Friday, September 25, 2015

Medieval babies

Some historians who really ought to have known better used to say that parents in the Middle Ages did not love their children.  This is of course totally false--they loved them, cared for them, and mourned them if they died.

The reasons advanced for why they didn't love them were that medieval children were expected to take on adult roles sooner than they do in our society (not sure how this works for the argument), and that since infant mortality was higher than it is now, parents "must" have become indifferent to losing children.  No, they just were sad a lot.

Human infants, born totally helpless, are much more vulnerable when young than, say, baby cows and horses, which can walk almost from birth.  They have to be held carefully, nursed, and kept warm and dry.  Any mother, having suffered through nine months of pregnancy and the pains of childbirth, would not be indifferent to the new baby.

Medieval childbirth was overseen by midwives, not doctors.  Although their success rate did not match that of the modern West, they did have better luck than did nineteenth-century doctors, who used chloroform enthusiastically and often came straight to a birthing from attending someone with a nasty disease.  Medieval women also gave birth sitting up or at most reclining, having the help of gravity to ease the baby along, rather than lying on their backs with their feet in the air, the twentieth-century practice.

A new baby needs to start feeding very soon; childbirth, being squeezed through a too-narrow passage, is as tough on the baby as the mother.  (Cesarian birth was not possible without modern surgical techniques and was only resorted to when the mother was dying anyway, to try to save the child.)  Sometimes now a baby is so exhausted that she does not drink properly.  Or sometimes the mother does not produce enough milk.  These days the answer is easy--hitch the baby up to an IV feed until she gets a little strength back, and then give her baby formula.  Neither of these were possible in the Middle Ages.

A child who did not drink properly was going to fade away very quickly.  So was a baby who caught the kind of disease that modern antibiotics now clears right up, or that can be prevented with modern vaccinations.  The first year or so was an especially dangerous time.

Peasant women nursed their babies for longer than modern babies are nursed, generally for a good two years.  Without pureed baby food that comes in little jars, they wanted to make sure the children would be ready for chewy solid food.  Nursing also provided a partial form of birth control.  Well-to-do urban mothers and aristocratic women, however, often employed wet nurses.

A wet nurse would be someone with an infant of her own, who had been nursing for a while so that the mother clearly had an excellent supply of milk.  She could make a good income from fostering a noble woman's baby on the other breast.  Many aristocratic infants spent the first two years of their lives with their nurses, only returning to their birth family when they were ready for solid food.

Continue the story with medieval seven-year-olds.

© C. Dale Brittain 2015

For more on medieval families and children,  see my ebook, Positively Medieval:  Life and Society in the Middle Ages, available on Amazon and other ebook platforms.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Bible in the Middle Ages

As I noted in my previous post, the western medieval Bible was in Latin, having been translated from the Greek by Saint Jerome around the year 400 so that people in the western Roman Empire could more easily read it.  This meant that, throughout the Middle Ages, Latin remained both the language of government (following the Roman model) and the language of religion.

It also meant that the Latin church and the Greek Orthodox church, which continued to read the Bible in Greek, decided that the other guys did not understand the Bible properly at all.

There never was a single "original" Bible from which all others were copied.  The different sections, or books as they are called, presumably each had an original version when they were first written, but different congregations over time adopted slightly different collections of books and put them together slightly differently.

Add to this the fact that, a thousand years and more before the printing press, everything was hand-copied and thus never precisely alike, and it's easy to see why there was variation.  This worried medieval people.  Because the Bible was supposed to be God's word, they didn't think that a lot of variety was appropriate.

Around the year 800 Alcuin, the head of the school at Charlemagne's court, decided to prepare a definitive Bible.  He and those working with him looked at all the oldest Bibles they could find, comparing them line by line, trying to determine when there was a variant which was the "real" reading. This is the approach modern scholars still take when trying to determine the original or most accurate version of a text.

Then Alcuin had the whole Bible carefully copied out in the "corrected" form, using a new, tidy type of handwriting, called Caroline miniscule.  It looks a whole lot like modern printing, for the excellent reason that modern printing is based on it.  Other churches around Charlemagne's empire were urged to come, look at the Alcuin Bible, and make careful copies of their own of this definitive text.

The Bible in the Middle Ages, like now, was an extremely popular book, with an enormous number of copies made.  Because it is so long, it never existed in a single volume, but rather would be broken up into several volumes.  A volume just of the Psalms, or just of the Gospels, was very common.

Anyone learning Latin (which had separated itself off from Old French, Old Italian, etc. by the ninth century) would do so in large part by studying the Bible.  This meant that Jerome's vocabulary and syntax became the standard for medieval Latin.  Churchmen essentially memorized large parts of the Bible.  Monks would sing their way through the whole Psalter in a week or so, then start over.  Biblical turns of phrase peppered their writings, not necessarily direct quotes but references to biblical ideas.

At the schools and developing universities, the Bible was a major source of study.  No one read the Bible literally, or at least not just literally.  There was far too much in it, from Jewish dietary laws to Jesus's suggestion that his followers needed to give up all their possessions and wander barefoot around the Sea of Galilee, that people who considered themselves good Christians did not adhere to.

Rather, the Bible was to be read at four levels, literally to start, then morally (seeing what sort of message was conveyed), allegorically (so that the love poems that make up the Song of Solomon were interpreted as meaning Christ's love for His church), and anagogically, the last meaning that the Old Testament prefigured the New, so that Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac was considered to refer to God's sacrifice of His only son.

Many, many people wrote Bible commentaries.  In the twelfth century, "glossed" Bibles became common, where the Bible text was written in large letters in the center of the page, and commentary on each verse was written in the margins, or even between the lines, in a much smaller hand.  Often there would be strips of commentary down the side, here is what Augustine had to say, here's what Jerome said, here's what Bede said, and so on.  These glosses became fairly standardized, but again, no two volumes were exactly the same.

© C. Dale Brittain 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Bible in late antiquity

Because the books of the New Testament were all written in the late first century, it is easy to assume that the Christian Bible took the form it has now by around the year 100.  In fact, in took another three centuries.

The word Bible comes from the Greek, just meaning "book."  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all "religions of the book," meaning that there is a specific book for each of them which is assumed to contain the core of their religious teachings.  Other religions certainly have holy writings, but not a single, definitive book.

The majority of the Christian Bible is made up of books from the Hebrew Bible, now called the Old Testament.  These books were written in Hebrew over close to a thousand years, combining laws, the history of the Jewish people, songs, sayings, and stories.  Different groups included slightly different collections and often arranged them differently.  Especially after the Romans razed the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 and drove a number of Jews out of the Holy Land, including that sect of Judaism that became Christianity, it was easy for these groups to lose track of each other.

For the purposes of the Christian Bible, one of the most important of these groups of Jews had had highly-educated, Greek-speaking religious leaders back in the second century BC, who translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek.  This was called the Septuagint, because the (highly unlikely) story was that seventy learned translators (Septuagint just means 70) sat down independently, and all miraculously translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek exactly the same, word-for-word.

Early Christian leaders and writers were all Greek-speaking; it was the learned language of the eastern Mediterranean.  The books of the New Testament were all written in Greek, and early Christians used the Septuagint version of what eventually became known as the Old Testament.

However, the Bible took a while to take shape.  The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were four separate stories of the life of Jesus, each one explaining what Jesus really meant in their own terms—and implying that the others had it wrong.  Quite early, with no way to choose between them, Christians just lined them all up back-to-back and hoped for the best.  Some other writings, like the Gospel of Thomas--which in spite of its title was just a book of sayings--or stories about Jesus's childhood drifted in and out of early collections.

Even more problematic was the Old Testament.  From the second century on, Christians jettisoned huge chunks of Jewish law, giving up for example the dietary restrictions, male circumcision, limits on travel on the Sabbath, and even indeed celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday, moving it to Sunday.  Some thinkers suggested that since so much to it was seen as superseded, it really wasn't necessary.

But the decision to include the Old Testament in the Christian Bible was a reaction to an early heresy, which argued that God had written the books of the New Testament, but the devil had written the books of the Old.  A council (important church decisions were always made in council) decided that No, God had written the whole thing, which meant that it really did belong.

As Christianity became widely adopted in the Roman Empire, it was considered a problem that it was in Greek.  The western Mediterranean and Rome's conquered territories were Latin-speaking.  So around the year 400 Jerome translated the whole thing from Greek into Latin, using the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Old Testament.  The purpose was to make the Bible accessible to everybody.  This Latin Bible, still the basis of the modern Catholic Bible, is known as the Vulgate, because ordinary (vulgar) people could read it.  It is ironic that it took until the 1960s for Catholics to accept a Bible in something other than Latin--so that people could read it easily, when the original purpose of having it in Latin was exactly so that people could read it easily.

The Protestant Bible is based (as was Jerome's) on the Greek for the New Testament, but it rejected the Septuagint for the Jewish Bible in Hebrew.  The Jewish Bible of the sixteenth century was actually somewhat different from the version the Septuagint translators had used 1800 years earlier, so the Protestant Bible is missing a number of Old Testament books still in the Catholic Bible, including Tobit, Ecclesiasticus, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Bel and the Dragon; Protestants collectively call these these apocrypha.  Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian, and other smaller sects of Christians all have slightly different collections.

Although in Islam only the Koran (their holy book) in Arabic actually counts as the real Koran, in Christianity the Bible is still the Bible no matter what language it is translated into.

Click here for the next installment, the Bible in the Middle Ages.

© C. Dale Brittain 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Unless you've always lived in a city, at some point you've experienced a county fair, draft horses, cotton candy, beef cattle, giant pumpkins, and carnival rides.

Medieval people did not exactly have county fairs (and definitely did not have giant pumpkins), but they certainly had fairs.  Their trade fairs had some of the same elements we now see in county fairs, but rather than showcasing agriculture, they were focused on long-distance trade.

The main fairs in the High Middle Ages were in the Champagne region of northeastern France.  The drink champagne is named for the region, by the way, not the other way around; the drink required the invention of modern bottling and dates in the form we know it to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  (The name itself comes from the Latin Campania, just meaning countryside.)

The Champagne region is roughly halfway between Flanders, where raw wool from the British Isles was woven into cloth, and Italy, both the region where spices from the East entered Europe and the center of important cloth-dyeing.  There were six fairs a year, six weeks each, that rotated among major cities of Champagne.

Here cloth (including silk, linen, and wool, both raw and dyed), leather, spices, furs, weapons, and all sorts of other products would be bought and sold, primarily wholesale.  Huge warehouses were built where the merchants could deposit their wares.  Banking developed at the fairs, as those arriving with money to buy goods needed someplace safe to put their money, and as those arriving with goods to sell might need a short-term loan to tide them over until they had sold enough.  (Click here for more on medieval banking.)

Every fair had its own system of weights and measures, and cloth would have to be unwound from the bolts and measured, using the local yardstick.  Spices were weighed using local scales; "troy weight" is still used for jewelry, and gets its name from Troyes, one of the chief Champagne cities, that had not just one but two fairs every year.

The local citizens profited from the fairs even if they were not merchants.  Many had a room at the front of their house that they could close off from the rest, which they would rent out during the fair.  Inns, prostitutes, entertainers, and farmers from the countryside selling food all enjoyed the influx.

The counts of Champagne also did very well off the fairs.  They policed the fairs and all the roads leading to them, to protect the merchants from bandits, and to make sure that no big fights broke out and that no one was cheated.  In return they collected sales tax and set up toll bridges.

Nonetheless, the fairs always were fairly rowdy.  Sometimes as it gets dark, if one is walking down the midway of a modern county fair, with dark and light curiously mixed, and weird, certainly-fixed games inviting one to play, one can almost feel what seems like the beating of an evil heart.  Medieval fairs felt it too.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Books in Print

We take the printed book for granted.  And yet before the late fifteenth century, every book (or scroll) had to be copied by hand, which meant that every one was slightly different--and expensive!

Think about trying to copy even one page by hand without making errors.  Now think about copying a book as long as the Bible.  Medieval scribes really wanted to be accurate and were constantly checking for slips, but in practice errors were inevitable. Even if the text of two manuscript books were identical, the page breaks and line breaks would vary.

If someone had written a chronicle or treatise of which he (or she) was particularly proud, s/he would loan it to others, who would then copy it.  Two twelfth-century monasteries located near Dijon, St.-Bénigne and Bèze, shared a chronicle, written originally at St.-Bénigne (with a lot about the wonders of that monastery), but which the copier at Bèze modified to make his monastery look more interesting.

Johannes Gutenberg developed the first printing press, producing several Bibles, his most famous production, in the 1450s.  It had long been possible to carve a piece of wood, ink it, and press it onto paper (they had paper by the fifteenth century), but it took an awfully long time to carve a piece of wood, working backwards, and it really didn't work for text.

Gutenberg's big contribution was movable type.  Rather than trying to carve a whole page, one just had to make a whole lot of individual letters.  Then, one assembled a page out of the letters, inked them, and pressed them onto paper, making as many copies as one wanted.  (It's called a "press," by the way, because one pressed the inked letters very hard onto the paper, using a screw mechanism, to make sure the ink transferred.)

Once a page was set up and locked into place, one could make as many pages as one wanted very quickly, certainly far more quickly than copying by hand, and each one was identical.  When one was through with the page, the letters could be tossed back into their boxes for the next time.  The metal used for the letters was very high quality, having been developed as part of the advances in metallurgy needed as gunpowder became more common (one did not want a cannon that would blow up).

The price of books immediately dropped, putting them in a price range far more people could afford.  Indeed, it has been argued that the rapid spread of revolutionary ideas during the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century was only made possible by the printing press, which was able to produce pamphlets, broadsheets, and the like.  (For more on medieval books before the printing press, click here.)

Gutenberg's style of printing persisted until the nineteenth century, then was replaced by industrial printers and linotype.  More recently, typesetting has all been done by computers, and a lot of books are actually ebooks, rather than physical books.

But a lot of people, including me, still prefer a printed book, which is why I have had "The Starlight Raven" printed.  It can be ordered directly from the publisher, CreateSpace, by clicking here, and is also available on Barnes & Noble and Amazon; you get a discount from Amazon if you buy both the ebook and printed versions together. It can also be ordered through any bookstore.

And check out this interview!

© C. Dale Brittain 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mushrooms in the Middle Ages

Students routinely have anxiety dreams about school--not able to find the right classroom, suddenly recalling a big test coming up.  Professors have these dreams too.

In our case, the nightmares are about realizing that we haven't prepared for class, or we've shown up for class seriously underdressed (though fortunately no one has noticed yet), or we can't find the right classroom, or we've been assigned a class we're totally unqualified to teach.

I once dreamed that I discovered, on the first day of school, that the biology department had assigned me to teach a course on the Fungi.  In the dream, I was trying to figure out if I could somehow turn the course into Mushrooms in the Middle Ages.

There actually isn't that much to say--not a whole semester's worth, anyway, certainly not what the biology students would have been expecting.

Medieval people certainly gathered and ate mushrooms.  These were one of the foods they gathered, rather than growing themselves.  (Click here for more on the medieval diet.)  For them, as for us, the key point was making sure one did not gather poisonous mushrooms.

This is and was much easier in Europe than in the US, because Europe has far fewer poisonous species.  As long as one learns, very carefully and thoroughly, which ones to avoid, the rest are fine.  (Though there is a European mushroom that can make you thoroughly drunk after one glass of wine if you eat it with the wine.)  In the US, in contrast, almost everything is poisonous, so one has to carefully and thoroughly learn which species are not.

Truffles, then and now, are a highly prized and highly valuable version of mushrooms (or at least fungi).  They grow underground on the roots of trees, especially beeches and oaks.  Because they are underground, they have to be sniffed out, usually by dogs or pigs.  These animals, of course, want to eat them themselves, which can be a problem.

© C. Dale Brittain 2015

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Long Way 'Til November

Although most of my posts on this blog are about the Middle Ages, I also reserve the right, as its creator, to talk about my stories.

And I've just released a new ebook!  It's called A Long Way 'Til November, and it's a novella (short novel), set in the world of Yurt.

Here's the description:
"A wizard, a witch, and a bishop in disguise, all off on a road trip in a gypsy caravan. What could possibly go wrong? 
But a pleasant autumn excursion for Daimbert the wizard quickly turns dark when accusations of ritual murder begin to fly and a schoolgirl turns up missing…. 
This novella (short novel) is intended both to introduce new readers to the Royal Wizard of Yurt series and (I hope!) to give reading enjoyment to old friends."

Here the link to buy in on Amazon-US (or .com if you prefer). It's also available on other national Amazons, as well as other ebook platforms.  I've also produced a paperback that includes all three Yurt novellas, called Third Time's a Charm.

The story mostly takes place in a city on top of a ridge. which is why I chose for the cover my photo of Turenne, a city on a ridge in the southern Auvergne.  In the overall Yurt chronology, the story takes place between "Daughter of Magic" and "Is This Apocalypse Necessary?"  For those who would like to see more of the duchess's daughters, they are major characters.

Here's the opening of the story.  Enjoy!

The caravan was painted yellow, with red trim and door and bright green wheels.  I loved it at once.
“I wouldn’t sell it so cheaply,” the Romney man commented, “except that we’re leaving in two days, and we won’t need it any more now that my old aunt has passed on, and we’ve got her much bigger caravan.”
I walked around it slowly, trying to pretend that I was not already imagining myself driving it off into the red sky of sunset.  I doubted he was convinced.
“You can have the pony, too, included in the price,” he added.  A pony, I thought.  We would need something to pull it.  The man was smiling, but the pony looked at me with open suspicion.
“So where are you heading next?” I asked to have something to say, trying to keep from blurting out, “I’ll take it at once!”
He smiled, teeth white against his dark skin.  “South, of course.  Cold weather is coming on.”  The September wind was indeed cool, blowing across the trampled grass of the Romney encampment as evening came on.  “We like to spend the winter somewhere without as much snow.  We have a big meeting, Romneys from all over, every year in November down in the south.  Now you might think it’s a long way ’til November, but we don’t like to hurry.  We take it slow.”
Take is slow, I thought.  I needed to do that more myself.  Just wander across the countryside, without obligations or demands.  I had another vision, rolling down the road in this charming caravan behind the pony.  In this vision it was morning, and slanting autumnal rays of sun warmed us.  The trees would be touched with orange and yellow, and we would be eating apples.  Theodora of course was sitting beside me.  “How do I know this caravan is in good shape?” I managed to ask.
He cocked an eyebrow at me.  “Aren’t you a wizard?  Shouldn’t your spells tell you what’s under the surface?  It’s nice and clean.  And as you can see, we’ve just painted it.”
“Of course, of course,” I said.  I needed someone who knew something about caravans, not spells.  But I tried probing magically, looking for cracks and rust.  I didn’t find any, but then I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.  A demonic influence I would have spotted at once, but who knew what springs were supposed to look like.  Were wheels always attached like this?
The Romney glanced at me sideways from shadowed eyes.  “If you’re unsure, don’t feel you have to take it.  I’m certain we’ll find a buyer before we leave.  One of the shopkeepers was saying he could use it for an extra showroom.  He’ll be looking it over later this evening.”
That did it.  “I’ll take it!”
He looked almost disappointed.  Perhaps I was supposed to bargain more.  But I could not bear to see this beautiful travel caravan made into an extra showroom for some shopkeeper.
At least I had the sense to say that I would wait and give him the money tomorrow, when I had arranged a place to store both the caravan and the pony.  I didn’t entirely trust him not to disappear overnight.  We shook hands on the agreement, and I hurried back through the gates into the little walled city of Caelrhon.
Theodora’s house was on a quiet cobbled street in the artisans’ quarter.  The lamplighters were at work, and curtained windows shone yellow.  The new tower of the cathedral church rose above the housetops, dark against the darkening sky.  This late in the day, the workers had come down from the scaffolding, and I could smell the sausages on their cooking fires.
I burst into Theodora’s house, too eager to tell her about the caravan even to notice that the smells from the kitchen were just as good.  I just knew that my wife would be as thrilled about this as I was.
I was wrong.

© C. Dale Brittain 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

Growing old in the Middle Ages

"In the Middle Ages, everyone was middle-aged!"  Umm, no.

As I noted in my earlier post on medieval life expectancy, the "life span" then was the same as it is now.  That is, although the average age a person might reach, barring disease and disaster, before major body parts started wearing out was the same then as now, in practice most people in the Middle Ages would not make it to the age of 70, 80, or more that modern actuarial tables suggest.  A lack of modern medicine, malnutrition, and rough living would do in a lot of people in their 50s.

But some people certainly grew old, even if "old" kicked in earlier for them than it does for us.  And there are documented cases of rare people making it past 100--one is Saint Anthony, founder of monasticism in Egypt during late antiquity.

Old people were revered for their wisdom in the Middle Ages.  Leaders like bishops and abbots were assumed to hold their office for life, rather than being pushed out at 65.  Medieval old people were not put out on the ice floe!  In practice, bishops and abbots might retire if they felt their strength was failing, but they rarely lived more than another year or so, not enjoying any "golden years" retirement.

Among the peasants, everyone worked until they physically could not any more, at which point they transitioned into being the voice of wisdom, telling their children all they had learned in many years of experience, whether the next generation wanted to listen or not.

Among the aristocracy, heirs waiting to inherit might encourage their parents to retire to a monastery.  In practice, aristocratic women were much more likely to do so than aristocratic men.  If widowed in their 40s, having seen their children more or less grow up, they might decide that they had had enough of a world of men and go off to be nuns.  These widows were very often persuaded to become an abbess, because of their administrative experience.

In other cases, widows stayed in the world.  One Burgundian countess in the thirteenth century survived both her husbands, argued with the new bishop of Auxerre who thought she ought to help carry him in procession on the day he was consecrated, and arranged the marriages of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

In the modern West, most older people wear glasses, and some have had cataract surgery.  Medieval people without good eyesight would just have had to grope along.  (I myself would have been blind as a bat.)  Eyeglasses first appeared in the fourteenth century, mostly for reading and very expensive, and cataract surgery only came into its own in the 1960s.

Few old people would have lived by themselves, because children did not move far away as often happens in modern America.  As they became less able to take care of themselves, their families assisted them.  Most would have been carried off by disease (such as pneumonia) or infection long before memory issues became much of a problem.

Many people now draw up living wills, saying that they don't want to be kept alive by machines and feeding tubes.  This would not have been a concern in the Middle Ages.

© C. Dale Brittain 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Augustinian canons

In my previous post I discussed cathedral chapters.  Here I discuss another group of priests, "canons regular" or Augustinian canons, who also served churches in a body--just not cathedral churches.

Canons were groups of priests who brought the liturgy and pastoral care to the broader world, as opposed to monks, where the group of religious men spent their days in isolated prayer and contemplation.  One could always of course have individual priests attached to a parish church, but canons by definition were priests who functioned in groups of other priests.

Cathedral priests/cathedral canons were of course attached to a cathedral and were called "secular canons" because they reached out to the secular world.  Many other churches acquired bodies of canons.  In some cases, an old monastery was too small and too poor to support the monastic life, so the monks were replaced by canons, who were able to live from payments for baptisms, burials, and the like, which monks (isolated from the world) did not receive.  (Officially of course one did not have to pay for the sacraments, but it would be extremely tacky not to.  Imagine getting married today and not bothering to pay the minister.  But if you don't pay him, he won't sue you.)

In the eleventh century, many bodies of secular canons (ones not attached to cathedrals) decided that the life they were living was not pure enough and thus decided to follow a semi-monastic rule.  The rule most often settled on was based on a letter Saint Augustine had written back in the fifth century, when he really hadn't had Augustinian canons in mind, but that was not a problem.  His holiness and antiquity worked just fine as a justification for them adopting his "rule."

These canons regular lived in common, sharing a dormitory, sharing their refectory (cafeteria), sharing all their possessions.  They followed a simple life of a vegetarian diet and a lack of comforts.  In this way they look a lot like monks.  However, they spent their days in parish activities.  Their elected head was called a dean, rather than an abbot.

By the early twelfth century in France, almost all urban churches were served by a body of Augustinian canons.  Wealthy urban families who might feel no connection to rural monasteries, generally supported by the aristocracy, made gifts to support these canons.  The people who lived nearby would consider a church of canons their church.  In one case, in what is now Belgium, the canons had been reading the history of early monasticism in Egypt and decided to head off to become desert fathers themselves.  They sneaked off during the night, but the distraught townspeople pursued them and brought them back and got the bishop to order them not to try that again.

Cathedral canons on the Continent never adopted any version of the Augustinian rule.  In some cathedrals in England, however, such as Canterbury, the cathedral canons did indeed seek to follow such a semi-monastic form of life.

The example of the different kinds of canons indicates the complexity of the medieval church, rarely reflected in historical fiction (including mine).

© C. Dale Brittain 2015