Ethos, Pathos, Logos and Me (II)

The codex Renbaudus was found in 1962 in Southeastern France. It contains the memoirs in Latin of an 11th century Norman knight, Renbaudus of Bernay. The codex mainly narrates his pilgrimage to Jerusalem between 1095 and 1099.

Even though many pages of the codex have been lost, it is now understood that it originally contained different sections. In one of the few surviving ones, Renbaudus describes his childhood and the lessons he learned from the Benedictine monks who raised him at Cluny abbey.

As a codicologist, my aim is to translate and share with you what he wrote more than 10 centuries ago, hoping these timeless lessons will be useful. I have taken some stylish liberties and you can find a glossary at the bottom for place names, difficult words and Latin words. You may also hover over the dotted-underlined words to get the definitions.



A few days later, I jumped on a horse to cover the short distance between Cluny Abbey and Berzé, anxious to meet Father Eusebius again. I found him in the church, shoulders slumped, his white-haired head down, as if meditating.

I quietly sat beside him and cleared my throat.

He didn’t move.

I coughed louder and this time his head gave some sign of life. The good father rubbed his eyes, slowly regaining his wits.

Raising his head, he finally looked at me and whispered, “Renbaudus, you know that I don’t like to be disturbed when I am praying. Especially in the House of God.”

“Oh, Father, you looked like you were past praying time. Ready to leave. And I wanted to give you great news about the three secrets!”

Once more, Father Eusebius cleared his throat. “Really? Well, I want to hear about that, but not before you bring me a cup of wine from the Sacristia.”

“You mean the Precious Blood?”

Renbaudus! This wine is not yet consecrated so it is not the blood of Iesu. And this red nectar does a lot of good to my old bones. You want me to listen carefully to you? Then bring me a half-full cup.”

I rushed to the Sacristia to fetch the miracle medicine. Moments later, slowly sipping the wine, he motioned with his hand, telling me to begin.

“Yes, Father, the three secrets of Aristotle! Ethos, Pathos, and Legos.”

A white bushy eyebrow was raised and I quickly corrected myself.

“Sorry, Father. And Logos, which means ‘word’ in Greek.”

The eyebrow moved back to its resting place.

“Since we spoke, I thought a lot about them and also about Alexander the Great. I guess that’s how he prepared his milites for battle.”

He nodded in agreement.

“At first, I couldn’t find the right opportunity to use those three secrets. I tried once with brother Eginhard, because I wanted to sleep a little bit more when he came to get us up in the morning.”

Father Eusebius was now fully awake, and listening intently.

Comforted, I continued.

“I told Eginhard that he knew I could be relied upon and that for sure I would get up when Prime would be rung. That was my Ethos part. Then, for my Pathos, I appealed to his joy of sleeping, suggesting how good it feels and how we are much better after.”

I paused, and Father Eusebius patiently waited for me to go on.

I didn’t. I couldn’t continue.

After a while, he inhaled deeply and said, “It didn’t go well?”

I shook my head.

“Do you know what went wrong?”

“Yes. I made the same mistake again over the next few days. My Pathos was not aimed right,” I said, touching my head where brother Eginhard had thrown my sandal while telling me to shut up and get up.

Father Eusebius smiled. “Lesson learned, I guess. There was nothing interesting or emotionally appealing to brother Eginhard in your Pathos. You were just creating more problems for him. Hence his vigorous reaction. Renbaudus, remember that the three secrets are very powerful, in both ways. Now you understand that you have to use them wisely and not for petty reasons.”

“I really do!” I answered, remembering how I heard “No!” several times, or had seen just shrugs when I tried to persuade people to join my endeavors.

“That’s how you learned the right way, isn’t it?” the good Father asked.

“Yes! I finally did!” I said, beaming.


“Do not keep me in suspense any longer. How did you finally succeed in applying the three secrets?” asked Father Eusebius.

“This morning I met Father Odo.”

He frowned, because there were several monks named Odo at Cluny Abbey.

“Which one are you talking about?”

“Our grand prior, Odo of Lagery.”

A look of sheer surprise covered Father Eusebius’ face.

“Dominus! You applied the three secrets on the most powerful man of Cluny, just below the Great Abbot?”

“Yes. Father Odo has always been nice to me and I am learning a lot from him, just as I do from you,” I explained. “His lectiones are very interesting.”

“I am not surprised about that,” Father Eusebius said. “Odo is very talented indeed. He quickly rose through our ranks to become the grand prior and I believe he could go much higher.”

“He could succeed the Great Abbot Hugh?” I asked.

“He definitely has the ability. But I told him that he could aim even higher.”

I didn’t quite understand what he meant, but I just wanted to tell my story, so I kept going.

“This morning I went to see Father Odo after Terce. He likes to meditate in a corner of the stables. He sits on a bench reading the latest news from Christendom brought by official messengers the night before.”

Father Eusebius nodded, encouraging me to go on.

“Whenever I come to him, even if he is busy, he always stops to listen.”

“And I suppose you must have had a good reason to interrupt him?” interjected Father Eusebius.

“Yes.” My eyes brightened. “Henry and I have this dream of going South of Rome to the Duchy of Apulia after the schola is over. There, as you know, the Normans who hold the lands are the best warriors of Christendom. They have a unique knowledge of heathen warfare,” I said. “That’s why we really want to go. To learn from the best, as Henry suggested. I also share with them the same Norman blood which makes me even more excited about this dream.”

My face grew solemn. “But, Father Eusebius, we are so young, and nobody would listen or let us go.”

Father Eusebius raised his bushy white eyebrows. “That’s why you went to see Odo?”

“Yes. He knows a lot of things, he knows a lot of people, and he knows how to write to powerful people.”

The good Father seemed genuinely surprised by my audacity. “Renbaudus, you amaze me every day!”

“Father Odo listened to my request. I explained that I was studying as much as I could during the schola. I was training hard to become a skilled knight. I could be relied upon for the daily tasks required by the Cluny brotherhood.”

“What was Odo’s reaction to your wonderful Ethos?”

“He smiled and told me that he had no doubts my sense of ethics could be trusted. And since I had rehearsed my speech, I felt I could go on with my Pathos after such a good start!”

“Yes” agreed Father Eusebius, “I am curious to hear how you managed your Pathos.”


“I tried to win him over by saying that the Duchy of Apulia must be a beautiful land where Cluny ought to be present. There, the Duke has trouble keeping in check his ambitious knights who are restless and plundering each other. His subjects are worried and frightened. What an accomplishment this would be for Odo to pacify Apulia,” I said. “He would be loved and respected there for bringing peace through the creation of a new abbey. This would establish him as a powerful peacemaker.”

The good Father nodded at my effective use of Pathos.

“How do you know in such detail about the situation in Apulia?”

“According to what the Great Abbot Hugh told me, we don’t have many Cluniac followers there.”

Father Eusebius almost choked.

“What? You asked the Great Abbot about our brotherhood in Apulia?”

“Why not? He is the one who should know the most about our abbeys.”

The good Father nodded in disbelief, clearly not expecting me to have practiced the three secrets at the highest level of our hierarchy.

Happy to have made such an impression on Father Eusebius, I went on.

“I insisted on the Pathos. I told him he couldn’t let the families be torn apart anymore, with the children not being able to play ‘Knights & Heathens’.”

“That latter part must have been very convincing for Odo” said Father Eusebius, his eyes lighting up.

“Yes, you are right, because just after he asked me what he should do. I told Father Odo that people in Apulia need stability after so many years of deadly skirmishes. So I offered my services to go there with Henry as scouts. We could assess the situation and report back to him. We could keep him informed before he made any decision.”

“And that was your Logos, I assume?” inquired Father Eusebius.

I just nodded, beaming.

“What was his answer?”

“He said he liked the idea. But he needed to consider it seriously before giving his answer.”

Father Eusebius smiled.

“I have a lot of respect for you, young Renbaudus. I especially respect the fact that you didn’t get discouraged. You kept trying, using the three secrets until you succeeded. There you have a great truth. If you keep trying, you will always find a way. I promise you.”

He remained silent for a while, as if the last sentence were bringing back some past memories. Brushing them away, he looked at me. “Anything else?”

“Yes. Father Odo also thanked me for coming forward with new ideas. This really pleased me.”

“I told you. The three secrets are powerful. Use them wisely though, because with great power comes great responsibility.”

“I will try to remember that, Father. You are a saint! What would I do without you?”

“You’d better get used to it, since I will not be here for long. But I know you will do well, Renbaudus. You are a hard-working young boy, and you will find your way through life.”


Sacristia: sacristy. A special room in the church to keep sacred vessels and other church furnishings.
Consecrated: from the Latin consecratio: made sacred.
Nectar: delicious drink. (In Greek mythology, it was the name of the drink of the gods.)
Prime: Early morning prayer rung by the bells around 6 am.
Odo of Lagery (1042-1099): He became pope under the name of Urban II. A great marketer, he was the architect of the First Crusade. Renbaudus, then an adult, helped him through different missions.
Grand prior: In a Medieval abbey, he was the second in charge just after the abbot.
Terce: mid-morning prayer around 9am. It is supposed to be the third hour of the day, hence the name.
Apulia: A region of Southern Italy.
Schola, scholae: school.
Hugh of Cluny aka Hugh the Great (1024-1109): He was one of the most powerful leaders of one of the most influential monastic orders of the Middle Ages. All kings listened to him and the pope needed his support.

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