Archive for December, 2020

Wrap up of Medieval Topics in “Memento Mori”

Monday, December 28th, 2020

As 2020 draws to a close I want to complete the medieval topics from Memento Mori which I have been presenting in recent postings.  Two topics deserve our attention before I move on to others from Templar’s Prophecy next year.  These will begin with Lollardy and Medieval Gangs.

Many modern readers are not familiar with the meaning of Lollardy which plays a role in Memento Mori, the third novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries.  This term refers to reformed religious followers in England of the Oxford scholar John Wycliffe who was introduced in my first book, Effigy of the Cloven Hoof, because of his historic connection with the village of Aust in which that book was set.  That association was described in my blog posting of November 13, 2016, a link to which is available in the Archives on the lower right.  John Wycliffe, pictured on the right, died on the last day of 1384.  He had been declared a heretic in 1381 because of his translation of the Bible into English and for many of his ideas about reforming the Catholic Church.

The term “Lollardy” was first used in England in 1387 by the Bishop of Worcester in whose diocese Gloucester is located.  Memento Mori is set in that city in 1392, so the people there who were interested in Wycliffe’s ideas were among the first in England to be called by that name.  Lady Apollonia’s third husband, Richard Windemere, is a wealthy merchant, and it is with his merchant friends that he became involved in discussing some of Wycliffe’s ideas of reform.  These friends seemed to be particularly interested in Wycliffe’s Bible in English and in his conviction that the great wealth of the medieval church contradicted the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.  Robert Windemere learns that his wife, the Lady Apollonia also shares some of Lollardy’s concerns about abuses and problems in the Church without openly supporting the Lollards.  In the years after Wycliffe’s death, the scholar and the Lollards were declared to be heretics by the Roman Church.

I introduced the idea of medieval gangs in Effigy of the Cloven Hoof, Book One of the series, where a gang run by a noble family in Devon was involved in smuggling and other illegal activities.  That gang was enabled to include smuggling in its list of illegal activities because of its location near the English Channel.  One survivor of that family makes an appearance early in Memento Mori, Book Three, under the assumed name of Jimson, as a member of a gang run by a corrupt cellarer monk of Saint Oswald’s Priory in Gloucester.  Historically, Saint Oswald’s Priory had experienced declining fortunes by 1392, a fact I used to allow this corrupt monk to misuse his power as cellarer and run a gang for his own enrichment.  The ruins of Saint Oswald’s Priory are pictured below.

Jimson, while involved in a robbery for the cellarer’s gang, encounters a more powerful gang run by the illegitimate daughter of the Sheriff of Gloucestershire.  She is one of my favorite villains as she used her class status to run the most powerful gang in the city.  Her gang used an abandoned warehouse by the quay along the River Severn in Gloucester, the site of the medieval quay is pictured below.

In January, we will begin to post topics from my fourth book, Templar’s Prophecy and plan to start with the prologue, which is set in, of all places, Nubia in the mid-14th century.  I hope you will stay tuned.


Anchorites in “Memento Mori”

Monday, December 14th, 2020

My last posting discussed Plague and Death in Memento Mori, the third novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mystery Series; its cover of the paperback edition is pictured to the left.  The subject matter we shall speak to in this posting will discuss “anchorites.”

Medieval anchorites were religious persons, male or female, who, for personal reasons of religious commitment, withdrew from secular society.  They became hermits who, unlike others in monastic life choosing to live in communities, took a vow to locate in one place, called a cell or anchorhold, for the purpose of leading a prayerful and ascetic life alone.  This vow was for life and was taken so seriously in Germany that the local bishop often pronounced the Office of the Dead when the anchorite entered his or her cell.  This signified the anchorite’s death to the world and his or her dedication to a new, entirely private existence.  Anchorites could communicate with people who supported them or sought advice from them through small windows in their cells.

In Memento Mori I have introduced an anchorite whose location or anchorhold was a hermit cell attached to the Chapel of Saint Kyneburgh in Gloucester.  This character is based on a real hermit who was known to have lived in the 14th century when this novel is set.  The map on the right shows the location of his real cell adjacent to the chapel and close to the South Gate of medieval Gloucester.  As was typical of these cells, it would also have had a window or squint looking into the chapel.  The hermit was able to observe all services in the chapel and keep an eye on the relics of Saint Kyneburgh.  There would have been at least one window in the cell facing out from the cell to the community.  This would have allowed the hermit’s needs to be cared for and would have let in daylight.

The picture below shows a modern fence erected along the path of Gloucester’s medieval wall near its South Gate.  The Chapel of Saint Kyneburgh and its hermit’s cell no longer exist but would have been located by the right side of this modern fence.

The anchorite character plays a major role in my story.  I hope you will enjoy reading Memento Mori to discover what that role is.

In my first book in the series, Effigy of the Cloven Hoof, Lady Apollonia was influenced by Mother Julian, the first woman to publish writings in the English language.  Mother Julian was a fourteenth century female anchoress in real life.  Among anchorites in medieval England, females such as Mother Julian frequently outnumbered males.

Mother Julian’s location was next to a parish church in Norwich, Norfolk, East Anglia.  The picture below shows her cell attached to the south side of the church.  The cell had the window shown in the picture which yielded good light in the daytime and another window into the wall of the church that allowed the anchoress to view directly into the chancel area of the church.

My next posting will address still other medieval topics from Memento Mori.  Please join us!