Excerpt From Book, One

Image result for monty python and the holy grail

The Middle Ages were a great time to be alive if you consider what the only other option was. Civilization was taking the great teachings of the Classical era and doing its level best to forget all about them. Certainly, there were advances in agriculture as well as great strides in the fields of running sores and misery. Entertainment could range from a compulsory church service held in a language one didn’t know to cats being roasted alive in a barrel (this practice was frowned upon and later discontinued because who wants their barrel of cats frowned upon?).

If you were sick, you went to the barber; on the other hand, if you needed a bone set back in place, you went to the barber; if you needed a haircut, you went to the blacksmith… who usually could tell you where you could find the barber. The cure rate of barbers does not compare favorably with a strict regimen of not doing anything at all; however, the mortality rate under barbers was far lower per capita than, say, executions… If you lived to your teens, in the Middle Ages, you would, on average, live into your sixties… unless you were a cat in a barrel.

Reading books was almost unheard of for the average man or woman in the Middle Ages; so, it wasn’t much different from today. Scholarly members of the clergy, such as Image result for bedeBede the Venerable, maintained libraries of English, Greek and Latin works. They were even allowed to write their own books, provided they were sufficiently dreary. (NOTE: I left my essay on Bede out of this book because it was written during a time when I was using the trick of picturing my main characters naked so I wouldn’t be so intimidated. Unfortunately, that bled into my prose. I’m not the first to have this problem. Confessions of Naked St. Augustine raised a LOT of eyebrows).

I think that religion and surprise nudity are what makes the Middle Ages so fascinating. Did you know that there were popes AND anti-popes? An antipope is something of an enigma: You’d think that an antipope would be the opposite of a pope: Someone who hates Christianity, wears his hat on his feet and is inside out. Not so. It’s odd because antimatter doesn’t look anything like matter; antipasto looks nothing like pasto; however, a pope and an antipope are nearly IDENTICAL. Even if you hold them up to a bright light and check the watermarks, you cannot tell the difference. Sometimes, it doesn’t even seem as if the Catholic church can tell the difference and they are the ones who decide who the antipopes are.

An antipope is defined as a person who is elected or claims to be pope in opposition to another held to be canonically chosen… except when he isn’t. You might be elected by a majority of whatever elects popes and still become an antipope, perhaps even after death. Sometimes even if there isn’t a REAL pope next to which you are the antipope. You might think it is completely arbitrary and you’d be WRONG… not about that but nobody is right one hundred percent of the time…

The very first antipope was Natalius who was a follower of dynamic monarchianism if you can believe it. What is dynamic monarchianism? Well, besides being more interesting than static monarchianism, it postulates that Jesus was “adopted” by God either at birth, at baptism or when some suspicious paternity test results arrived in the mail. Because he thought Christ was born a mortal, he was a heretic. But, a little groveling in front of Pope Zephyrinus and all was forgiven. In the third century, there weren’t so many Christians that you could afford to start executing them for heresy left and right.

A couple of decades later, Hippolytus would incur the wrath of the church when he elected himself pope because he didn’t think the current pope (Urban) was strict enough. Image result for st hippolytusHippolytus realized that his power base was sadly lacking right about the time he was exiled to work in the mines of Sardinia. The church forgave him shortly after his death and eventually made him a saint. So, I’m guessing that the man’s formal title was Saint Antipope Hippolytus.

The title of “Saint Antipope” seems a little awkward, like “Doctor King Louis XVI of France”. Am I saying that royalty isn’t smart enough to earn a doctorate? No, I’m just saying that they may not have the patience for the thesis process. Even more awkward would be putting a “Junior” after a king’s name and keeping the cardinality. Example? Henry the Fifth Jr. which wouldn’t be so bad but a few generations in, you’d have names like Henry the Fifth the Third. This would eventually become so complicated that historians might be forced to learn basic mathematics, which would completely decimate the field… but, I digress…

The most fascinating people of the Middle Ages were the saints. And, there were plenty of them. Enough for a softball team with a designated hitter (St. Barnabus could swing a bat like nobody’s business). Saints were specifically people who’d advanced the church and done something magic at least once. Then, if I remember correctly, that person is shot out of a cannon and beautified. After death, you got the official title and usually a plaque. But, you often suspected that you were slated for sainthood because of all the scouts hanging out in the stands.

Saints were not perfect in their early years. Many had a lot to atone for. If they didn’t have the guilt of a life poorly lived, they may not have gotten into religion as a job. Many died for their beliefs. Many pretended to die just to get out of helping out. But, if you have a difficult trip ahead of you or a problem with a boss or maybe your lamb is sick, there’s a saint you can ask for help…

The pages that follow are summaries of the lives of such men…

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30 thoughts on “Excerpt From Book, One

  1. As an ex-Catholic, I recall several “saints” who never existed, my favorite of which was St. Christopher. Truth be known, probably few (if any) of the so-called saints were actually saints by human(e) standards, but that’s irrelevant as far as the Church is concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have said this before and I will say it again, these middle ages posts are the best. You must write a book, or just collate all the posts into one, all you need is a little patience for the thesis process.

    Liked by 1 person

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