Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Medieval Mystery Tour

Some time ago I received an email containing pictures of a medieval document. This happens quite frequently actually, and I will say right now that they are usually far less interesting to me than they are to their owners, who often seem to think that I can just pop them up on the screen and knock off a quick transcript and translation. Well, if it was that easy, there would be no real use for the Medieval Writing website. That is designed to allow you to spend many happy months working it out for yourself.
This particular example proved to be quite unique, in my limited experience. It was a confession of sins, evidently dating, by the handwriting, to the 16th century, in very proper clerical Latin, written as the author was approaching death with some apparent trepidation as he seemed to have many sins to confess, mostly relating to his own loss of faith, lack of devotion to his clerical duties and promulgation of false doctrines. Looks like a serious case of Reformation angst.
The most amazing thing about this document is that it was discovered rolled up and poked into a hole in a beam, then sealed over, in an old house. Now that seems a very odd thing to do with your last confession, unless you had no confessor, or none you could trust.
The owners of the house are on a long term quest to find out more of its history, and whether it had any relationship to the long vanished medieval friary that used to grace their fair town. Estate records, building history specialists and heritage bodies have all been queried, not to mention the standard printed historical sources. I am told the house has certain haunting activites, and a stone cockfighting pit under the bedroom floorboards. If there isn't a good historical mystery in there, there sure as hell has to be a good novel!
For a little peek at this document, click here. If you are an expert on confessions of the Reformation period, you may be able to tell us things we don't know.


Unknown said...

I have been enjoying your medieval writing website for several months now, and only just discovered this blog. First of all let me say thank you for the obviously extensive and meticulous work you've put into this resource. Second, I am particularly interested in this closeted confession. Do you have any additional images besides the ones posted on your site?

Dianne said...

The images of this particular document do not belong to me, but to the owners of the document. I would only be requesting permission for them to be reproduced if somebody was offering some specialised expertise.