The Medieval Garden | Dave’s Garden

Tofts&Crofts – Medieval Garden

Today we purchase most of our food from a supermarket; our pharmaceuticals and cleansers are largely synthetic. Many of us tend purely ornamental flower borders. We are far removed from medieval times when gardens were essential for survival, and plants grown for food, medicine and enjoyment were often one and the same.

Source: The Medieval Garden | Dave’s Garden

Two of my greatest loves are the Middle Ages and gardening – herbal and vegetable gardening, in particular. Indeed, one of the reasons I love herbalism so much is that it combines my love of nature and the outdoors with my love of history!

Humans have had gardens for at least as long as we have been a largely settled people; that is to say, probably pretty much since the neolithic period. But a remarkable number of our gardening and agricultural practices – I am speaking of traditional ones, mind you, not industrial agriculture! – may be traced back to the medieval period, and particularly to monastic farms and gardens.

These include double-digging and marling, crop rotation (e.g., letting fields lie fallow for a time), and the use of “manure” (as used in earlier ages, a mixture of animal dung with other types of what we would now call compostable materials).

Many of us may be familiar with Ellis Peters’ superb “Chronicles of Brother Cadfael” serious of medieval crime fiction, in which the lead character, Brother Cadfael himself, was Benedictine monk-herbalist (and former Crusader) in 12th century Shrewsbury. His primary occupation in the monastery was growing herbs and keeping an herbal apothecary, from which he assisted both brothers of the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul and also local townsfolk with their various ills and injuries, but in the usual manner of literary detectives, crimes and mysteries in need of solutions kept finding him!

Image result for brother cadfael's herb garden

The Brother Cadfael chronicles are works of fiction, of course; but Edith Pargeter (whose pen name was Ellis Peters) was an academically-trained medievalist, and her research was solid. Medieval monks really were avid gardeners and farmers; they had to be, to support their foundations.

The Rule of St. Benedict required that monks support themselves by their own labours – ora et labora (prayer and work) was a major axiom of the Benedictine Rule. And of course, in an agrarian society like the Middle Ages, that largely meant farming, although of course monks also did many other things, in addition (manuscript-making, running hospitals and guest-houses, bread-baking, and beer-brewing, to name just a few). Notably, all of these (including manuscript-making, as medieval manuscripts were scriven on vellum or parchment, made from specially-prepared animal skins) were also closely linked with gardening and/or farming.

At any rate, for a variety of reasons – whether a love of history, especially medieval history, a desire to recapture and practice traditional arts and crafts, or as a hedge against a possible crisis which would require greater self-sufficiency, among others – some of us might want to consider recreating a medieval garden, or elements thereof, as our circumstances allow.

The above-linked article by Gwen Bruno provides an excellent general history of the medieval garden, and thus inspiration for the endeavor. For additional inspiration, as well as helpful hints and suggestions on how to do it, and a variety of useful resources and instructions on historical gardening in general, I recommend Designing a Medieval Garden, on the Wyrtig blog. If your goal is primarily medicinal, you might also want to consult English Heritage‘s “What to Grow in a Medieval Garden,” which lists nine of the most commonly-grown medieval medicinal herbs.

Advertisements

The Glories of the West, Old Midsummer, and a blessed Feast of St. John the Baptist!

In honor of this (“Old”) Midsummer’s Day – the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Sumer is icumen in (“Summer is a-coming in”)!

(… and of course, more of the culture that we Europeans don’t have…! *wry smile*)

Magna Carta: an introduction | The British Library

Image result for magna carta

King John granted the Charter of Liberties, subsequently known as Magna Carta, at Runnymede on 15 June 1215.

Source: Magna Carta an introduction – The British Library

On this date in 1215, 803 years ago today, King John “Lackland” granted – admittedly under duress! – the “Charter of Liberties,” which was to become known as the “Magna Carta” or “Great Charter,” to the rebel barons and leading churchmen of the Realm of England.

This is of Anglican interest because it protected, among other things, the rights and privileges of the English Church (Ecclesia Anglicana); and is is of general interest for those concerned with the defense of the West because “Magna Carta has… acquired a special status as the cornerstone of English liberties…. [The Great Charter] retains enormous symbolic power as an ancient defence against arbitrary and tyrannical rulers, and as a guarantor of individual liberties.”

The article points out that it is not certain how many copies of the 1215 Magna Carta were originally issued, but four copies still survive: one in Lincoln Cathedral; one in Salisbury Cathedral; and two at the British Library. It is actually the edition of 1225, issued (voluntarily) by King Henry III, which became definitive, and of which three critical clauses are still part of English law:

“Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. Although nearly a third of the text was deleted or substantially rewritten within ten years, and almost all the clauses have been repealed in modern times, Magna Carta remains a cornerstone of the British constitution.

“Most of the 63 clauses granted by King John dealt with specific grievances relating to his rule. However, buried within them were a number of fundamental values that both challenged the autocracy of the king and proved highly adaptable in future centuries. Most famously, the 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial. Some of Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).”

Of the three of those clauses which remain part of English law, one defends the liberties and rights of the English Church, another confirms the liberties and customs of London and other towns, but here is the third and most famous:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

“This clause gave all free men the right to justice and a fair trial [although] ‘free men’ comprised only a small proportion of the population in medieval England…

“Magna Carta has consequently acquired a special status as the cornerstone of English liberties. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of its clauses have now been repealed, or in some cases superseded by other legislation such as the Human Rights Act (1998). Magna Carta nonetheless retains enormous symbolic power as an ancient defence against arbitrary and tyrannical rulers, and as a guarantor of individual liberties.”

Perhaps, given the political and social situation there, England is in need of a new “Great Charter”!

Medieval Schools – Wrath Of Gnon on Twitter

“Far from what we imagine today, schools were available to many children in medieval England, as long as the family could spare their labour. Apart from monastic schools, there were free standing private grammar schools in many parishes. Here is the medievalist Nicholas Orme…”

“So much for the ‘Dark Ages’… Modern education in England (and indeed the world) has the early medieval schools to thank for almost every aspect of what we today take for granted…”

As an academically-trained, as well as avocational, medievalist (my B.A. is in medieval studies, and my Master of Theological Studies was focused primarily on early and medieval Christianity), “so much for the Dark Ages” is a pretty good condensation of my own conclusions! The “Dark Ages” were not nearly as “dark” as most people think; there was a good deal of scholarship, and quite a lot of creative thought, going on in them, and while some elements of the knowledge of late Hellenistic antiquity were lost to the West until the Renaissance, thanks to both monasteries and cathedral schools, much survived.

What I had not fully realized was the extent to which that knowledge was available outside of the cloister and the University. I should have! I was aware of private tutors, as well as the vast number of “clerks in minor orders” who were not, properly speaking, clergy, but who were the recipients of academic training in the aforementioned monastic and cathedral schools, and later the Universities, and passed that knowledge on – for a fee! – outside the walls.

What I hadn’t realized, but should have, was that then as now, education began young: for how could older youth be beneficiaries of knowledge without the seeds of learning being sown in their younger years? Latin is not learned overnight, nor is philosophy, nor yet the trivium and quadrivium. The existence of parish grammar schools is not something I had thought much about, one way or the other, but it is certainly not surprising.

Most interesting, though. Most interesting indeed!

An Integralist Manifesto by Edmund Waldstein | Articles | First Things

https://d2ipgh48lxx565.cloudfront.net/uploads/article_59b6e6b12624a.jpg?Expires=1518191286&Signature=Pg288gz--5wORXJ6uiYYUPoCzcF0oAvsxMqGbNGpedul3F45WS4JslW8H7fyEmW5iPeBYFShznncqdwJyv8KwIUbim85J8gA6KgoUWxnkwznP3tYkYGN80MaLVWYVCsVsPUcM61SjFEEk~EPaVUjLOgp0FSroah~3mOW7~sZyOPlxAKYqV3RX2418BPK7fBbHVKJbpdK-ntneM-rrPkQ3lEdHLjN4unoad3yBGhUwUUCsj4vqcwWVzJb7CFRfUmK5LdIdP428iaiagWKYf12d4eBSk9MUBBhkVvD-zgIyHlhvejp7STNxxQeIRxIGxD0KHFM0Ww0HRpY7L25VcFp-A__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAIN7SVXNLPAOVDKZQ

Jones provides strong evidence to show that historians have too often distorted our view of the Middle Ages by projecting modern constructions back onto them. But he is not merely making a historical claim. He is also making a normative claim…

Source: An Integralist Manifesto by Edmund Waldstein | Articles | First Things

“Aided by a philosophical and theological sophistication that is unusual for his profession, Jones challenges our most basic assumptions as moderns. He [speaks] of “an integral vision which included all of social reality.” In this integral vision, “church” and “state” did not exist as separate institutions; rather, spiritual and temporal authority cooperated together within a single social whole for the establishment of an earthly peace, ordered to eternal salvation.

“Nor was there an “economy,” in the modern sense of a relatively autonomous system based on private property and contract. Rather, the use of material goods was thoroughly integrated into the peace. “State,” “church,” and “economy” were not merely underdeveloped, waiting to be discovered. They did not exist, and would have to be invented. The vision of social peace gave way to an idea of social life as a violent, primordial struggle for power, and of sovereignty as limiting that violence by monopolizing it…

“Jones provides strong evidence to show that historians have too often distorted our view of the Middle Ages by projecting modern constructions back onto them. But he is not merely making a historical claim. He is also making a normative claim: The construction of modern society with its system of separations between different social spheres was a bad development that inscribes false ideas into our very way of life. Conversely, the integration of spiritual and temporal corresponds to the truth about humanity as revealed in Christ, and is therefore demanded by Christian orthodoxy.”

Provocative claims? You betcha! But fascinating to me, both as an academic medievalist by training, and as a Christian clergyman… and to me, they carry the ring of truth. I have long thought, and often stated, that we have lost much by forgetting or willfully discarding the insights of our medieval predecessors. There is no question that I shall need to add Andrew Willard Jones’ Before Church and State: A Study of Social Order in the Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX to my reading list!

Here are a few more excepts from this excellent review by :

“In the vision of peace that Jones describes, the clergy, who wielded the spiritual sword, and the lay authorities, who wielded the secular, had distinct roles, but they were cooperating toward a single end. They were not engaged in a struggle for “sovereignty,” a concept that had yet to be invented; instead, they actively promoted each other’s power as a means toward their common end…

“Even a short time ago—with the ascendancy of the “religious right” in the Reagan and Bush years—it was plausible to argue that the separation of church and state was good for religion. The accelerating pace of secularization manifested, for instance, in the legalization of homosexual marriage [and, I would add, an increasingly militant atheism making an ever-larger noise in the public square] makes that position much less plausible today. Before Church and State offers an alternative vision, a vision that could be realized only by a profound and fundamental transformation of the whole of our society. I am convinced that in working toward such a transformation, we have nothing to lose.”

Sir Walter Scott’s “Marmion” – Christmas in Merrie Olde England!

The Boar's Head on the groaning board

Marmion

~ by Sir Walter Scott (1808)

Heap on more wood! – the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:
Even, heathen yet, the savage Dane
At Iol more deep the mead did drain;
High on the beach his galleys drew,
And feasted all his pirate crew;
Then in his low and pine-built hall
Where shields and axes deck’d the wall
They gorged upon the half-dress’d steer;
Caroused in seas of sable beer;
While round, in brutal jest, were thrown
The half-gnaw’d rib, and marrow-bone:
Or listen’d all, in grim delight,
While Scalds yell’d out the joys of fight.
Then forth, in frenzy, would they hie,
While wildly loose their red locks fly,
And dancing round the blazing pile,
They make such barbarous mirth the while,
As best might to the mind recall
The boisterous joys of Odin’s hall.

And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had roll’d,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night;
On Christmas Eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung:
That only night in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn’d her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then open’d wide the Baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside
And Ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose;
The Lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of ‘post and pair’.
All hail’d, with uncontroll’d delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frown’d on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garb’d ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death to tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassel round, in good brown bowls,
Garnish’d with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reek’d; hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor fail’d old Scotland to produce,
At such high tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry makers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, O! what maskers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.

How a Protestant Spin Machine Hid The Truth About The English Reformation – Dominic Selwood

Source: How a Protestant Spin Machine Hid The Truth About The English Reformation – Dominic Selwood

I should probably wait until 23 May to post this… but undoubtedly other things will have come up by then to distract me, or eclipse the event. So I shall post it now, while it is fresh in my mind.

I am an Anglican, and I greatly value the Anglican tradition. But I am also a medieval scholar, both by academic training and avocation, and so I am not ignorant about what that Anglican tradition replaced.

And I have read Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars, so I am also not ignorant of how it replaced that medieval tradition of popular Christianity, developed over a full millennium. This essay, however, stands out as a concise yet thorough depiction – and, it must be said, just indictment – of that process.

It is significant both for its own merits, so that one is able to understand and evaluate this period with open eyes, and also as a cautionary tale for what could happen again, as we make our way through the present destruction of historical statues, removal of historic flags and other iconography, and revision of historic understandings of our past.

Wherever one may stand on the age-old (well, at least five century old) conflict between Roman Catholicism and Reformation, one must – or at least, in my opinion, should – ask oneself: is this really the model we wish to adopt? Is this really the path we want to go down?

Personally, and emphatically, I think not.