Category Archives: Middle Ages

London – The First Theatres – 1378 – Parish Clubs

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1378 – Parish Clubs

The mysteries were succeeded by the moralities, which made a nearer approach to dramatic representation. They were, as Mr. Hone, in his work on Ancient Mysteries, observes, “dramatic allegories, in which the characters personify certain vices or virtues, with the intent to inforce some moral or religious principle. “A curious copy of one of those moralities, entitled the “Castle of Good Perseverance,” was formerly in the library of the late  Dr. Cox Macro, the first leaf of which contains not only directions to the players, but the colour of the dresses they shall wear. The three daughters are denoted to be clad, “i metelys,” that is appropriately; Mercy with righteousness in red altogether, Truth in sad green, and Peace all in black; and the person that plays Belial is particularly cautioned to have gunpowder burning in pipes in his hands, eyes, and other places when he goeth to battle.

When the reformation took place, mysteries and moralities, which had been expressly employed in favour of the Roman Catholic religion, were resorted to in order to overturn it, and was found a good auxiliary for such a purpose.

The parish clubs appear to have been rivalled in the performing of mysteries and moralities by “the children of Powles,” as a body of juvenile actors, to whom the English drama is considerably indebted, was called. They can be traced back as far as the year 1378, when they petitioned Richard II. to prohibit ignorant persons from acting the history of the Old Testament, as they had been at great expense in preparing it for the ensuing Christmas. The place of exhibition was generally their school room near St. Paul’s, where they continued to act their mysteries and moralities until the year 1580, when, on account of the plague, all interludes were prohibited and the house pulled down. The price of admission was about two pence. The children of Paul’s sometimes exhibited before Queen Elizabeth at Whitehall and Greenwich, and after their school had been erased to the ground they performed at Blackfriars.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1240 – Clerkenwell

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1240 – Clerkenwell

The most eminent performers of the ancient mysteries in London were the parish clerks, who were incorporated about the year 1240; and one of the principal scenes of these exhibitions was at the Skinner’s Well, in Rag-street, or, as it is now called, Ray-street, Clerkenwell. One of the most remarkable of these mysteries, as has already been stated, was performed here on the 18th, 19th, and 20th of July, 1391, when they had for an audience Richard the Second, his queen and court. Another mystery on a more extended scale was performed here in 1409, before Henry the Fourth, several nobles, and the principal citizens: one of the mysteries was founded on the creation of the world, and the performances were extended to eight days.

Few, in London, are the memorials of the olden time that are preserved on modern buildings, a circumstance which is much regretted; to the honour, however, of the inhabitants of Clerkenwell, they have recorded the celebrity which the parish once possessed, by causing the following inscription to be placed in letters of iron on the pump on the east side of Raystreet.

“A.D. 1800. WILLIAM BOUND, JOSEPH BIRD, Churchwardens. For the better accommodation of the neighbourhood, this pump was removed to the spot where it now stands.

The spring by which it is supplied is situated four feet eastward, and round it, as history informs us, the parish clerks of London, in remote ages, commonly performed sacred plays. That custom caused it to be denominated Clerk’s well, and from whence this parish derived its name.

The water was greatly esteemed by the prior and brethren of the order of St John of Jerusalem and the Benedictine nuns in the neighbourhood.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

Amalfi and the Hospitallers of St John

 

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Below is a piece on the Italian town of Amafi well known for its connections to The Hospitalliers of St John, The Mariners Compass and the Pandects of Justinian.

Excerpt from The Catholic World Volume 72 – December 1901

 Amalfi and the Hospitallers of St John 

 Amalfi Panoramic ViewAmalfi was the Athens of the Middle Ages. It is believed to have been founded by emigrants from Melfi, the Greek city lying some seventy or eighty miles inland. We find mention of Amalfi in the sixth century; in the seventh it was governed by doges, and in the ninth Sicardo, Prince of Salerno, came there for the pious purpose of collecting the relics of various saints, and, being opposed in his intent by the no less religious inhabitants of the city, plundered and pillaged the town and carried off a vast number of prisoners. These prisoners afterwards got free, burned Salerno, the rival of their native city, and inaugurated thenceforward a wonderful period of prosperity for Amalfi.

The city now assumed a species of independence. The Emperor of Constantinople fixed there a tribunal for the settlement of all disputes regarding naval matters, and the Tabula Amalfitana, or Code of Amalfi, soon became recognized as the guiding laws for all Europe, and Amalfi was regarded as the foremost naval power in the world.

Amalfi in the time of Robert Guiscard had fifty thousand inhibitants. Its merchants traded all over the known world, and established colonies at Byzantium, in Asia Minor, and in Africa. They also instituted the order of the Hospitallers of St. John, who became afterwards known as the Knights of Malta, and these merchants were the foremost traders in the world, for only after their decline did Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Pisa rise to greatness. It was consequently inevitable that at the time of the Crusades the city swarmed with armed men, and that from its port multitudes of knights, with the cross as a device, set out in the interests of the good cause and to satisfy personal love of gain and adventure.

Amalfi at this period was a proud and haughty city, and took every occasion of defying the Norman sovereigns of Naples. King Roger finally made war upon the city and, after two years of more or less constant attack and circumvallation, obliged it to capitulate in 1131, after which he placed it under a species of suzerainty while still allowing it perfect freedom as to its internal government.

A few years later Amalfi had a quarrel with Pisa. The Pisans took the offensive and, in spite of the efforts of King Roger to protect Amalfi, the enemy raided the city and carried off its greatest treasure, the celebrated manuscripts of the Pandects of Justinian, now one of the principal treasures of the Laurentian Library in Florence, the Florentines having taken it from the Pisans in the fifteenth century. The Pisans returned again in 1137, two years after their first attack, and obliged Amalfi to sue for peace. The little republic had thence forward lost its power and its primacy, and became subject to the Dukes of Anjou.

In 1343 the lower part of the town, which had been gradually undermined by the sea for at least a couple of centuries, collapsed and almost the whole of its buildings, with arsenals and harbor, were thenceforward covered with water. Amalfi from this on was merely an antiquarian relic of its former greatness. It retained, however, the glorious boast of having been the first of the dominating naval powers of Christian Europe, and of having given birth to Flavio Gioja, the man who in 1302, by the discovery for the Caucasian race of the mariner’s compass, led the way to the discovery of America and helped powerfully to spread civilization and practically to revolutionize the world.

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Further Reading and External Links

The Hospitalliers of St John

St John Ambulance on Wikipedia

St John Ambulance Association Website

The Mariners Compass

The Pandects of Justinian

The Order of The Hospitallers – 1510

 

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Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

The St John Ambulance Association – The Order of The Hospitallers – 1510

To return to the history of the order. It had many strange vicissitudes. In 1510 the knights, under Foulkes de Villaret, in conjunction with certain Crusaders from Italy, seized Rhodes and seven adjacent islands. In 1523 they were driven from Rhodes by Sultan Solyman, and retired first to Candia, and afterwards to Viterbo. In 1530 Charles V. gave them Malta, adding Tripoli and Gozo. After the Reformation the decay of the order was rapid, and in [1798], through the treachery of some French knights and the cowardice of D’Hompesch, the grand master, Malta was surrendered to the French. Since [1801] the grand mastership has not been filled up, though the order survives in some fashion in Italy, Spain, and Russia, and the highest official – the deputy grand master – lives in Spain.

The members of the order at first wore a long black habit, with a pointed hood, embellished with a cross of white silk on the left breast, of the form called Maltese, and with a golden cross in the middle of the breast. In their military capacity they had red surcoats with a silver cross in front and at the back. The badge of all the knights was a Maltese cross, enamelled white and edged with gold, suspended by a black ribbon. Half a century ago the order was resuscitated in England as a Protestant body – that is, it was wholly unconnected with the Catholic organisation abroad.  Although in [1858] some difficulty was made as to the religion of the revived English langue, the order, as now constituted, has done good work in building and endowing hospitals, relieving suffering, organising the “Eastern War Sick and Wounded Relief Fund,” and the “National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War;” but perhaps incomparably its greatest and noblest undertaking has been “The St. John Ambulance Association for giving instruction in rendering First Aid to the injured in peace and war.”

Thank Heaven! the last grand outcome of the ancient order recognises, in the true spirit of the Amalfi founders, only one claim – that of suffering humanity. Princes and peasants, men, women, and children, rich and poor, young and old may be taught in the same place and by the same teacher, and may be examined at the same time by the same examiner. In this way the order has proved equal to the exacting requirements of the age, and has entered into the spirit of Him who found His most trusted followers not in the ranks of tetrarchs and Roman consuls and proconsuls, not in the schools of Athens and the senate of Rome, but among the fishermen of Galilee, the tent-makers of Tarsus, and the despised and hated publicans.

Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

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Further Reading and External Links

St John Ambulance on Wikipedia

St John Ambulance Association Website

Hospitaller Brothers of St John

 

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Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

Hospitaller Brothers of St John

St Johns Gate, ClerkenwellAt Jerusalem there were then living some Italian merchants of Amalfi, who daily witnessed scenes that wrung their hearts, and, with the consent of the Calif of Egypt, they built a hospital for the reception and relief of pilgrims. This nursing community was at first known as the Hospitaller Brothers of St John the Baptist of Jerusalem, though some authorities contend that it was originally dedicated to St. John the Almoner. Before long, however, it was placed under the protection of St John the Baptist, and it bears his name to this day. The nursing community threw itself into its work with impassioned zeal, knowing no weariness and recognising no distinction of race or creed the only passport to its help was to need it; and it has been in that catholic spirit that the work has been ever since carried on “for the glory of God and the good of man.” The fame of the order rapidly spread – rich gifts poured in upon it, many recruits joined its ranks, its power increased, and the good it did augmented. But the Seljuk Turks did not always continue to respect the hospice, and when the Crusaders entered Jerusalem in 1099 they found Gerard, the rector of the order, in prison.

Released from captivity, he commanded the doors of the hospital to be flung open for the reception of the sick and wounded. Some of the Crusaders before long joined the order and devoted themselves to the good work, while Godfrey de Bouillon, the leader of the expedition, and some of his companions, were so grateful for the benefits which they received that they endowed the hospital with lands and manors in many parts of Europe. Gerard, after a time, persuaded the brethren to take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience before the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and in 1113 Pope Pascal II. gave his official sanction to what had been done. Raymond du Puy, the successor of Gerard, framed a code of laws which was confirmed by Pope Calixtus II. To the obligations taken by the earlier members were subsequently added those of fighting against the infidels and defending the Holy Sepulchre. Hospices, called commanderies, were established in many parts of Europe, and the order soon included in its ranks numbers of powerful and high-born recruits, more particularly after it added a military organisation to its religious duties. In 1187, after the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin, the Hospitallers retired to Margat in Phoenicia, and in 1285 to Acre; in [1291] they again removed, this time to Limisso, where Henry II. of Cyprus gave them a residence. In its days of greatest power it counted as a valuable factor in the wars against the infidels; its members were then divided into three classes – the knights, the chaplains, and the serving brothers, the last being fighting squires who accompanied the knights to battle. At one time the order consisted of eight langues – Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon, Castile, Germany, and England. Most European countries had several priories, under which there were a number of commanderies. In England the chief establishment was the magnificent priory of Clerkenwell, the head of which was styled Premier Baron of England, and had a seat in the Upper House of Parliament. Quite recently the headquarters of that most useful body, the St. John Ambulance Association, has been placed in the gateway of the ancient building, and there the chief secretary, Major Sir Herbert Perrott, Bart., and his efficient and untiring staff of assistants and friends, get through their noble work – work far grander than that of the old knights, for the modern representatives concern themselves only with the relief of suffering – a far wider field than that of the original order, for it is co-extensive with the world, and good is being done in India, Russia, the Cape, and wherever any opening is found for it.

Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

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Further Reading and External Links 

St John Ambulance on Wikipedia

St John Ambulance Association Website

Legend of the Stone of Scone

Scotland is in all the news this week, so in an 1866 letter from the Joseph Robertson, of the Register House, Edinburgh we’re covering one of the old legends ‘The Stone of Scone’ – popularly also known as the Coronation Stone and the Stone of Destiny – which today rests in Edinburgh Castle.  It was returned to Scotland on St Andrews Day in 1996 after seven centuries in England.  Whenever there is a coronation in England the stone will travel from Scotland to England and back to Scotland again.

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Excerpt from Historical Memorial of Westminster Abbey by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley – 1869

Legend of the Stone of Scone

Letter from the late Joseph Robertson, of the Register House, Edinburgh, July 7, 1866.

Progress of the Legend of the Stone of Scone.

Stone of SconeWe have a few Scottish Chronicles, written at various periods from the tenth to the middle or latter part of the thirteenth century; but in no one of these is there notice of the Stone of Scone. Their silence is remarkable, as, although they are for the most part brief, they mention things of less mark.  They show, at the same time, that at least as early as A.D. 906, Scone was a royal city, the meeting-place of a national council or assembly.  We have proof of its being the acknowledged capital of the realm in royal charters of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.  Thus, King Malcolm the Maiden (A.D. 1163-1164), in a charter to the Abbey of Scone, describes it as ‘in principali sede regni nostri fondate.’  So, again, King Robert Bruce (in A.D. 1325), in a charter to the Abbey of Scone, sets forth, as the cause of his bounty to it. ‘pro eo ‘quod Beges regni ibidem dignitates suas recipiunt et honores.’

Footnote from the Author: I have a melancholy pleasure in printing this letter, which was written (apparently currente calamo) in answer to some questions arising out of a long conversation in 1864.  Even in its present rough state, it is an instance of the extraordinary readiness with which he met every question relating to Scottish  history. 

It is sufficiently certain that, from the beginning of our historical record, about the year 1100, the Scottish Kings were inaugurated at Scone by being placed in the Royal Chair of Stone.

‘in Regiam Sedera,’ ‘in Cathedra Regali,’ ‘in Sede Regali,’ ‘super Cathedram’ ‘Regalem lapideam,’ etc.

But these brief records of inauguration are silent as to the history of the Stone.  So far as I see at this moment, the oldest writer who tells the legend of the Royal Stone is William of Rishanger, who appears to have lived until after A.D. 1327.  Under A.D. 1292, he thus describes the coronation of King John Balliol at Scone.

“Johannes de Balliolo, in festo Sancti Andreae sequenti, collocatus super lapidem Regalem, quem Jacob supposuerat capiti suo, dum iret de Bersabee et pergeret Aran, in ecclesia Canonicorum Regularium de Scone solemniter coronatur.”

The passage is repeated, word for word, in Thomas Walsingham’s ‘ Historia Anglicana,’ and probably in other English Chronicles.

The next writer, in point of antiquity, who speaks of the history of the Stone of Scone, is John of Fordun, a canon of the Church of Aberdeen, who was alive in 1386.  He tells two stories about it.  One is that Milo, King of the Scots in Spain, gave it to his favourite son, Simon Brek, the first King of the Scots in Ireland and that Simon Brek placed it in Tara, where it remained until it was brought to Scotland by Fergus, the son of Erch or Ferchard.

He adds that, according to some, Gathelus, the founder of the race of the Scots (so named from his wife Scots, daughter of King Pharaoh), brought the Stone from Egypt to Spain.  The other story is, that Simon Brek dragged it up from the bottom of the sea, along with the anchor of his ship, during a gale on the Irish coast.  Both stories speak of the Stone as of marble hewn into the form of a chair.

Excerpt from Historical memorial of Westminster Abbey by  Arthur Penrhyn Stanley – 1869

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Further Reading and External Links

Edinburgh Castle – Home to Stone of Scone 

Encyclopaedia Britannica – Stone of Scone

Merging of Roman and Teuton

 

 

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Merging of Roman and Teuton

In the sixth century, after long decline, the Empire fell for a time to a capable ruler, Justinian the Great (527-565).  We remember him chiefly because he brought about a codification of the Roman law.  In the course of centuries, that law had become an intolerable maze.  Now a commission of able lawyers put the whole mass into a new form, marvelously compact, clear, and orderly.

 

Church of St Sophia

Church of St Sophia, Constantinople – built by Justinian upon the site of an earlier church of the same name by Constantine.  The whole interior is lined with costly, many-colored marbles.  This view shows only a part of the vast dome, with eighteen of the forty windows which run about its circumference of some 340 feet.  In 1463 the building became a Mohammedan mosque (p. 121). In 1919 it became again a Christian temple.

 

Justinian also reconquered Italy for the Empire, and so the code was established in that land. Thence, through the church, and some centuries later through a new class of lawyers, it spread over the West.

Justinian’s conquest of Italy had another result less happy.  His generals destroyed a promising kingdom of the East Goths in Italy.   Then (568), immediately after the great emperor’s death, a new German people, the savage Lombards, swarmed into the peninsula, and soon conquered much of it. Their chief kingdom was in the Po valley, which we still call Lombardy; but various Lombard “dukedoms” were scattered also in other parts.  The Empire kept (1) the “Exarchate of Ravenna” on the Adriatic; (2) Rome, with a little territory about it; and (3) the extreme south.  

Thus Italy, the middle land for which Roman and Teuton had struggled for centuries, was at last divided between them, and shattered into fragments in the process. No other country suffered so terribly in the centuries of invasion as this lovely peninsula which had so long been mistress of the world.

Excerpt from The Story of Modern Progress by Willis Mason West – 1920

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Further Reading and External Links

Justinian the Great on Wikipedia

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

More on Justinian the Great