Things You Learn From Researching

I seem to be back on a NaNo schedule–I’m not writing 1667 words a day or anything (I’m in the middle of the rewrite of chapter 2–Sister Benedicta’s about to call Iggy in and tell him that his education will now be handled by Brother Clement, not the nuns anymore), but the last few days, I’ve gone to bed between midnight and 1 am, only to wake up at around 5 am for absolutely no reason. Thus, I write for a bit and go back to sleep. And I need my sleep, because today will be Day #2 of 6 days in a row at work. I will earn my three days off after that!

I found a website with details on Cistercian abbeys in Yorkshire–Cistercians being the order of monks/ nuns I was going for and Yorkshire being my setting! It had great information. While Catholics don’t belong to separate, distinguishable sects (granted, there are Catholics who don’t believe in Vatican II and Catholics who are more lax than others, but they’re not a sect unto themselves), the nuns, priests and monks do. For example, my dad was mostly taught by the Irish Christian Brothers. There are Trappists, Cistercians, Augustinians, Sisters of Mercy, Jesuits…Each order has their own rules, essentially. So, you know, how strict are they? Do they eat meat? Do they take vows of silence? Are monks and nuns allowed to live in the same institution? Did they work in the villages and regions that they were established in? When were they founded?

Cistercians are a very strict order; they’re very austere, they followed the Rule of St. Benedict closely. They are also:

  • isolated (which wouldn’t work for my story)
  • emphasis on manual labor
  • they wear cool white habits with black scapulars
  • everything is dedicated to the Virgin Mary
  • they don’t have pretty churches attached to their abbeys and priories (that makes me sad. After watching The Pillars of the Earth, I at least wanted my tiny, rural, fake church to be pretty; plus, I found a funky northern English saint who rose from her crypt to scare the living crap out of a priest’s girlfriend and dedicated said church to her)
  • They also don’t: have nuns and monks living in the same community. 

That’s a problem, folks. Iggy is not a result of an Immaculate Conception. So, while the setting, time period and beliefs and practices are fine, that little part right there means that Clement and Benedicta now belong to the Benedictine order. In other words, the same order used in Pillars and numerous other books about the medieval ages. They weren’t as isolated as the Cistercians, the nuns and monks did live in the same establishments, their churches were pretty, they were known as great educators, they lived off of their land and church tithes, and Benedictines are not run by a central authority like the Cistercians are–so whatever happens at the abbey or priory is the prior or abbot or prioress’ business.

Plus, it kind of gives Sister Benedicta a reason to be called Sister Benedicta. It seems, from my scant research, that not a lot of nuns changed their names to religious ones when they became nuns. Though, I have to get in a Sister Mary Joseph–my dad had a teacher named that in school.

I was worried for about a second that I’m copying Pillars, but…I’m over that now. Different century, different English county, different characters. Ken Follett wrote about a priory on the upswing, while I’m mostly writing about it disintegrating.

And now…I need to research a few choice Latin phrases. But first, going back to bed.

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