The Medieval Monk Robe: Penitence and Practicality
As the name suggests, the design of the Monk Robe was based on the robes worn by those in the monastic orders throughout the Middle Ages, specifically the Catholic monk robe. However, despite this robe’s inspiration, this garment is an incredibly versatile piece of clothing.
Whether you’re at a fantasy LARP event, a historical reenactment or LARP event, or are cosplaying a character, the medieval monk robe could well be an ideal part of your ensemble. While it most obviously works for religious characters, the long robe and hood could also serve a magic-user, or any character with an air of mystery.
Onto the robe in question. First of all, this is designed to be worn over your clothes, and can be worn open or closed. If you wish to wear it closed, the robe can be fastened below the neck with a cotton tie string and a soft leather plate.
It can be worn over a dress as well as over a tunic and trousers, even if the design originated from the clothing of medieval male monks. It also works especially well with accessories, particularly a belt cinched around the waist, but this is up to you.
The Monk Robe works very well as an overcoat. It’s length, as well as the long roomy sleeves and the hood help to protect the wearer from the elements. The main material used in this robe is cotton, with a deliberately irregular thread to give it a nice textured appearance. The cotton comes in a variety of colours, so you can be as dull or bright as you fancy.
The robe also drapes well, being heavy enough to stop it from floating about. However, the cotton is still lightweight enough to allow you to move about quickly and easily and features a split up the back to further help with free movement.
Religion in Medieval Times: The Reign of Christendom
During the Middle Ages, there was one major religion that was observed throughout most of Europe. This was Christianity, specifically Catholicism. However, the beginnings of this form of Christianity were far more humble than the religious, economic, and political powerhouse that it would become.
Christianity During Roman Times: The Persecuted Rise in Prominence
During the height of the Roman Empire, Early Christians did not enjoy the same comforts as they would later on. Rather, many Christians were persecuted for centuries. The level of persecution varied between Emperors, with Emperor Nero being especially infamous for his cruelty towards Christians.
Although to be fair, Nero was generally considered an awful man and emperor by most people who he inflicted himself upon. He was known to be self-indulgent, petty, and had a tendency towards imposing his artistic whims on everyone around him. His reign was plagued by disasters, including the Great Fire of Rome. He responded to that particular disaster by pinning the blame on the Christians, then brutally torturing and killing them.
Despite this and other mistreatments, Christianity persisted. In fact, rather than merely limping on, the religion began to spread. It originated in the Middle East and, over the centuries,
Meanwhile, the Roman Empire had started its inexorable decline. The Roman attitude towards Christianity softened and, with the influence of Emperor Constantine, became the official mainstream religion of the Empire. Eventually, the Western Roman Empire fell and left Christianity still standing in its ashes.
After the Fall of the Roman Empire: The Conversion of Europe
The interconnectivity of the Roman Empire allowed Christianity to spread throughout much of Europe, with the exception of a few areas that kept their native religions into the Middle Ages. However, after the Roman Empire collapsed, this spread continued relentlessly.
At this time, Christendom generally took the form of Catholicism, headed by the Pope in Italy. As we know, Europe had been exposed to Christianity, and the newly Christianised Roman Empire had started banning many Pagan practices. However, this was mostly confined to more urban areas, and the conversion of Europe would take many centuries and strategies.
One of the gentler forms of Christianisation took the form of a kind of melding of Christian beliefs with Pagan practices. In Germanic tradition, this gradual melding led to the interesting situation where Jesus was worshipped alongside the native Gods like Odin and Thor.
This process made the conversion much easier for the people, as their day-to-day lives were largely unchanged but had a shiny new Christian sticker. Many of these Pagan practices were slowly abandoned, but some remained as superstitions, and a few have become integrated into Christendom.
A more blatant method was that of evangelism. This was where missionaries would travel the lands, going from village to village and proselytizing to the people. Ireland was especially known for this. Despite never being part of the Roman Empire, Ireland still came into contact with Christianity and it developed from there into Irish Catholicism.
These methods were still relatively tame, however, when we consider the alternatives. Many conversions were largely political in nature. The Church would put pressure on the rulers of a nation and aimed to baptise them. From there, the people would follow.
And of course, we have the more violent techniques. In Christianised countries, it wasn’t uncommon for Pagan rebellions to erupt, led by people who wanted to stick to the old ways. These were stamped out each time.
Finally, there were the Crusades. Most famously, we have the Crusades that took place in the Middle East, but there were also what were known as the Northern Crusades. These began in the 12th century, but really took off during the 13th and 14th centuries.
In these Crusades, Christian kings and Religious military orders marched on the Baltic areas of Europe, subjugating the Pagan people still there. The land was harshly occupied, and the people were forcibly baptised to Catholicism. With these Crusades, Europe was completely Christianised.
As we can see, Christianity became an absolute powerhouse in Europe. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. As the Middle Ages went on, it was obvious that Christendom wasn’t entirely united. There were a couple of significant divisions that stuck out.
Bear in mind that these ‘Schisms’ were all before the Protestant Reformation took off in earnest, which enormously rocked the Christendom boat. Of course, in modern times, there are hundreds of different flavours of Christianity, each with differences in doctrine and tradition. But remember, in the Middle Ages, the Church was primarily Catholic.
The Great Schism
While Christianity was going strong after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, there were divisions. The most influential and largest of these types of Christianity was headed by the Bishop of Rome, otherwise known as the Pope. This form of Christianity became known as Catholicism.
The Eastern Roman Empire, otherwise known as the Byzantine empire, also followed Christianity. However, the Emperor preferred to appoint his own Church leaders rather than follow the Pope, with the Bishop of Constantinople being known as the patriarch.
Over the centuries, the patriarchs and the popes butted heads, eventually resulting in the patriarch being excommunicated from the Church in 1054. This was achieved, quite cheekily, by a messenger sticking the excommunication note on the pulpit of the patriarch while he was mid-speech. Of course, the patriarch didn’t just curl up in a ball and give up. Instead, the Eastern half of the Church became known as the Orthodoxy.
Both the Catholic and the Orthodox churches are still going strong today and are still based in Western and Eastern Europe, respectively. This event that split the major branch of Christendom in half was known as the Great Schism, for obvious reasons.
In fact, during the aforementioned Baltic Crusades, eastern Orthodox Christians were seen as fair game to the invading Catholic Crusaders. Specifically, the Teutonic Order, a German military religious order, was encouraged by the pope at the time to attempt to conquer Orthodox Russia.
The Western Schism
A slightly more bizarre schism took place in the later Middle Ages, lasting from about 1378 to 1416. This wasn’t a doctrinal issue, nor did it end up forming a new Church, like the Great Schism. Rather, it was an entirely political affair.
During much of the 14th century, the popes lived in Avignon rather than Rome, which was located in what is now part of France. This was due to politics, but probably caused more trouble than it solved. This move wasn’t just confusing, but also caused issues to the city of Rome, causing the city to lose influence.
Even though the Pope returned to Rome in 1378, it was too little, too late. Factions had risen in France and Italy. When that pope died and the next pope was elected, an Italian called Pope Urban VI, the French cardinals flew off the handle. They argued that this election was invalid, and promptly elected their own pope in response, Pope Clement VII.
So, there were now two popes. Pope Urban VI (the Italian one) stayed in Rome, while Pope Clement VII (French fellow) went to Avignon. For almost forty years this situation continued, with two popes and two sets of cardinals in Europe.
In 1409, people had had enough. A council was formed in Pisa to resolve the problem. Their solution was to declare the two popes invalid and to appoint a new pope, Alexander V. That’s right, they decided to solve the two pope problem by appointing a third pope and hoping the other two would just resign.
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
So, yet another council was convened in 1414. Here it was decided to just clear the board of all these popes running around and to start afresh. The first to go was the Pisan pope (now John XXII) who tried to flee but was captured and deposed in May of 1415. The Roman pope, seeing where the wind was blowing, resigned voluntarily in July of the same year. The Avignon pope held out the longest, refusing to budge until he was eventually deposed in 1417. Finally, the council was free to elect Pope Martin V as the one and only pope.
Jon Wycliff and Jan Hus: The precursors of the Reformation
While the Reformation itself took place shortly after the end of the medieval period, cracks had begun to show. An English scholar called Jon Wycliff denounced the corruptions of the Catholic Church at the time, and even suggested translating the Bible from Latin to English.
He also argued for the focus to be put on the Bible itself, and for people to be able to have a direct relationship with God without the clergy getting in the way. Despite his occasionally harsh criticisms, Wycliff was never actually executed. He had a stroke while saying Mass and died of natural causes.
However, he was declared a heretic the next year and his writings were banned. Those who followed his lead were persecuted and driven underground, and his body was exhumed from consecrated ground and cremated.
Jan Hus was one of those influenced by Wycliff and also spoke out against the corruption of the Church. Unlike Wycliff, he was still alive when he was excommunicated, but didn’t live much longer. Hus was executed in 1415. However, his legacy continued, with his followers rebelling after his death and even starting wars. These followers even managed to drive the Church to compromise.
The technical specifications for the Monk Robe are as follows:
- Materials: Textured cotton with a leather neck plate
- Colours: Black, dark red, brown, or dryad green
The sizes of the Monk Robe should have the following measurements. However, there may be some slight variation due to the handmade nature of this item:
- X-Small/Small: 46 inches chest, 54.3 inches length, 20.5 inches sleeve, 15.7 inches hood height, 15.7 inches hood depth
- Medium/Large: 48 inches chest, 56.3 inches length, 25.2 inches sleeve, 17.3 inches hood height, 17.3 inches hood depth
- X-Large/XX-Large: 52 inches chest, 58.3 inches length, 27.6 inches sleeve, 17.3 inches hood height, 17.3 inches hood depth