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The History of the Corporation by Bruce Brown

Chapter Ten

ODO RIGALDI got to know Luke, the vicar at St-Mellon-de-Pontoise, well over a 20-year period. As Archbishop of Rouen, Odo was responsible for supervising most religious personnel in his dioceses. Bishops commonly have “visitation” rights – or rights of inspection – at Benedictine abbeys, but Odo took his responsibilities more seriously than most.

Four years later in 1254, Odo reported Vicar Luke was “infamatus of two women, one of whom is dead, by whom, as he believes, he had a son whom he is bringing up; of another who is yet alive, and this recently; we warned him to abstain from this woman, otherwise we would proceed against him according to law, if we found him again diffamatus in this matter.”

In 1258, Odo recorded “Luke, the vicar, was foully infamatus in many ways of scandalous... and we have warned him several times to abstain there from, yet he hath not amended himself...” In 1263, “we found Luke the vicar, as on other occasions, grievously diffamatus of the vice of incontinence, especially with a certain lame woman, whom he confessed to have known carnally not a year since...” In 1265 Luke was again “diffamatus of dicing, tavern-haunting and the mayor of the town had imprisoned him at the complaint of a certain woman upon whom he was said to have attempted rape.”

Odo apparently never actually disciplined Luke the wayward vicar, nor was Luke unusual in the journal of Odo’s visitations. At the Abbey of Jumieges he “found that Brother William de Beaunay and Brother William de Bourg-Echard were ill-famed of abominable vice” and “decreed that they should be banished to other monasteries, there to expiate their [unnatural] transgressions.” At the nunnery of Bival, he found some of the nuns “defamed of the vice of incontinence.”

At Panliu he found a priest “ill-famed of drunkenness; he selleth his wine and maketh his parishioners drunken...The Dean is ill-famed of exacting money, and it is said that he had forty shillings from the priest of Essigny for dealing gently with him in his incontinence... The prior of Criel is ill-famed of trading, he selleth rams...” At the priory of St.-Austreberte, two nuns were living by themselves, in violation of the rule, and their nunnery would not take them back because one was a “scold” who disturbed all the rest.

As monastic discipline declined, so too did the population of monks and nuns. Between 1248 and 1266, Odo observed the population of the Benedictine monastery of Bec, famous as the home of Lanfranc and Anselm, decline from 96 to 40 monks. At the monastery of Camajore, there were only five monks left in 1334; in 1339 just three; in 1369 one was “vagabond;” and in 1381 the abbot had not a single monk. Reichenau was reduced from 100 monks to “eight or ten” by 1339, while the ancient German abbey of Echternach had its community reduced to seven.

The History of the Corporation
"Q Morph" from the cover of The History of the Corporation by Bruce Brown

Astonisher.com is pleased to present The History of the Corporation, Volume One by Bruce Brown.

Here is the Table of Contents for excerpts from the entire book, which covers 1,000 years from the birth of the first modern corporation through the the First Dominion of the corporation.

The History of the Corporation
Volume One
by Bruce Brown
Ch. 1 Ch. 2 Ch. 3
Ch. 4 Ch. 5 Ch. 6
Ch. 7 Ch. 8 Ch. 9
Ch. 10 Ch. 11 Ch. 12

About the Author: Bruce Brown is the author of eight books, including Mountain in the Clouds, an environmental classic, and The Windows 95 Bug Collection, which was put on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
He has done investigative reporting for the New York Times (the Karen Silkwood story), foreign correspondence for Atlantic Monthly (baseball in Cuba), and book reviews for the Washington Post Book World, as well as script-writing for PBS-TV (The Miracle Planet).

He is also a successful businessman and CEO, having created BugNet and built it into the world’s largest supplier of PC bug fixes before it was acquired by a Fortune 500 company at the height of the dot com boom.

In the past, holy relics had demonstrated miraculous fund raising power for the monasteries, so they turned there again with increasingly cynical intent. In 1286, when the Cistercian mother-house of Citeaux was in dire financial straits, the abbot of Citeaux happily discovered one joint of St. John the Baptist’s neck, the whole head of St. Corona, and three stones which supposedly had served for the martyrdom of St. Stephen. These holy relics were quickly put on display for the veneration of the coin-carrying faithful, and the deal was sweetened by the Bishop of Chalon who offered pilgrims 40 days' indulgence on top of the miraculous powers of the saintly remains.

This loss of monastic manpower – which was aggravated by the Black Death in 1348-49 – put many abbeys in a real bind. Fewer monks meant fewer scribes to toil in the great scriptoria at monasteries like Meaux and St. Martin of Tours which produced the beautiful illuminated Bibles and Psalters that found such a ready market among European nobility wishing to upgrade their religious experience. This is part of the reason that the apogee of medieval hand-illuminated manuscript production had passed almost a century before Guttenberg’s Bible was printed in 1450.

Loss of monastic manpower also affected the monks’ prayer load, which had become staggering at many Benedictine and Cluniac monasteries by the 14th century. For hundreds of years, the monasteries had sold their prayers – essentially non-transferable shares of their spiritual capital – to laymen in the form of confraternities, which were promises to pray for someone’s soul forever in exchange for money, property or other valuables. This was a very lucrative trade for the monasteries since their material costs were virtually nil, but the income from most of these transactions had been spent long ago and now ever-more work had to be shouldered by ever-fewer monks.

Many monasteries responded by removing the names of past confraters from their prayer lists, and stopped saying prayers for the souls of the departed. Pumice was used to erase names from the memorial stones, while others were quietly disposed of. Memorial stones have been found buried in the foundations of monasteries, and at Hulton Abbey memorial stones of this sort were used to line the bottom of the monastery's kitchen drain. Molinier noted that “the majority of Obituaries bear traces of erasures.”

Lacking such happy discoveries, other monasteries resorted to relic fraud. Bury St. Edmunds, for instance, boasted the remains of St. Edmund, an early Christian King of the East Saxons who was shot full of arrows and beheaded by the Danes in 870. When the monks of Bury St. Edmunds opened the tomb of the saint in the 12th century, however, they found that the head of the corpse therein was still firmly attached to the body. Another miracle! Or so the monks concluded with many heartfelt prayers. The corpse’s lack of arrow wounds remained a problem, though, so the abbot had the corpse stabbed all over with knives and stained with blood before it was reinterred.

Pious body snatching was another popular option...

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"The History of the Corporation, Volume One" © Copyright 2003 Bruce Brown
Jacket illustration and design by Running Dog.

This is a free excerpt from The History of the Corporation by Bruce Brown.
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Key words from the remainder of Chapter 10 of
The History of the Corporation, Volume One

abbey of St-Medard at Soissons
stole the body of St. Gregory
clergy of Salzburg
sole the body of St. Martin from Tours
St. Aigulfus of Fleury
stole the body of St. Benedict
Monte Cassino
the body of St. Mary Magdalene
the body of St. Alpollinare
the bones of St. Siro
tomb of St. Siro in Genoa Cathedral
law suit
Genoese Gaspare Spinola
booty from the War of the Chioggia
the head of San Lorenzo the Martyr
a hand with the arm of St. Matthew
St. George
Exeter Cathedral
the bush from which God spoke to Moses
Westminster Abbey
His foot
cash infusion
appropriate church offices
St. Thomas Cantilupe of Hereford
Walter Giffard, Archbishop of York
Bogo de Clare, the notorious younger son of the Earl of Gloucester and Hertford
England and Ireland
corporate raider
Bury St. Edmunds
Halesowen Abbey
tannery business
Abbey of Evesham
bake goods
Abbey of Reichenau
wines in its market at Allenbach
Abbey of St. Albans
milling flour
herring spawning grounds
loaned money at interest
Alexander III
Pope Innocent III
secondary market in monastic mortgage debt
G. G. Coulton
modern company share
Jocelin of Brakelond
Bury St. Edmund’s great Abbott Samson
market tolls
Norman Conquest
King Edward the Confessor
London merchants
boycott of the market at Bury St. Edmunds market
Abbey of Leubus
Cistercian abbey of Cleeve
guest houses for rich travelers
England's King John and his entourage
labor costs
the plague of usury
.abbacy of Peter the Venerable
pawn religious objects
Monte Cassino
General Chapter Records of the Cistercian Order
oppressa magnis debitis
magnis debitis et diversis creditoribus obligatus
central treasury through which all financial transactions had to pass
bottomless confusion of Convent finance
incur new debt
the monastery’s two principal obedientiaries, the semi-independent sacrist and cellarer
Great Market
lump sum payment
Adolf Berle and Gardiner Means
basic tools of corporate finance

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