Two Kings, A Sheriff and Ninety-Seven Pounds

Three-Men-before-a-Judge- MS Ludwig XIV 6 fol 135v
Three Men and a Judge. Ludwig MS XIV 6, fol, 135v

The Lancashire Pipe Rolls give a snapshot of some of the consequences of falling foul of medieval law or Kings, the creative approaches some Kings used to raise money, and the tricks employed by their subjects trying  to recoup their losses. A particularly interesting set of records cover 1194 – 1196, the two years following the payment of the 100,000 pounds of silver, required to ransom Richard I. England having paid two-thirds, he was freed in February 1194. He then returned to England, put down a rebellion by his brother John, paid the outstanding balance and had set off to campaign in Normandy by mid May. So how did he raise the outstanding 33,333 pounds of silver if England had been bled dry by his ransom as is often claimed?

Richard’s justices travelled England imposing fines for rebellion, imposing fines for seisin of property and infringments of Common and Forest Law. His sheriffs were equally busy collecting them along with a new tax, the carucage, the replacement for the cumbersome Danegeld. A payment of one mark for each carucate or hide of land a man held was levied, each carucate being approximately 120 acres,,the area a plough team of eight oxen could work in a season. Variations in soil type and climate across the country, were taken into account, with smaller plots being located in areas of heavy soil or high rainfall. Richard also removed sheriffs from their posts, and then sold the position to the highest bidder, a risk considering their important role. Sheriffs maintained the peace in their county, disseminated the King’s orders, called up men for the Royal army and provisioned them, collected fines and taxes, tried minor criminal and civil cases, and imprisoned felons awaiting trial by the King’s Justices. At the end of a year he had to give an account of himself to the Exchequer, paying in monies or tally sticks owing to the Crown.

Theobald Walter purchased the role of Sheriff of Lancaster at Easter 1194, a county particularly lucrative for Richard, as his rebellious brother had been Lord in Chief, compelling those who owed him knight’s service to rebel with him or forfeit their property. Now these men faced fines, forfeiture or outlawry, depending on their value to the King or the best approach to guarantee payment of a large fine, to regain seisin or to return within the protection of the law. Theobald fell foul of another of Richard’s schemes, the granting of Royal lands in return for payment, whilst not permitting the Sheriff to claim relief on the half year’s rent of the fee farm, thus placing him in debt to the Exchequer1. However it is possible that Theobald came up with his own scheme to recoup his losses, appealing to the King for a grant of £97 to restock the Royal demense, as Count John had requisitioned most of the livestock prior his rebellion to provide food in case of a siege and increase the supply of horses to his men.

A breakdown in the Pipe Roll gives the overall costs and number of animals required, and the commentary provides the cost per head, as summarised:

5 plough teams to till 15 carucates of the Royal Estate, each ox costs 4s,as does a harrow and 40 oxen and 5 harrows were needed2                                                                                                                                 £15

Annual produce from 15 vaccaries, each requiring 16 cows and 1 bull, for a total of 140 cows, 16 bulls at 4s a beast                                                                                                                                                                     £15

Annual produce of 4 score (80) brood mares, at 4s per head                                                                            £4

Annual produce of a long hundred (120) of breeding ewes, at 6d per head2                                                        £1

However there is no evidence that Theobald spent this money on livestock, or anything else for the benefit of the King’s demense. When John became King, he removed Theobald from office and the Lancashire Pipe Roll for the third year of his reign records that John had ensured he had repaid the £97:

“Theobaldus Walteri reddit compotum de quater xx et xvijl quas ipse recepit ad instaurandas terras in honore de Lancastra quando habuit balliam sicut annotatur in Rotulo Regis Ricardi viij. In thesauro liberavit. Et quietus est.”

Theobald Walter gives account of four lots of £20 and £17 (£97) which was received to restore the lands of the Honour of Lancaster, when he had office as noted in the Roll of 8 King Richard. He had paid it. He is discharged. (my translation).

FOOTNOTES

1. An annual rent payable to property owner, but without an obligation for feudal service

2. Oxen were bred on special farms called vaccaries, each vaccary had 16 cows and 1 bull, the aim was to keep a plentiful supply of fit animals to replace any that were worn out, old or sick, to maintain the efficiency of plough teams, each comprising 8 oxen. A village was valued on the number of plough teams it supported, and if there were insufficent teams or lack of supply to meet demand, its prosperity and value to its Lord declined  or ceased. Each plough team yielded a profit of 20s

3. It is difficult to determine the value of wool produced in 1189 due to lack of extant records, so the prices quoted below are a century later, but give an idea of the profitability of sheep farming. By 1194, English wool was in high demand as damp English pastures produce sheep with a long, strong, soft, fine and springy wool. Flemish merchants were paying in advance, exporting the raw wool for processing and weaving in Flanders, the finished cloth then being exported across Europe. Each sack comprised of 240 fleece, weighing approximately 364lb. In 1299 30 adult sheep produced 20s of wool, so a flock of 120 would yield 80s.  (Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, Christopher Dyer, Cambridge University Press, 1989 )

References and Bibliography

Farrer W (1902) The Lancashire Pipe Rolls and the Early Lancashire Charters Henry Young and Sons Liverpool. [online] https://archive.org/details/lancashirepiper00exchgoog

 

 

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Two Kings, A Sheriff and Ninety-Seven Pounds

Woolly Saints – The Cult of St Blaise 1 – Wool Churches of St Blaise

Role of Saints in Society

Medieval Saints primarily had the role of intercessors, however their veneration was also a major part of religious life. Patron Saints both provided an intercessor for an identified group and generated income for the Church; the group who venerated the Saint would give money in his or her name, to improve their chances of salvation, and as doctrine developed, reduce their time in purgatory. For the wealthy founding a monastic house, church or chantry chapel was therefore common, with the nobility also having private chapels built within their homes. Once built, the founder or his heirs usually chose the Saint the building was designed to venerated, perhaps of links with their birthdate, family, profession or major income source or to favour a monastic order, in return for prayers for the souls of themselves, their family, overlords etc. We can use the cult of St Blaise to explore how this worked in practice, starting with the dedication of churches and private chapels.

Importing St Blaise

From the evidence discovered Blaise’s arrival in England was linked to the Crusades. He was the Patron Saint of the city state of Ragusa, now Dubrovnik and it is thought that the unknown knight who founded St Blasius, Shanklin IOW and a little later, Sir Stephen de Haccombe, founder of St Blaise’s, Haccombe, Devon,  visited his shrine on their return from duties in the Holy Land.

His Cult was  established in Northern England, by Bernard, the deposed Archbishop of Rasuga, who met Richard I, during his return from the 3rd Crusade. Richard  survived a shipwreck and was washed ashore at Lokrum, near Ragusa, in 1192. To give thanks to God for his survival, Richard funded the construction of the great Cathedral of St Mary 7 St Blaise, Ragusa and repairs to the Benedictine Monastery Church in Lokrum (Penman 2011). Bernard later fled to England to seek Richard’s protection, when he fell foul of his flock, eventually becoming part of King John’s court. After the Pope appointed his replacement in Ragusa in 1203, John appointed Bernard as Bishop of Carlisle, a poor and difficult See, previously vacant for sometime (Crosby 1994). It is thought that Bernard talked much of St Blaise, to his flock and members of the Royal Court, encouraging his cult to grow in wool rich England.

 

The Churches of St Blaise

Three of the four English churches of St Blaise, could be considered “wool churches” , as their construction was partially or wholly founded on fortunes built from wool. The churches were founded between the 12th & 14th Centuries, and surprisingly are all outside the traditionally recognised “Wool Church” areas of East Anglia and the Cotswolds. They are all listed buildings at Grade 2 or above. Unlike the traditional wool churches, founded by merchants or guilds, 3 of the St Blaise churches were all founded by individuals: returning Crusaders, thankful for their survival and  a Bishop, descended from farming stock. The final church, founded by a long forgotten individual, was remodeled by the local Abbey, when it became a Parish church. This last example is similar to the foundation of the great wool churches, by wool merchants or wool related guilds. Building of these ceasing between the Reformation and the English Civil war, due to the decline of the wool trade. The 3 churches founded by local families / Bishop, also provided an opportunity to demonstrate their wealth and status within their community and beyond.

St Blaise, Milton, Berkshire

“St Blaise church, Milton – geograph.org.uk – 64067” by Dennis Jackson. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons

The Manor of Milton was held by Abingdon Abbey from 956, when the local Thane, gifted lands given to him by King Edwy. Abingdon was a Benedictine monastery and the 6th richest in England at the dissolution. Prior to  The earliest ecclesiastical building was a 10th Century chapel. The community at this time was a chapelry of the parish of Sutton Courtenay (Page & Ditchfield 1924) . A chapelry is a community within the bounds of a larger parish, with a chapel, subsidiary to the Parish Church. This allowed parishoners to worship locally, where the journey, to the Parish Church was long. The Abbey demolished the Saxon church and built the current St Blaise in the 14th Century, some parts have survived the later Victorian improvements.

Abbeys were granted manors by Kings or nobles, to provide an income, they were expected to farm the land themselves, or use lay brothers, bailiffs or tenants-in-chief (lesses) to manage smaller parcels of land, known as Granges. The majority of the work would be undertaken by the local peasantry, who would sublet small parcels of land for crops (heriots) and graze animals on common land; the unfree villein being expected to also work a set number of days on the Lord’s lands. They would then derive income from the land through rents and produce. In return they were  expected to pray for the Royal or Noble family in perpetuity and provide a certain number of knights or their financial equivalent to the King (knight’s fees) as required. So the Manor of Milton would have been managed by lesses on behalf of the monks. Additional income would be obtained from the lesse by charging for the use of the fulling mill to finish cloth woven in the village and to trade at the various markets and fairs (Manco 2013) (Ponstan 1972).

As the area has been noted since Domesday as a rich agricultural area, producing a wide range of crops and having extensive meadowlands, the Abbey was fortunate in its gift.  By the C14th, the meadowlands were used to farm sheep. The main industry of the village became wool, with fleeces washed in the local Ginge Brook (Oxford Diocesian Guild of Bellringers 2009). Abingdon, with its Abbey run markets, fairs and fulling mill, dominated the industry and gave local wool merchants the opportunity to become prosperous. The area was a reasonable distance from Southampton too, which facilitated the export of  finished cloth. Today, the Parish Church is perhaps the only testament to this rich history:

The former woollen industry is commemorated by the dedication of the church to St. Blaise, the patron saint of wool-combers, and also by the Tadpole revel at Milton Hill on the day following the village feast on the third Sunday after Trinity, ‘Tadpole’ being probably a corruption of tod, or cleaned, wool. (A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4

Photos of the church are few and far between, but for a look inside please visit “My Grave Places”, the blog owner, Bill Nichols has taken some beautiful images

St Blaise Church, St Blazey, Cornwall

St Blaise, St Blazey Source:http://www.cornwall-opc.org/Par_new/a_d/blazey_st.php

Although the site of a pre-existing  settlement, the town adopted the name of its then new church, founded by the Bishop of Exeter, Walter De Stapledon, in 1309. There is disagreement about the prosperity of the wool industry in medieval Cornwall, with the parish history claiming that “by the 15th  Century, when the existing parish church was built, (improving on De Stapledon’s building), the area was the centre of the local woollen industry”. However both Ryder (1964) & the Cornwall County Council historian disagree, claiming that prior to 1600, Cornish Wool was of poor quality, until selective breeding promoted a healthy wool industry.

An investigation of  de Stapledon’s past and the main income source of his diocese indicates a possible reason for dedicating his newly founded church to St Blaise. De Stapledon’s parents were Devon farming stock, from the wool rich lands of East Devon, which supported the greatest number of  sheep  of all the divisions of Devon and Cornwall (Gladwin 2015). His family, were not wealthy but were ambitious and  found a way to send Walter to Oxford. He then became Vicar of Aveton Gifford, Devon, before becoming a Professor of Canon Law at Oxford and Chaplain to Pope Gregory. He entered Royal service as Edward II’s Lord High Treasurer and was also appointed Bishop of Exeter (Britannica Biography). He was one of the wealthiest Bishops in the country, in part due to the income from the production of wool and wool cloth on his many manors. The income from one Manor  – Chudleigh – in 1308, illustrates this:

“Rental of Manor £17, Income from fulling mill 20s to See of Exeter”. (Register of the Bishop of Exeter)

If we assume he could earn this from all his manors in Devon, Cornwall and other counties, then add the percentage owed from the sale of finished cloth and the income of any directly managed granges, we then begin to understand why he was so wealthy

St Blaise, Medieval Stained Glass C1309, East Window Source:https://www.cornishstainedglass.org.uk/mgsmed/church.xhtml?churchid=206

This income was on the whole well spent, greatly improving Exeter Cathedral and founding Exeter College, Oxford, where he endowed a series of places for poor boys of potential, from his manors of Devon and Cornwall (Chudleigh History Society). However he was not sufficiently politically astute to avoid being caught up in the invasion of Queen Isabella and the deposition of Edward II. A London mob took exception to him spying on Isabella during her time in France. He tried to reach the Sanctuary of St Paul’s Cathedral, London and was beheaded with a bread knife on the its steps.

The people of St Blazey still celebrate St Blaise’s day by parading a wicker effigy of the Bishop and a ram through the streets, something to be explored in more depth in a future post about festivals. (Cornish Guardian). Blaise’s stained glass image was saved from the destruction of the Reformation and  is thought to date from de Stapledon’s original church (Mattingly & Swift 2009). Other roundels in the window depict the lamb and woolcomb.

 

St Blaise, Haccombe, Devon

Haccombe Church St Blaise Church building http://www.shaldonchurches.org.uk/linesblaise.jpg

This small, 13th century church, in the Exeter Diocese, approximately 15 miles from the Bishop’s Palace in Chudleigh, was remodelled as an Archpresbytery, in the early 14th century.

The original church was built in the C1230, by Sir Stephen De Haccombe, a crusader knight, who died C1243  and his heir Sir John Lercedekne (husband to Sir Stephen’s daughter). The  de Haccombes were Norman French and were granted the manor by William I.  Sir Stephen, who spent 5 years in the Holy Land in the army of the Bishop of Exeter, Walter de Branscombe, swore to build a parish church, should he return safely home (Oliver 1846). His homeward journey, took him to Rugasa where he visited the Cathedral of  Mary & St Blaise and it is thought that he named the church in its honour (Jones 2014). With his manors located in a wool rich area, dedicating a church to the Patron Saint of Wool combers, would have seemed sensible.  The church, is small but has a wealth of tombs and brasses of the de Haccombe family, to view them please visit the ipernity website

The improvement work, to create an Archpresbytery – a chantry of priests overseen by an Archpriest,  was approved and  started before de Stapledon’s death and is modeled on the Archpresbytery at Whitchurch (Stapledon reg folio 165).

Tomb of Sir Stephen de Haccombe, founder http://www.wissensdrang.com/stabb109.htm#110a

A living was provided for 6, salaried chantry priests plus the archpriest, also the parish priest and 2 lay clerks appointed as assistants and general servants (Stabb 1908 -16). The Archpresbytery  was endowed with the tithes of Haccombe and a couple of Cornish manors, belonging to Sir Stephen (Oliver 1846). The priests were requested to pray for the souls of the late Sir Stephen, John Grandisson – Bishop of Exeter, Sir John and his family and the Earls of Devon. They also assisted the Archpriest in his parish duties.

Today the church is part of the benefice of Shaldon, a parish encompassing 4 villages and hamlets, of which. Haccombe is the smallest, the village having been cleared by a later manorial occupant as it spoiled his view.

St Blasius and St John the Baptist, Shanklin, Isle of Wight

St Blasius Church, Old Shanklin, Isle of Wight Attribution: John Salmon St_Blasius,_Shanklin_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1151509.jpg ‎

This church was founded during the reign of King Stephen (1135 – 54) as the private manorial chapel of Shanklin and dedicated to St John the Baptist. At over 850 years old it is the oldest of the 4 churches dedicated to St Blaise. However, the reason and exact dates for its later dedication to St Blasius (latin form of Blaise) are reported by the church historian as being something of a mystery. It remained in  family ownership until 1835, when it was donated to the community, as the new Parish Church and modernised, stripping away much of the antiquity (Page 1912). It is currently part of the Diocese of Portsmouth. Whilst there is a crypt, the church website reports that access is blocked by the renovations.

It is thought that The Chapel was originally founded by a probable descendent of  a man named Gozelin, who held the manor at Domesday. This later family were possibly known as D’Insula or D’Lisle – both meaning “Of the Island”. The manor, along with others in the vicinity of Southampton, on the mainland, was held in the Honour of Carisbrook (Woodward et al 1861). St Blasius first  enters the records in 1170, when a chapel was endowed that owed fealty to the Mother Church in Brading .This suggests that the theory mooted by the Church History (website), linking St Blasius to Richard I’s shipwreck,  some 22 years later, is unfortunately unlikely to be right. (St Blasius Old Parish Church, Timeline). This mysterious knight, reputed to have carved a Crusaders Cross into the stone doorpost of the church, either joined King Louis VII’s army for the 2nd Crusade of 1144 or served in or supported one of the military orders stationed in the Holy Land e.g, The Knights Hospitaller or the Knights Templar (Wikipedia, Military Orders). There were a variety of land and sea routes to the Holy Land, so its quite possible that he stopped in Rasuga and gave thanks to St Blaise’s but the truth is sadly lost in the mists of time.

St Blasius Church, Shanklin IOW, North Window http://www.hampshirechurchwindows.co.uk/iow/churches/ssb8.JPG

We do know that by the early 14th Century, his descendants  the D’Lisle’s of Wootton, who also held the manor of Shanklin, were established as one of the Islands leading families, holding the constableship of Carisbrooke Castle, under Edward II (Davenport Adams 1864).  St Blaise remained in favour, according to the historical timeline of the Church, as by 1367,  he was the  Patron Saint of the Lisle family sanctuary within the church:

1367 was the date of the presentation of the “Chapel of St. Blays of Shanklyng Capella Sancti Johannes Baptisti de Shynling.”

This would confirm a theory in the  Church history suggesting that either an altar in a side chapel or chantry chapel could have been dedicated to St Blaise, his name somehow surviving down the centuries. He is commemorated today in the North Window, a modern depiction, designed by Martin Evans of Glory Art Glass Sandown.

 

References and Bibliography

Chudleigh History Group (2012) Timeline of the Bishop’s Palace [online] Available http://www.chudleighhistorygroup.com/bishops-palace.html Accessed 29.10.15

Cornish Guardian (2015) Celebrating St Blaise in St Blazey [online] Available http://www.cornishguardian.co.uk/Celebrating-St-Blaise-St-Blazey/story-25972411-detail/story.html accessed 30.10.15

Crosby EU (1994) Bishop and Chapter in 12th Century England – A Study of the Mensa Episcopalis, Cambridge University Press 1994 [Online] Available:  https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cmXB_Dg8inUC&pg=PA110&dq=Bernard+Archbishop+of+Ragusa+England&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAGoVChMI3-mE7YbyyAIVA-wUCh1UOQmI#v=onepage&q=Bernard%20Archbishop%20of%20Ragusa%20England&f=false accessed 2.11.2015

Davenport-Adams WH (1864) Nelson’s Handbook to the Isle of Wight T Nelson and Sons, London [online] Available https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=NYIuAAAAMAAJ&dq=D%27Lisle+Carisbrooke&source=gbs_navlinks_s  Accessed 2.11.2015

English Heritage (1966),  Listing of the Church of St  Blaise, Milton, [online] Available: http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-250018-church-of-st-blaise-milton-oxfordshire#.VjIlGbfhBdi Accessed 29.10.15

Friends of Abingdon (no date) Abbey Buildings Overview [Online] Available http://www.friendsofabingdon.org.uk/abbey-buildings/ Accessed 29.10.15

Gladwin DD (2015) Average numbers of demesne livestock.  c.1300   (figures all +  or – 5 years.) (collated from Pipe rolls and Manorial Returns) Unpublished.

Jones, N (2014) Haccombe St Blaise Devonshire Magazine (Oct 2014) [Online] Available  http://issuu.com/trouty/docs/haccombe_st_blaise/2?e=1521368/9785514, accessed 30.10.2015

King, RJ (1903) Handbook to the Cathedral’s of England, Southern Division IN Britannia Biographies [online] http://www.britannia.com/bios/wstapledon.html, accessed 30.10.15

Manco (2013) Medieval Manors and Their Records [Online] Available http://www.buildinghistory.org/manors.shtml accessed 3.11.15

Mattingley J & Swift MJ (2009) Pre-Dissolution Stained Glass in Cornwall, Vidimus (vol 31), July / Aug 2009 [online] Available: http://vidimus.org/issues/issue-31/features/#pre-dissolution-stained-glass-in-cornwall Accessed 30.10.15

Oxford Diocesian Guild of Bellringers (2009) St Blaise Milton [Online] Available http://odg.org.uk/history/onb/more/u485924.html, Accessed 3.11.15

Penmann SK (2011) Richard and Ragusa [online blog] http://sharonkaypenman.com/blog/?p=275 Accessed 2.11.2015

Ponstan MM (1972) The Medieval Economy and Society Pelican (Middlesex)

Oliver G (1846) Monasticon Diocesis Eroneinsis, Being a Collection of Records and Instruments Illustrating Ancient Conventional, Collegiate and Eleemosinary Foundations in the Counties of Cornwall & Devon, pp286 – 289,  Longmans (London) [Online] Available https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=m8pMAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA287&dq=haccombe&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDQQ6AEwBGoVChMIi6HJndbxyAIVwjAaCh01QAWO#v=onepage&q=haccombe&f=false Accessed 2.11.2015

Page WM (ed) (1912) The Victoria History of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (Vol 5) (pp 195 -7), Constable &Co (London) [online] Available http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hants/vol5 ( accessed 1.11.2015)

William Page and P H Ditchfield (eds) (1924) ‘Parishes: Milton’, in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4, ed. (London), pp. 361-365 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol4/pp361-365 [accessed 27 October 2015].

Ryder M. L (1964) The history of sheep breeds in Britain. Ag Hist Reviews 12: 65–82. [online] Available http://www.bahs.org.uk/AGHR/ARTICLES/12n2a1.pdf Accessed 29.10.15

de Stapledon W (1308) Register of Bishop de Stapledon in Chudleigh History Group (2012) Timeline of the Bishop’s Palace [online] http://www.chudleighhistorygroup.com/bishops-palace.html Accessed 29.10.15

Stabb J (author), Peters, Dr R (ed) (1908 -1916) Some Old Devon Churches – A Richly Illustrated Trilogy. Simpkin et Al, London [online] Available  http://www.wissensdrang.com/stabb109.htm Accessed 1.11.2015

St Blasius Old Parish Church (date unspecified) Church History [online] Available http://www.st-blasius-church.org.uk/history.html accessed 29.10.2015

St Blasius Old Parish Church (date unspecified) Church TImeline [online] Available http://www.st-blasius-church.org.uk/timeline_5.html Accessed 2.11.2015

Wikipedia (2015) Chapelry [online] Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapelry Accessed 29.10.1

Wikipedia (2015) Milton, Vale of White Horse. [Online]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton,_Vale_of_White_Horse Accessed 27.10.15

Wikipedia (2015) Military Order – Monastic Society [online] Available  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_order_(monastic_society) Accessed 2.11.15

Woodward BB, Wilkes TC & Lockhart C A (1861) General History of Hampshire (pp123), Virtue & Co, London. [online] Available: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6-IHAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false Accessed 1.10.15

Yates M (2007) Town and Countryside in Western Berkshire, Social and Economic Change C1327 -C1600, Boydell Press, Woodbridge

Woolly Saints – The Cult of St Blaise 1 – Wool Churches of St Blaise

Woolly Saints – Introducing St Blaise

 

St Blaise, flanked by a seamstress and a woollen mill worker, in memory of the donor’s parents. This is the west window of the Clackmann Parish Church Scotland, founded in C12th. The window is a later addition.

Saintly Summary

Who Was He? Bishop of Sebastea in Armenia
Type of Saint Martyr
Year of Death 316AD
Feast Day 3rd February
Patron Saint Wool workers, throat illnesses
Link to Wool Tortured with wool combs prior to beheading

 

Who Was Blaise?

Blaise was a Bishop in the Roman Era, who’s background isn’t known. He was martyred when the Emperor decided that all Christians were heretics, only believing in one God and not the Roman pantheon. Prior to formal canonisation beginning 1234 (New Catholic Encyclopedia), martyrdom lead to sainthood, hence Bishop Blaise became Saint Blaise.

It is reported that he lived in a cave for sometime to evade arrest and healed wounded and sick animals that came to him for help. He is the patron saint of throat diseases, due to one of the 2 miracles he is reported to have performed on the way to his imprisonment and martyrdom: the restoration of an elderly woman’s pig that had been savaged by a wolf and healing a child who was choking to death on a fishbone. It is said that the old woman took 2 candles to him to light his cell.

His cult moved into Europe around 8th Century and gained popularity from C11th onwards. His feast day is still marked by an unusual, ancient ceremony: people go forward to have their throat blessed, the old woman’s kindness remembered by  the priest holding 2 unlit candles in the shape of the cross to the throat. The throat is healed of disease or disease or harsh words are prevented.

He is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, a collective of Saints with a responsibility healing which evolved in the Germanic states somewhere between the 11th and 14th C, probably in response to the plague.

What About The Wool?

The martyrdom of St. Blaise (Blasius), Bishop of Sebaste. Hours of Philip of Burgundy The Hague, KB, 76 F 2 fol. 260r, 1450-1460

It seems a strange tradition that Saints who had a particularly grizzly demise become associated with the implements of their death for time immemorial as a Patron Saint. The purpose of Medieval ecclesiastical art was teaching the mainly illiterate congregation about their faith, hence martyrs were traditionally painted holding the item that caused their death. Blaise was flailed with large metal combs, prior to his beheading,  that resembled wool combs. These are implements used to align the fibres in the fleece of long stapled or long wool sheep. As can be seen from the picture on the left, they have very long iron prongs and can obviously do a fair amount of damage!

Wool combing is only a small part of the process of cloth production however so its likely that the wool comber also had other skills such as spinning, weaving, fulling etc and overtime Blaise became the Patron Saint of wool workers in general.

His cult then became involved with the wool guilds and guild halls,  churches and chantries were endowed in his name, his relics were held at Canterbury and his Feast Day became a time of celebration, all of which will be covered in following posts.

 

 

References and Bibliography

New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) [online] Available: http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/when-did-the-custom-of-canonizing-saints-start-and-is-it-true-that-canonizations-are- Accessed 27.10.15

Saunders W, (2003) Blessing Throats on the Feast of St Blaise, Arlington Catholic Herald  [Online} Available: http://www.itmonline.org/bodytheology/stblaise.htm Accessed: 27.10.15

Wikipedia (2015) Fourteen Holy Helpers [Online] Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_Holy_Helpers Accessed: 27.10.15

Wikipedia (2015) St Blaise [Online] Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Blaise   Accessed: 27.10.15

Williams B (1998) St Blaise’s Well, Bromley [Online], Available http://people.bath.ac.uk/liskmj/living-spring/sourcearchive/ns6/ns6bw1.htm Accessed 27.10.15

Woolly Saints – Introducing St Blaise

Addendum to The Pantheon of Woolly Saints

I believe that if people are kind enough to read and give feedback on your writing, then it is only correct to acknowledge this and take their suggestions on board. So I intend to add a short addendum to posts where necessary.

Added to the Table

St Crispin – Feast Day 25th October

Crispin is most famous as the Battle of  Agincourt  was fought on “Crispin’s Day”, with Shakespeare’s Crispin’s Eve speech being particularly well known. He is more commonly associated with leather workers and shoe makers, having been one himself, before his martyrdom.

Not Added to the Table

St Bernard of Clairveaux – Feast Day 20th August

Bernard was the 12thC abbot of Citeaux and held great power both in his native France, via his influence over King Louis VII and the Church. He reformed and developed the Cistercian Order, who founded their first English Abbey at Waverley in Surrey in 1118. They went on to become very successful sheep farmers, breeders and merchants, hence many of their great abbeys are said to be built on wool. Yet,Bernard is not the Patron Saint of Farmers or Shepherds, but of Candlemakers, Bees and Beekeepers and Wax Workers, plus his Cistercian Order.

Therefore, in view of his seminal, if indirect, role in the development of the English Wool Trade, he definitely merits both a mention here and a future series of posts exploring the Cistercian order in the British Isles.

 St Germaine Cousin – Feast Day – 15th June

Germaine was a young French shepherdess who had a very difficult, yet short life, in the late 16th / early 17th Century, ruling her as a medieval saint. I plan to continue the series on saints, and as the Patron Saint of Shepherdesses / Sheep, I will revisit her story.  It is particularly touching and definitely wool orientated.

References and Bibliography

Donkin RA (date not specified) Cistercian Sheep Farming and Wool Sales in the Thirteenth Century, British Agricultural History Society [Online] Available:  http://www.bahs.org.uk/AGHR/ARTICLES/06n1a1.pdf Accessed 26.10.15

Fletcher, A (2000-2015) British Cistercian Abbeys [online] Available http://www.paradoxplace.com/Photo%20Pages/UK/Cistercian_Britain/Cistercian%20Britain.htm#Waverley0 Accessed 26.10.15

Pennington MB,  (1995) St Bernard of Clairveaux IN Glazier M, (1995) The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, Liturgical Press [Online] Available: http://www.osb.org/cist/bern.html Accessed 26.10.15

Wikipedia (2015) Germaine Cousin. Available:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germaine_Cousin Accessed 26.10.15

Wikipedia (2015) St Crispin’s Day Accessed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Crispin%27s_Day Accessed 26.10.15

 

Addendum to The Pantheon of Woolly Saints