Archive for October, 2020

City of Gloucester in “Memento Mori”, Part 4

Monday, October 26th, 2020

My last blog posting began a discussion of surviving medieval buildings in the city of Gloucester.  It focused on the Abbey of Saint Peter which became Gloucester Cathedral at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII.  Gloucester is the setting in 1392 for my third novel in the Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries Series, Momento Mori.  In this post, however, I would like to call your attention to other medieval monastic buildings which still stand in Gloucester or survive as ruins.

Saint Oswald’s Priory is my starting point because it, like Saint Peter’s, plays an important role in my story.  The ruins of the abbey, viewed from its south side, are shown above in a picture taken in 2018.   I am standing between two Phil’s: Phillip Brockington, a friend and traveling companion from Indiana on the left and Philip Moss, a well-known Gloucester historian and friend, on the right.  Saint Oswald’s Priory was originally a minster dedicated to Saint Peter when it was founded in the 9th century, but the dedication of the priory was changed to Saint Oswald when the saint’s bones were translated there from Bardney Abbey in Lincolnshire in AD 909.

The priory gradually declined through the centuries before the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century by King Henry VIII.  That decline enabled me to make it the base location for one of the criminal gangs which are an important part of the story of Memento Mori.

The city of Gloucester had three mendicant orders of friars in 1392 at the time of my novel.  These orders arose in Europe, primarily in the 13th century, based on a different monastic model: instead of the traditional isolation of monks in their communities, these orders adopted a lifestyle of poverty, traveling, and living in urban areas. Their purpose was preaching, evangelization, and ministry, especially to the poor of their communities.  They were an important part of life in Gloucester, though not directly involved in the plot of Memento Mori.  All three of these orders were supported by King Henry III in the 13th century after his coronation in Gloucester at the Abbey of Saint Peter.  Henry III was the only English monarch since the Norman Conquest to be crowned outside Westminster.  Perhaps this special relationship with the city contributed to his support.  Each of these orders are referenced by names based on the color of their robes.

I begin with the Blackfriars, shown to the left, whose Gloucester facility on the south side of the city is the best surviving complete example of a Dominican House in Europe.  We can thank its survival after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century to its purchase by Sir Thomas Bell, a wealthy Gloucester capper and clothier who remodeled the church into his private residence, using its other buildings for his businesses.

The Greyfriars were Franciscans who wore grey robes.  Ruins from their house in the southeastern part of Gloucester are shown on the right.  Finally, the Whitefriars were Carmelites whose house was thought to be near the North Gate of the city, but little was known about this monastery.  Surprisingly, while preparing this posting, I learned of a current archaeological dig at the site of a demolished multi-level carpark near the north Gate.  This has been established as the location of several of the Whitefriar buildings.  My Gloucester historian friend, Philip Moss, received the final report of the archaeologists just days ago.

Another local monastic institution of Gloucester was Llanthony Secunda Priory, founded in 1136 south of the medieval city wall of Gloucester in what is now the docks area of the city.  It was a secondary house and refuge for Augustinian monks from Llanthony Priory in Wales.  The surviving remains have been listed structures since 1952 with restoration occurring in 2013, the year after my husband, Lou, took the picture of some of those remains shown below in 2012.

Medieval Gloucester had more monastic orders than any other city in the West County of England.  I hope you have found interesting this brief mention of them.  In my next post, I will discuss medieval churches and other ancient buildings that play a role in Memento Mori.


City of Gloucester in “Memento Mori”, Part 3

Monday, October 12th, 2020

My last blog post spoke of the history of Gloucester in the Roman and Saxon periods.  Gloucester, another ancient city in England, is the West Country setting in 1392 for my third novel, Memento Mori, in the Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries.  I would like today to describe some surviving medieval buildings that appear in this novel, either in their full splendor or as ruins.  The Abbey of Saint Peter will be my starting point.

This medieval abbey survived the 16th century dissolution of the monasteries by becoming Gloucester Cathedral in the newly formed Diocese of Gloucester, carved out of the Diocese of Worcester, more than a century after Memento Mori is set.  The church building, both inside and out, is much the same as it was in 1392.  The nave, as shown in the first picture above, is a good example of Norman architecture while the Quire was remodeled in the 14th century to have a Gothic façade covering its Norman base, with a Gothic vault raised above the original Norman roof.  This Gothic quire is shown above on the left.

Lady Apollonia visited the the nave and quire of the abbey church in my story, to pay her respects to the tomb of King Edward II located between the ambulatory in the north quire aisle and the quire itself.  Edward II had been killed earlier in the 14th century in Gloucestershire, but his tomb only found a home at the Abbey of Saint Peter after being rejected by Kingswood Abbey, an event mentioned in my first book, Effigy of the Cloven Hoof.  King Edward III, the son of Edward II, bestowed generous gifts upon the Abbey of Saint Mary in Gloucester, not only to set up a regal memorial for his father but also to upgrade the entire quire area to its present Gothic splendor.

The great church where Apollonia visited King Edward II’s tomb was not the only building of the Abbey of Saint Peter to play a role in my story, however.  Another was the abbot’s lodging which still stands next to the present cathedral church.  It is shown just beyond the cloisters in the picture to the lower right, taken from atop the central tower.  Near the top of the picture is Saint Mary’s Gate which was an important entry to the abbey in the 14th century.

Stedmund Falford, one of the villains in my previous novel, Plague of a Green Man, appears again operating under a false identity in this story.  Still he presents himself as a member of the noblility and seeks to be received as a guest of the abbot in these lodgings.  Another surviving building of the abbey which was important was its infirmary.  This is the site where Stedmund Falford, seeking sanctuary, comes to his worldly end after escaping his captors.  Some of its ruins remain today and are shown in the picture at the end of this post.

In my next posting, we will return to medieval Gloucester to show more ancient buildings that appear in the story of Memento Mori.