Archive for March, 2020

The Church in “Effigy of the Cloven Hoof”, part 1

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the church in western Europe and the British Isles in 1400, the year in which Effigy of the Cloven Hoof, the first novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, is set.  Therefore, there are many ways in which the significance of the Roman Catholic Church is portrayed through the characters’ lives in my novels.

The 15th century Church was critical in the life of my heroine, the Lady Apollonia, and throughout her household, known as her affinity.  Two members of her household were clerics: her almoner, Brother William, and her chaplain, Friar Francis.  She calls on these churchmen to play important roles to help her deal with calamities at the beginning of the story.  Then, the Lady and other members of her affinity retreat to the refuge of her household chapel in Aust Manor to help them cope with problems already arising in the Prologue of the book.

The third of Apollonia’s five sons, Thomas, became a priest and served as the rector of the parish church in Axbridge, Somerset.  Father Thomas appears occasionally through all my novels except for Plague of as Green Man, set in 1380, when Thomas was only ten years of age.  He served for many years as a parish priest there including when the real parish church of Axbridge was built to its present form at the beginning of the 15th century.  A picture of that church is shown above.  It was while The Lady was visiting Father Thomas in Axbridge that he introduced his mother to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which I mentioned in my previous posting.

The importance of monastic institutions of the church to medieval life is readily apparent in Effigy of the Cloven Hoof.  One of the bodies discovered in the early chaos of the story is a nobleman who is taken to nearby Kingswood Abbey for safe keeping after Lady Apollonia tentatively identifies him as someone whose family might wish to do her or her affinity harm.  The ruins of the gatehouse to Kingswood Abbey are shown on the left.  In my story, this Cistercian abbey provided refuge for Lady Apollonia until her she was reassured that she could safely return to her home in the village of Aust.

The next monastery to appear in this story is Laycock Abbey in Wiltshire, a nunnery of the Augustinian order.  Lady Apollonia occasionally retreated to this abbey during her first marriage which is described in a flashback in the story.  After the trauma of the death of her first husband, Geoffrey Montecute, it was natural that she would retreat to this favored nunnery as she sought to deal with the challenges of widowhood and the personal guilt she was struggling with.  It is during this stay in Lacock Abbey when Apollonia is introduced to the writings of Mother Julian of Norwich whom I mentioned in my last posting.  These Seeings of Mother Julian were most helpful to Lady Apollonia in regaining balance in life.

When Lady Apollonia makes a trip to Somerset in Effigy of the Cloven Hoof, she stays in monastic guest accommodations.  One of these is Stogursey Priory in the village of Stogursey, about half-way between Axbridge where Lady Apollonia’s son Thomas was the parish priest, and Dunster, her last stop on the trip to Cliffbarton.  Stogursey Priory was donated as a cell to the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary at Lonlay, France.  Her next stop on her way was in Dunster where, in 1346, Cleeve Abbey had built a nunnery never inhabited by nuns but was used as a guest house.  I have used this guest house as Apollonia’s last stop before her destination of Cliffbarton and her first stop on the way home to Aust.

It can be seen what an important role monasteries played in 1400, but in my next post, I will discuss other ways in which the church was central to life in the Middle Ages and in my stories about Lady Apollonia of Aust.

The Glossary in “Effigy of the Cloven Hoof”

Monday, March 9th, 2020

My last post discussed the fact that Effigy of the Cloven Hoof was set in 1400, a time when the language spoken in England was Middle English.  The English language has evolved over the past 600 years to what we speak today.  Although I do not attempt to write in Middle English, there are terms which I use in my stories which are either unknown today or have meanings unfamiliar to the modern reader.  This can create a problem, so each of my books contains a glossary explaining their meanings in the 14th century.

I have selected some of the glossary words from Effigy of the Cloven Hoof to give you a sample of definitions which may not be familiar.  It is my hope that the words in the glossary help my readers get into the time and place of my stories.

Early in the book, I use the word “affinity”.  It is defined in the glossary as “the medieval concept of a loyal household, of individuals who wore the livery or heraldic badge of one’s lord and gave full allegiance and acceptance of his rule.”

Brother William, Lady Apollonia’s almoner, appears in my first book and is an important character throughout the series.  “Almoner” is defined in the glossary as “a person whose function is to manage the distribution of alms in behalf of a noble person.”

Many modern readers may not be familiar with the term “Effigy” used in the title of my first book.  The glossary defines “effigy” as an “image sculpted on a tomb.”  The title also includes the phrase, “Cloven Hoof.”  This is defined as “a symbol of or the figurative indication of Satan’s evil temptation.”

One of the most puzzling terms I use for modern readers is “courtesy”.  The glossary defines it as follows: “In the understanding of those followers of Julian of Norwich from about 1400, “courtesy” is not meant to be understood as good manners or polite behavior.  Courtesy means loving respect for one another, implying not only indulgence of another but goodness granted freely regardless of another’s sinful behavior.  Mother Julian describes God as our ‘Courteous Lord.’”

Horses were an important means of transportation in my stories.  The large warhorses used by knights are defined as “destriers” in the glossary.  A destrier is represented in the picture shown at the top.  A “palfrey”, such as ridden by the Lady Apollonia, is defined as a saddle horse, not a war horse, and is pictured on the left in a medieval drawing.

Some readers ask what the term “garderobe” might mean.  It was a “medieval privy often built into the walls of a castle or manor house.”

“Liege” may not be familiar to modern readers.  It refers to a “feudal vassal who grants service or allegiance to a feudal lord.”

Throughout my books I have written about Lady Apollonia attending “Opus Dei” services when visiting monasteries.  This Latin phrase is defined in the glossary as “literally the ‘work of God’ but refers specifically to the daily services for the divine offices of the church.”

An interesting item of men’s’ apparel in the 14th century was a pair of “poulaines”, mentioned in Effigy of the Cloven Hoof.  These were fashionable “14th century shoes for men with excessively long, pointed toes that sometimes had to have the long toes tied round the calf to enable the wearer to walk.”

Often, I write of Lady Apollonia going to her “Prie-dieu” to pray.  This is a “piece of furniture in her private chamber designed for kneeling upon during personal prayer.”

Lady Apollonia’s second husband, Edward, is called “Squire” Edward.  “Squire”, refers to “a country gentleman, especially the chief landed proprietor in a district, very wealthy but not a member of the nobility.”

“Steward” Giles Digby plays a major role in Lady Apollonia’s affinity.  The steward of her affinity is defined as “one who serves as “manager of financial and business affairs…”

I sometimes refer to a “villein” which some readers confuse with villain.  The former refers to “a member of the class of partially free persons in a feudal system who served their lord but had some rights and privileges.”

I hope this sample of words from the glossary of Effigy of the Cloven Hoof has been of interest to you.  These words are a few illustrations of medieval terminology differing from modern English.