It is May, 1137, and Brother Columbanus is having visions of a saint in Wales, Winifred, whom HE claims is neglected there. So, an expedition to recover her bones and bring them to the abbey is put together to travel to Gwytherin to find Saint Winifred's burial place. The residents of Gwytherin are not all interested in surrendering their saint to the monks from England, and a murder complicates things quite a bit.
So, your job this week is to read the first six chapters and talk to us about this adventure and the people we meet as the novel goes along.
To get you started, what do you think of Brother Cadfael? Do you like him? What about Brother John? Do you agree with Brother John that Columbanus is faking his visions of Winifred? Much of this novel turns on the dynamics of medieval Catholicism and the relationship between the English and the Welsh, so ask questions when you do not understand something, and I will do my best to answer. After all, my focus in college was on Medieval Studies, so I may be able to make something clear for you when you are confused! Oh, I am also a trained herbalist, so I might be able to clarify any confusion you have concerning the medicinal use of herbs at that time, and since I am also taking a class tight now in church history, I could be a great resource for you in understanding this book, but you DO have to actually ask the questions, or I will not know what you do not understand!
FYI: The Benedictines are a Catholic order of monks who follow the "Rule of Saint Benedict," as espoused by their founder, Saint Benedict of Nursia. The members of a Benedictine community are men who are not cloistered but who DO live within the monastery walls. Some are teachers, some are healers, and some minster to the poor and the outcast [the leprosarium/lazer house at Saint Giles, for example]. Others are farmers while still others tend ot sick or cook, do laundry, or tend to beehives.
Monks are NOT priests, but they do not marry, and they live/work in a monastery and generally serve their monastic community and interact with the non-monastic community surrounding the monastery. The head of a monastic community is an Abbot, usually a priest [someone who can say "mass" and distribute the Eucharist]. The "Rule of Saint Benedict" has been followed by these monks for more than 15 centuries!
There are no wristwatches in Cadfael's time, but the church bells ring the canonical hours that govern a monastery [and guide a surrounding town or city]. The canonical hours are as follows:
- Matins: the middle of the night after the change of day, sometimes midnight itself
- Lauds: the very early dawn, maybe 3:00 AM
- Prime: early morning, perhaps about 6:00 AM
- Terce: the "third" hour of daylight, perhaps 9:00 AM
- Sext: mid-day... the "sixth" hour of daylight, perhaps noon
- Nones: mid-afternoon... the "ninth" hour of daylight, perhaps 3:00 PM
- Vespers: evening, about 6:00 PM
- Compline: night prayer, said before going to bed for the night; usually about 9:00 PM
I hope you find this book as fascinating as I do!
Teacher Barb :)