Back in March, the Anglo-Saxon monk interviewed Doreen Gunkel about her project to recreate the medieval 'Greenland Gown'. And what a fascinating project it is, blessed readers.
Now Doreen has just returned from a research trip to Greenland and Scandinavia, and has recently started a blog about the trip, and is beginning to write up some of her findings.
On her website, Doreen has some wonderful pictures of medieval textile tools from the Greenland National Museum, along with Doreen's description. Just follow the link below to see them.
A good monk, blessed readers, should know his canon law.
Canon law? This is the law of the Church as opposed to civil law (specifically, the law of the king in my eleventh-century world). Canons, or rules, have been laid down for centuries by ecclesiastical councils, the first of which was the Council of Nicaea in 325, and since then numerous collections of canon laws have been compiled. Well, makes a change from stamp collecting.
Today I'm going to relate a few highlights from the personal canon law collection of Wulfstan, archbishop of York between 1002 and 1016. The manuscripts which preserve this collection actually have annotations and additions written in Wulfstan's own handwriting. Well I never! Since as an archbishop he would have had numerous aides, including a magister scriptorii (master of the scriptorium) and a few lowly scribes thrown in for good measure, his personal attention to this collection shows it was something close to his heart. But, then, Wulfstan was fond of a good law, even being directly involved with the writing of civil laws for kings Æthelred (of un-readiness fame) and Cnut. He was nothing if not authoritative.
Now, beloved, I'm not simply writing all this for my own amusement, but rather because your interests are always at the centre of my world, plain as it is, and therefore I thought you would all benefit from knowing about one or two things that none of us should be getting up to according to Wulfstan's canon laws. Of course, it should come as no surprise that some of these canons are of the you shall not do kind. Well, that is what ecclesiasts are there for, to keep you on the straight and narrow. But there are some you shall do canons, too, as you will see, though it has to be admitted that these mostly amount to a bit of positive spin.
Regardless, I beseech you all, my blessed readers, to pay attention as I itemise five of my favourite rules, for your very soul may be at stake:
The digitised facsimile of Textus Roffensis, the manuscript that Dr Monk has been researching for Rochester Cathedral and which will be the star attraction in its 'Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions' exhibition (opening January 2016), has been moved to a new site with improved technology. You can access it, blessed readers, by clicking on the image above. Below are two images capturing the zoom-in feature. So enjoy turning the pages of one of the most important manuscripts in England!
Dr Monk is delivering a talk in York on Saturday (20th June, 2015) about the work being done to promote Textus Roffensis to a wider audience. Though it is arguably as important historically as Magna Carta and Domesday Book, it has barely broken through into the public consciousness. Dr Monk asks why that may be and what is being done to remedy this. He will report back to the Anglo-Saxon Monk in due course. May the Lord bless him.
Here, on folio 119v, you can see the boundary clause for the land granted to Rochester Priory by King Æthelberht of Kent. This charter is written in Latin except for the boundary clause, which is written in Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons. Though this document is fraudulent, we know from the historian Bede that Æthelberht did indeed grant land to Rochester. It is possible that the boundary clause represents the original transaction; and if so it is the oldest record of English street names. As well as Southgate ('suðgeate'), North Lane ('norð lanan'), and Street ('stræte'), you can see Broadgate ('Bradgeat') which has been underlined by a later hand. In the left margin a non-medieval hand has offered a translation of the Old English. Image by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral.
What fun! The Anglo-Saxon Monk has made his way back (by cart) to his cloistered world after having his voice-over recorded for a short film about the scribe of Textus Roffensis.
My thanks to Eddie, the sound engineer at LBS studios in South Manchester (Stockport, actually) – a very affable fellow – and to Master Fuzzy Duck himself, Phil Hewitt, who's now going to make a wondrous little film, zooming in and out of the manuscript itself, to which he will add my narration.
What marvellous magic you twenty-first century folk have. Godly magic, undoubtedly!
The film will be one of several used in the forthcoming exhibition at Rochester Cathedral, 'Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions', funded by something called the Heritage Lottery Fund. (I'm not quite sure if this means heathen lots were cast in some way to obtain money – maybe a bit dodgy, then; but I won't press anyone on the matter.)
I must confess, blessed readers, I did have one moment of disquietude. This was nothing to do with the actual recording, mind you, but, rather, I found it a little upsetting when the master told me he had just got back from Rochester Cathedral where he had filmed a scene about the life of the medieval monastery there, but had actually used ACTORS.
If he had asked nicely, he could have had a real medieval monk!
Nevertheless, may the Lord bless him. Quack, quack!
I hope you like charades, blessed readers, for I’ve decided, as a regular feature of this blog, to indulge my own fancy for this most monastic of pastimes while at the same time introducing you to the many wonders of the Harley Psalter. I will explain my reference to charades in a moment, but first let me tell you a thing or two about this most delightful of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts.
The Harley Psalter is an illustrated book of the Psalms, produced in the early eleventh century at one of the great centres of Anglo-Saxon manuscript production, Christ Church Cathedral Priory in Canterbury. Oh, the monks there were so cool, to use your twenty-first century idiom.
The Harley Psalter is often referred to as a copy of the Utrecht Psalter, which was produced around the year 830 by my Carolingian brothers in the monastery of Hautvilliers, near Rheims (Reims), before eventually ending up in Utrecht in 1716. It's more accurate, however, to call the Harley Psalter an adaptation of the Utrecht Psalter, as there are significant differences in text, script, composition and style. Nevertheless, the Utrecht Psalter did arrive at Canterbury in the late tenth century, and it inspired a number of English 'imitations' or adaptations, and our Harley one was the first of these.
Who was it for? Well, it may have been commissioned for Æthelnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1020 to 1038, or perhaps for his immediate predecessor Lyfing (also known as Ælfstan), who graced the primal see of Canterbury between 1013 and 1020.
It was produced in several phases by a close-working team which included a single main scribe, six artists, and a rubricator (the monk responsible for the red highlighted text). They took a fair bit of time to get it all done, probably the best part of two decades (monks have a lot on their plate, you know). But, alas, disaster struck; somehow the manuscript was damaged, and so one of the sections had to be replaced.
As for the nature of the damage, well we can’t be quite sure, blessed readers, though I suspect Christ Church priory was, like all monasteries, home to a few hungry mice, though it may not have been murine inhabitants causing the manuscript mayhem but, rather, a feline fiend at work! Since as monks we need to employ the services of a cat or two to keep the vermin at bay, it wouldn't surprise me to hear that a very insolent Christ Church cat decided to pee all over the Harley Psalter – and the monks could hardly present that to the archbishop now, could they? (If you doubt my cat pee theory, please note this item by Thijs Porck, a friend of Dr Monk.)
Whatever the case, the replacement of the spoiled section was undertaken by the scribe known as Eadui Basan and a new artist, who wasn’t quite so accomplished as the others, though we’ll let him off as it seems everyone was in a bit of a rush to get the Psalter finished. The archbishop had been waiting long enough!
So, why charades? Well, I’m indebted here to William Noel, renowned art historian. He explains in one of his studies how the type of illustration that was used in the original Utrecht Psalter is rather special: it’s not, as some have been tempted to describe it, narrative illustration as it doesn’t actually illustrate any stories as such. It is, rather, a form of ‘medieval charades’ in the sense that it ‘invites playful manipulation of textual messages by focusing on individual words and phrases’ in the accompanying text.
In other words, when you look closely at the drawings, what you see is a visual game in which a word or a phrase is, in a sense, acted out for the viewer. Furthermore, just as the acting out of individual words or phrases by themselves in Charades has very little bearing on the meaning of the answer as a whole, likewise in the Psalter the illustrating of the words ‘is done in a way that runs counter to their textual meaning’, as Noel puts it.
Now these same observations about charades in the Utrecht Psalter apply equally to the Harley Psalter which used the Utrecht as its exemplar and imitated its literal, phrase-by-phrase illustration. And so now I invite each blessed reader to join me in a game of medieval charades, as we try to work out just what words and phrases are being ‘acted out’ on the page.
Now I must forewarn you, beloved, that I may, in a spirit of monkish mischievousness, just occasionally succumb to a bit of playful manipulation myself. I'm sure you expect nothing less. Well, a monk has to let down his figurative hair now and again.
Well, let us start at the very beginning, Psalm 1. The images below are details from the image given at the beginning of the post, which you may use as an overall reference, if you wish.