Flak And Flacks In The Monastery

“Strenuous is the warfare which these castellans of Christ wage against the Devil”, writes the monk. “Who can recount the vigils, hymns, psalms, prayers and daily offerings of masses with floods of tears which the monks perform? And so, noble earl, I most earnestly advise you to build such a castle in your country…” Today we would call this a company prospectus promising a high rate of return on one’s investment, except that the return was not monetary, but rather running interference against enemies. Some monastic foundations were also major centres of the spiritual tourist trail, thus generating revenue, others less so. What the noble earl was being offered here was the salvation of his soul and the blessing of his lands and lineage; spiritual, political, economic and reproductive benefits were indissolubly intertwined, as they usually are.

If we do not believe that the noble earl had a soul, or that the monks’ liturgical anti-aircraft fire could really drive off the demons of the air that threatened the fertility of his lands and womenfolk, then we can regard the noble earl as having been efficiently scammed, in precisely the same way as a corporation is now scammed by being induced to pay for ineffective advertising or incompetent management advice.

Monasteries also provided propaganda services in favour of anyone who paid them. They wrote family and dynastic chronicles for their patrons. Much of the written history we possess was produced by these public-relations consultancies.

People think that the “Dark Ages” are so-called because they were uniquely barbaric, horrible or wretched. There is no reason, however, to think that most people led more miserable lives in the Dark Ages than in the High Middle Ages; the name was given because the ages are dark to us, that is, we have fewer written sources than for the periods preceding and following. But let us reflect over the fact that written records are made by people who have the leisure to do so, and that leisure is only possible to someone who is living on some other person’s labour. What actually happened when the Dark Ages were illuminated is this: some thug waxed powerful, took the fruit of his neighbours’ toil away from them and gave it to a cleric, who naturally wrote about what a wonderful fellow he was.

Posted on April 19, 2010 at 10:45 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: GETTING MEDIEVAL, Spiritual Business

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