Bad Nuns!

Posted by: Richenda at Saturday November 29, 2008 in

I came across this lovely recitation of human folly and, well, you know me, I have to share this kind of stuff.

This excerpt was written by Eudes Rigaud, someone whom I imagine to be a very weary religious reformer. It was his task, in 1249, to visit a troubled nunnery and bring the antics there to the attention of the archbishop (whom we hope was able to sort things out). Sometimes reformers were terrible, self-righteous prigs, but even if this was true of Rigaud, in this case I still feel sorry for him!

Most nunneries, of course, were well managed and well run. I hope you enjoy this exception to the rule (excuse the pun!) as much as I did!

From Medieval English Nunneries by Eileen Power, 1922. p. 665

We visited the priory of Villarceaux. There are twenty-three nuns and three lay sisters. [Here follow several minor disorders.] Only four nuns there are fully professed, to wit Eustachia, Comitissa, Ermengarde and Petronilla. Many of them have pilches made from fur of rabbits, hares and foxes. They eat flesh unnecessarily in the infirmary ; they do not observe silence anywhere and they do not keep within the cloister. Johanna of “Aululari” once went out of the cloister and lived with someone, by whom she had a child ; and she sometimes goes out of
the cloister to see that child ; item she is ill-famed ( infamata ) with a certain man called Gaillard. Isabella la Treiche is a fault finder, murmuring against the Prioress and others. The cellaress is ill-famed with a man called Philip of Villarceaux. The Prioress is too negligent and does not reprove, nor does she get up [for matins]. Johanna of Auvilliers goes outside the house alone with Gayllard and within the year had a child by him. The cellaress is ill-famed with Philip of Villarceaux and with a certain priest of her own neighbourhood. Item the subprioress with Thomas the carter. Idonia her sister with Crispinatus. Item the prior of Gisors frequents the house for the sake of said Idonia. Philippa of Rouen is ill-famed with the priest of Suentre, in the diocese of Chartres ; Marguerita the treasuress with Richard de Geneville, of the diocese of Chartres. La Tooliere [? the chambress] is ill-famed with Sir Andrew de Monchy, knight. They all wear their hair long to their chins ( nutriunt comam usque ad mentum ) and scent their veils with saffron. Jacqueline came back pregnant from a certain chaplain, who was expelled from the house for this. Item Agnes de Montsec was ill-famed with the same. Ermengarde of Gisors and Johanna of Auvilliers beat each other. The Prioress is drunk almost any night…she does not rise for matins nor eat in the frater nor correct faults.

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