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PhyliA_Dobe
04-18-2011, 07:30 PM
I have a character who's not royalty, but born of nobility. I'd like one of her main attributes to be piety. How would this be exhibited in an 1100ish Norman woman living in England? Any insight into the religious landscape during this period would be great. Recommendations for reference material would be very welcome. Thanks!

Shakesbear
04-18-2011, 07:37 PM
Is she married? If not she might consider being a nun. If she is then, and her family have money, she could build a church, have a private chapel in her home, do good deeds (feed the poor). She might also dress in a non-frivolous style that reflects her piety. She might also pay for repairs to the church and/or give the local church gifts to beautify it - pay to have murals painted, candlesticks, alter clothes which she could embroider herself.

Cyia
04-18-2011, 07:45 PM
Is she young? Married? Widowed?

There would be certain things a pious and charitable widow woman could do that society would accept as "good works", like feeding the hungry or providing for sick children.

If she's a bit of a rebel or had a husband who believed similarly, she could teach the poor to read (when no one's looking.)

Medievalist
04-18-2011, 08:02 PM
If she's a bit of a rebel or had a husband who believed similarly, she could teach the poor to read (when no one's looking.)

No, she really couldn't.

For one thing, the odds that she could read, even if she's a nun, are astronomically slim. The odds that her husband could read are not much better, and teaching the poor to read would be, well, ridiculous, and possibly, not even legal because of various laws regarding status.

shakeysix
04-18-2011, 08:22 PM
she would probably spend her time fasting or in prayer.--s6

Shakesbear
04-18-2011, 08:55 PM
No, she really couldn't.

For one thing, the odds that she could read, even if she's a nun, are astronomically slim. The odds that her husband could read are not much better, and teaching the poor to read would be, well, ridiculous, and possibly, not even legal because of various laws regarding status.

Agree with all you have said Medievalist. The idea of teaching the poor to read made my little brain boggle! Quite apart from the legal and social angles just getting the materials needed to teach them would require enormous effort. A pious woman would not do something that would be frowned on - it would be so against what she would have been taught about the duty of a wife and the role of a woman.

Maxx
04-18-2011, 09:06 PM
I have a character who's not royalty, but born of nobility. I'd like one of her main attributes to be piety. How would this be exhibited in an 1100ish Norman woman living in England? Any insight into the religious landscape during this period would be great. Recommendations for reference material would be very welcome. Thanks!

When I was at Winchester Cathedral, Margaret of Scotland was held up to be a fine Pious type (or maybe a relic of hers is there?) (I guess she is a bit
too high rank to be a good example and definitely anti-Norman):

http://floscarmelivitisflorigera.blogspot.com/2009/06/st-margaret-queen-of-scotland-click-to.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Margaret_of_Scotland

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09655c.htm

DavidZahir
04-18-2011, 09:16 PM
Small detail to consider--in those centuries the Mass was much less common than today. She might petition a bishop to be allowed to have an extra Mass held. She also might commission a special Book of Hours for someone--but keep in mind that in terms of time and money that would be akin to building someone a house today. Then again, perhaps she might try to purchase a Book of Hours that belonged to someone special--a particularly pious knight or nobleman for example. That might translate in our terms with getting someone a car that once belonged to Elvis.

shakeysix
04-18-2011, 09:21 PM
she could be into relics-- obviously fake relics like St. Peter's flip-flops. --s6

Maxx
04-18-2011, 09:33 PM
she could be into relics-- obviously fake relics like St. Peter's flip-flops. --s6

Good point about relics. A chunk of the true cross or a thorn from the crown of thorns would be good.

Could she go on pilgrimages?

waylander
04-18-2011, 09:49 PM
She might found a convent/monastery, or endow an existing one with money/property

Maxx
04-18-2011, 10:07 PM
She might found a convent/monastery, or endow an existing one with money/property

Like Hemma of Gurk:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemma_of_Gurk

Medievalist
04-18-2011, 11:18 PM
It's a bit too early for either pilgrimages or relics, honestly.

c. 1100 the Normans were still having to exert fairly harsh control over money and lands, and there were still sharp divides, culturally, legally, and linguistically, between the Normans and the Saxons, never mind the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh.

Medievalist
04-18-2011, 11:19 PM
She also might commission a special Book of Hours for someone--but keep in mind that in terms of time and money that would be akin to building someone a house today. Then again, perhaps she might try to purchase a Book of Hours that belonged to someone special--a particularly pious knight or nobleman for example. That might translate in our terms with getting someone a car that once belonged to Elvis.

Again, this is c. 1100. Even psalters were a bit of a rarity.

Tapestries on religious subjects and church vestments, were hugely popular in the era, and in England as well as Normandy.

Maxx
04-18-2011, 11:23 PM
It's a bit too early for either pilgrimages or relics, honestly.

c. 1100 the Normans were still having to exert fairly harsh control over money and lands, and there were still sharp divides, culturally, legally, and linguistically, between the Normans and the Saxons, never mind the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh.

Couldn't she say, take a boat to Normandy and visit some relics? Avoiding all White Ship style transport of course (which the King's neice Lucia-Mahaut forgot to do).

Disambiguation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Ship

Medievalist
04-19-2011, 12:35 AM
Couldn't she say, take a boat to Normandy and visit some relics? Avoiding all White Ship style transport of course (which the King's neice Lucia-Mahaut forgot to do).

The problem is that thus far the concepts of pilgrimage and relics were not what they would be in even another 100 years.

There were relics; just not all that many, and mostly, in Rome.

The people who generally went on pilgrimages were engaging in perambulation as either a specific penance as assigned to them, often formally, or because of a some private but major sin, and a desire make restitution and show contrition.

It would not have been a "normal," or even a safe thing for a woman to do, and it would have been a little odd.

The first primary source account I can readily find regarding a woman on pilgrimage is early 13th century.

Ariella
04-19-2011, 03:05 AM
A noblewoman at this time would probably not be able to read, but she could have texts read to her. She might invite her chaplain or another priest to read for her regularly.

Stretching the idea just a little bit, she could even be a literary patron and commission her priest to write an ecclesiastical history. This was more likely to be a role of the high nobility, but perhaps you can take some literary liberties.

MeretSeger
04-19-2011, 04:03 AM
People's definition of pious differs, but I believe they practiced self-mortification in the 1100s as a sign of piety even among the lay persons.

Kitti
04-19-2011, 05:43 AM
If her marital status is not an issue (aka you don't need her to be married) - have her be the abbess of a nunnery.

Otherwise I'd go with having her own private chapel and supporting a priest to say Mass there and do all the other services throughout the day. She'd probably take communion fairly often - once a month, maybe? (As opposed to just at Easter.)

If you've got access to a university library, you could check out Ermengard of Narbonne by Fredric Cheyette. It's been a good decade since I've read it, but IIRC it's about a 12th century noblewoman (in France, but your MC is Norman so it might work).

pdr
04-19-2011, 08:45 AM
for more background info have a look at Resources by Era, stickied at number 5 in the Historical section of the Genres dept.

Heaps of suitable resources and sources there for you.

PhyliA_Dobe
04-19-2011, 07:34 PM
Wow, I can't thank you all enough! Yes, she is married. And now I'm going to make a bunch of notes from your responses. The fount of inspiration doth run over. xoxo

PhyliA_Dobe
04-19-2011, 07:40 PM
Could she go on pilgrimages?

Unfortunately, no. She's being held as a captive for the majority of the story. I'm wondering what ramifications that will have on her marriage once she's free'd. It's not part of the story, per se. Just plain ole curiosity. Would her husband take her back out of duty? Reject her entirely? Interesting side note to a comment from above, but she is caught up in the Norman/Breton fighting between the Welsh princes and the Norman marcher lords along the welsh border.

Medievalist
04-19-2011, 07:59 PM
Interesting side note to a comment from above, but she is caught up in the Norman/Breton fighting between the Welsh princes and the Norman marcher lords along the welsh border.

Is she Welsh? That changes things from a legal standpoint substantially.

Alessandra Kelley
04-19-2011, 08:03 PM
She could have her own little prayer book or book of hours (meaning the prayers for the hours of the day), personally made. They were usually very small, palm or hand sized (vellum is expensive!), with standard prayers for times of day and holidays. Really wealthy nobility had multicolored illuminations, but pen-and-ink illustrations were used in more humble ones. Books, of course, were a big deal, since they had to be entirely handmade, and one's own actual prayer book is an important sign of piety.

Alessandra Kelley
04-19-2011, 08:05 PM
Oh -- and she doesn't have to know how to read either. People knew those prayers by heart. It was the symbolism of having the prayer book that mattered.

Medievalist
04-19-2011, 09:08 PM
She could have her own little prayer book or book of hours (meaning the prayers for the hours of the day), personally made. They were usually very small, palm or hand sized (vellum is expensive!), with standard prayers for times of day and holidays. Really wealthy nobility had multicolored illuminations, but pen-and-ink illustrations were used in more humble ones. Books, of course, were a big deal, since they had to be entirely handmade, and one's own actual prayer book is an important sign of piety.

We're talking 1100. Even the psalter was not yet common in terms of private ownership, and the personal psalter is a development of the 13th century; early psalters were working books for priests and monastics.

Alessandra Kelley
04-20-2011, 12:31 AM
We're talking 1100. Even the psalter was not yet common in terms of private ownership, and the personal psalter is a development of the 13th century; early psalters were working books for priests and monastics.

Oh blush, yes, it's too early for that sort of thing. Sorry.

How about she just has a big rosary and says her prayers a lot?

PhyliA_Dobe
04-20-2011, 07:42 AM
Is she Welsh? That changes things from a legal standpoint substantially.

Born to welsh nobility, married to a Norman lord. I look forwards to hearing more. Thank you Medievalist.

PhyliA_Dobe
04-20-2011, 07:44 AM
Thank you for the suggestion Allesandra, a rosary is a must.

Medievalist
04-20-2011, 06:42 PM
Thank you for the suggestion Allesandra, a rosary is a must.

They didn't have or use rosaries until the mid thirteenth century.

Medievalist
04-20-2011, 06:45 PM
Born to welsh nobility, married to a Norman lord. I look forwards to hearing more. Thank you Medievalist.

It wouldn't be unusual for her to have seamstresses with whom she makes vestments; these would essentially be part of her staff--we're talking at most two or three ladies, of a slightly lower social status, but of "good backgrounds."

Nor would it be unusual for her to have some income of her own, from lands settled on her at her marriage. These might be managed by her spouse, but the monies would be hers.

Welsh property law retained, until the Normans really took over, a fair amount of earlier practices.

PhyliA_Dobe
04-20-2011, 09:49 PM
You're a beautiful soul Medievalist. I wish I could borrow your brain for a few months. Thank you for guiding me through this process. History is a mine field of minutia and I'd hate to ruin a perfectly great story with my own ignorance. What about the husband after her release? Any thoughts on what his response or legal responsibilities would be?

Anne Lyle
04-20-2011, 10:11 PM
It's not a reference resource, but if you're interested in the clash of Welsh and Norman law in the 1130s, you might enjoy the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters (assuming you don't know them already!). They're set in Shrewsbury, near the Welsh border, and although most of the stories revolve around the common folk, there are some nobles in there. Try A Morbid Taste for Bones, which is about the relics of a saint, or there's One Corpse Too Many, which I think is the one that introduces a young noblewoman (Aline) who becomes a regular character.

PhyliA_Dobe
04-21-2011, 04:04 AM
It's not a reference resource, but if you're interested in the clash of Welsh and Norman law in the 1130s, you might enjoy the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters (assuming you don't know them already!). They're set in Shrewsbury, near the Welsh border, and although most of the stories revolve around the common folk, there are some nobles in there. Try A Morbid Taste for Bones, which is about the relics of a saint, or there's One Corpse Too Many, which I think is the one that introduces a young noblewoman (Aline) who becomes a regular character.

Fantastic, thank you! I'll look for the series right away. Absolutely pertinent. I'm curious to see how others have reanimated this time and world.

Anne Lyle
04-21-2011, 09:39 AM
You're welcome! They're very well known over here, having even been dramatised for TV, but since they were more popular in the 80s/90s, I thought maybe you wouldn't have heard of them.

The first half-dozen or so are good fun, but I found that they became repetitive and predictable after a while. Every single one seemed to follow a plot of "boy meets girl, boy is wrongly accused of murder, Cadfael uncovers the real killer, boy and girl live happily ever after"...

Shakesbear
04-21-2011, 12:07 PM
I agree with Anne Lyle about the Cadfael series of books they did become very repetitive. I did not enjoy the tv series as I found Derek Jacobi to be totally unbelievable as Cadfael.

Anne Lyle
04-21-2011, 02:03 PM
I agree - whilst I enjoy any kind of medieval costume drama that's not too horribly acted, just for the visuals and period detail, Jacobi is not tough enough to carry off the "hardened ex-crusader" side of Cadfael. A fine actor (I saw him live in "Becket", with Robert Lindsay as King Henry), but not great casting in this case.

But we digress...

pdr
04-23-2011, 12:58 PM
I'm sorry you are so dismissive of Ellis Peters/Edith Pargetter.

She wrote well, had a distinctive voice and style and managed to convey that Mediaeval flavour of Romance which is not the modern version at all, and gave readers a very clear picture of her carefully researched and created version of the 12thC Mediaeval world.

Her Cadfael novels continue to be very popular, some of the most borrowed books at our local libraries.

The TV series suffered from the usual problem so many good books face when translated to TV or film. Some arrogant and self important prat comes along and thinks he can improve the stories, ruins an excellent plot with stupid additions and deletions, and buggers up the essence of the story. That essence was such a vital part of any Cadfael story. And that was what happened after the first series. The loss of Sean Pertwee as the sherrif, Hugh Berringer, took much away from the later films.