Siege Diaries 3/20/2021

IMG_2046Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: Am I cultivating the virtue that makes adversity bearable?

Nothing like actual adversity to test things out.  Granted, I still personally have been mostly inconvenienced by the pandemic, rather than actively harmed, but certainly the danger is present for everyone. And the virtue practice has been in the ability to refrain from doomscrolling or obsessing over the news.  When I hear the same stories repeated over and over, that’s when I know it’s time to turn off the radio or shut down my computer.  Now that the weather is improving, I am looking forward to see spring emerge again.  It’s already starting, and none of that information I’ve tuned out will stop it from coming.  That’s the best kind of inevitability I know.

A nice, long hike today–two hours on the first day of Spring.  That was after a hilarious viewing party of a 1988 movie about Shostakovich that portrays him as more or less nothing without his nemesis, Stalin (at one point, he’s chased by a giant rolling Stalin head, much like Indy is chased by a rolling boulder in the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s an extremely contrived film, supposedly some kind of mediation from beyond the grave, Unfortunately, it’s just about the only English-language Shostakovich biopic I know of.  After the hike, I drove down to Betty’s for turkey dinners, and then attended Ealdormere Court, where I found out a won a prize in one of the Winter War contests.  I’ve also gotten far enough on my cat snail to likely finish it up tomorrow.


Another one today for AskHistorians, about the papal interdict of 1208:

It’s not without reason that Innocent III is considered as perhaps the most powerful and/or influential Pope of the medieval era, both in terms of political influence and Church reform. Politically, he became directly involved in controversies in just about every major European kingdom during his years in power; he also called the Fourth Crusade which resulted in the sack of Constantinople. On the latter note, he oversaw the Fourth Lateran Council, which, among other things, promoted education for the clergy and regular confession for all Christians. That’ll come into this at the end, I promise.

For those reading who are not familiar with this period, there was an ongoing conflict between the Papacy and temporal authorities regarding appointment of major Church officials, particularly archbishops. The Church, of course, regarded them as spiritual authorities who owed their allegiance to Rome–even as they owed feudal duties for the lands they held. In. most kingdoms archbishoprics were powerful landowners, and so there was a natural conflict there of spiritual vs. temporal authority. In England, archbishops were considered amongst the great lords of the kingdom and were considered “barons.” In 1208, King John refused to invest Innocent’s appointee of Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury, which is what triggered the interdict.

No other pope wielded the weapon of the interdict more frequently than Innocent did, but no other kingdom was forced to bear its weight for as long as England did–six years. So what did that mean for the average person in England during those years?

First, it’s to be noted that none of the Sacraments that were most immediately connected with the salvation of the soul–baptism, confession, and Extreme Unction (last rites) were prohibited. Clergy could also continue to hold Mass in private, and it’s quite possible that those of means who had their own chaplains may have likewise been able to continue. What the Interdict did ban was the public celebration of Mass, whether in a parish church or a cathedral. Generally, the faithful did not partake of the Eucharist (Communion) on a regular basis. (One of the Lateran IV reforms was to require yearly confession, and it thus became a common practice to partake in the Eucharist after that yearly confession, when one’s soul was in a state of grace.) However, witnessing the Mass, particularly the elevation of the Host (when Catholic theology states that the Host becomes the physical body of Christ through transubstantiation) was considered a substitute of sorts. This is likely where the Interdict had its most significant impact. However, parishioners could still come into churches privately to make offerings.

Marriage was also one of the Sacraments, but at this time there was not yet a requirement that a marriage needed to be solemnized in church. Doctrinally at this time, it was the couple who, in making their vows to each other, performed the sacrament, and so long as this took place–even with only God as a witness, the marriage was held to be valid so long as the couple met all of the other requirements for marriage (e.g. they could not be too closely related without dispensation, etc.) However, in England marriages often took place “at the Church door,” that is, in a public place where the community could witness. This was done primarily to ensure there were witnesses when it came to matters of inheritance (in England, unless something else were specified at this time, a woman was entitled to use of 1/3 of her husband’s property for her lifetime if she was widowed.) Parishes eventually came to be the “town halls” of medieval England, holding the records of these marriages. It is important to note that the Interdict did not prohibit these marriages “at the church door.”

There is debate as to what happened with the burial of the dead–whether burial on consecrated ground was banned entirely, or whether it was to take place “silently” (that is, without a Requiem Mass). One chronicler, Roger of Coggeshall, recorded with horror the bodies that stacked up outside of churches during an interdict imposed by Innocent III on France–but his chronicle makes no mention of this in England, so it’s uncertain whether it applied but was excised, or that the extreme length of the English interdict permitted some loosening of strictures.

The Interdict was meant to bring the pressure of popular opinion to bear on John, and it certainly did do that, having a huge impact on the mounting concerns of the barons in England that eventually led to Magna Carta. John, in turn, forced many high-ranking clerics into exile and confiscated their property or income.

It’s important to note that an Interdict did not impact personal devotions or prayers–it likely made them more popular, in fact. It also did not impact shrines or the practice of pilgrimage (and may have, as a longer-term effect, also made them more popular.) Likewise, the local clergy during the Interdict were still part of their community, and this cannot be underestimated. It’s particularly interesting that the various chroniclers are silent as to whether there were any popular reaction to the Interdict, and there are also some documents regarding the actual application of the measures by English bishops which seem to indicate that, for burials at least, the strictures were loosened.

The most significant immediate impact of the Interdict was the eventual capitulation of King John, just a couple of years before Magna Carta. England officially became a fief of the Papacy and was to pay an annual fee of 1,000 marks. Stephen Langton became one of the leaders of the barons opposing King John. The Papacy responded by suspending him from his office and requiring him to stay out of England until the crisis was over; the Pope then invalidated Magna Carta. Langton outlived John, however, and continued to be numbered among the leading magnates until his death in 1228.

Roger of Coggeshall’s Chronicle can be found here.