Amazon and other on-line bookstores. Also available in paperback.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Fantasy Book Covers

For those of you who enjoy my fantasy books, you'll be interested to learn that I'm finishing a new book in my "Starlight Raven" series (aka Yurt the Next Generation). It's not quite finished yet, but I've got a cover! 

As indie authors as we are called (independent author/publishers) have proliferated, writing and selling both ebooks and paperbacks, a parallel industry has grown up, to edit books or format them or illustrate them. I edit and format my own books, but my graphic artist skills aren't up to painting my own covers. (I've got some covers that are based on my photographs, but I have never, just for example, been able to take a photo of a purple flying beast whose skin becomes an air cart.)

So I've gone to the company "EbookLaunch" for the covers for my "Starlight Raven" series. Dane, who did the previous two covers in the series, is doing "The Sapphire Ring." Getting a picture that shows what you want goes through several stages, starting with a sketch.
Then the picture is colored in, and finally the whole cover emerges.

A book cover is an illustration of the book, but that's not really its purpose in life, and sometimes it won't even illustrate a specific scene. Rather, its purpose is to suggest the genre of the book (for example, you are unlikely to look at this and think space exploration or pirate story or a near-future political thriller), and to intrigue the potential reader. With luck this person will dip into the book, like how it's written, and buy the book. 

So if the cover seems intriguing, look forward to the book! 

 © C. Dale Brittain 2020

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Pigs

It's October, time to fatten up the pigs, or at least it would have been in the Middle Ages.

Pigs were one of the few farm animals medieval people raised primarily for their meat.  They would eat essentially any animal (at least after it got too old), but sheep were raised for wool and sheepskin (parchment), cattle for milk and leather and pulling the plow, goats for milk and wool, horses for transportation, and so on.  Pigskin could be used for various projects, but the real value of pigs was found in pork roasts, ham, bacon, and sausage.

Pigs are not friendly creatures.  Don't let the cute cartoon version fool you.  There's a reason you never see a pig in a petting zoo.  They are close relatives of wild boars, and although they were (more or less) domesticated thousands of years ago, they have never been as thoroughly domesticated as sheep or, say, dogs, most of whom have left their wolf ancestors far, far behind.

 Sus scrofa domesticus, miniature pig, juvenile.jpg

The great advantage of pigs is that they can essentially feed themselves.  They, like humans, are omnivorous, eating both meat and vegetable matter.  In the ancient Mediterranean, they were probably the most commonly eaten meat, because they were relatively easy to raise to full eating-size.  The Jews, and after them the Muslims, rejected pork as a religious marker, which distinguished them from everybody else.

(You'll sometimes see it suggested that the Jews kept away from pork to avoid trichinosis, but this seems very unlikely—they didn't know about it specifically, it's avoidable if pork is cooked thoroughly, other animals can also have parasites, and the rest of the ancient world flourished just fine eating pork.)

Medieval people might raise a piglet out in back of the house, even in the cities.  The oldest son of King Louis VI of France was killed when he and some friends were having horse races through the streets of Paris (one assumes beer was involved), and what was described as a porcus diabolicus got loose from its pen and tangled with the prince's horse, throwing him to his death.

But most pigs were allowed to be self-sufficient for most of the year (for one thing, pigs stink), at most herded into new grazing areas periodically.  October in the oak woods was an especially good time, because acorns (called mast) were one of pigs' favorite foods.

In November, once the pigs were fattened up, they were rounded up and slaughtered.  Pig harvest was great.  Everyone ate their fill of fresh pork for a few days, probably the most meat they'd eat at one time all year, and the rest was smoked, salted, and made into ham and bacon and sausage.  It was much more heavily smoked and salted than modern products, because it had to last for many months without refrigeration.

Neither pigs nor boars are native to the New World, but the Spanish brought pigs to their colonies, some of whom escaped, and wild boars were introduced into the US for hunting purposes.  (Medieval aristocrats had also enjoyed hunting boars.)  Feral pigs, which cross-breed with the wild "razor back hogs" (boars), are very destructive (and dangerous) in some areas now, for they they root up the ground and kill ground-nesting birds, and are treated as an invasive species.

© C. Dale Brittain 2020

For more on farm animals and other aspects of life in the Middle Ages, see the ebook, Positively Medieval, available from Amazon and other on-line bookstores.  Also available in paperback.