Robyn Fielder wrote:
"I'm a painter and writer with an academic background . . . my current
novel is set in 12th century Europe . . . how would a Benedictine abbot in
Castile greet King Alfonso VIII? How would the same abbot greet a count from
Barcelona, or Eleanor of Aquitaine? How would this relationship change with
different stations in the church; same situation for a bishop, and for a
monk? Are there any reference materials that you could suggest which might
shed some light on these relationships/social courtesies?"
1) You might find some answers by reading 12th century letters. The letters
of Bernard of Clairvaux, for example, address people from many ranks of
society, including kings, empresses, popes, cardinals, fellow abbots, counts
and dukes, etc. Look beyond the greeting to the body of the letter. In a
letter to Louis le Gros, the greeting reads, "To the most excellent Louis,
King of France, and to his beloved wife and children, Bernard styled Abbot
of Clairvaux, sends health from the King of kings and Lord of lords." The
body of the letter then artfully, and successfully, persuades Louis to allow
the French bishops to attend the Council at Pisa. Bernard keeps the tone
deferential by referring to Louis as "my lord," and using phrases such as
"your royal fury,""your royal honour," "your royal interests,"and "your
royal serenity." After likening himself to a biblical prophet, Bernard
delivers the meat of his message as follows: "I, who of your subjects am the
least in dignity, though not in fidelity, tell you that it is not desirable
for you to try and hinder such a great and necessary good as this Council
will be." Obviously, you will also get a good sense of your subject's
personality by reading his or her letters.
For a discussion of the idea that letters recreate the "speech of one
absent," see Shawn Madison Krahmer, "The Friend as ‘Second Self' and the
Theme of Substitution in the Letters of Bernard of Clairvaux," _Cistercian
Studies_ 31.1 (1996) 21-33. Krahmer in turn footnotes Giles Constable,
"Letters and Letter-Collections," _Typologie des Sources du Moyen Âge
Occidental_, fasc. 17 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1976) 13-6, 52-5.
2) There is a statue of Alfonso VIII, completed during his lifetime, in
Miami, Florida at the Monastery of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. This Cistercian
monastery was founded in 1140 in Sacramenia (Segovia) then part of Castile.
William Randolph Hearst bought parts of the monastery and after many
calamities it was rebuilt in Miami.
The statues of Alphonso VII (the founding benefactor) and Alphonso VIII were
located on the facade of the church in Sacramenia. Now they are located in
the corners of the cloister as Hearst could not buy the Church itself. Both
statues depict the men as about 5'4" tall, in a martial stance, and very
powerfully built. Think of two Arnold Schwarzeneggers guarding the church.
The have crowns, swords, and scepters and lots of (now missing) jewels. At
the base of the Alphonsus VIII statute are the words "Confii Mauit." I've
guessed that this should be translated as "destroyed the Moors." (conficere,
maur/ita ) Overall, the impression the statues convey is that anyone
addressing either Alphonso must have done so with great trepidation.
I am only now creating a bibliography for this monastery so I cannot tell
you if any books include a picture of the statues. You might find a
photograph in _El Monasterio de San Bernardo de Sacramenia_ by Jose Miguel
Merino de Caceres or _The Monastery of Sacramenia, 12th Century Cistercian
Architecture_ by Joanne Sowell. You will NOT find a photograph in the
monastery's guidebook, its postcards, its website, or in Sowell's 1982
article in _Studies in Cistercian Art and Architecture, 1. But I believe my
mother has a photograph and if you send me your address privately, I will
send you a copy after Christmas.
Nan Ellen Foley