The Stations of the Clergy: Priest

The priest is a is a member of the clergy who has been through the minor orders and ordained in all the major holy orders.

Priests make up 2-5% of the general population.

Minor orders are conferred upon those pursuing an education in the Church or specifically studying for the priesthood, involving first tonsure and ordination as either an Acolyte, Lector (one who reads), Ostiary (doorkeeper), or Exorcist. Of these, the Acolyte is the highest in prestige. These four are called “minor orders” because perpetual celibacy was not required of them.

Those studying for the practice of law rarely go beyond minor orders in their career path unless they specialize in canon law or civil law. No prospective clergyman would take further vows (major orders) in the church unless a benefice was offered for his maintenance.

The usual minister bestowing minor orders was a bishop; but some abbots could give the tonsure and minor orders to their subjects.

After receiving all the minor orders, the clergyman could receive ordination in the major orders.

The major orders are the final ones: Subdeacon, Deacon, and finally Priest. The reason these orders are considered “major” is with ordination to the subdiaconate, both the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Offices) and perpetual celibacy become mandatory. An acolyte does not have to perform the Divine Office and can marry without Papal dispensation if he leaves his holy course of study before becoming a subdeacon.

Neither the minor orders nor the subdiaconate are considered a part of the sacrament of Holy Orders, but are instead viewed as preparatory offices to the priesthood.

The parish priest is in charge of a town or village chapel or church and its parish, generally equal to a whole large village/small town or collection of small villages, generally encompassing about 100 families. He is responsible for teaching the congregation the equivalents of the Paternoster, Ave, Creed, and the seven (or nine) Virtues and deadly sins four times during the course of the year. He is supported by the tithes and the proceeds of the glebe lands allotted to his church, which he must help work with his own hands, right alongside the common farm folk of his parish. The house appendant to the church  in the priest’s care, in which he lives, is called the parsonage.

A monk or priest who dwells exclusively in a religious house of some sort, either in a town or a rural setting, who is unable to come or go except by the permission of his abbot/prior (monks) or Father/Mother Superior (priests) is called “cloistered”.

rector is a type of priest appointed to take care of a church that does not belong to either a parish, a chapter of canons, or a religious order. Thus, he is not the parish priest, his church is not be the central parish church or belong to a religious house or community, though he may have charge of a seminary or university college. A rector is not allowed to perform baptisms, confirmations, anoint the sick, or conduct a marriage or funeral without the permission of his parish priest except in an emergency. His regular duties are comprised essentially of regular masses, taking confessions, teaching (“song school”), and administration. Unlike the vicar who fills in for an absentee priest, to whom all excess income must be sent, the rector takes care of a satellite church of a parish founded because the population is too great for the parish church alone to serve its needs. He is allowed to manage the lands and income awarded to the rectory wholly on his own behalf and that of his congregation.

The chaplain/confessor is a priest or monk in the service of a noble family or higher clergyman, whose duties include performing private services for the family/household, supervising private devotions for family members, hearing confessions (as applicable) and also working as a scribe, bookkeeper or personal secretary. They are often assigned to individual members of the household, particularly the lady of the house, or the daughters, for whom they may also act as chaperone, or the eldest son and heir, also often filling the position of family tutor (“magister”).

The Stations of the Clergy: Friar

Friars live among the poor in the towns, tending to the sick and destitute, preaching to the poor commons, the most neglected by the Church at large. Friars differ from monks in that they are called to a life of poverty and sworn in service to whatever community they encounter. The Franciscan order, or Friars Minor, stressed minority or humility. The humble wandering friars stop and minister to those in need where ever they may be found, allowed the use of the parish churches to celebrate the High Mass, and to hear confessions and imposes penances (as applicable). The organizations of the friars themselves stand outside the hierarchy of the regular clergy, bishops, archbishops, etc.;  friars are responsible only to the superiors of the religious house whence they hail, which superiors themselves are bound only to answer to the high prelate of the Church himself.

The Stations of the Clergy: Pardoner

The wandering pardoner, also called a “questor”, is an official appointed by the high prelate of the prevailing religion and invested with the power to grant indulgences (absolution in advance for transgressions against the faith) for various sins in exchange for alms, of which he is allowed to keep a small portion (from 1//10th to 1 in 8). Pardoners commonly carry saints’ relics and for a nominal (set) fee in alms he will allow his patrons to view them, perhaps even touch them. An ambitious pardoner can bring in more than £60 per year in income. These men are not well-liked by their brothers in the Church, however, as can be seen by the following contemporary quote :

“Fie! Penny preacher, murderer of all the world. How many a soul dost thou cast with thy filthy lucre (money) from [the Light’s] own sunlight to the bottom of [Darkness], where there is no more hope for them! Thou promisest so much indulgence for a single halfpenny or a single penny, that many people trust thee and dream falsely that they have done penance for all their sins with that penny or that halfpenny as thou babblest to them. so they will do no right penance and will go straight to [the Darkness] where there is no more hope for them …. Thou murderer of right penance, thou hast murdered right penitence in our midst, which is one of the seven most holy things of the highest that God hath, It hath been so murdered by penny-preachers that there are few among us who will still do penance for our sins; for they count on thy false promises. For the penny-preacher preacheth to them so long and in such manifold words of our [Light’s] passion that men take him as a true messenger of [the Light] : for he weepeth in his preaching and useth all manner of deceit whereby he may coax pennies from his hearers, and their souls into the bargain.”

A wonderful piece of clerical invective out of the history books, and stemming from the common occurrence not so much of corruption among the pardoners as of knaves, rogues and other tricksters pretending and posing as pardoners for the sole purpose of seducing the innocent into parting with their ready coin. The common religious is appalled at the basic premise of the trade, as well, however, and especially at its impact on the people, their piety and respect for the Church, their habits of worship, and also the sapping of monies that could otherwise have found its way into the poor-boxes of the local churches, which are expected to provide constant charitable services to the needy who daily flock to their doors. This does not mean that the people do not take comfort from the ministrations of the pardoners, just the same. Few think of the impact elsewhere when the pardoner comes calling down their own lane – such a convenience! All the servants of the Church are largely considered to be equal by the people, so giving money to one is as good as giving it to the local parish priest in their eyes. The fact that it goes straight to the prelate and into the pardoner’s purse doesn’t even occur to most of them.

The Stations of the Clergy: Prior

prior is either the right-hand man or second in command of an abbot, usually in a large abbey that requires much energy and attention to administer, or he rules a satellite monastery of his own which has been created by some other house because it became too large in population and wealth, in which case he answers to the abbot of the founding house. All priory lands belong to the sponsoring house, but are completely subject to the discretion of the prior of the satellite house, called a “priory”. Priors and their successors are always appointed and anointed by the abbot of the house that sponsored them. They are elected for life or until the majority of the inmates can convince the local bishop that a new one is needed due to advanced age, incompetence, corruption, and so on.

The Stations of the Clergy: Abbot

The abbot is the official in charge of a monastery or abbey and is not necessarily a priest, though he must be a brother or monk sworn to the vows of the order to which the abbey or monastery belongs. The abbot can be the equivalent of anything from a prince to a baron in the hierarchy of the Church, depending on the wealth of the religious house in his care, how well endowed it is with lands and income. Abbots and their successors are always elected by the inmates of the monastery from among their own number. They are elected for life or until the majority of the inmates can convince the local bishop that a new one is needed due to advanced age, incompetence, corruption, or the like. If he rules a large abbey that requires much energy and attention to administer, the abbot may well have a prior as his right-hand man or second in command.

The Stations of the Clergy: Monsignor

monsignor is a lesser official under a bishop, the equivalent of a baron(Lord) in the Church hierarchy, responsible for overseeing a certain number of church/chapel priests in the diocese and the maintenance of their parishes. Monsignors are always fully ordained priests and always have a church and parish of their own which they use as the center for their administrations.

The Stations of the Clergy: Bishop

bishop is the equivalent of a an earl in the Church hierarchy, and his feof is called a “diocese”, the religious equivalent of a shire, composed of smaller areas called “parishes”. A bishop might hold as many as 500 manor estates. Bishops oversee the religious houses and the priests of their dioceses and parishes. Like the archbishop, every bishop is always a fully ordained priest, and has a cathedral (which means “bishop’s throne”) and an adjoining palace, though neither will be quite so grand as those of the archbishop. The bishop’s cathedral and palace will be located in the most important city in the diocese, and from which the diocese will take its name. A town must have a cathedral in order to be called a city, the center of administration for the Church in that region.

The monsignors, bishops and archbishops under their prelate are the Church equivalents of the noble hierarchy under the king. Where the nobles’ power is located primarily in the rural countryside with their estates, the seats of Church power lie in cities of which they are the feudal lords. The word cathedral means bishop’s throne, There is always an archbishop or bishop over a town that has a cathedral, indeed, the title of “city” is reserved for ecclesiastical towns under the rule of a bishop or archbishop. Monsignors, abbots, and priors may be found in either cities, towns, or ruling rural manored estates in the same manner as any baron, owing feudal duty.

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The Medieval Bishoprics of England

Carlisle

Durham

(Archbishop) York

Chester

Lincoln

Norwich

(The Isle of) Ely

London

(Archbishop) Canterbury

Rochester

Chichester

Winchester

Salisbury

Exeter

(Bath and) Wells

Worcester

Hereford

19 cathedrals, total

Stations of the Clergy: Archbishop

An archbishop is a prince of the Church and his feof is called a “see”, composed of a number of smaller feofs called “dioceses”, each held by a bishop who answers to him. The archbishop is always a fully ordained priest, and acts as bishop over the diocese from which he rules his see, and is responsible for the bishops who run the dioceses within his see. Every archbishop has a grand temple, or “cathedral” (which means “bishop’s throne”), and an adjoining palace, which will be located in the most important city in the see, and from which the see will take its name. A town must have a cathedral in order to be called a city, the center of administration for the Church in that region.

The monsignors, bishops and archbishops under their prelate are the Church equivalents of the noble hierarchy under the king. Where the nobles’ power is located primarily in the rural countryside with their estates, the seats of Church power lie in cities of which they are the feudal lords. The word cathedral means bishop’s throne, There is always an archbishop or bishop over a town that has a cathedral, indeed, the title of “city” is reserved for ecclesiastical towns under the rule of a bishop or archbishop. Monsignors, abbots, and priors may be found in either cities, towns, or ruling rural manored estates in the same manner as any baron, owing feudal duty.

The Church in medieval England was governed by two archbishops, of Canterbury and of York. Canterbury was preeminent between them, having the prerogative of crowning kings, and also functioning much as a chief minister of state for the king.

The Clergy Class

The clergy form the Second Estate of medieval society’s Three Estates, as mentioned earlier. They are included here because they were so central to society in the period of the game as to be given the important role as one of the three estates, and also because as a Class they comprised a full 2% of the general population on their own, double the presence of the nobility. Indeed, the Second Estate is also a great landholder, nearly as much so as the First Estate. The princes of the Church owe feudal service in the same manner as any secular magnate. Holding so much land to support them and their works, the Church is a political power in the world. The king holds the right of primer seizin over all vacant bishoprics in the realm, as he does over all the rest of his feudal tenants. This diverts all revenues to the Crown until such time as a new bishop is nominated and appointed, and over which the king has the right of final approval.

This situation led to the feud between King John, younger brother and successor of Richard Lionheart, and Pope Innocent III. John kept the Archbishopric of Canterbury vacant for the want of a (politically) acceptable candidate until the Pope placed all of England under Interdict in retaliation, closing every church in the country except for the performance of baptisms and to hear the confessions of the dying. This was lenient, considering that Interdict normally prohibited even those two sacred offices. John was notorious for being greedy where his own interests were involved, and the Archbishopric channeled a great bounty into his Privy Purse.

Three years later Innocent Excommunicated John himself. John then began a four year campaign of appropriating Church revenues and properties. In the end, his relationship with the barons undermined by the Church and an invasion by Philip of France imminent, John gave in to Innocent and allowed the vacancy to be filled.

In addition, the Church dominates the institutions of education, with the right to issue licenses for those who would teach, practice medicine, or pursue a career at law. Being the primary source of education, particular the traditions of reading and writing, they are the secretaries of the government and the entire First Estate, their chroniclers and accountants, and their consciences, too, at times. Most clerkships in the government, especially in the Chancery, are viewed as the private preserve of the clergy. This gives them an even greater presence in government than their lands alone would.

In pursuing their various tasks and duties, the clergy occasionally clash with their benefactors, the nobles, particularly on the subject of jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the Church is in matters spiritual. In matters of faith and the holy sacraments, those on holy pilgrimage or crusade, matters involving vows or obligations sworn by holy oath, sacrilege or violations of Sanctuary, and heresy their right was never disputed, but the Church has a tendency to intrude on “worldly matters”, pushing their interests to include the worldly property of the Church and the clergy, and all legal cases involving  the clergymen themselves (civil AND criminal). These two areas are great bones of contention between the Church and the nobles on a local level, but also between the Crown and the Church on a national level. Most often, however, the Crown and Church work well to keep the peace and champion the right rule of law. Under Church doctrine, authority and divine order stem from on high, and the law is a part of it’s expression. Thus, to defy the law is to defy the divine, making all who are convicted of breaking the law also guilty of an offense against the Light. Every crime therefore requires atonement and penance, though of course, the Church concentrates it’s efforts on crimes against canon law. such as vainglory and accidia (persistent worldly sorrow, constant depression), which have no corresponding offenses under the laws of men.

Clergymen were historically forbidden to marry. Membership and rank in the clergy, the positions and the lands awarded with them that provide their livings, are NOT heritable by blood, While it is true that a fair number of people entered the clergy to retire from public life, it was usually a practice followed late in life and after a beloved spouse had already passed.

The monsignors, bishops and archbishops under their prelate are the Church equivalents of the noble hierarchy under the king. Where the nobles’ power is located primarily in the rural countryside with their estates, the seats of Church power lie in cities of which they are the feudal lords. The word cathedral means bishop’s throne, There is always a bishop over a town that has a cathedral, indeed, the title of “city” is reserved for ecclesiastical towns under the rule of a bishop or archbishop. Monsignors, abbots, and priors may be found in either cities, towns, or ruling rural manored estates in the same manner as any baron, owing feudal duty.

The Stations of the Nobility: Knight, Squire, Gentleman

Knighthood is the lowest of the ranks of nobility that may be passed through the blood to one’s children. It is exclusive even among the ranks of nobles. While all knights are nobles, not all nobles are knights. Among the nobles, the knights cannot be said to stand among the “baronage” because this implies the holding of land by military tenure (servicium debitum), specifically a lordship or castle-honor, and there are more knights who do not than those who do. While any of the ranks of nobility are eligible to be knighted, not all achieve knighthood, even if they have trained for it. Without other income, such as heirs of lordly titles can count on, the mantle of knighthood is costly and the life is hard, the extra expenses of armor, weapons, and maintaining even a small retinue being prohibitive. Knights alone have the right to enter a church in full armor, to wear the gilded spurs, to be addressed as “Sir”, or wear the furs known as “the vair and the grey” (the mottled belly and the gray back furs of the northern squirrel). All lesser men must rise when a knight enters the room, and may not be seated until after he takes his seat.

The name of Knight of the Bath marks the line drawn between knights who fight for their bread caring for horse, weapons and arms (Knight of the Sword or Knight Simple) and their counterparts the Courtier-Knights, also known in the period of the game as “Holy Mary’s Knights”, thrown into the cult of those who were dedicated to the kind, gentle Lady Mary. Even the law acknowledged the difference between these two breeds of knight. The financially insolvent fighting Knight, or Knight of the Sword, can NOT be deprived of his war-harness or steeds by legal distraint of his moveable property to pay his debts, where the Knight who earns his bread by (political) service at Court rather than arms, a Knight of the Bath, would be allowed to retain only his horse under the same circumstances.

Battle-seasoned Knights of the Sword will always hold in a certain amount of contempt their gentler counterparts who have either no battle skills or little or no actual battle experience. Those who merely profess to fight will be considered to be men of no honor by those who exercise their ancient right and privilege, the original source of their power and authority. It is an expression of the conflict between their martial roots and the trends in gentle society during the medieval period.

Among the ranks of knights there are a number of other titles distinguishing standing and accomplishment: Knight Simple; Knight in Sergeanty; Knight Bachelor; Law-Worthy Knight; Knight Banneret

Knight Simple is a Knight of the Sword with no lands to administer in his own right or fief-rentes to support him, also known as a Knight Errant, particularly when he is wandering in search of adventure, fame and fortune to aid him in securing a position in the retinue of a lord, hoping to become a household knight.

Knight in Sergeanty holds less than a full knight’s feof, down to as small as 1/10th, with a similarly reduced feudal obligation, or even an equivalent in a money-fief, but holds this in return for a lesser form of service, commonly limited to garrison duty (a week to a fortnight) in a particular post at a specific castle nearby, some to carry a lord’s banner on the field of battle, or lead local forces at need, or provide infantrymen, archers, or crossbowmen when Crown or lord call. These will stand as the light cavalry used in reconnaissance and skirmishing, taking part in cavalry actions with other knights, though not as wealthy or well-equipped as some. Tenure by Sergeanty has a variable value. Thus, the title of Sergeant is not indicative of social class and station. A knight is still a knight, a squire still a squire, a gentleman still a gentleman and a commoner still a commoner, regardless of holding tenure in property by sergeanty.

Knight Huntsman or Beastmaster is a knight with a prestigious post in Sergeanty as an officer in one of the royal forests. In the case of the Beastmaster, the individual will be distinguished by the specific beast of the hunt with which his skills are associated (Master of Horse, Falconer, Bracheter, Lymer or other Master of Hounds).

Knight Bachelor is a Knight who has been taken into the household of a lord. He is generally supported by a combination of estates (a Knight’s feof) and feof-rentes (the income of lands of which he has no say in the management) or wages and feof-rentes with yearly gifts of robes and shoes, and the occasional largesse of the lord. The standard feof for a knight is a single manor of roughly 10 hides of land (1200 acres). Between 15 and 30 tenant families are required to support one knight’s family in their manor.

Law-Worthy Knight is able to acquit himself in the language of the courts and to read and write and have mastered basic mathematics. To stand as a law-worthy knight carries with it the requirement to hold land worth 40s. per year in income within a given shire where his services will be sought to aid in local government. In practice, the knight is usually required to hold property not only within the shire, but in the same neighborhood (usually the same hundred, or bordering hundreds). He may also be referred to as a Knight of the Shire.

A Knight Banneret is a seasoned knight distinguished for his service in the field by the specific royal grant of the right to lead a company of troops during time of war under his own private banner showing his armorial bearings (coat of arms). This banner is marked by its square shape, in contrast to the tapering standard or the pennon or pennoncelle flown by the lower-ranking knights. Bannerets are eligible to bear supporters in English heraldry. In heraldry, supporters are figures usually placed on either side of the shield and depicted holding it up, as the lion and the unicorn in the arms of the English crown.

No knight banneret can be created except in the field of battle, and then only when the king is present, or at least where his Majesty’s royal standard is being carried on the field by his appointed representative (a campaign sponsored by the Crown, at the least).

After all of these, below even the Knight Simple or even the Knight of the Bath, are the Esquire and the Gentleman.

An Esquire, or Squire, is the title by which the next social rank below a knight is called, known as “gentry” as opposed to nobility. The title Squire is applied to all those descended of noble blood who have trained for knighthood but who have not yet been granted or sought out that rank. This title may also be hereditary, in the same manner as knighthood. The hereditary title implies noble descent, but the hereditary Squire is only eligible to raise his blood back to that of knighthood again. He doesn’t have it; he must earn it. Otherwise, he is primarily a wealthy landowner of noble descent. The eldest son of a knight bears the title Squire until he should train at arms and earn his knighthood (if ever). The eldest sons of all a knight’s younger sons are all accorded the title “Squire” – all others are referred to as “gentlemen”. Those who bear this title should be addressed as “”Squire” in the same way Knights are hailed as “Sir”.

The average esquire might have a yearly income of about £25. According to the Assize of Arms, any at this income level may be compelled to take up arms and the mantle of knighthood and serve in the Crown in time of war, or pay a stiff fine as high as one year’s income. By ancient custom, a family or a branch of a family passing over their right to knighthood for more than three generations in succession is considered to have abandoned that dignity ever after. Custom hath the force of law.

gentleman is a lapsed knight, a cadet line of a noble house or a knight’s blood, one who has the capacity to seek knighthood through arms, to enlist in service as a Squire, but has no such nobility of his own currently, as discussed above. He may be a farmer working a farm as a yeoman or franklin, may also be a shire official, steward/bailiff or other castle or village official (GM’s discretion).