Bede: The Life and Miracles of Saint Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindesfarne (721)



AT the same time the plague made great ravages in those parts, so that there were scarcely any inhabitants left in villages and places which had been thickly populated, and some towns were wholly deserted. The holy father Cuthbert, therefore, went round his parish, most assiduously ministering the word of God, and comforting those few who were left. But being arrived at a certain village, and having there exhorted all whom he found there, he said to his attendant priest, ” Do you think that any one remains who has need that we should visit and converse with him? or have we now seen all here, and shall we go elsewhere? ” The priest looked about, and saw a woman standing afar off, one of whose sons had died but a little time before, and she was now supporting another at the point of death, whilst the tears trickling down her cheek bore witness to her past and present affliction. He pointed her out to the man of God, who immediately went to her, and, blessing the boy, kissed him, and said to his mother, ” Do not fear nor be sorrowful; for your child shall be healed and live, and no one else of your household shall die of this pestilence.” To the truth of which prophecy the mother and son, who lived a long time after that, bore witness.

Fr Mark Paterson

At 11am yesterday a good and holy priest was finally vindicated at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh. Between 2002 and 2004 Fr Mark Paterson O. Carm. was the much loved Catholic Chaplain of Aberdeen University. When he took over as chaplain, the Catholic Society had one member left. By the time he left, the Chaplaincy was the centre of missionary activity in the University. The Catholic Society had hundreds of members, and the wheels were in motion to restore the Mass in the Mediaeval Chapel. He rose before dawn every day to adore the Blessed Sacrament and devoted many hours every week to visiting the homeless and dispensing the sacraments to the sick in hospital.

All of this came to an end in 2004 when he was pulled out of Aberdeen as a result of bizarre allegations of sexual assault. No one believed a word of it, and unfortunately his lawyer neglected to prepare properly for his trial and failed to precognose defence witnesses who were identified to him and other important steps in advance of the trial, the result being that he received an unfair trial. The advocate representing him in court having no ammunition with which to cross-examine the crown witnesses, their evidence went virtually unchallenged. The Sheriff (the Judge in the lower court in Scotland) decided to hold the trial mostly in camera and then found Fr Paterson guilty. The guilty verdict was so unexpected that Fr Paterson’s advocate and the Procurator Fiscal who conducted the Crown case could not reconcile the verdict with the evidence as presented in the court. After he pronounced the fateful words the Sheriff discernibly hesitated at the dropped jaws of those present in the court. It is hardly surprising that Fr Paterson’s defence team advised him that he had no grounds of appeal against his conviction as the main plank of any appeal a would have to be their own incompetence.

Thanks be to God, a retired solicitor in Aberdeen, Mr Gerald Cunningham, laboured for no reward for seven years to reverse this gross miscarriage of justice. Fighting to prove the incompetence of Fr Paterson’s defence and he then discovered a new witness who could prove that the key corroborating witness was the victim of such extreme brainwashing by the accuser that she no longer knows her own name. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission conducted a thorough investigation of the inadequacies of the defence team, the undisclosed defence evidence and the new evidence and recommended a re-examination of the conviction by the High Court in Edinburgh. On the third day of proceedings, this Thursday morning, the Crown threw in the towel and the Judges took just seconds to decide to quash the conviction that has afflicted Fr Paterson for eight long years.


In Luke 20:27-40 we receive the fullest account of why the blessed neither marry nor are given in marriage.

And there came to him some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is any resurrection, and they asked him, Saying: Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he leave no children, that his brother should take her to wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the next took her to wife, and he also died childless. And the third took her. And in like manner all the seven, and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, whose wife of them shall she be? For all the seven had her to wife. And Jesus said to them: The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they that shall be accounted worthy of that world, and of the resurrection from the dead, shall neither be married, nor take wives. Neither can they die any more: for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Now that the dead rise again, Moses also shewed, at the bush, when he called the Lord, The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; For he is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live to him. And some of the scribes answering, said to him: Master, thou hast said well. And after that they durst not ask him any more questions.

God is the living one. Those who would approach him, in this life or the next, must divest themselves of death. Since the Fall marriage has been inextricably tied up with death. Before the Fall all who were born would have been born into grace and eternal life and reproduction existed to make up the number of the elect. After the Fall reproduction is required, as with the beasts, just to keep the human race in existence. All are now born into sin as children of wrath and most die in sin as children of wrath. The elect are born now not from the womb but from the font. All the faithful who are, since that second birth (God willing) no longer children of the world, must strive to live poverty, chastity and obedience so far as it is given them. Whether in the monastery, the presbytery or in the sacrament of marriage they form part of a common struggle to keep unstained our baptismal robe when we appear before the Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and at His return in glory. For the the Christian spouses a necessarily imperfect struggle is made possible by the sacrament of marriage to restore the sanctity of the union of our first parents before the Fall when marriage existed only to beget children of God. For the Monk, engaging in spiritual combat in a state of perfection, life is directed with an undivided heart to the reality which that great sign represents. The priest approaches the Living One in the holy terror of the Mass. With him we stand before that splendid outrage in our common priesthood as children of God and children of the resurrection striving for chastity according to our state.

Even the married faithful need to be willing to separate themselves from each other if fidelity to Christ requires it of them. “And there went great multitudes with him. And turning, he said to them: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-26). This is not just a negative requirement. The greatest love, even spousal love, respects and recognises that the beloved exists for herself and ultimately for God. In the last sentence of A Grief Observed C. S. Lewis meditates on the moment of his wife’s death quoting the moment at which Dante and Beatrice part at the end of the Divine Comedy: “How wicked it would be, if we could, to call the dead back!  She said not to me but to the chaplain, ‘I am at peace with God.’  She smiled, but not at me.  Poi si torno all, eterna fontana.” ‘Then she turned herself back toward the eternal fountain’. This moment of separation occurs when every religious enters the cloister and for every priest when he steps outside the camp and into the sanctuary of the Living God.

Cardinal O’Brien has sadly wobbled on priestly celibacy. It is of course quite false to say that Divine Law permits priests to marry. Divine Law forbids priests to marry. The Church will not allow priests to marry unless they have first been forever forbidden to exercise their priestly functions. Outside of the Roman Patriarchate other Churches sui iuris allow men who are already married to receive sacred orders up to and including the presbyterate but not the episcopate. In fact, there are regulations, still arguably in force in at least some of these Churches, requiring married priests to abstain from the use of marriage for a certain period prior to the celebration of the Eucharist. The observance of these is naturally difficult for a married priest alone in a parish celebrating the Divine Liturgy every day.

A difficult question arises concerning the status of these provisions. Is the use of marriage by priests (for this is the real issue not marriage as such) permitted by Divine Law but forbidden by the Latin Church as an ascetical discipline; or is the use of marriage forbidden by Divine Law but in such a way that the Church may dispense? We know this second possibility, of dispensing from some precepts of Divine Law, exists in the case of marriage between a baptised and a non-baptised spouse.

What is clear is that both the East and the West hold it to be in some way better for a priest to abstain from the use of marriage. No married man has ever been consecrated to the episcopate. As mentioned, the married priests of e.g. the Byzantine ritual Church have traditionally been required to abstain from the use of marriage before the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

What makes the question hard to resolve is the fact that respect and enthusiasm for St Paul’s teaching on perfect chastity in  1 Corinthians 7 was so general in the earliest age of the Church that the question of whether perfect continence was required for clergy or just taken for granted seems not to have even arisen. More energy was expended in the second century dealing with those who in their enthusiasm for chastity or because of Gnostic tendencies forbade the use of marriage to the baptised in general.

Nevertheless, there exists direct and implied scriptural grounds for the discipline of priestly celibacy. The most explicit statement is Titus 1:8 where St Paul says that a presbyter or bishop must be continent. It is interesting that just before this, as elsewhere, he insists that he must be the husband of only one wife. This comment has often been misinterpreted by casual readers to indicate precisely that that clerical continence was not required in the Apostolic Church. In fact, it leads to the opposite conclusion. Why would second marriage have been forbidden except because it indicated a person was unable or unwilling to practice the continence the priestly state requires?

There is an incident recorded by the church historian Socrates (who died in the mid-fifth century) that supposedly occurred at the First Council of Nicaea when a famously holy and continent bishop Paphnutius dissuaded the  Council Fathers from imposing continence on the presbyterate. There is considerable dispute over the authenticity of this incident for which Socrates is the earliest authority. Those who uphold it obviously conclude that no such discipline existed earlier than 325. This is often seen a strong argument against the conclusion that priestly celibacy is Apostolic and of Divine Law. Once again this conclusion arises from a reading of the evidence through secular modern lenses. The truly interesting fact about the alleged incident is that the passing of a decree enforcing presbyteral continence was nearly passed on the nod until Paphnutius’s supposed intervention. What this tells us is that even if the story is accurate clerical continence was so widespread that its enforcement in ecclesiastical positive law would have been (but for one highly persuasive and unexpected intervention) uncontroversial.  This strengthens the idea that the practice of clerical continence is of Apostolic origin.

Of course we must conclude that by the time Socrates wrote in Constantinople in the fifth century clerical continence cannot have been universal else his assertion of the story (regardless of its accuracy) would make no sense. In fact, for an orthodox Catholic the origin of the discipline of clerical continence in Divine Law is not a matter of doubt because of the clear teaching on this subject given by Pope Siricius in 385,

Let us come now to the most sacred orders of the clergy, which we find so abused and so disorderly throughout your provinces to the injury of venerable religion that we ought to say in the words of Jeremias: Who will water to my head, or a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep for this people day and night (Jer. 9:1). . . . For we have learned that very many priests and Levites of Christ, after long periods of their consecration, have begotten offspring from their wives as well as by shameful intercourse, and that they defend their crime by this excuse, that in the Old Testament it is read that the faculty of procreating was given to the priests and the ministers.

Whoever that follower of sensual desires is let him tell me now: . . . Why does [the Lord] forewarn those to whom the holies of holies were to be entrusted saying: Be ye holy, because I your Lord God am holy [Lev. 20:7;1 Pet. 1:16]? Why also were the priests ordered to dwell in the temple at a distance from their homes in the year of their turn? Evidently for this reason that they might not be able to practice carnal intercourse with their wives, so that shining with purity of conscience they might offer an acceptable gift to God. . . .

Therefore also the Lord Jesus, when He had enlightened us by His coming, testifies in the Gospel, that he came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it [Matt. 5:17]. And so He has wished the beauty of the Church, whose spouse He is, to radiate with the splendour of chastity, so that on the day of judgment, when He will have come again, He may be able to find her without spot or wrinkle [Eph. 5:27] as He instituted her through His Apostle. All priests and levites are bound by the indissoluble law of these sanctions, so that from the day of our ordination, we give up both our hearts and our bodies to continence and chastity, provided only that through all things we may please our God in these sacrifices which we daily offer.”But those who are in the flesh,” as the vessel of election says, “cannot please God” [Rom. 8:8].

But those, who contend with an excuse for the forbidden privilege, so as to assert that this has been granted to them by the Old Law, should know that by the authority of the Apostolic See they have been cast out of every ecclesiastical office, which they have used unworthily, nor can they ever touch the sacred mysteries, of which they themselves have deprived themselves so long as they give heed to impure desires. And because existing examples warn us to be on our guard for the future should any bishop, priest, or deacon be found such, which henceforth we do not want, let him now understand that every approach to indulgence is barred through us, because it is necessary that the wounds which are not susceptible to the healing of warm lotions be cut out with a knife. (Denzinger 89)

Two questions remain. First, why did clerical continence become controversial by the end of the fourth century (and de facto optional in e.g. Constantinople) when it was apparently so uncontroversial at the beginning? Secondly, what are we to say of the married clergy of the Eastern Catholic Churches and those ordained after reception from the ‘Church’ ‘of England’ if clerical continence is of Divine Law?

In the answer to the second question lies the answer to the first. All these clergy have in common that they either personally or as Churches have spent significant periods outside of the visible hierarchical structure of the Church. Of the Eastern Catholics only the Italo-Greeks have never been in schism. The Melkites were in a rather confused position for a long time due to Antiochene disapproval/ambiguity towards the Cerularian Schism. The Syro-Malabars were caught up with the Persian Nestorians for geographical rather than theological reasons. Nevertheless, it is clear that all these Churches were, for long periods at least, headed by bishops who resisted the Roman primacy. Marriage is a symbol of the union of Christ and His Church – the Sacramentum Magnum. This union is effected by Sanctifying Grace. As Pope Boniface VIII solemnly taught in Unam Sanctam (1302) outside of the Church, defined by submission to the Roman Pontiff, “there is neither salvation nor the forgiveness of sins”. The reason chastity is superior to marriage is that it orders us more perfectly to the reality, the nuptial union of Christ and the Church, of which marriage is the symbol. Outside the Roman obedience the symbol and the reality both perish. Sanctifying grace cannot be had outside the Church and the indissolubility of marriage and obligatory clerical continence swiftly pass away. It is noticeable that those Eastern Catholics with little or very little history of real schism have the strongest tradition of clerical celibacy. By the end of the fourth century the entire Church had been rocked by the Arian Crisis for nearly seventy years. Many individuals and particular churches had been separated from the See of Rome and the true faith for long periods. The Monks, most famously St Antony, were a notable bulwark of Catholic orthodoxy. St Paul forbade the ordination of those who had been married twice because such could not be expected to maintain the continence of the clerical state. What is a restored schismatic individual or church but one who on the deepest level has been compelled to marry twice: once when he or she was baptised and once agin when restored to communion with Christ’s Vicar on Earth?

The fact that clerical continence, though of Divine Law, is dispensable bears witness to the goodness of marriage. The discipline of liturgical marital abstinence in the Eastern Churches (which requires some renewed emphasis) bears witness to the superiority of continence. The married clergy of the East also remind us of the fact that continence is not uniquely clerical. It is the monk who is the paradigm of the chaste life not the cleric. All the faithful are called to practice poverty, chastity and obedience in spirit and in fact so far as is given to them by grace and providence. For the clergy the fittingness is so intense, because of their proximity to the Holy Sacrifice, that it constitutes a norm that must be dispensed only when pressing pastoral need requires it. In this era when the true nature of marriage is under assault on every side and chastity despised, urgent pastoral need demands that the largest Patriarchate  in the Church the Church of Rome blessed with the Supreme Pastor as its proximate head preserve inviolate the Apostolic tradition of clerical continence and boldly profess the sanctity of virginity, continence and marriage to this corrupted dying age.

I came across this claim in a local history written in 1924: Newcastle-upon-Tyne by F. J. C. Hearshaw. In the year 1138 Newcastle was occupied by King David I of Scotland (Feast Day May 24th) it did not return to the Kingdom of England until 1157. The New Castle on the ruins of the Roman fortress of Pons Aelius had been built in 1080 by Robert II of Normandy eldest son of William the Conqueror and hero of the First Crusade. David’s family already had associations with Newcastle because his Grandmother and Aunt fled there after the death of Malcolm III and St Margaret in 1093. Malcolm III was killed at Alnwick with his eldest son on the way back from a campaign in Northumbria during which he had attended the foundation of the new Cathedral Church at Durham. Hearshaw continues…
“Queen Margaret of Scotland (sister of Edgar Atheling) survived this double loss only four days, and Scotland became the prey of civil war and anarchy. In these circumstances Margaret’s aged mother, Agatha, and her sister Christina, fled to England, their native land, sought shelter in Newcastle, and there ‘were espoused to Christ’ in the newly founded Nunnery of St Bartholomew, first of Newcastle’s religious houses.”

This Nunnery was destroyed at the Reformation. The indoor Granger Market and Nun Street mark the land where it once stood. Now Hearshaw is certainly wrong about England being “their native land” as neither of them can have been born there. In fact the place of Agatha’s birth and how she fits into the great extended family of saints surrounding St Stephen of Hungary and St Henry the Emperor is a great historical mystery. Agatha lived out her remaining years as a nun in Newcastle but her daughter did not stay in Newcastle. Christina went on to be the Abbess of Romsey where she educated Malcolm and Margaret’s daughter Edith (later renamed Matilda) by whose marriage to Henry I the royal line of Wessex was united to that of Normandy. This union was later threatened by the survival of only one child of Henry I, his daughter Matilda. Although the Barons agreed to accept her as heir before Henry I’s death, when the King actually died most rallied to her cousin Stephen (famous coward of the First Crusade) sparking a protracted civil war. This helped to provide a pretext for expansion southward by David I (son of Malcolm III and uncle of Matilda)…

“In 1137 a muster of local troops at Newcastle prevented David from pressing his attack far to the south. In 1138, however, his host reached Northallerton in Yorkshire; but there it met with a heavy defeat at the hands of the militia of Yorkshire in the famous ‘Battle of the Standard.’ Nevertheless, though this English victory saved Yorkshire from Scottish occupation, it did nothing to relieve Northumberland, nearly all of whose castles were by this time in David’s possession. The hopeless Stephen, distracted by civil war and debilitated by baronial treachery, felt constrained to make peace on his adversary’s terms. Hence by the Treaty of Durham (1139), the much coveted Earldom of Northumberland was revived and conferred upon Henry, David’s eldest son and heir. Newcastle was not included in this grant. In spite of that fact, however, the Scots took possession of it and held it for some eighteen years.
The Scottish occupation was a notable episode in the history of the town. It was quite clear that David regarded Northumberland as permanently incorporated into his kingdom, and many things indicate that Newcastle was soon in fair way to supersede Edinburgh as his capital and seat of government. He himself was much in the town; he showed it peculiar favour; he issued his laws therefrom; he adopted its customs as models for the four Scottish boroughs of Edinburgh, Stirling, Roxburgh and Berwick (hence the inclusion of the customs of Newcastle in the Scottish Statute Books); he caused, it is supposed, the old English church near the White Cross to be refounded and rededicated to the Scottish St Andrew; he refounded the nunnery of which his grandmother and his aunt had been inmates. From Newcastle he extended his wide authority over Northern England. Before the end of 1141 (when the cause of Stephen appeared to be ruined and that of Matilda triumphant) he had secured Carlisle, and had made himself master of Cumberland, Westmorland, and a large part of Lancashire. A dependent of his moreover acquired the palatine bishopric of Durham, and the largest dreams of Scottish expansion seemed likely to be realised.
Three deaths, however – viz., those of Henry, Earl of Northumberland, in 1152; of David himself in 1153; and of Stephen in 1154 – completely changed the political situation, and prepared the way for the English recovery of Newcastle and North.”
Of course, the Scottish Kings were rather more English than the Kings of England at this time as they represented the elder branch of the house of Wessex. Hearshaw is probably wrong about St Andrew’s as well. It is likely that it was always dedicated to the Apostle on account of the devotion to him in the region stemming from St Wilfred’s translation of relics of Andrew from Rome to Hexham in the seventh century. In fact, I am reliably informed, it is quite likely that the relics of St Andrew in Fife and the consequent dedication to Scotland to him probably stems from the theft of some or all of these relics in one of the many raids of the period or their transportation to Fife by a disgruntled deposed Abbott of Hexham. In fact, it was not until after the period discussed here that the term Scotia was used to include the region bellow the Firths of Clyde and Forth. The eastern part of this region still being seen as Northumbrian, giving rise to the surprising fact that St Cuthbert is the patron of Edinburgh and St Andrew of Newcastle.

The following is an extract from The Commentaries : the memoirs of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II (1458-1464). As a younger man in 1435 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to James I of Scotland. Aeneas is cagy about its purpose but it was sufficiently inimical to English interests that he had to travel by sea all the way from France because Henry VI wouldn’t let him pass through England. A nasty storm on the way deterred him from returning by sea and so he was forced to travel incognito through Northumberland to Newcastle. Pius II wrote his memoirs after he became Pope. He writes about himself in the third person. This is a slightly abridged version.



“[Aeneas] took ship for Scotland, but was driven to Norway by two violent gales, one of which kept them in fear of death for fourteen hours. The other pounded the ship for two nights and a day, so that she sprang a leak and was carried so far out to see toward the north that the sailors, who could no longer recognise the constellations, abandoned all hope. But the Divine Mercy came to their aid, raising north winds, which drove the vessel back toward the mainland and finally on the twelfth day brought in sight of Scotland.


When they had made harbour, Aeneas in fulfilment of a vow walked barefoot ten miles to the Blessed Virgin of Whitekirk. After resting there two hours he found on rising that he could not stir a step, his feet were so weak and so numb with cold. It was his salvation that there was nothing there to eat and that he had to go on to another village. While he was being carried rather than led there by his servants, he got his feet warm by continually striking them on the ground, so that he unexpectedly recovered and began to walk. When he was at last admitted to the kings presence, he obtained all he had come to ask. He was reimbursed for his travelling expenses and was given fifty nobles for the return journey and two horses called trotters.


The following facts about Scotland seem worth recording. It is an island two hundred miles long and fifty wide, connected with Britain and extending toward the north. It is a cold country where few things will grow and for the most part it has no trees. Below the ground is found a sulphurous rock, which they dig for fuel. The cities have no walls. The houses are usually constructed without mortar; their roofs are covered with turf; and the country doorways are closed with oxhides. The common people, who are poor and rude, stuff themselves with meat and fish, but eat bread as a luxury. The men are short and brave; the women fair, charming, and easily won. Women there think less of a kiss than in Italy of a touch of a hand. They have no wine except what they import. Their horses are small and natural trotters. They keep a few for breeding and castrate the rest. They do not curry them with iron or comb them with wooden combs or guide them with bridles. The oysters are larger than those in England and many pearls are found in them. Leather, wool, fish, and pearls are exported from Scotland to Belgium. There is nothing the Scotch like better to hear than abuse of the English. It is said there are two Scotlands, one cultivated, the other wooded with no open land. The Scots who live in the latter  part speak a different language and sometimes use the bark of trees for food. There are no wolves in Scotland. Crows are rare and therefore the trees in which they nest are the property of the royal treasury, Aeneas also used to say that, before he went to Scotland, he had heard there were trees there growing along a river, the fruit of which rotted, if it fell on the ground, but if it fell into the water, came to life and turned into birds; but, when he eagerly investigated this marvel on the spot, he found that it was all a lie or, if true, had been moved on to the Orcades Islands. He did, however, vouch for the truth of the following statement: at the winter solstice (Aeneas was there then) the day in Scotland is not more than four hours long.


When he had finished his business and was ready to return, the skipper who had brought him over promptly came and offered him his old quarters on his ship. But Aeneas, not so much foreseeing the future peril as remembering the past, said, “If he who has twice been in danger has no right to accuse Neptune, what is to be said to the man who suffers shipwreck a third time? I prefer to trust to the mercy of men rather than of the sea.” So he sent the sailor away and chose to travel through England. And very soon after the ship sailed, in the sight of all she ran into a storm, which broke her up and sank her, and the skipper, who was going back to Flanders to marry a young bride, was drowned with everyone else on board except four men who caught hold of some planks and managed to swim to land.


Then Aeneas, realizing that he had been saved by a beneficent God, disguised himself as a merchant and left Scotland for England. A river which rises in a high mountain, separates the two countries. When he had crossed this in a small boat and had reached a large town about sunset, he knocked at a farmhouse and had dinner there with his host and the parish priest. Many relishes and chickens and geese were served, but there was no bread or wine. All the men and women of the village came running as if to see a strange sight and as our people marvel at Ethiopians or Indians, so they gazed in amazement at Aeneas,, asking the priest where he came from, what his business was, and whether he was a Christian. Aeneas, having learned of the scanty entertainment to he found on his journey, had obtained at a certain monastery several loaves of bread and a jug of wine and when he brought these out, they excited the liveliest wonder among the barbarians, who had never seen wine or white bread. Pregnant women and their husbands kept coming up to the table, touching the bread and sniffing the wine and asking for some, so that he had to divide it all among them.


When the meal had lasted till the second hour of the night, the priest and the host together with all the men and children took leave o Aeneas and hastened away, saying that they were taking refuge in a tower a long way off for fear of the Scots, who were accustomed, when the river was low at ebb tide, to cross by night and make raids upon them. They could not by any means be induced to take him with them, although he earnestly besought them, nor yet any of the women, although there were a number of beautiful girls and matrons. For they think the enemy will do them no wrong – not counting outrage a wrong. So Aeneas remained behind with two servants and his one guide among a hundred women, who made a circle around the fire and sat up all night cleaning hemp and carrying on a lively conversation with the interpreter.


But after a good part of the night had passed, two young women showed Aeneas, who u/as by this time very sleepy, to a chamber strewn with straw planning to sleep with him, as was the custom of the country, if they were asked. But Aeneas, thinking less about women than about robbers, who he feared might appear any minute, repulsed the protesting girls, afraid that, if he committed a sin, he would have to pay the penalty as soon as the robbers arrived. So he remained alone among the heifers and nanny goats, which prevented him from sleeping a wink by stealthily pulling the straw out of his pallet. Some time after midnight there was a great noise of dogs barking and geese hissing, at which all the women scattered, the guide took to his heels, and there was the wildest confusion as if the enemy were at hand. Aeneas however was afraid that if he rushed outside, in his ignorance of the road he might fall a prey to the first person he met. Accordingly he thought best to await events in his own room (it was the stable) and very soon the women returned with the interpreter, saying that nothing was wrong and that the newcomers were friends, not enemies. Aeneas thought this was the reward of his continence.


At daybreak Aeneas proceeded on his journey and came to Newcastle, which is said to have been built by Caesar. There for the first time he seemed to see again a familiar world and a habitable country; for Scotland and the part of England nearest it are utterly unlike the country we inhabit, being rude, uncultivated, and unvisited by the winter sun.”


Dante Toast

to absent friends

Berenike, Cleopatra, Notburga


The print is of Botticelli’s depiction of Purgatorio XXXI. And the tasteful wall colour was not my choice.