Creating Modern Ecclesiastical Heraldry

arms of Pope Francis

My designer has recently gotten to do some minor work on some ecclesiastical heraldry. She didn’t design the whole thing, but she was brought on after the initial design work for some tweaking. When she told me, I immediately whipped out my heraldry books, but of course, I wasn’t needed. Nevertheless, I’ve gotten to do some peeking over shoulders, which has given me an interesting look at how modern ecclesiastical heraldry is created. [1]

Symbols

Modern ecclesiastical heraldry is usually made without regard to the symbols associated with various colors, symbols, and shapes that came from medieval heraldry since need for the arms to be meaningful to the community that will be viewing them supersedes historic symbolism. Nevertheless, there is usually a great amount of overlap.

Where medieval arms usually feature a crown or a helmet, the arms for a diocese will feature a bishop’s miter. I think the reason for this is obvious. The arms of a bishop or cardinal will feature a pilgrim’s hat with different numbers and colors of tassels depending on rank. A cardinal’s arms will have 30 red tassels, an archbishop’s 20 green tassels, and a bishop’s 12 green tassels. [2] They will also feature either a shepherd’s crook or a processional cross (sometimes both). [3] Papal arms will include the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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A Medieval Home Companion by Tania Bayard

A Medieval Home Companion: Housekeeping in the Fourteenth Century, is translated and edited by Tania Bayard. Housekeeping manuals get relatively little attention in comparison with romances or histories, so I was surprised to find many copies of this little book at Half-Price Books. The introduction does a good job of summarizing the contents:

Around the year 1393, an elderly citizen of Paris married a girl of fifteen. Although this in itself was not unusual at the time[1], what is remarkable is the fact that the old gentleman, knowing his inexperienced young bride would probably one day be a widow, felt it necessary to write her a book of moral and domestic instruction so she would do him credit with a second husband. In doing so, he left for future generations a priceless document that describes how a medieval woman was expected to behave toward her husband, perform her religious duties, conduct herself in society, manage her servants, plant her garden, and care for her household.

Ms. Bayard acknowledges the scholarly work done with this original manuscript, but notes that she thinks this document should be made accessible to the general public. She has kept only a quarter of the original work, choosing passages to which she believes modern readers can most easily relate: “what he has to say about how a wife should care for her husband’s bodily comforts; all of his chapters on gardening and managing a household; most of his suggestions about shopping, cooking, and other practical matters; and a few of his recipes.” She omits most of the passages concerning religion, partially because she feels they would bore most modern readers, but also because reading them without background knowledge would give the non-medievalist the idea that he is a “dictatorial male chauvinist.”

Much of the advice given in this book is nothing surprising. The author urges his young wife to make sure that she’s respectably dressed when she leaves the house so that she doesn’t look “drunken, silly, or ignorant….” Chastity and wisdom are two of the highest qualities to be pursued. Run a clean household. Stir the stew often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Don’t be a slacker. Etc.

Some material is more specific to Paris in this period, particularly gardening information. The author lists planting, pruning, and harvesting times for various herbs and vegetables. The section on servants, which just means anyone who would be hired to work in the household or on the land, gives a wealth of information. It not only gives specifics on what type of people would be hired for what type of jobs, but it also has extensive detail on what techniques a woman should use to effectively manage these people.

Some of the material will be surprising to the types who pick up this book expecting tales of bizarre ignorance of spousal abuse. For example, the author says that husbands and wives should conceal each other’s follies when one makes a mistake. He gives the example of a couple who have three children. The wife admits to the husband that one of their three children is not his. She is about to tell him which one, but he stops her, saying that he doesn’t want her or the children to be shamed, nor does he want to risk that he might come to love one child any less than the other two. Rather, forgiveness and understanding is all that is necessary for both.

Pinning down the social class of this book’s recipient is difficult, particularly because medieval class doesn’t correspond to modern class, but we’d probably call her a member of the upper middle class. The wife who read this book performed some labor herself, but was also engaged laborers of various types. From the instructions, she would hire some people for a specific job (fix a shoe), some for short-term work (the harvest season), and some for constant employment (domestic work). However, the wife would still be the one to change her own bed linens and perform some household duties, so her job is not entirely managerial, though it’s notone of hard labor.

I have never seen the original manuscript that this book is translated from. However, I can judge that Bayard produces a clean, efficient end product. Her writing is efficient and as engaging as possible for a book on this content. The text is interspersed with woodcuts that are not part of the original ms, but are helpful visual aids for an unfamiliar period.

Table of Contents

  • Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • The Husband’s Prologue
    • Worship, Dress, Deportment, and Speech
    • Chastity
    • Love
    • How to Care for a Husband
    • Gardening
    • The Household
    • The Kitchen
    • Other Small Matters

[1] I disagree with this statement, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to confidently challenge it.

Thranduil and the Fisher King: Thorin and Perceval?

If Thranduil is the Fisher King and the Arkenstone is the Grail, that would make Thorin Perceval. It could work.

The Grail quest is of a story type called “Frustrated Redemption,” characterized by “the presence of two protagonists: a youth in quest of adventures and a supernatural being (spectre, bewitched prince or princess), frequently plunged into a magic sleep in some inaccessible place (cave, enchanted castle, etc.).” [1] Though Thorin is no youth, he faces a sleeping supernatural being: Smaug.

Irit Ruth Kleiman notes that it is Perceval’s responsibility to “lift the malediction that has befallen his lineage and restore the health of the Grail kingdom.” [2] Thorin must face the legacy of madness associated with his lineage to restore the dwarven kingdom. Kleiman says that “Chretien exposes a universe wounded and vulnerable, torn between nostalgia and denial, in which sons have not succeeded in taking the places vacated by their fathers.’” [3] Thorin has failed to take the place vacated by Thror/Thrain and is not able to look to his grandfather/father for guidance because he has died before Thorin comes into power. Thorin will never take their places because he too dies before he can restore Erebor. He is driven by nostalgia for the old Erebor with a denial of Thror’s madness.

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Thranduil and the Fisher King: A Need for Healing

I thought the most interesting part of Marthe’s article was the speculation that Thranduil is in need of healing. The Fisher King is eternally injured, sometimes through others’ actions, sometimes through his own carelessness. Is Thranduil injured? Within the confines of The Hobbit as a book, no. In Tolkien’s larger universe, yes.

Thranduil saw his father killed due to his own mistake in the Battle of Dagorlad. Though insulated from some trauma due to Doriath’s isolation, he lived through the wars for the Silmarils, strife over Nauglamír, the fall of Doriath, the doom of the Noldor, the Last Alliance and the death of Gil-galad with the elves of Lindon. He has seen the devastating effects of greed. Though Peter Jackson doesn’t have the copyrights to much of this material, it will not be difficult to construct a painful past for Thranduil. In the films, Thranduil has clearly been traumatized by encounters with dragons, evidenced by burns on his face. Whether his burns are real or illusion is unknown, but he was scarred by a specific event. Whether the trauma is physical or spiritual, the wisdom of the Elves cannot heal Thranduil.

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Thranduil and the Fisher King: The Grail

Of all the characters in The Hobbit, I have been most interested to see what will be done with Thranduil. In an article in Empire Magazine, Lee Pace said that two inspirations for the character were Oberon and the Fisher King. I didn’t get a copy of the magazine; I only read a wonderful article on The One Ring.net titled “Thranduil, The Fisher King, and Oberon; Why It Matters.” The possible relationship between Thranduil and the Fisher King intrigues me.

Spoilers follow. I’m assuming that anyone who will be upset by spoilers has seen the movie already.

The Hobbit doesn’t give a great deal of development for Thranduil. It doesn’t need to; he’s not a character with a great deal of action within the storyline, but we’re going to need more if The Hobbit is to become a trilogy of movies. Since Pace ties Thranduil to the Fisher King, I would love to know just how familiar he is with Arthurian myth. Did he read the medieval works? The Victorian ones? Is this inspiration just coming from the cinema? I’m not questioning Pace’s merits; I’d just love to know which Fisher King(s) he’s drawing on so I can speculate more accurately.

There are really three characters to note here: the Fisher King, the Maimed King, and the Grail King. These are all the same character in some versions of the story, while they are separate in others. There are so many versions and sources for the Grail quest that even medieval authors sometimes confused the characters, so I’m just going to take them all as one. Marthe, author of the original article, gives a good summary of the Fisher King’s general traits. He probably originates in Celtic mythology with these important points: he is injured, and his kingdom has become a wasteland as a result.  The Fisher King has sustained a leg injury that will not heal, leaving him unable to move on his own and unable/unwilling to govern his kingdom. He can only be healed when the Grail quest is completed. I’m going to deal with Marthe’s intriguing conclusions about healing in my next post. For now, I want to focus on how the Grail quest fits The Hobbit.

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And the winner is…

The winner of the gingerbread Viking contest is Emily Hartman!

EmilyHartmanVikings!The contest had two entries, which is twice as many as I thought there would be. Emily has given us a row of Vikings with swords, a row of Vikings with shields, a berserker bear, Grendel, and a row of Star Trek redshirts (because why not?).

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I have another 11 months to consider whether this contest should happen again next year. For those of you who are academics, enjoy the rest of the winter break, and I’ll see you next year.

My Week in Review: Hwōsta Hwōsta

My week in review:

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hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta   Fred Astaire!  hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta
hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta hwōsta

Obviously, there’s only one word needing translation here. This noun can be translated a couple of different ways; one of them is “a cough” (Latin tussis). I didn’t have the energy to figure out a good OE equivalent of “grade papers,” and the second interruption needs no explanation, save that Turner Classic Movies had a marathon. Somehow, I also managed to get the Oxford and Edinburgh PhD applications turned in last week, but I have to wait until January to submit for St. Andrews.

This is also the reason why I haven’t had time to write a Christmas post. Happy Christmas, everyone!