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Shoes, Boots, Leggings, and Cloaks: The Augustinian Canons and Dress in Later Medieval England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 December 2012


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1 Salter, H. E., ed., Chapters of the Augustinian Canons (Oxford, 1922), 71Google Scholar.

2 Lachaud, Frédérique, “Dress and Social Status in England before the Sumptuary Laws,” in Heraldry, Pageantry, and Social Display in Medieval England, ed. Coss, Peter and Keen, Maurice (Woodbridge, 2002), 119Google Scholar.

3 Heller, Sarah-Grace, “Limiting Yardage and Changes of Clothes: Sumptuary Legislation in Thirteenth-Century France, Languedoc, and Italy,” in Medieval Fabrications: Dress, Textiles, Cloth Work, and Other Cultural Imaginings, ed. Burns, E. Jane (New York, 2004), 123Google Scholar.

4 Piponnier, Françoise and Mane, Perrine, Dress in the Middle Ages, trans. Beamish, Caroline (New Haven, CT, 1997), 86Google Scholar. For additional comments on the moral aspect of sumptuary legislation, see Sponsler, Claire, “Narrating the Social Order: Medieval Clothing Laws,” Clio 21 (1992): 271–72Google Scholar.

5 See Sponsler, “Narrating the Social Order,” 266, 280–81. For some cautionary remarks about the complexities of dress as a signifier of status, see Lachaud, “Dress and Social Status in England,” 122–23; Heller, Sarah-Grace, “Anxiety, Hierarchy, and Appearance in Thirteenth-Century Sumptuary Laws and the Roman de la Rose,” French Historical Studies 27 (2004): 312–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Hunt, Alan, Governance of the Consuming Passions: A History of Sumptuary Law (New York, 1996), 8–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Heller, “Anxiety, Hierarchy, and Appearance,” 325–27.

7 Burns, E. Jane, Courtly Love Undressed: Reading through Clothes in Medieval French Culture (Philadelphia, 2002), 14Google Scholar.

8 Hanawalt, Barbara, Growing up in Medieval London: The Experience of Childhood in History (Oxford, 1993), 7273Google Scholar.

9 Piponnier and Mane, Dress in the Middle Ages, 136–41.

10 Ibid., 136–38. Enforcement, which was carried out by civic and royal authorities, was uneven. See also Lachaud, “Dress and Social Status in England,” 110–11.

11 Heller, “Limiting Yardages and Changes of Clothes,” 231n. Heller makes references to canons of the Second Council of Nicaea of 787 and the Second Lateran Council of 1139 stating that the secular clergy should not indulge in expensive clothes and luxurious fabrics.

12 Tanner, Norman, SJ, ed. Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1 (London, 1990), 243Google Scholar.

13 Lachaud, “Dress and Social Status in England,” 108–9.

14 For example, Harvey, Barbara F., Monastic Dress in the Middle Ages: Precept and Practice (Oxford, 1988)Google Scholar; Warr, Cordelia, “Religious Dress in Italy in the Late Middle Ages,” in Defining Dress: Dress as Object, Meaning, and Identity, ed. de la Haye, Amy and Wilson, Elizabeth (Manchester, 1999), 7992Google Scholar; Dyan Elliott, “Dressing and Undressing the Clergy: Rites of Ordination and Degradation,” in Medieval Fabrications, 55–69; Trichet, Louis, Le costume du clergé: Ses origines et son évolution en France d’après les règlements de l’église (Paris, 1986)Google Scholar. Two books that have recently been published in conjunction with exhibitions on the history of monastic and clerical dress contain some treatment of the medieval period: Donneau, Olivier, ed., Quand l’habit faisait le moine: Une histoire du vêtement civil et religieux en Luxembourg et au-delà (Bastogne, 2004)Google Scholar; and Rocca, Giancarlo, ed., La sostanza dell’effimero: Gli abiti degli Ordini religiosi in Occidente (Rome, 2000)Google Scholar.

15 For the gradual adoption of the Rule of St. Augustine by houses of regular canons in the twelfth century, see Dickinson, John C., The Origins of the Austin Canons and their Introduction into England (London, 1950), 6072Google Scholar.

16 The relevant sections of the Rule are 4.1, “Do not attract attention by the way you dress. Endeavour to impress by your manner of life, not by the clothes you wear”; and 4.3, “Whatever you are doing, your behaviour should in no way cause offence to anyone, but should rather be in keeping with the holiness of your way of life.” See The Rule of Saint Augustine, Masculine and Feminine Versions, introduction by Tarsicius van Bavel, OSA, trans. Canning, Raymond, OSA (London, 1996), 1516Google Scholar. Pope Gregory VII laid out regulations for the new order in 1074, but these had little to say about the dress of the regular canons other than that it should be “neat and plain” (Dickinson, Origins of the Austin Canons, 168).

17 Dickinson, Origins of the Austin Canons, 184–85.

18 Clark, John Willis, ed., The Observances in Use at the Augustinian Priory of S. Giles and S. Andrew at Barnwell, Cambridgeshire (Cambridge, 1897)Google Scholar.

19 Clark, Observances, 195–97. The servant had to “know how to shape in due form brethren's woollen and linen garments” (sciat vestimentat fratrum lanea et linea competenti modo formare), which could be “neither too sumptuous nor too sordid” (nec nitida nimium, nec abiecta plurimum). He had to take care to ensure that each garment was cut well, without being excessively long or short, and, more importantly, shaped so as not to be “contrary to usage or so as to attract attention” (alio modo inordinate vel notabiliter composita).

20 Ibid., 197. The Observances also specify that when the superior had to travel outside the priory grounds, canons travelling with him had to wear almuces, mittens or gloves, and rochets, as long as the belts used to tie the rochets and anything suspended from the belts were hidden. In addition, the canons had to wear their outdoor cloaks whenever they were standing, sitting, or walking near laypeople (Clark, Observances, 46–47).

21 Ibid., 199. Dickinson, when discussing the observances of the early Augustinian canons in England, noted that “there was probably no complete uniformity in wardrobe and certainly none in its colour” (Origins of the Austin Canons, 185).

22 Clark, Observances, lxxiii–lxiv, 122–25.

23 Ibid., 124–29. The text goes on to explain that the novice was to be on probation for a year, during which time he would be assigned a master who would guide him in the ways of a canon. Prominently featured in the lessons a master was to teach the novice was how to deal with the habit: the novice had to learn how to adjust his garments when he was sitting and standing, how to put on his tunic and belt and remove his shoes under his habit when entering the dormitory, and how to arrange the habit around him when he went to bed. The master was also to assist the novice with dressing when rising for the night office or in the morning. The author of the text also made reference to the habit in his discussion of the moral and spiritual progress of the novice: “as he has changed his secular habit, so also he should daily try to change into something better his life and his character” (Clark, Observances, 129).

24 Salter, Chapters, 6. A record of the general chapter of canons of the northern province of England held in 1223 contains a decree that conversi were to wear white tunics, scapulars, shoes with straps, and black capes (Ibid., 25). In 1359, when the general chapter of the southern and the northern provinces met at Northampton, the assembled canons decreed that conversi had to wear decent habits with outer garments of black or russet when going out (Ibid., 64).

25 Ibid., 6. The general chapter at Oxford also allowed the use of coverlets (coopertoria) that were white, black, or russet.

26 Ibid., xiv.

27 Pastoureau, Michel, The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes and Striped Fabric, trans. Gladding, Jody (New York, 2001), 9Google Scholar.

28 Pastoureau believes that the role of clothing as an indication of membership in a group is more important than its functions as protection for the wearer against the elements or as an aid to the performance of some physical activity (ibid., xiii).

29 Bynum, Caroline Walker, “Did the Twelfth Century Discover the Individual?” in Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1982), 89Google Scholar.

30 As Susan Crane has stated regarding secular clothing, “Bodily guises and disguises are not really inert things but substantial communications … any category important to defining a self in late medieval courts, such as rank, honor, or sex, can find direct expression in dress.” See Crane, , The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing, and Identity during the Hundred Years War (Philadelphia, 2002), 177Google Scholar.

31 Pastoreau, Devil's Cloth, 8–9.

32 Salter, Chapters, 26; “Nullus prior vel canonicus cappam pluvialem habeat de burneto vel de russeto, et ut omnes conformentur in habitu tam in estate quam in hyeme.”

33 Gribbin, Joseph A., The Premonstratensian Order in Later Medieval England (Woodbridge, 2001), 7477Google Scholar.

34 Harvey, Monastic Dress, 29–30, 13.

35 Piponnier and Mane, Dress in the Middle Ages, 66–71.

36 Mann, Jill, Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire: The Literature of Social Classes and the “General Prologue” to the “Canterbury Tales” (Cambridge, 1973), 1723CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

37 Harvey, Monastic Dress, 13. King Philip IV of France tried to force religious to wear their habits in the 1290s by means of legislation. See Heller, “Anxiety, Hierarchy, and Appearance,” 327.

38 Chaucer, Geoffrey, “The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue,” in The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd ed., ed. Benson, Larry D. (Boston, 1987), 26Google Scholar.

39 Hodges, Laura, Chaucer and Clothing: Clerical and Academic Costume in the “General Prologue” to “The Canterbury Tales” (Cambridge, 2005), 115–17Google Scholar.

40 Newton, Stella Mary, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the Years 1340–1365 (Woodbridge, 1980), 613Google Scholar. Andrea Denny-Brown has pointed out that the new body-hugging clothes of the fourteenth century required a new—and more wasteful—type of construction, in which each garment was tailored to the wearer by cutting out and sewing together smaller pieces of cloth; because each item of clothing was “cut to fit,” the possibilities of reusage were limited, rendering it even more wasteful. See Denny-Brown, , “Rips and Slits: The Torn Garment and the Medieval Self,” in Clothing Culture, 1350–1650, ed. Robinson, Catherine (Aldershot, 2004), 226–27Google Scholar.

41 Chronica Johannis de Reading et Anonymi de Cantuarensis 1346–1367, cited in Horrox, Rosemary, ed., The Black Death (Manchester, 1994), 131CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Horrox also provides an excerpt from the chronicle of the Augustinian canon Henry Knighton, who condemned the clothes worn by women at tournaments. Both Knighton and an anonymous chronicler criticized these fashions on the basis of gender confusion: women were adopting elements of masculine dress, and vice versa (Ibid., 130–32).

42 For a review of ecclesiastical legislation pertaining to the dress of clergy and religious, see Hodges, Chaucer and Clothing, 24–26 and 115–18. For twelfth-century decrees prohibiting the wearing of gris, vair, and other furs, as well as silks and ornamented fabrics, by nuns, see Lachaud, “Dress and Social Status in England,” 108.

43 For the widespread practices of distributing allowances for clothes and spices, creating private chambers, eating meat, and hunting at late medieval English religious houses, see Knowles, Dom David, The Religious Orders in England, vol. 2: The End of the Middle Ages (1955; repr., Cambridge, 1961), 240–47Google Scholar.

44 An interesting parallel can be seen in the case of the Holdeman Mennonites in the United States. In the 1850s, John Holdeman voiced concerns that Mennonites “had begun to dress more like the external society, thus losing their religious distinctiveness”; when he started his own breakaway group, he “insisted that his followers … wear clothing that indicated their conservatism and separation from the world at large.” See Graybill, Beth and Arthur, Linda B., “The Social Control of Women's Bodies in Two Mennonite Communities,” in Religion, Dress, and the Body, ed. Arthur, Linda B. (Oxford, 1999), 14Google Scholar.

45 Logan, F. Donald, Runaway Religious in Medieval England, c. 1240–1540 (Cambridge, 1996), 2526Google Scholar.

46 Denny-Brown, “Rips and Slits,” 228–29.

47 Odile Blanc has pointed out that while these clothes revealed the natural shape of the male lower body, the tight upper garments “constricted the body” and exaggerated the size of the chest. See Blanc, , “From Battlefield to Court: The Invention of Fashion in the Fourteenth Century,” in Encountering Medieval Textiles and Dress: Objects, Texts, and Images, ed. Koslin, Désirée and Snyder, Janet (New York, 2002), 167–69Google Scholar.

48 Chronique latine de Guillaume de Nangis de … avec les continuations de cette chroniques …, cited in Newton, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince, 8–9.

49 Murray, Jacqueline, “Masculinizing Religious Life: Sexual Prowess, the Battle for Chastity, and Monastic Identity,” in Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages, ed. Cullum, P. H. and Lewis, Katherine J. (Toronto, 2004), 3132Google Scholar.

50 Salter, Chapters, 31. Canon 16 of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) had similarly banned gilded and ornamental accoutrements for the horses of clerics as well as belts or buckles decorated with gold or silver for the clerics themselves (Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, 243). For images of horse pendants with decorative, heraldic, and devotional designs, see fig. 6.17 in Hinton, David A., Gold and Gilt, Pots and Pins: Possessions and People in Medieval Britain (Oxford, 2005), 202Google Scholar.

51 Salter, Chapters, 15.

52 Ibid., xvii–xviii, 16–18.

53 Ibid., 18–19.

54 Ibid., 17–18.

55 Ibid., 247–49.

56 Veale, Elspeth M., The English Fur Trade in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 1966), 227–28Google Scholar.

57 Mayo, Janet, A History of Ecclesiastical Dress (London, 1984), 131–32Google Scholar. See pl. 61 for a reproduction of a painting of a secular canon wearing a fur almuce draped over his arm.

58 Salter, Chapters, 247–48.

59 At the general chapter of the southern province held at Northampton in 1325, a statute was issued that no canon was to leave his monastery wearing a rain cloak without a rochet underneath (Ibid., 12).

60 Ibid., 248.

61 Ibid., 55. At this same meeting, the canons in attendance also prohibited the keeping of dogs in general, and hunting dogs in particular, in the halls of the monasteries, at least not at mealtimes, as the dogs were receiving the leftovers that would ordinarily go to the poor (ibid., 56).

62 Francis Grew and Margrethe de Neergaard, , Shoes and Pattens, Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, 2 (London, 1988), 33–35Google Scholar. Grew and de Neergaard found that in the examples of shoes from the “Baynards Castle” site, rounded-toe shoes had predominated in the early and middle years of the fourteenth century, but in the last quarter of the fourteenth century “almost every type of shoe was slightly pointed” (26–31).

63 Salter, Chapters, 70–71.

64 For the negative connotations of the words varius and diversus in medieval Latin, see Pastoureau, Devil's Cloth, 23 and 106 n. 27.

65 Salter, Chapters, 71–72.

66 Ibid., xxviii–xxx.

67 Bliss, W. H. et al. , eds., Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters (hereafter CPL; London, 1893–), 5:429, 498Google Scholar. At the time of the survey of ecclesiastical wealth in 1535 known as the Valor Ecclesiasticus, the annual income of Healaugh Park Priory was reckoned at £67 (Knowles, David and Hadcock, Richard Neville, Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales [London, 1953], 139)Google Scholar. In the same year, the annual income of Plympton Priory was estimated at £898 (Valor Ecclesiasticus, vol. 2 [London, 1810–25], 375–78).

68 CPL, 5:515. According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus, Haltemprice Priory had a yearly income of £100 in 1535 (Knowles and Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, 138).

69 CPL, 6:158. According to the Valor, the annual income of Worksop Priory in 1535 was £239 (Knowles and Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, 159).

70 Salter, Chapters, 125. Bishop Redman, in his visitations of the Premonstratensian house of Barlings Abbey in the late fifteenth century, waged a war against the use of pattens, slippers, and shoes worn according to the lay style (ad modum laicorum). See Gasquet, Francis A., ed., Collectanea Anglo-Premonstratensia, vol. 2 (London, 1906), 3338Google Scholar.

71 Denny-Brown, “Rips and Slits,” 225, 234–35. Denny-Brown provides an example of a Middle English poem, “Jhesus doth him bymene,” which connects the slit in the side of the wounded, suffering Christ with the slashed dress of those given over to “vainglory and pride.”

72 Cloaks with sleeves had long been viewed with suspicion in the minds of reform-minded Church officials. In 1203, the legate of Pope Innocent III to Paris issued a decree condemning such garments. See Heller, “Limiting Yardage and Changes of Clothes,” 231n, and “Anxiety, Hierarchy, and Appearance,” 318n.

73 CPL, 7:131.

74 Salter, Chapters, 82. The canons at the Leicester chapter also decreed that the members of the order wear uniform choir copes, which implies that diversity of habit within the order was still a concern.

75 CPL, 10:63.

76 CPL, 6:469.

77 CPL, 10:131.

78 Linda B. Arthur, “Introduction: Dress and the Social Control of the Body,” in Religion, Dress, and the Body, 1.

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