Archive for April, 2020

The Church in “Effigy of the Cloven Hoof”, part 3

Monday, April 27th, 2020

Effigy of the Cloven Hoof introduces modern readers to a new religious concept: that of a mature medieval woman becoming a vowess in her later years.  The following paragraph from the story tells of Lady Apollonia’s announcement to her brother, Ferdinand, of her intentions.  A vowess was a widow who had vowed chastity or devotion to a religious life while remaining in the world.  The drawing above pictures Apollonia in the period of her life when she was a vowess.

“It was in the year of 1395 that Lady Apollonia announced to her brother, Ferdinand, her intention to live celibate. She had, with the counsel of her chaplain and the Abbess of Lacock, decided to follow the rule of the devotio moderna, become a vowess, and give the rest of her life to a discipline of work, charity, and contemplation. “I can not renounce the world, Ferdinand,” she quietly confessed to him, “but I feel alienated by it.” The colours of mourning would continue to be her habit of dress and though never cloistered, she chose to spend her remaining years as a bride of Christ.”

Devotio Moderna or Modern Devotion is defined in the Glossary at the end of Effigy of the Cloven Hoof as a religious movement of the late Middle Ages, stressing meditation and emphasizing the inner life of the individual.  Having been widowed three times and the mother of five sons, Lady Apollonia took vows both for chastity and for devotion to a religious life while being allowed to remain in the world.

As a vowess, the Lady, who had acquired considerable wealth and property from her deceased husbands, would be protected by the church.  Hence, she pronounced her vows of chastity in the presence of the Bishop of Worcester and, in effect, became a bride of Christ.  That act, recognized by the Church, offered her protection from any unwanted late in life marriage while allowing her to remain in charge pf her faithful affinity in Aust.

Lady Apollonia in her widowhood was enabled to continue to manage the affairs of the lands and businesses that she inherited from her husbands.  These included the manor and lands at Colerene Leat, inherited from her first husband, Geoffrey Montacute; the various woollen businesses developed over the years by her second husband, Edward Aust, in Aust, Corsham, Exeter, and other places; and the businesses of furrier, pelterer, and others of her third husband, Richard Windemere, in Gloucester, Cirencester, Wiltshire and beyond.  The building, shown above on the left, is in Cirencester on Dyer Street.  It was my inspiration for Windemere House where Lady Apollonia was residing in Templar’s Prophecy.

Lady Apollonia of Aust became a very wealthy woman who was a well-educated and capable manager as well as a caring leader of her personal affinity.  She was beloved by all those who served her and benefitted from her goodness, but at the same time, she would have been a desirable target for egregious male suitors if she had not been protected by the Church as a vowess.

The Church in “Effigy of the Cloven Hoof”, part 2

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

An element of real church history appears in Effigy of the Cloven Hoof.  As I mentioned in my posting of February 24, 2020, the reformer John Wycliffe served as the Prebend of Aust for thirteen years which corresponded to the time when Lady Apollonia and her second husband, Edward Aust, would have been raising their five sons in their manor just across the road from the parish church which is shown in the picture above.  That earlier posting explained that John Wycliffe (1330?-1384), as Prebend of Aust, had the living or income of the Aust church.  He, as an Oxford scholar, would have been largely absent from Aust, hiring a prelate to perform clerical duties, but I could not resist writing this real-life character into my story.

In my fictional account, Lady Apollonia and her family met Wycliffe in Aust when her boys were young, and one of them, Thomas, spent time with the scholar, helping with his dog.  Thomas, who went on to become a priest in Axbridge, Somerset, later in life reveals to his mother the influence Wycliffe had in his decision as a young man to enter the priesthood.  This revelation was news to Lady Apollonia when she heard it in 1400.

I emphasized Wycliffe’s contribution of the first translation of the Bible into the English of his day in my posting of February 24.  He believed in making the Bible available in the vernacular language because of his belief in the importance of the scriptures to our personal faith.  He personally translated the four gospels into English from the Latin Vulgate and may have translated the whole New Testament.  A drawing depicting the great man is shown on the left.  His associates completed the task of translating the Bible from the Latin of the Vulgate into English, completing the Old Testament by the year of his death in 1384.  Modifications by his assistant, John Purvey, appeared in 1388 and 1395.

In that earlier posting, I did not point out that Wycliffe’s overall role as a reformer of the medieval church happened more than a century before Martin Luther, but that reforming role was a significant contribution, in addition to his translation of the Bible.

The wealth and corruption of the Roman church were of great concern to Wycliffe.  He attacked the privileged status of the clergy as well as the luxury and pomp of local bishops and their land-owning lordships.  It is hard for us to realize the enormous wealth of many of the English churches and monasteries at the time of Effigy of the Cloven Hoof.

Wycliffe’s writings in Latin greatly influenced the philosophy and teachings of the Czech reformer John Hus a couple of generations later.  Wycliffe’s followers became known as Lollards and reference to these followers appear from time to time in several of my novels.  The body of Wycliffe himself was dug up a half century after his death and burned as that of a heretic.