SINNERS OF ST DOGMELLS

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Abbot Philip Vader together with Monks Howel Lange and David Lloid were named and shamed!

On the 7th of January 1402 Guy Mone Bishop of St Davids ordered a visitation and inspection was carried out on the monastery and convent of St Dogmells.

There has been disquiet in the country about some of the monasteries and convents, their riches, their land and their conduct. Such was the disquiet that in 1404 there was a proposal in the Commons to confiscate Church property and in 1414 the alien priories were suppressed by Henry V.

The inspection revealed that while previously there had been a full complement of HONEST monks there were only three professed but the food and sustenance consumed would indicate a far larger number. The Order of daily Services was not followed and many Services not read.

The Abbot, Philip Vader, was held responsible and was ordered to find “provision of honest persons to be clothed with you in the habit of regulars, whose conversation in times past may afford a good presumption for the future, so that by the feast of Pentecost next there may be conversant nine in number at the least, in order that by the multiplication of intercessors the gifts of spiritual grace may be increased.”

To encourage the Abbot to increase the numbers it was ordered that until there was at least six monks the Abbot was only allowed to have the usual Abbots portion of food but when more than six he can have twice the normal monks portion at least twice a week.

The Visitation found that instead of spending time in contemplation and studying the monks were indulging in idle gossip and drinking. The day and night vigils were times of drunkenness and evil speaking. It was ordered that the Abbot was to ensure that “no fire shall be made or kept up, or except at the coming of frost or intolerable cold and while these reign they shall have a fire at the middle hour, by dispensation of the abbot not for the sake of converse together but of warmth, for a suitable time and the portion of the monks in drink and candles shall be diminished, since all which is excessive is counted for a vice”

The Abbot was reprimanded for allowing the lay brothers to frequent taverns in the town but it would appear that the lay brothers were not the only members of the monastery to frequent the taverns. No monk or lay brother was to be allowed out of the boundary of the monastery without a special licence from the abbot or his deputy. It appears also that there was another problem which went against the vow of chastity and it was ordered that “No women suspected in regard to the monks shall by any means lodge in the town itself but they shall be removed altogether under the penalty".

[The actual order from the Bishop just ends the instruction on the with the word penalty.
The penalties were well known and for being an whore the woman would be stripped naked, tied to the back of a cart and whipped through the streets of the town and then thrown out of the town as a vagrant or beggar. Many did not survive because it was usual that before the cart started moving they should be whipped till the blood formed a pool on the ground.  Very often it was the blacksmith who was employed to do the whipping. In the Haverfordwest Records one man was paid for whipping six people - beggars or vagrants.

The other penalty would be the church penalty in that they would be excommunicated and therefore outlawed. They would be given just one garment and a hat with a staff and sent on pilgrimage. never to return. They would have to head for the nearest port to take ship abroad as many of the pilgrimages in cases like this would be to the Holy Land or Rome - they would also have a price on their head. As the Bishop had not ordered excommunication the civil penalty  would probably apply.
These penalties seem harsh in a time when many Taverns were owned by the church and had cribs at the back where the serving girls had to take customers - but then the Church was making a profit on these transaction. Many of the girls were bondservants whose bond had been bought by the Church and were forced to work as whores. Remember that until very recently most of the businesses in Soho paid ground rent to the Church of England - and probably still do!]

There was also the suspicion that lay brothers had entertained women in the monastery consuming the sustenance of the monastery. The doors and gates on the North side of the monastery were to be kept shut at all times except during the Mass or unless the Abbot wished to view the work in the fields.

Howell Lange was one of the monks and it would appear that he was very fond of wine and metheglin [a spiced mead]. In fact he was a drunkard from the description. For a year he was not to be allowed out of the monastery bounds unless in the company of the Abbot. Also he had to give away and distribute his daily portion of wine to the poor in the Abbots presence.

David Lloid had “culpably lapsed into the crime of apostasy [renunciation of faith] (we say it with grief), going forth from the monastery itself and holding himself aloof among secular persons, neglecting the discipline of his order and deserting the cloister.”

The Bishop ordered that his blood may be required at the hands of the Abbot, that they were to diligently search for him bring him back to the cloister and chastise him according to the discipline of the order as an example to the others until he repents.

[He could be very severely whipped and there are accounts that in some cases offenders were walled up alive.]


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