Saturday, 27 August 2011


The Roman Emperor Constantine is held up in the medieval period as an example of charitable behaviour. He was a leper, and was told by his doctors that to cure his leprosy he needed to bathe in the blood of children. Now all commentators stress that Constantine doesn't bathe in infants blood and having converted to Christianity he is cured of his leprosy. Based on this I always thought of Constantine as a good man, who was horrified at the mere thought of killing innocent children just to help himself. So this week I read the version of this story from Gower's Confessio Amantis and Constantine is quite happy to kill all the children, its only when he hears all the mmothers wailing that he reconsiders. He then goes into this quite hypocritical speech about right and wrong and the rights of the poor...but two minutes earlier he was quite happy to murder a load of poor children on order to cure himself! Its quite creepy to read and reminds me of Herod's slaughter of the innocents. So Constantine's great act of charity is simply scaring the hell out a group of kids and their mums and then really generously not murdering them for his own ends! Is that charity? Strange....

Monday, 22 August 2011

Amicus and Amelius

This is a short version of Amis and Amiloun that appears in the Alphabet of Tales. There are two main differences in the plot of this version. The first is that  Amelius recieves no warning that he might be punished for helping his friend by pretending to be him. The second change to the plot is that Amicus does not talk to his wife before slaghtering his children in order to cure Amelius. Luckily for him his children are found miraculously safe in their beds after Amelius has been cured by bathing in their blood. Good job huh? Can you imagine dinner in that household otherwise...AWKWARD! "So dear how was your day?" "Ah yes I meant to talk to you about that...I spent some time with the children today...and then I nap and had a dream where I found out that the way to cure my friend Amelius' remember Amelius, the one who helped us out when we had that problem with your Dad? Anyway in this dream I was told I could cure him by bathing him in a bath of be more specific childrens blood. So I went ahead and killed the kids. Hope you don't mind?" *icy silence* 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

St Francis of Assisi

When St Francis is on the point of fully converting to a spiritual life he meets a leper on a road. He thinks about the warning God gave him about sinning, and instead of running from the leper he runs to him. Francis embraces the leper, kisses him and then he disappears. This isn't the only disappearing leper in relgious texts. Maybe they have to disappear to reinforce the idea that the leper is from God! So watch out...if you meet a leper on a lonely road and he disappears God was sending you a sign! Feel blessed!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

St Elizabeth of Hungary

Read an interesting vita of St Elizabeth of Hungary. She was famous for her charitable care for lepers. Interestingly though this version of her life (taken from the Middle English Gilte Legende) seems to minimise her connections to that specific disease. Instead it emphasises her charity to the sick in general...I'm wondering if this is because of fashion. It became less fashionable to care personally for lepers during the fourteenth and into the fifteenth century. Perhaps the translator into Middle English wanted to distance Elizabeth from lepers to save her from being an unfashionable saint! I seem to have a This Morning style TV show in my head..."And coming up later on we look at the latest fashion for today's saint on the go!" Oh dear.