G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

A medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation online

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negligence of cures appeareth manifestly herein, that
not only simple cures of souls, but even double cures
(and, which is more detestable, prelacies), are com-
mitted to men who, through defect of age or of learning
or other causes, are notoriously and publicly known
among the laity and others to be incapable of such
cure of souls ; for the perdition whereof (though souls
be more precious than all earthly and corruptible
possessions), they seem to care little ; so that, by a
general abuse on the part of prelates, churches are
committed to such men . . . Such men cry not aloud,
nor preach, nor warn the people of their crimes, nor
hear confessions, nor meddle in the least with the cure of
souls, but only with gathering their revenues . . . (334)
Another neglect of correction is this ; that grievous,
(nay, most grievous) offences and crimes perpetrated by
churchmen, when indeed they are punished at all, are
punished in money ; although such criminals should
justly be committed to a lifelong prison ; . . the
remedy whereof would seem to be that these pecuniary
fines which are received by the Church for crimes and
from ecclesiastics, should be applied to pious uses, as
some Doctors say that they should in justice be applied
[even now] . . . (335) This neglect [of divine service]
appeareth but too plainly in the clergy, both in the
Head and in the Members ; and would that the word of
Esaias were not true of the clergy, when he saith,
" This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their
heart is far form Me " ! . . . (337) There are few
of the said prelates and higher clergy who come to say
or hear God's service solemnly and without [other]
occupation or conversation ; but they say it amidst
other occupations, and sometimes without chant,
undevoutly and with omissions of syllables and in-
sufficiently . . . Moreover the canons and ecclesiastical
dignitaries, while divine service is proceeding, fre-
quently hold conversations together, or sleep, or disturb
the service ; and some, leaving the choir during the
worship of God, walk about the church lest they lose

Programmes of Reform. 587

their distribution, mingling with the talk of men and
women, with their jests and laughter and applause.
. . . (338) And many princes, while they cause the
solemnities of mass to be celebrated in their presence,
give an almost continuous audience to men in other
matters, or busy themselves with other things, paying
no attention to the service nor saying their prayers.*
Some of the nobles, great men, and others of the people,
do indeed come to church while Christ's body is to be
elevated, and withdraw in haste when this hath been
done, scarcely saying a Paternoster within the church
walls : [he goes on to quote councils tvhich had vainly
forbidden this abuse] (340) Moreover, divine service
and worship are neglected ; for holy days and Sundays
are not celebrated or kept as the laws bid . . . and
sometimes on those days more sins are committed
than in the whole week ; nor doth the people seem to
care for divine things, but only for songs, jests, dances,
caperings, or foul and unhonest chants, even within
the churches or churchyards, busying themselves day
and night with such vanities . . . (346) Another
negligence concerning divine service is the matter of
church ornaments ; for in many parish churches, (and
especially in such as are in the presentation, collation,
or disposition of exempt Religious,) there is a general
defect of vestments and priestly garments ; as also
of books, chalices, and other church ornaments. And
in some churches the vestments are so vile and sordid
that they raise disgust [abominationem inducunt]. In
some churches the celebrants lay their sacerdotal
vestments over their tunic or jacket or tabard, under
the people's eyes, without a rochet or Roman shirt.
In others, the ministrants or servers wear no surplice
or clerical habit ; and in some Religious orders the
lay-brethren serve the priests ; and, in the general

* At Strassburg the civic authorities regularly gave business audiences
and heard law-cases in the Cathedral during mass. Even more signifi-
cant is the fact that St. Louis is praised for having very seldom done
this, and that Pope John XXII., in a private letter of advice to
Edward II., recommended him not to fall into this habit. {Acta
Sanctorum, Aug. 25th, § 38 ; Lanercost Chronicle, Appendix, p. 420).

588 A Medieval Garner.

confession which is made by the priest before the
Introit of the mass, the said laymen or clerklings or
boys answer the celebrant like another priest, thus in
a manner absolving him from the sins which he hath
generally confessed, though they have no such power
[of absolution.]

Durand's and Le Maire's complaints probably contributed a good
deal to the decree Gravi nimirum issued by Clement in this Council,
which sets forth how *' many church ministers, casting away the modesty
of their Order, . . . presume to say or sing the Canonical hours with
undue haste, and skipping of words, and frequent intermingling of
extraneous, vain, profane, and unhonest talk, coming late into choir
and often leaving the church without reasonable cause before the end
of service, sometimes bringing hawks with them or causing them to be
brought, and leading hunting-dogs." The decree goes on to speak
equally strongly of the indecent dances and songs in churches and
cemeteries, the sordid vestments and furniture, and the offence to God ;
but its inefficacy is proved by countless documents of the 15th and
early 16th centuries. See Peter Schott's letter here below (Extract

273.— Cbe a^aster of ©rforn's Catccftism.

From MS. Lansdowne, No. 7G2, written in the reign of Henry V.

(ReliquicB Antiquce I, '230).

Questions between the Master of Oxenford and his Scholar.

\HE Clerk's question. Say me where was God

when he made heaven and earth ? The

Master's answer. I say, in the further end

of the wind. C. Tell me what word God

first spake ? M. Be thou made light,

and light was made. C. What is God ? M. He is

God, that all things made, and all things hath in His

power. C. In how many days made God all things ?

M. In six days G. Whereof was Adam

made ? M. of viij things : the first of earth, the second
of fire, the iijde of wind, the iiijth of clouds, the vth
of air wherethrough he speaketh and thinketh, the
vjth of dew whereby he sweateth, the vijth'of flowers,
whereof Adam hath his eyen, the viijth is salt whereof

The Master of Oxford. 5^0

Adam hath salt tears. C. Whereof was found the
name of Adam ? M. Of four stars, this be the names,
Arcax, Dux, Arostolym, and Momfumbres. C. Of
what state was Adam when he was made 1 M. K
man of xxx winter of age. C. And of what length
was Adam ? M. Of iiij. score and vj. inches. C.
How long lived xA.dam in this world ? M. ix. c.
and xxxty winter, and afterward in hell till the passion
of our Lord God. C. Of what age was Adam when
he begat his first child ? M. An c. and xxx. winter,
and had a son that hight Seth. ... 0. What was
he that never was born, and was buried in his mother's
womb, and since was christened and saved ? M.
That was our father Adam. C. How long was Adam
in Paradise ? M. vij. years, and at vij. years' end
he trespassed against God for the apple that he ate
on a Friday, and an angel drove him out. G. How
many winters was Adam when our Lord was done on
the cross ? M. That was v. ml. cc. and xxxij. years.
C. What hight Noes wife ? M. Dalida ; and the
wife of Sem, Cateslinna ; and the wife of Cam,
Laterecta ; and the wife of Japheth, Aurca. And other
iij. names, OUia, Olina, and Olybana. C. Whereof
was made Noes ship ? M. Of a tree that was cleped
Chy. C. And what length was Noes ship ? M.
Fifty fathom of breadth, and cc. fathom of length,
and xxx. fathom of height. C. How many winter
was Noes ship in making ? M. iiij. score years. C.
How long dured Noes flood ? M. xl. days and xl.
nights. C. How many children had Adam and Eve ?
M. xxx. men children and xxx. women children.
C. What city is there where the sun goeth to rest ?
M. A city that is called Sarica. G. What be the
best herbs that God loved ? M. The rose and the
lily. C. What fowl loved God best ? M. The dove,
for God sent His Spirit from heaven in likeness of a
dove. G. Which is the best water that ever was ?
M. River Jordan, for God was baptised therein. G.
Where be the angels that God put out of heaven and
became devils ? M. Some into hell, and some reigned
in the sky, and some in the earth, and some in waters

59° A Medieval Garner.

and in woods. C. How many waters be there ?
M. ij. salt waters, and ij. fresh waters. C. Who
made first ploughs ? M. Cam, that was Noes son.
C. Why beareth not stones fruit as trees ? M. For
Cayme slew his brother Abell with the bone of an ass's
cheek. G, What is the best thing and the worst
among men ? M. Word is best and worst. C. Of
what thing be men most afraid ? M. Men be most
afraid of death. C. What are the iiij things that
men may not live without ? [ilf ]. Wind, fire, water,
and earth. C, Where resteth a man's soul, when he
shall sleep ? M. In the brain, or in the blood, or in
the heart. (7. Where lieth Moises' body ? M. Be-
side the house that hight Enfegor. C. Why is the
earth cursed, and the sea blessed ? M. For Noe and
Abraham, and for christening that God commanded.
C. Who set first vines ? M, Noe set the first vines.
C. Who cleped first God ? M. The devil. C.
Which is the heaviest thing bearing ? M. Sin is the
heaviest. C. Which thing is it that some loveth,
and some hateth ? M. That is judgment. C. Which
be the iiij things that never was full nor never shall
be ? M. The first is earth, the second is fire, the
third is hell, the fourth is a covetous man. C. How
many manner of birds be there, and how many of
fishes ? M. liiij. of fowls, and xxvj. of fishes. C.
Which was the first clerk that ever was ? M. Elias
was the first. C. What hight the iiij. waters that
runneth through paradise ? M. The one hight Fyson,
the other Egeon, the iijde hight Tygrys, and the iiijth
Effraton. These be milk, honey, oil, and wine. G.
Wherefore is the sun red at even ? M. For he goeth
toward hell. G. Who made first cities ? M. Mar-
curius the giant. G. How many languages be there ?
M. Ixij, and so many disciples had God without his

Mortuaries. 59 ^

274.— Clatious i^eigbts of 9^m.

(lb. p. 'iOO. From MS. Lambeth, No. .S0(5, p. 177. ro. b. of the reign of

Edward IV).

The longitude of men foloivymj.

OYSES xiij. fote and viij. ynches and half.
Cryste vj. fote and iij. ynches.
Our Lady vj. fote and viij. ynches.
Crystoferus xvij. fote and viij. ynches.
Kyng Alysaunder iiij. fote and v. ynches.
Colbronde xvij. fote and ij. ynches and half.
Syr Ey. x. fote iij. ynches and half.
Seynt Thomas of Caunturbery, vij. fote save a ynche.
Long Mores, a man of Yrelonde borne, and servaunt
to Kjmg Edward the iiijth. vj. fote and x. ynches and

The mortuary system is so curious, yet has been so neglected by
historians, that the reader may be glad to see an actual case from a
fifteenth-century book of precedents. (Brit. Mus. MS., Harl. 862. f . 5a.)
On a peasant's death, the lord of the manor had frequently a claim
upon his best beast or other possession as mortuary or heriot. Side by
side with this grew up a similar claim from the parish priest. It was
presumed that the dead man must have failed to some extent in due
payment of tithes during his lifetime, and that a gift of his second best
possession to the Church would therefore be most salutary to his soul.
This claim had admittedly no foundation in law, but was maintained
already in 1305 as a custom which, being pious and reasonable, must
therefore have the binding force of law. I have dealt more fully with
this system, which did much to precipitate the Reformation, in Priests
and People in Medieval England (Simpkin Marshall, 1/- nett.) It will
be noticed that the compiler of this Formulary, though he has copied
actual cases into his book, often abbreviates for his own convenience or
supplies alternative phraseology, as the reader will see from the brackets
throughout this piece. Bp. StafEord's Register shows that Robert
Tayllour was instituted to the Vicarage of Morwenstow, Feb. 23, 1408.

275.— a Q^ortuarp €mz*

]N God's name, Amen. In the presence of
you, lord Bishop of Exeter, (whoever he
may be, by God's etc., etc.) I, the proctor
of Sir R. T. perpetual Vicar of the parish
of Morstow in Cornwall, of the Diocese of
Exeter, [plead] against John Martyn executor of the

592 A Medieval Garner.

will (or administrator of the goods) of Richard Martyn,
father of the aforesaid John, now dead, and against
all who may legally appear for him, affirming that
according to laudable and reasonable custom for the
last (10 or 20 or 30 or 40 or 60) years last past, more
or less, and indeed from a time and for a time whereunto
the memory of man goeth not to the contrary, used,
approved, and generally observed, and legitimately
prescribed, in the said parish of Morstow, the right
of taking and holding the best possession appertaining
to every customary parishioner who may die in that
same parish, and especially whose heriot hath been
paid to his worldly lord after the death of the said
defunct, pertained, pertaineth, and should pertain even
in future to the Vicars for the time being of the said
church of Morstow, predecessors of the said Sir Robert,
as by his lawful right of taking tithes of cut timber
or of taking and having the aforesaid mortuary, in
the manner and form aforesaid, for all and every time
etc. (as aforesaid in its own place already alleged) :
Nevertheless the said John Martyn, executor or ad-
ministrator of the goods of the said Richard Martyn
deceased, knowingly seized and still holdeth without
and against the will of the said Sir Robert, one ox of
black colour, valued by the common reckoning at
thirteen shillings,* which ox at the death of the said
R. Martyn had been (after the heriot paid to the Prior
and Convent of Launceston, his temportal lords, on
the occasion of his death) his next best possession,
and thus owing to the said Vicar Sir Robert as a
mortuary, in virtue of the said custom, as aforesaid,
(or at least, " by means of the guile and fraud of this
same John, in this matter, the Vicar hath failed to
take the said ox.") And, albeit the aforesaid executor
or administrator John hath been oftentimes required,
in due form of law, on the part of the said Sir Robert,
to deliver the said ox to the said Sir Robert and to
satisfy him from his possessions in this matter according
to the above estimate ; yet this John etc. hath hitherto

* From £7 10s. to £10 modern money.

Mortuaries. 593

refused to deliver the ox as aforesaid to this same Sir
Robert and to satisfy him according to his own estimate
as aforesaid, and expressly refuseth it still, without
form of justice, thus wickedly robbing etc. the said
Vicar Sir Robert, and his aforesaid Vicarage of his
right and possession (or " as it were robbing him of
his rights as aforesaid in the aforesaid things ") in the
aforesaid parish of ]\Iorstow, in the month of February
and the year of our Lord 1414 ; seeing also that the
right of taking and having this his best possession as
a mortuary, in the manner and form aforesaid, per-
tained, pertaineth, and ought to pertain in future
also to the said Vicar of the aforesaid Vicarage, (whoso-
ever for the time being may be its Vicar, by name) in
virtue of the custom aforesaid, [We pray therefore]
that you, our lord Judge aforesaid, may pronounce
and declare finally and definitely for the aforesaid
custom and the future keeping of its observance in
the aforesaid parish, and that the said executor or
administrator John Martyn may be condemned to
render the said ox, if he still exist, or otherwise according
to the aforesaid valuation of his possessions, or some
other {etc. as in the aforesaid place).

There are two other mortuary cases in the Formulary, ff. 5b. and 16b.
In the first (undated) the vicar of Morstow claims a blue coat value 10/-
from John Baldwin executor of Nicholas Day, in virtue of a custom
which gave him, by way of mortuary, " the best day-garment of each
parishioner that dieth in the said parish, (excepting only servants
working for a certain annual wage in the same parish and also inhabiting
the borough or village of Morstow)." In the second, dated 1468, " the
reverend man John Snyffemore, rector of the parish church of Silyerton "
claims that, from time immemorial, " if the wife of any parishioner of
the aforesaid parish die, in what place or manner soever, forthwith the
right of taking and having her husband's second best possession or
beast, which the said husband had in his wife's lifetime, under the name
of a mortuary and as a mortuary, belonged belongeth and should belong
even in future to the rector of the aforesaid parish church." He there-
fore demands one red ox, valued at 18/-, which John Laven, having lost
his wife Matilda, had hitherto refused to render " to God and to the
aforesaid church." Prebendary Hingcston-Kandolph, whose knowledge
of this diocese in the Middle Ages is unrivalled, has kindly supplied me
with the following note : " John SnyfEemore was presented to Silverton
(on the Resignation of John Coke) by William Wadham, Esquire, and
was instituted by Bishop Lacy, atClyst, 11 Feb., 1444-5. On his


594 A Medieval Garner.

death, William Somaster was instituted, 2 March, 1479-80. Snyffe-
more built the north aisle of Silverton Church at his own cost. His will,
dated 18 June, 1479, is entered in Bishop Courtenay's Eegister. He
directed that his body should be buried in the Chancel of Silverton
* afore our Ladie.' He bequeathed £40 to build a new ambulatory in
the north side of the church, and all the issues and profits of all his
lands and tenements in Silverton were to be paid yearly in sustentation
of a priest to sing in the said north aisle. Moreover, he gave £38
towards the support of the foundation." To illustrate the above-
mentioned cases, I subjoin an extract from the accounts of the Collegiate
Church of St. Mary Ottery for 1437-8 (Oliver, Monast. Dioc. Exon.,
p. 282) ; and a petition to the Pope extracted from Father Denifle's
Desolation des Eglises, etc., vol. I., p. 472.*

* I can only draw attention briefly here to the value of this book as
a mine for the student of 15th-century manners. I had once thought of
translating from it, as an illustration of medieval warfare, the letter of
Bishop des Ursins to the Etats Generaux assembled at Blois in 1433
(vol. I., p. 497) ; but the document is too painful to publish in naked
English, and the reader will only find a far milder description of the same
sort in No. 331. It is a partial consolation to find that, on the repeated
testimony of their enemies, the English soldiers were on the whole
more humane to the French peasants than their own fellow-countrymen
and nominal defenders. Another passage (I. 500) shows clearly, as
Denifle notes, that the French themselves — or French rulers and states-
men, at least — " were ashamed to speak of Joan of Arc after her
execution," until the lapse of a score of years had brought out her
greatness more plainly ; but for this again the reader must consult the

276.— a^ortuaip pvcfits.

ECEIPTS from mortuaries. He accounteth
for 9s. for an ox, mortuary of the wife of
Thomas Glade and sold to the same
Thomas : — 6s. for a cow, the mortuary of
John Harbelyn's wife and sold to the same
John : — 6d. for an ewe, the mortuary of Matilda Byre,
sold to John At-the-Welle : — 12d. for a pig, the mortuary
of John Benyne sold to the widow of the same John : —
Is. 6d. for a calf, the mortuary of Richard Swajnie at
Wakkesway : — 6s. 4d. for a cow, the mortuary of
William Reymond, sold to the said William's widow : —
Is. 2d. for a ram, the mortuary of Roger At-the-Welle' s
wife's mother : — 6s. for a cow, the mortuary of Richard
Galley of Wygdon. Whereof the sum total is £1. lis. 8d.

Mortuaries. 595

Complaint from the Abbot and Monks of Cerisy in the Diocese of
Bayeox to the Pope, a.d. 1445.

277.— a^ottuarp Eesults.

HEREAS from time immemorial, as often a&
any tenants that were heads of families
dwelling on our manors of Cerisy or Littry
chanced to die, then if they had no wives
or children the monastery had the right of
taking to itself and applying to its own uses all their
moveable goods ; if, however, they had wives and
children, then such goods were divided into three equal
parts between the abbot and convent, the wife, and
the children ; moreover, the garments also of the said
householders thus deceased were applied to the use and
profit of the said monastery — those of Cerisy to the
benefit of the sacristy and those of Littry to the
granary ; and whereas the said parishioners and
tenants, having become sorely diminished in their
possessions and impoverished by reason of the wars
and other miseries which had so long wasted those
parts, began to desert the manors aforesaid and betake
themselves elsewhere for fear of this burden and
servitude ; whereas they refused also to marry their
daughters on that manor* to the great, (nay, to the
very greatest) damage and loss of the aforesaid
monastery ; and also, by reason of the aforesaid
chattels, very many of the inhabitants aforesaid
incurred, and [long] had incurred, the sentence of
excommunication by not giving over faithfully the
aforesaid moveable goods, but hiding them and thus
defrauding the said monastery . . . [therefore the

* By marrying their daughters elsewhere, the serfs would withdraw
them from the heavy burdens of this manor ; but they would have to
pay a heavy fine for doing so. This was an inevitable consequence of
the social system which made one half of the population the property
of a few great landowners. It would of course be unjust to blame the
individual landlord ; but it is equally unhistorical to blink the fact
that such regulations tended to foster those vices of which medieval
moralists complain among the rural population. — See Leopold Delisle.
Etudes sur la Classe Agricole, 1903, p. 187.

59^ A Medieval Garner.

Abbot and monks have agreed with the tenants to
commute these dues for a yearly tribute of 20 livres
tournois, until such time as the sum of 300 gold pieces
might be collected for the final redemption of the

278.— inscriptions in TBooks.

(The first from MS. Bodleian 132 [13th century] ; the rest from different MSS. of
the ISth century, printed in Reliquiae Antiquce, II, 163).

HIS book belongs to St. Mary of Roberts-
bridge ; whosoever shall steal it, or sell it,
or in any way alienate it from this House,
or mutilate it, let him be anathema-mara-
natha. Amen.

Underneath, in the hand of Binhop Grandisson of Exeter (1327-1369).

I John, Bishop of Exeter, know not where the afore-
said House is, nor did I steal this book, but acquired it
in a lawful way.

* * * *

" This book is one,
] And God's curse is another ;
They that take the one
God give them the other."

" He that steals this book.
Shall be hanged on a hook.
He that this book steale would
Soon be his hearte cold.
That it may so be
Say Amen for charity ! "

* * * *

'* Whosoever this book find
I pray him have this in his mind.
For His love that died on tree
Save this book and bring it to me,
William Barbor of New Buckenham."

Inscriptions in Books. 597

" An I it lose and you it find
I pray you heartily to be so kind
That you will take a little pain
To see my book brought home again."

•P "f" "T^ .515

From a MS. temp. Hen. VII, (Rel. Ant., I. 290).

If this book of mine be defiled with^dirt, the master
will smite me in dire wrath upon the hinder parts. . . .

This abbey falleth in ruins, Christ mark this well ! it
raineth within and without : this is a fearful place !

Three fingers write, and the whole body is in travail ;
yet they who know not to write deem it no labour !

279.— ^tutient T5ant)it5 in 1422.

Rot. Pari, vol. IV, p. 190 (1 Hen. VI).

OREOVER the said Commons pray in this
present parliament that, whereas divers
manslaughters, murders, rapes, felonies,
robberies, riots, conventicles, and other
misdeeds have been committed afresh during
these late days in the counties of Oxenford, Berks,
Wilts, and Bucks, more frequently than of aforetime,
and with impunity, as well by divers persons repairing
to the city of Oxenford as by others dwelling in the city
itself under the jurisdiction of the University there ;

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