Friday, October 15, 2010

Now here's a bad nun for you

When I'm transcribing documents I tend to get in kind of a flow, where I am making sure what I'm writing down are actual words, but I'm not really processing the content very closely. The other day I was rolling along typing in this manner, listing off the various accusations against a particular prioress, when it suddenly sank in that the word I was just typing was "interfecit." 

I stopped and took a closer look. Yes, indeed, the accusation was that this prioress had killed another nun. The hell? Now, there's not a lot of detail here, so it's not clear whether we're talking premeditated murder or accidental death. Said prioress had also apparently given birth at her nunnery. The bishop's wrath can be imagined. Understandably enough, he had his bailiff lock up the errant prioress. And then things took an interesting turn.

A local miles, evidently a cousin of the imprisoned prioress, rode to her rescue. Not alone, but with a troop of armed followers. The bishop complains that they rode up on horseback shouting and raising a terrible fuss. Though he also complains of their violence, it's not clear whether they actually fought with the bishop's guards, or whether the bailiff turned the prioress over in response to their intimidation (the bishop doesn't seem too happy with the bailiff, either, which inclines me toward the latter conclusion). 

There are several letters about the incident, as the bishop excommunicated the prioress and the miles and repeatedly begged various authorities to turn them in. One letter names around twenty individuals also excommunicated, these presumably constituting the armed troop. Some of those men share surnames with the prioress, others with the miles, suggesting that we're looking at an extended family group.

As is so often the case, I have no idea at the moment what the outcome was. Nor do I have any real idea what to do with it, other than post the incident for your entertainment.


squadratomagico said...

Oooh, I'm definitely entertained! And intrigued: I wonder what happened???

It sounds like it would make a good basis for a long article or even a book-length microstudy, if you can dig out more details, research the family connections, etc. If you were so inclined, that is... I know you have a different project underway already.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

So I wasn't all that far off with my "stood on her head and sang obscene songs" idea in the previous post, then? Fantastic stuff!

(and you know me: I'd be tempted to spin this off into a microhistory...)

Anonymous said...


clio's disciple said...

I'm all in favor of microhistory, tough daunted by the complexity of the research that would be entailed. I'm keeping it on the back burner for now, and will keep an eye out for more.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's Ste-Croix de Poitiers all over again! Come Kalamazoo, if you're going, I must beg this reference from you. I don't really have anything to do with it, mind, but it would help anchor an idea I use of waves of reform, like tides, to be able to use such parallel anecdotes from different eras.