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Q: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   20 Comments )
Subject: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: archae0pteryx-ga
List Price: $9.16
Posted: 24 Sep 2005 16:47 PDT
Expires: 24 Oct 2005 16:47 PDT
Question ID: 572155
Year:  1310.
Place:  Lowlands of NW France.

Seating for worshipers:  pews? backless benches? stools? chairs?
Material:  wood? if so, what kind?

For bonus points:  would you sit there or elsewhere if you were
waiting for your turn in the confessional?

Note to researcher:  If you are able to answer questions about the
physical appearance of a specific church in Bethune, please post a
comment and I will address a question to you.  Thanks.

Thank you,

Request for Question Clarification by scriptor-ga on 24 Sep 2005 17:27 PDT
Dear Tryx,

I hesitate to post this as an answer, because it is a "negative
answer". Actually, medieval churches were usually not equipped with
any kind of seating for those attending services. Contrary to the
depiction of medieval churches in movies, people were standing during
worship, as well in the small country churches as in in the huge
cathedrals. Benches and pews did not become common furnishing in
European churches before the 16th century.
It is interesting to know that behaviour displayed by people in the
churches was generally very different from what we consider
appropriate today, but that topic alone would already make a
fascinating book.
I imagine that someone waiting for his turn to confess would just
stand near the confessional and wait. Services were long, and
especially in bigger churches may activities were going on
simultaneously: One service was hold in the main nave, others in the
side chapels (sometimes for private parties), people were coming and
going, merchants were meeting and doing business (!) in the side naves
... no one would mind if you stood near the confessional during

It may sound strange for us today, but it was really very different
from what we imagine.

By the way, what church in Bethune would you like to know about, and
what degree of detail do you desire?


Clarification of Question by archae0pteryx-ga on 24 Sep 2005 20:26 PDT
Hello, friend Scriptor, and greetings.

I was afraid of that.  Ruins my scene.  But better the authenticity. 
I suspected that might be the case, because I think I'd heard or read
it somewhere before.  I'll make my scene work some other way.  So
thank you, that is a fine answer, and I'm happy to accept it (and I
imagine you know me well enough by now to have felt pretty sure that
would be the case).

So where did a person kneel to pray and/or to perform an act of
penance?  Did even the wealthy kneel right on the stone floor?

Bethune:  Church of St. Vaast, unless there's another that would be a
likelier place for the well-to-do-to have attended at that time.  (1)
I'll be wanting to describe part of the interior from the point of
view of someone (a) attending a service and (b) waiting for
confession:  not an extensive detailed description, but a few true
architectural and/or ornamental details (recognizable by someone who
knows the place) and a general feel. What would the person be staring
at while thinking about something else? (2) Also I would like to place
a carved statue or sculpture of some kind in the vestibule--preferably
a carved wooden image of St. Vaast--and would like to know if there is
a compelling reason why I can't.  If I can't, can I put a carved
bas-relief there?  It doesn't have to be something that can be seen
now, only something that would be plausible for the time and place. 
(3) And finally, I would like a glimpse of the exterior and surrounds
well enough to make mention of the impression it would make on someone
approaching it--graceful? overbearing? brooding? musical?
inspiring?--and a sense of the general vicinity (plausibility will do;
exact faithful history is not necessary).  (+) A bonus question would
be approximate distance between location of the church and location of
a relatively wealthy residential area during my period.  Are you
interested, and how much of a research task would it be?

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
Answered By: scriptor-ga on 25 Sep 2005 03:23 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Thank you, Tryx. I'm glad to know that I could help you. As for the
question whether people kneeled on the floor for prayer: No, they did
not. Actually, they prayed standing. While one could kneel down in an
act of individual devoutness, the normal worshipper would pray in a
standing position.

All the best,

Request for Answer Clarification by archae0pteryx-ga on 27 Sep 2005 21:36 PDT
Scriptor, something extra for your trouble (beyond the tip already
given) is in my #573575.


Clarification of Answer by scriptor-ga on 28 Sep 2005 07:15 PDT
Thank you very much, Tryx ... I found it :-)
archae0pteryx-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $3.04
Thank you, Scriptor.  You are a standard-setter.  I truly appreciate
your way of giving everything asked for and then something more.


Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: tlspiegel-ga on 24 Sep 2005 20:43 PDT
Hi archae0pteryx,

Perhaps some of this will be helpful to you.

"The historical particulars are hard to pin down. But the custom of
praying on  a string of beads was already common in the 12th century.
Anyone who has done so intuitively understands the tactile appeal of
praying with the hands, as well as hearts and voices. Buddhists, Sikhs
and Muslims had long used beads to count certain prayers that were


"Labyrinth reshapes a 12th-century ritual for the 21st century. Its
maze-like path takes you on a symbolic journey, creates space to
unwind and think - in particular about our relationships with
ourselves, one another, our planet and God."


"Labyrinths were a feature of many medieval cathedrals - one of the
best remaining examples is found in Chartres Cathedral in northern
France. Unlike a maze they have only one path - there are no dead
ends. People walk the labyrinth slowly, as an aid to contemplative
prayer and reflection, as a spiritual exercise, or as a form of


"Meeting God in the middle The labyrinth is a maze-like path similar
to those designed into the floors of European cathedrals during the
Middle Ages. Christians of that time would walk the labyrinth to aid
their contemplative prayer and reflection. The labyrinths fell into
disuse, and most were eventually forgotten or destroyed."

Best regards,
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: myoarin-ga on 24 Sep 2005 21:15 PDT
"How's Tryx"  ;)   
I just canceled this before posting, but after your Sandwich comment
(thanks), I'll venture to add to the above:

Labyrinths  - "a symbolic journey" -  were sort of a mini-pilgrimage.
I think I got that from my guide to Chartres cathedral.

Regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 24 Sep 2005 21:37 PDT
Ah--labyrinths!  I've read about them and seen pictures.  Thank you
both, tlspiegel and Myoarin.  I might have a very nice use for one of
those in the next chapter.  I don't suppose we know if the Church of
St. Vaast had one--?

The extra information about a rosary or mala is helpful too--thanks, tl.

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: tlspiegel-ga on 24 Sep 2005 22:31 PDT
Ya' never know what you might be incorporating into your book so
here's some more for you.  If it's helpful - Good!  If not, just
disregard.  :)

The Gothic style spread from the area around Paris, the Île de France,
in the middle of the twelfth century and soon became the dominant form
of church architecture in northern Europe. The construction of a large
church in a medieval town was often a decades- or centuries-long
project, requiring the raising of vast sums and creating employment
for hundreds of craftsmen and laborers. The buildings themselves were
used for education, government, and administration, as well as being
centers of worship and veneration of relics.


Neverthless these two features are intrinsic elements in the Gothic
style. They make it possible for the building to become a lightweight
skeleton of stone, into which decorative features may be inserted.
The features characteristic of a Gothic church include large windows,
bringing in colour as well as light through the medium of stained
glass. On the end walls of transept or nave there is now space for a
particularly glorious innovation - the great circular openings known
(from the petal-like arrangement of their stonework) as rose windows.

The two most striking exterior details of Gothic cathedrals are the
tall recessed porches, rising to a high peak and providing ample
surfaces for sculpture; and the so-called flying buttresses, in which
the sideways thrust of a wall is contained by delicate filaments of
stone (as if some masonic spider has been at work on the building).

The Gothic style first appears in France in the mid-12th century. It
soon becomes a much wider phenomenon. All the great medieval cities of
Europe have Gothic buildings, unless destroyed by war or other
disaster. Nevertheless the earliest and greatest achievements are in
France, during a relatively short period from the mid-12th to mid-13th
century. It makes sense to describe the movement through the best
French examples. (English Gothic, though known for its three distinct
periods, is closely related to the French.)

The one great exception within the tradition is Italian Gothic, which
needs a section of its own - for the colourful flamboyance of its
churches, and the exceptional beauty of its secular buildings.

St Denis and Chartres: 12th - 13th century AD
On 11 June 1144 a distinguished company assembles in the new abbey
church of St Denis, near Paris. The church has been built during the
previous few years by Suger, the energetic abbot, who entered this
abbey some fifty years ago as a bright 10-year-old from a poor family.
He has since risen to a position of power as the confidant of the
king, Louis VII.

Today Louis and his queen are in the congregation to consecrate
Suger's new church. When they admire the tall pointed arches of the
choir and apse, and the windows full of stained glass (including an
image of the abbot himself presenting a window), they are marvelling
at the birth of the Gothic style.

At this same time, in the 1140s, a famous movement begins in Chartres,
the city now known for the finest of all Gothic cathedrals. Chartres
has an outstanding relic - the tunic which the Virgin Mary is supposed
to have been wearing at the time of the Annunciation. It inspires a
sense of deep devotion in visiting pilgrims.

Construction of a new west front, to enlarge the cathedral, is under
way. From about 1145 ordinary people of all classes lend a hand,
dragging heavy wagons of stone from the quarry to the cathedral. Known
as the 'cult of carts', this fashion spreads to other cities of France
as an expression of Christian piety.
Fifty years later this pious effort at Chartres seems to be divinely
rewarded. When the rest of the old cathedral is destroyed in a fire of
1194, the west façade - with its two great towers, and the triple
entrance flanked by superb sculptures - miraculously survives (as does
the Virgin's tunic). The cathedral authorities, gathering in the funds
of the faithful, are inspired to build behind this façade an entire
new cathedral in the Gothic style.

The soaring interior, with its vertical lines unbroken from the ground
to the rib vaulting of the roof, is completed by 1222. The great
windows are as yet blank spaces intersected by stone tracery. By 1240
they are filled with a blazing display of stained glass.

Chartres cathedral survives today as an outstanding example of three
different aspects of Gothic - architecture, sculpture and stained
glass. It is also a testament to the wealth and the energy generated
by two closely linked passions of the Middle Ages, the cult of the
relic and the love of pilgrimage.

Chartres is the large and public expression of this medieval impulse.
An exquisite miniature version of the same theme is constructed in the
years immediately following the completion of Chartres. The Sainte
Chapelle in Paris, housing its own relic, refines the glories of
full-scale Gothic to something more like a jewelled casket.
Sainte Chapelle: AD 1243-1248

Any important relic in the Middle Ages is put on display to be
venerated by pilgrims. In 1239 the king of France acquires a relic of
such significance that he creates, to contain it, a perfect miniature
Gothic church.

Western knights, occupying Constantinople since the fourth crusade,
have been pawning some of the holiest Byzantine treasures to pay their
armies. Louis IX, the king of France, redeems three of them from
Venetian money-lenders. His greatest acquisition is the Crown of
Thorns. Included in the same lot are a fragment of the True Cross and
the head of the Holy Lance which pierced Christ's side.
To house these relics, Louis builds a new chapel in his palace on an
island in the Seine - the Ile de la Cité, in the heart of Paris. The
surprising outer shape of the building, unusually tall for its size,
is because the king's apartments are on the first floor of the palace.
He wants to be able to walk straight into his chapel. It occupies only
the upper half of the structure.

This Gothic gem is completed in a very short time, between 1243 and
1248. Its interior - more glass than stone, with every panel of the
windows stained and every inch of stone painted or gilded - is one of
the marvels of the Middle Ages.


The Trouvères and the Troubadours

Popular music, usually in the form of secular songs, existed during
the Middle Ages. This music was not bound by the traditions of the
Church, nor was it even written down for the first time until sometime
after the tenth century. Hundreds of these songs were created and
performed (and later notated) by bands of musicians flourishing across
Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, the most famous of which
were the French trouvères and troubadours. The monophonic melodies of
these itinerant musicians, to which may have been added improvised
accompaniments, were often rhythmically lively. The subject of the
overwhelming majority of these songs is love, in all its permutations
of joy and pain. One of the most famous of these trouvères known to us
(the great bulk of these melodies are by the ubiquitous "Anonymous")
is Adam de la Halle (ca. 1237-ca. 1286). Adam is the composer of one
of the oldest secular music theater pieces known in the West, Le Jeu
de Robin et Marion. He has also been identified as the writer of a
good many songs and verses, some of which take the form of the motet,
a piece in which two or more different verses (usually of greatly
contrasted content and meter) are fit together simultaneously, without
regard to what we now consider conventional harmonies. Such a piece is
De ma dame vient! by this famous trouvère.

Although secular music was undoubtedly played on instruments during
the Middle Ages, instrumental dance music didn't come into its own
until the later Renaissance.

Best regards,
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: answerfinder-ga on 25 Sep 2005 02:55 PDT
Dipping into this book may give some background.

Religion in the Medieval West by Bernard Hamilton

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: myoarin-ga on 25 Sep 2005 05:42 PDT
Hi Tryx,
Why do some of us love your questions?

The church of St. Vaast in Bethune was rebuilt in the 1920s.  Bang!
Sorry about that.  But that was after the destruction in WW I.  Even
worse, Charles V moved the church in the 1500s, as you can read on the
first sight below.  25 hectares, the size of the walled town earlier,
would be 500x500 meteres.

The last one tells about Robert of Bethune, local ruler at that time.

Here are sites with plans and photos of several Romaneque churches,
probably much larger than St. Vaast, and following a verbal

The timeline site maybe is beneath you by now:

Scriptor may correct me on the following (and so much the better). :)
As to your idea of a statue or basrelief in the vestibule:
First, I don't think there would be one, looking at the plans linked.
Second, I don't think it fits with Romanesque and Gothic church furnishing.
The patron saint (Vaast built the first church in Bethune in the 6th
c.) would have the place of honor, either representation at the main
altar or in the primary side altar.  His grave would probably have
been in the crypt or under a gravestone at the front of the church.

Sorry about that too.  But the bright side is that you can envision
the church as you wish with no fear of contradiction.
Regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: scriptor-ga on 25 Sep 2005 05:53 PDT
Dear Tryx,

I just found out that St. Vaast, despite its Gothic appearance, was
built at its present location after 1533 and was not completed before
1611, when the belfry was finished. So it can, alas, not be used for a
story set in the 14th century. I'll see if there is a church in
Bethune that fits your needs.

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 25 Sep 2005 11:41 PDT
Wow, you guys are something else.  Amazing!  I am starting to feel
like this book is a team effort.  Your GA pseudonyms are going to look
funny on the author's acknowledgments page, but if my book ever sees
print, they're going to be there.  (Yes, I am keeping a list, and have
been since last November, when all this started.)  Many thanks for all
the great information, both contracted for and gratis.

tl, if you are guessing that information sparks ideas, you are right. 
I have just been thinking about a scene in which the troubled priest
is walking the labyrinth in meditation, trying to steady his mind, and
my main character approaches and walks right across it...  Now you
suggest a troubador!  Yes!  I will save a troubador for the third
book.  (There are three books in the series.  The focal character in
the third is kind of a 14th-century hippie.  A troubador would fit
right in--and provide lots of narrative possibilities by virtue of his

Myoarin, you are a gem.  Many thanks for all your contributions.  (Why
DO you love my questions?  I honestly don't know and often worry that
I am just being a nuisance.)

As for the church of St. Vaast, I have this information (and similar
found elsewhere):

The church of St Vaast was originally consecrated in 539, later it was
given to the Dean of the Canons of Rouen by Richard the Lionheart: the
current choir, transept and spire date back to the XIII century. 

I don't know why I couldn't use it in 1310.  As long as it was there
in 1310, what happened to it later is immaterial, isn't it?  I don't
need to be able to see it today.  I read that it was rebuilt in its
original style, so I could take a descriptive cue from that.  I
thought that the fact that it can no longer be seen as it was would
give me a lot of freedom.  The only problem would be if it were not
actually there in Bethune at all before the rebuilding, but located
somewhere else, and I could not find clear information on that.

Scriptor, if you do have another church to suggest, I will be glad to
hear of it and will post a separate question for your answer.

No wood carving of St. Vaast, ok.  (Sigh.)  Something else is needed
in the vestibule, then, when my focal character is staring past the
friend's shoulder and asking a pained question.

Answerfinder, thanks for recommending a title, and I'll put it on my
library list.  My problem is, though, that I have set myself a rather
challenging task, having to learn something new for just about every
paragraph I write.  I am working in my small hours after attending to
work and chores and medical concerns, and I can't read whole books for
every scene or I will never get through this.  That's why I come here
for help--and help I do find, even though some of my specific
questions have languished disappointingly.  If all else fails, I will
make something up, and knowledgeable reviewers can point out my
errors.  I've never heard of a (2nd ed., rev.) treatment for a novel,
but why not?

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: myoarin-ga on 25 Sep 2005 16:37 PDT
Dear Tryx,
Thanks for your kind words.  Actually, I know why I love your
questions (but I just deleted four lines of explanation :)
As to your acknowledgements; Scriptor has suggested somewhere else
that GA could release our names, but there is no hurry.
I also found that site with the hotel, but I think that that is a
different church in a little village, but use it as a model.  There
seems to be another St. Vaast church near the WW I cemetery.  The
reference I found with Charles V, suggested that he had the church
rebuilt in Bethune, probably at the present Place du St. Vaast, but I
couldn't find a map that showed the church.  Scriptor has already
explained that it is not the 14th c. one, and I cannot imagine that
the Place refers now to where the original church stood.  The church
of the local patron saint would have been the main church in town,
otherwise we would have read about another one.  I hope Scriptor

Don't tell us, but what kind of a problem does your focal character
have?  If it is his conscience, then perhaps he and his friend could
still be outside the church (ain't no vestibule anyway) with him
glancing up at the carved scene above the door: the Last Judgement or
God Omnicient and Omnipotent - whatever speaks to his bad conscience 
- if that's the problem.  More details on request.

Labyrinths:  here's the dope.  Seems unlikely that St. V. would have had one:

Maybe your priest can just be pacing back and forth, and your (tl's)
hippy troubador thoughtlessly cross his path.

It sure is a shame that you couldn't make your trip in June.
Regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 25 Sep 2005 21:33 PDT
Hi, Myoarin,

I'm afraid Chartres is way out of range for my story.  But I don't
know why I coudn't put a labyrinth into a church that's not there any

Sorry, nope, no story details.  You'll just have to wait for the
hardcover edition.  I hope we all live so long.  But the character is
looking straight ahead, not up.  In general people don't look up much

By the way, I made good use of the gold coins you gave me and also the beer.

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: scriptor-ga on 26 Sep 2005 11:12 PDT
Dear Tryx,

I've been to the library today. My attempts to find out about Béthune
and its churches failed miserably. The town seems to be so
unattractive and unimportant that neither tourist guides, nor books on
art, architecture, history or cultural history bother to mention it.

But: Only 29 kilometers south of Béthune is the town of Arras. Arras
used to have an impressive cathedral, one of the earliest Gothic
churches, constructed between 1030 and 1396, so it would fit in your
time frame. The cathedral of Arras was destroyed in the French
Revolution - and it was also dedicated to St. Vaast, just like the
church in Béthune. Would that be a useful alternative for your stroy?

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 26 Sep 2005 21:33 PDT

Once again I thank you for your efforts to go above and beyond.  And
your suggestion of Arras is a very good one.  But Arras already plays
a significant part in my story, and I chose Bethune precisely because
it is a relatively short distance northwest of Arras on the way to the
coast.  The Abbey of St. Vaast in Arras also has a minor part to play.

If I had made my trip this summer, I would have visited the town
myself and seen what I need to see.  As it is, I am relying on a
combination of research and imagination, and I am also leaving some
blank spots to fill in later.  I can do that with things that my plot
is not directly dependent on.  Looks like I am going to have to invent
a church in Bethune, or at least do my own outfitting of the one that
was there.

If all else fails, I will find somebody who lives there and plague him
with questions of just the sort you'd recognize.

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: myoarin-ga on 27 Sep 2005 18:02 PDT
Dear Tryx,
That's me: banker and beer drinker!  :)

Labyrinths:  I was thinking that they first appeared in Gothic times,
but have no documentation for this, so have one; its your church. :)

This site will test your German or Google's translation skill.  All
about St. Vaast. What attracted me, was the line about his having led
a bear from his church.  Let's not worry about which one. A bear
representing heathen and evil thoughts.  Taking some liberties with
Romanesque church furnishings, I could let a wooden statue of the
supposed bear be near - inside - the entrance to the church as a
warning  - and that thing you want your character to see (whereby you
may have to add some psychological projection to give it the right
role).  Let it be a few centuries old, worn almost to unrecognition,
but the locals know what it represented.  Maybe it has been so worn by
being scourged on the eve of St. V's holy day in former times.

Scriptor will tell us that this is entirely fantasy  - and be correct
-  but none of us was there, and lots of churches claim unique and
strange items.

The above site tells that St. V's reliques are in Arras (and more), so
they won't be in "your" church, which after Scriptor's last comment I
would envisage as a smaller, aging Romaneque edifice, considering the
minor importance of Bethune.

This one tells about Arras, with my interest in textiles, I
immediately spotted the bit about tapestries, which certainly were
being made before 1350.
and this too:

Before I get too carried away, best wisher, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: tlspiegel-ga on 27 Sep 2005 21:45 PDT
Hi archae0pteryx,

Oooh... I love that!

"tl, if you are guessing that information sparks ideas, you are right. 
I have just been thinking about a scene in which the troubled priest
is walking the labyrinth in meditation, trying to steady his mind, and
my main character approaches and walks right across it...  Now you
suggest a troubador!  Yes!  I will save a troubador for the third
book.  (There are three books in the series.  The focal character in
the third is kind of a 14th-century hippie.  A troubador would fit
right in--and provide lots of narrative possibilities by virtue of his

You go girl!  :)

Best regards,
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 01 Oct 2005 15:23 PDT

Glad you liked that!  Feel free to keep 'em coming.  I wish I could
ask you in particular to validate the authenticity of the confession
scene--or correct my missteps--but I am not going to post any of it


Your idea of a carved bear serving symbolically as a bearer (ha!) of
ills and scourged beyond recognition is brilliant.  I see that I am
going to need a church that no longer stands, Romanesque, with an
invented name, a labyrinth, and a carved wooden effigy.  But don't
worry, I won't put rows of pews in it no matter how much I'd like to.

I would like to award you naming honors--for the church, the effigy,
or both (a carved bear could be in this church in honor of St. V. even
if his eponymous church was elsewhere).  Please tell me what it or
they are to be called, and it is done.

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: myoarin-ga on 02 Oct 2005 08:50 PDT
Dear Tryx,
That is what I love about your questions  - a little research and the
chance to speculate!  Not to mention the personal and enthusiastic
Well, the bear belongs to myths of St. Vaast, so I think it should
still be his church, which no one can question - no need to find
another name.  It was there, and the one in Arras is too.  There is no
problem with having more than one.  (In a moment of egoism, I was
going to suggest a St. Charon [River Styx and all that] to get "my oar
in", but we better forget that.)

Those who could seriously question "my" bear effigy aren't alive. 
Hey, maybe it was an earlier heathen effigy that was later interpreted
to be that bear.  Maybe the ("your") locals referred to it as "Urs",
their knowing, of course, that it is was a counterpart to "St Ursula"
(whom the RC church no longer recognizes), maybe always with a slight
shudder at seeing or mentioning this heathen effigy.
If you really want to get carried away, you could let it be hammered
full of nails by persons who did so as penance after confessing to
(Did I say anything about speculation?!)  :-)
Iron nails in those days had a greater intrinsic value, so doing so
would not have been just the public act of penance:
"Oooh, did you see that he had to put another nail in old Urs?!" 

I was going to suggest that I doubt that a labyrinth would have been
in an old Romanesque church, but I don't want to disappoint you, if
you think it is necessary.  Oh ... maybe your priest can have
developed his own, a path on the randomly laid paving stones that
leads from one to another until has he completed his rosary.
This really appeals to me after some personal thoughts, recalling
years of wondering about the shortest way to sweep the lines of a
tennis court; the priest's mind wandering from the prayers of his
rosary as he for the umpteenth time paces slowly over the paving
stones in one area of the church.
More speculation ...!
Regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 02 Oct 2005 12:08 PDT

A lot to think about here!  Your comments are cornucopias.

Looking here 
I see an indication that the bear (or wolf, said the German text)
incident occurred in an old Roman site at Arras and not where the
church is in Béthune.  So I think I could use it, especially if there
were a bear tooth or bone or something kept as a relic.  I still like
the idea of inventing a church (but no St. Charon, Myo; this is not a
place for humor of that sort, thank you).  It would also be nice to
know if St. Vaast did have a day named in his honor.  Depending on
when it falls in the year, I could use that too.  Haven't looked yet.

The fictitious church was probably destroyed by, um, maybe fire, in
some later century, but long before modern history and photography. 
Its fate isn't important to my tale, but I still like to know these
things.  Maybe there's a shopping center there now, with an

The idea of a virtual labyrinth is wonderful.  Thank you.  Giving this
priest a little case of OCD would make him all the more interesting. 
He is not my focal character, but he is important to the story.  How
long does saying the rosary take?

Looks like I am going to have to read up on (St.) Ursula too.  Thanks
for the tip.  I don't know much RC lore.  I think the bear's name
might work better as an oblique reference instead of a direct
namesake, unless there is a reason to connect her with this legend. 
But "Urs" is straight Latin and doesn't require a tie-in to a dehaloed
saint, nicht wahr?

The iron nails are another fabulous idea, very rich with possibility,
but I'm afraid that theme would develop into too much of a digression
from my storyline.  I'll keep it in mind, though.  There have already
been a great many surprises.

Thank you,
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: myoarin-ga on 02 Oct 2005 18:56 PDT
Hi Tryx,
I thought the nails were going a bit far, but pride of authorship
after having dreamt them up  - couldn't leave them just in the back of
my mind.

St Vaast is not even mentioned in my "Lexikon der Namen und Heilgen"
(preface by a Jesuit), so I expect that he is not really one, just of
very local recognition these days, but back then considered to be
such.  Ursula ("little bear") has a much stronger place in the canon
of saints, despite her being demoted: 4th or 5th c., patron saint of
Cologne with 4 columns in the book, but you don't need her.  I just
mentioned her to play on the name Urs (bear, still a male given name
in Switzerland). So I can't give you a saint's day for him, though the
locals may have one (many parishes celebrate their saint's day with a
service and a greater or smaller street fete).
If you want the wooden bear effigy to have teeth, good idea.  The
still remaining ones could be the only thing that still suggests his

Your link was in English, and only refered to a bear.
Name of the church in Bathune:  I'd say, stick with St Vaast.  It was
there, and Scriptor found none other, so why invent a fictitious one?
Glad you like my virtual labyrinth.  I really think someone pacing
around again and again in one area would begin to find a pattern.

Even at the rapid fire rate that I mentioned before - two breaths per
prayer - it is 50 "Hail Marys" and a few other things, and then if
"you" are really devote, you can do it four times to include the four
types of graces.

So, your priest can tell his beads for a long time.

Regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 02 Oct 2005 21:15 PDT

St. Vaast = St. Vedastus or Vedast, and I found that his feast day is
6 February, and he is also honored in Arras on 25 July and 1 October. 
And I do not believe that the church honoring his name was the only
church in Bethune.  It was just the only one that warranted mention as
a point of interest.  The churches in Bethune are famous for being
boring.  So I am going to have another one.  If you prefer not to name
it, that's okay.

The German site I mentioned was the one you sent me to.

Subject: Re: Seating in a medieval church or cathedral
From: myoarin-ga on 03 Oct 2005 04:57 PDT
You are right, of course.  I failed to check the Latin version of his
name, and he is a saint and forgot that I had once known more.
The persent churches are boring, apparently, the town had a hard life,
3 earthquakes in the 11th c., war and pestilence and fire.
Here are a couple of sites about Bethune which you may already of
found, very interesting the cheritable brotherhoods, including some
nmaes of churches and chapels: St Pry (or Prix), "St Eloi", St
Barthélémy, and St Vierge (Virgin).  (3/4 down this site, you
can read about Prix, but don't let me waste your time.)
I would pick the Holy Virgin on the assumption that it would have been
a larger church and that it would be easier to "furnish", probably
rebuilt after the earthquakes.
The most notable person to come from Bethune in the 14th c was Jean
Buridan, born 1298, 1327 rector of the Univ. of Paris.

Regards, Myoarin

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