Posts Tagged ‘Father Eusebius’

Montivilliers 1096

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Watch all the episodes back to back (lucky you!) :

How to Talk to a Beautiful Damisel (I)

Tuesday, July 8th, 1079

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.



I cannot forget this story, because it was one of the rare instances where Father Eusebius had trouble helping me. We were sitting on the bench next to one of the barns of Berzé. And we were unusually silent.

I had come to see him after None, and as usual his wrinkled face broke into a smile when he saw me.

“Renbaudus, it’s a pleasure to see you. Any news for me?”

I had told him a few stories about what was happening in Cluny Abbey, not really touching on the topic I wanted to talk about. He noticed my discomfort.

“My son, what is bothering you? I sense that you have something to get off your chest. Is the Great Shadow of Death creeping in?”

“No, Father. Something is burning there, but it is not like the usual Great Shadow.” I paused for a moment. “It feels good,” I confessed in a whisper.

Father Eusebius raised his white bushy eyebrows.”Are you talking about a damisel?”


We sat looking at the Burgundian landscape, with its lush green forests adorning the gently rolling hills.

“What happened, Renbaudus?”

Guy had his family come over to visit,” I said. “His brother Etienne is at the schola, but not his older brother Renaud. The latter arrived two days ago with their mother, the countess of Burgundy, and two of his sisters, Sybilla and Gisela.”

Father Eusebius nodded, encouraging me to go on.

“Since they are important guests, the great Abbot himself came to welcome them in the guest quarters of the abbey. They returned the favor by hosting a banquet. Guy was nice enough to invite Henry, Josseran, and me to attend it.”

“Did you enjoy the banquet?”

“Yes, the food was excellent! There was a very talented troubadour and we were allowed to drink some wine mixed with water.”


“And…Guy’s two sisters, Sibylla and Gisela also attended the banquet. I noticed Gisela glancing at me several times. The look in her eyes was wonderful.” I paused, and took a deep breath.

“Slowly I felt something growing in me. A strong feeling, like the Great Shadow, but much more pleasant. It has not left me since the banquet and every time I think about her beautiful face, it comes back even stronger.”

Father Eusebius smiled.

“I am not the best adviser for these kinds of matters. But I was young once, too, and I also had feelings. It’s possible that you might be in love with this damisel.”

“It’s a strange feeling. And strong.”

“I’ve heard it can move mountains,” answered the good Father, teasing.

“I know how to use a sword, how to read and write, but suddenly I find myself simply wanting to talk to her and unable to do so. This never happened to me before. At the schola, they don’t teach you that kind of thing.”

“You could look through Ovid,” Father Eusebius answered, “because, ahem, my experience is very limited.”

“Please Father. Please, please, please! You always have a good answer for me. How do I talk to her? I tried to ask Clementia, Josseran’s mother for some advice. She served me even more pottage, pointed her spoon at my face, and said I should focus on my studies, not damisels.”

Half-smiling, the good Father exhaled. “In the name of Iesu, help me.” He held his hands up in mock surrender.

“All right, Renbaudus. Agreed! If even Clementia doesn’t want to help you, I must step up to the plate. And that will be a first in my career. Dear God, you hath me doing just about everything in my life!”


Father Eusebius narrowed his bushy white eyebrows.

“I have much experience talking to damisels and other women. Even though I had a different purpose in doing so, I have noted a few things in their attitudes that might be useful to you.”

I nodded, listening as if my life depended on it.

“Primo, they like to talk. And you have to listen to them! Several times I remember my mind wandering from the not-always-interesting topics offered. A sharp look associated with a high-pitched voice quickly brought me back to the topic at hand.”

“So I will listen to her.”

“Yes but just don’t just look at her gaping. You must talk too. Please Renbaudus, try to be clever. I have seen so many young knights unable to express anything other than the traditional ‘you are beautiful’ line. It can be become quite boring after a while.”

“But Gisela is beautiful, Father,” I said, my eyes wandering up to the blue sky. Almost as beautiful a blue as Gisela’s eyes…

He nudged me.

“I am sure she is lovely, Renbaudus. Nonetheless, you must control yourself. The best way to do that, once again, is to focus on what she is saying. Listen very carefully and answer when appropriate. Also make sure you don’t talk longer than she does.”

I nodded.

“Secundo, you have to compliment her. Whatever you say is up to you but you shouldn’t lie. Be authentic. Women have keen sense in detecting fraudulent assertions.”

“Fraudulent assertions?”

“Flattery. Don’t tell her she has beautiful hands if it is not true. That makes you seem like an evil man. A liar. Damisels are connected in amazing ways. All of them will quickly hear about your evil reputation.”

“That’s scary.”

“So be very careful about what you say, because they will remember it.”

I crossed my arms, a little bit worried. This was not going to be as easy as I thought. Father Eusebius was now on a roll.

“Tertio,” he said raising three gnarled fingers, “you have to  strengthen the relationship slowly. The best way is to stay friendly, helpful, and of good company. Let the friendship flourish,” he said. “Soon you will know how much interest she has in you. Is it boredom? Is it friendship? Is it more than that? Do not worry. She will let you know by her behavior.”

I looked at him, surprised.

“Father, you seem to know a lot about this.”

He swiftly lowered his arm and folded his hands.

“I don’t Renbaudus, I don’t. It’s just that I have observed humans for many years and in many different cultures. They behave the same way, whatever your topic and whomever you are talking too. Diplomacy and love are the same.”

I thought for a moment. “You have given me a lot of advice. I thank you for that. But you still haven’t answered my question. How do I talk to her, the first time?”


My question baffled Father Eusebius.

“This is more difficult than what I thought,” he said. “I want to help you, but at my age and as a monk I don’t have much experience starting a conversation with young damisels.”

I was disappointed. “Father, I cannot just go to her and say ‘Hello, my name is Renbaudus.’”

Suddenly his eyes lit up.

“Why not? That is the most polite and respectful thing to do. It shows that you value her as an equal. Not as a pretty thing.”

I hadn’t thought about that. But Father Eusebius was not finished.

“I have always introduced myself and I noticed that it makes the other person more comfortable. The added benefit for you is that she has to introduce herself too. It will give you time to think about what to say next,” he said. “With a little luck, she even might ask you a question, and from there you can use my triple strategy.”

“This is still scary to me,” I said.

“Why, Renbaudus? What is it that makes you fearful?”

“I don’t know. She looks so beautiful…I don’t want to make a mistake. And if she doesn’t like me?”

The good Father smiled kindly.

“My son, you are thinking too much. First of all, you know your value. You are a talented young man with a promising future. If I were you I would just be myself. Don’t change anything, behave the same way as when you are with your friends or with me. That’s why we like your company, for who you are!”

“Thank you Father. I feel better,” I answered.

“I am not done, Renbaudus. You know your value, but you cannot control other people. If this damisel is nice, she will appreciate you for who you are. If not, she might try to manipulate you or she may reject you. And this could be a holy blessing in disguise,” he said. “You don’t want to be with someone like this. There are many other nice damisels in Burgundy who would be happy to share your time.”

“Thank you Father,” I said. “I think I understand what you mean. I must say that the pull of this force is so strong that it is difficult to separate the truth from the illusion.”

“Yes, I know, my son. Our minds are so powerful that often we can see things where there isn’t anything to see.”

We sat and thought about this important subject.

Then Father Eusebius turned to me. “Why don’t you go back to Cluny today and practice talking to the damisel?”

The look in my eyes clearly revealed that my heart was not as ready as my brain.


Berzé: small village near the abbey of Cluny.
Cluny: abbey located in Burgundy, France. Cluny was the head of the most powerful monastic movement in the Middle Ages.
None: mid-afternoon prayer around 3 pm. It is supposed to be the ninth hour of the day, hence the name. It is interesting to know that the word “afternoon” comes from “after none.”
Great Shadow of Death: of course you know the meaning! (Ahem, just in case, go to this episode to learn more about it.)
Damisel: young girl or lady. Same as damsel.
Guy of Burgundy (Died in 1124): he became pope under the name Calixtus II in 1124. Renbaudus and him kept a close relationship and worked together on the ‘fake’ Codex Calixtinus.
Schola: do you really need help?
Troubadour: a composer and performer of poetic songs.
Ovid (43BC-18AD): he was a Roman poet who wrote about love and seduction. In the Medieval era he became again very popular.

You Must Care for Your Kairos

Friday, July 4th, 1079

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.



During the summer of 1079, the sun blazed throughout Burgundy. When I reached Berzé, I was sweating. So was my horse. I didn’t see Father Eusebius on his bench, but I was not surprised. It was too hot.

I found him in his cool cell where he sat at a table, writing. He stopped as soon as I entered the tiny room where he kept all his treasures. A couple of frocks, a stack of manuscripts, and a few bowls.

“Renbaudus!” he said, “I didn’t think you would come in this hot weather.”

“I needed to talk to you, Father, but am I interrupting? You were writing…”

“That can wait. I am just writing down a few thoughts. One day you will read them.” He cleared his throat and pointed toward a stool. “So, what is your challenge?”

“Yesterday Josseran and I wanted to go hear Cantus Planus at the church,” I said as I sat on the stool. “A group of monks from St. Gallus Abbey was singing, and we didn’t want to miss it. Unfortunately Josseran’s mother, Clementia refused to let us go. She said it was too late and too dangerous for young boys to be outside in the night.”

Father Eusebius nodded. “So you two became frustrated.”

“Yes,” I said. “Every time I want to do something with Josseran, we never know if his mother will agree or not. And often we are disappointed.”

“Renbaudus, are you talking as if the Great Shadow of Death were coming?”

I waved my hands. “No Father, I am sorry. I came to you because we want to solve the problem. I taught Josseran the three secrets to convince people, but Ethos, Pathos, and Logos don’t seem to have any effect on his mother.”

Father Eusebius slowly stood up and, bones creaking, he shuffled to the darkest corner of his cell. He brought back a container. “I have here some pimen, which will help me focus on your challenge,” he said. “When did you ask permission to go to hear Cantus Planus?”

“Just after the prandium.”

Father Eusebius carefully poured some pimen in a bowl. “What was she doing when you asked?”

“I don’t exactly remember. I think she was storing the leftovers and preparing to wash the dishes.”

“I see.” The good Father took a sip of pimen, enjoying the moment, taking his time.

I was getting frustrated. “Father, what do you see?”

He didn’t answer, taking another sip. Finally he looked at me and said, “What exactly did she do after she refused your request?”

“I don’t remember,” I sighed. “We were so disappointed that we quickly left her.”

“I see.”

Father Eusebius was getting on my nerves. He had explained to me many times how to be patient with others, but sometimes people could be so slow! Like now. “Father, what the hell do you see?”

His reaction was swift. “Renbaudus, if you want to curse, you must leave the house of God. Cursing make me uncomfortable.”

I lowered my head. “I am sorry, Father. Sometimes I want to get answers quickly.”

“Not sometimes: maybe all the time!” he answered with a smile.

I nodded.

He took another sip, then looked into my eyes and said, “You would do so much better with Josseran’s mother if you would care for your Kairos.”


“My Kairos?”

“Brother Servius hasn’t taught you about Kairos?”

“No Father, unless I was sleeping,” I answered sarcastically.

He laughed. “Kairos is another word coming from ancient Greece and used by Aristotle.


“Yes, I told you Aristotle was one of the greatest thinkers, and he still influences our way of thought today. I suspect he will be influential for a long time.”

He finished his bowl of pimen. “Kairos,” he said, “is a Greek word meaning the right moment, the right opportunity. The Greeks had two words for ‘time’. One was Chronos and the other one, Kairos. The difference between the two is that Chronos is linear. It symbolizes the time that goes on.”

I frowned. “Which time? Now?”

“Yes, Renbaudus! Since you came into my cell, time is going, never stopping. This is Chronos.”

“This I understand. But what about Kairos? Is there a time other than fleeting time?”


Father Eusebius thought for a moment. “Do you know the difference between quantity and quality?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Give me an example.”

I thought for a moment. “I can drink a lot of hypocras, but it doesn’t mean that this very hypocras is good.”

Father Eusebius was surprised. “Good example, Renbaudus,” he said, looking at his empty bowl. “I can tell you that the quantity of hypocras I just drank was small but its quality was great.”

He looked back at me. “With time, it is the same. Chronos is quantity and Kairos is quality. Chronos is just the sun going through the sky and Kairos is your best work during that motion.”

I raised my hand. “Now I understand Kairos. But how does it relate to Josseran’s mother?”

“Actually, Kairos affects everyone, not just his mother. Kairos is how you relate to others, what do you do to make your time worthwhile. You often talk about playing ‘Knights & Heathens’. What do you think? Is it Kairos or not?”

Even though it was cooler in the cell, I had a few beads of sweat on my forehead. I wiped them off, thinking.

“Hesitating?” asked the good Father.

“Yes, because to me it seems to be Kairos since I am improving my skills as a miles every time I play.”

“But you are right to hesitate. The correct answer would be: it depends.”

I nodded. I understood, but I listened carefully to his explanation, hoping to learn something more.

“If you play during your free time it is indeed Kairos,” he said, “but if you use your study time to play your favorite game, you clearly see that it is not.”

“Kairos is doing things at the right time?”

“Exactly!” answered Father Eusebius.

“And I believe we didn’t pick the right moment to talk to Josseran’s mother.”

Father Eusebius extended his arms in a Iesu-like gesture and smiled. “I have nothing else to teach you. Kairos is yours from now on!”


I was surprised. “You are finished? I don’t need to know anything else?”

“No, Renbaudus. You understand the concept of Kairos. Now just go and use it.”

“But Father,” I said, “there is one thing you didn’t explain.”

“What is it?”

I took a deep breath. “How do I know when it’s the right time? It is easy to figure out regarding my games versus my study time, but how about when I have to ask someone else? How do I know if I am choosing the right moment?”

Father Eusebius chuckled. “If we had the answer for that one,” he said, “the world would be much different.”

“So nobody knows?”

“Yes,” he said. “Kairos is not an exact science. That’s why you have to practice. Picture a battle between two armies. When is the right time to launch the attack and ensure victory? There is no formula.”

I frowned. “So our life is a succession of Kairos?”

“Yes! Thucydides was a Greek historian and he studied a lot of the decisions taken by past governments. Was it the right timing or not? What were the consequences? If you are interested, I think the librarium has a translation in Latin of one of his books.”

I waved his offer away as I didn’t want to get dragged towards this Thucydides’ analysis. Boring.

Father Eusebius was now on a roll. “You can see the effects of Kairos everywhere! Even in arts,” he said. “When do you stop adding colors or polishing your masterpiece? When is the right time?”

He stood up, looking somewhere behind me and talking to himself. “Yes, what is the essence of a masterpiece? When is it perfect? Sometimes I wonder if maybe perfection is in imperfection.”

He sat back. Then noticed me. “I am sorry, Renbaudus.”

“That’s fine, Father.” I smiled. “Sometimes I also get carried away by things I like.”

He looked at his empty cup and sighed. “I think Caerus has run away.”

“Caerus? Who is he?”

“In Greek mythology, he was the representation of Kairos,” he said. “Caerus was a handsome man, son of Zeus, but he had a peculiar hairstyle. Just a tuft of hair hanging over his forehead.”

“Why is that?”

“Caerus was always depicted tiptoeing with little wings to his feet. This was supposed to symbolize time flying. He carried a razor, which suggested the fleeting moment of the right opportunity. It’s there…and then…” Father Eusebius made a razor-like movement with his backhand, “it’s gone. It’s cut.”

He misjudged his strength and hit the bowl. It crashed against the wall. I rushed to pick it up. Fortunately it was empty. I turned toward him. “But you haven’t answered my question.”

“Thank you,” said Father Eusebius, taking the bowl from me.

“When Caerus comes along, you have to grab his tuft before he passes you, because the back of his head is bald. Wait too long and there is nothing anymore to catch. You missed your Kairos, your right opportunity,” concluded the good Father, sitting down on his stool.

I was fascinated. “Those Greeks were very imaginative. I can almost see Caerus!”

“Good, my son.” Father Eusebius yawned. “I think it’s a good time for you to go and see if you can grab Caerus’ hair. I think I will catch Morpheus instead.”

I frowned. “Morpheus?”

“That will be another story, Renbaudus.”


I recounted the whole story to Josseran, who became quite fascinated with Caerus. But his analytical mind found a problem.

“This story is flawed,” he said. “If Caerus is the only one to have this tuft of hair, in this case you just pay attention and wait for someone with a similar feature to pass nearby. Just grab it regardless of what you are doing! It must be the perfect timing for something.”

His line of thinking was interesting. I had to submit that to Father Eusebius.

“Enough!” I said, to capture his attention. “We need to work on your mother’s case to make sure we succeed.”

“That’s right!” he exclaimed. “Where do we start?”

I thought for a moment. “As Father Eusebius explained, we must pick the right time. Grab this lock of hair. When is your mother the happiest?”

Josseran looked at me with surprise. “Happiest? I rarely see her happy. She is always worrying about something. Usually related to me.”

“That doesn’t make it easy for us,” I said. “Think, Josseran! She must enjoy something…sometime!”

The Lord of Bagé scratched his head. “She looks peaceful when she comes back from the missa. Or when she eats bread with honey.

“We could seize the moment, just after the missa, and offer her that very treat,” I suggested.

Josseran was surprised. “Renbaudus, you are right! This is a great idea! We can double our chances of success,” he said. “We should try this as soon as possible.”

“What do you want to ask for?”

“I would like to go with you to Berzé. Henry is often allowed to sleep there, but my mother gets really edgy if I want to sleep away from home.”

“You are right.” I nodded. “This is a real challenge.”

“She likes to attend None in the afternoon,” he said. “We should talk to her after that and before she starts preparing dinner.”

Our plan sounded good. We worked next on the rhetoric using Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, so Josseran’s lines would be perfect. He repeated his speech while I acted out the part of a grumpy mother.

“When should we try for real?” I asked.

“Tomorrow is fine. I will make sure that we have some extra bread and honey.”

“I will check on her just after the missa,” I said. “If she is smiling, we will do it. Otherwise we will postpone until the next opportunity.”

Josseran lifted his head up as if talking to the Greek gods. “Caerus, we are going to catch your tuft!”


The next day after the schola, Josseran rushed home instead of going to the scriptorium.

Clementia, his plump mother, was surprised. “Brother Rucelinus didn’t want you to stay today?”

“I decided to come home.”

“For what reason?”

“I wanted to air the hay in our beds,” he said. “It smells stale.”

“That would be very useful. Thank you, my little one.”

Clementia grabbed Josseran and squeezed him like a lemon. “You are being very nice. How is the schola going?” she asked, giving him kisses all over his head. Josseran thought it was fortunate they were home. He didn’t like his mother’s displays of affection. But he had one more question, “You are going to the None prayers, right?”

“Of course, my little prince,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to miss them.”

Josseran was relieved. Everything was going well.

Later in the afternoon, when None was rung in the church to call for the monks to come for their prayers, Clementia left home and Josseran took care of both beds.

Then he checked for the tenth time to make sure that there was enough honey. He even cleaned the plain dirt floor of their room, shooing away a couple of their hens.

A little bit after the end of None, he heard someone running, followed by frantic knocks at the door. I had run as fast as I could to reach his home long before his mother.

“She was smiling!” I said, exulting.

We were ready. The bread and honey sat waiting on the table. The room was cleaner than usual and Josseran had again rehearsed his speech.

We heard several footsteps and muffed voices before Josseran’s mother stepped into the room. She was not alone. Brother Rucelinus was with her.

Clementia’s plump cheeks were pink. “The good brother here was complimenting me for my attendance to the church.”

She then noticed me. “Renbaudus? Welcome to my humble house.” And after that she spotted the honey on the table, and said, “I think a little angel did great deeds today.”

As brother Rucelinus closed the door, she squeezed Josseran and again began covering him with kisses. The Lord of Bagé blushed and gently tried to push her away. “Mother,” he said, “we have guests today.”

“Yes, of course!” she said, “brother Rucelinus was so nice after the prayers.”

“My compliments were well deserved,” he said. “I have rarely seen a lay sister attending the office with such passion. This is a tribute to the late Lord of Bagé, your father,” he said putting thin, bony hands on Josseran’s shoulders.

Clementia’s face grew sad. “Oh my dear Lord of Bagé, I miss you so much!” She began weeping softly.

That was not good for us. Josseran tried to change the mood in the room. “My father was a blessed man and he would have wanted us to share these goods in his memory,” he said pointing at the bread and honey.

Clementia wiped the tears away. “You are right, my son! We must be strong. Soon you will be the new Lord of Bagé and our people will rely on you.”

Josseran looked at me, eyes twinkling. I understood. He had just seen Caerus coming along, his tuft of hair waving in the wind.


We all settled around the small table, cutting bread and spreading honey, after a short blessing. Josseran and I sat on the edge of a bed, while Clementia and brother Rucelinus sat on stools.

The latter looked at Josseran. “You didn’t feel like coming to the scriptorium today?”

“The hay of our beds needed to be changed.” He paused.

“Sometimes I wonder if I am doing the right thing by staying in there so much. One day, I will have to manage the Lordship of Bagé. I cannot find all the answers to my questions while copying and reading manuscripts.”

Brother Rucelinus nodded. “It’s a shame, because God blessed you with so much talent. But I understand your concern.” He turned his stern face to Clementia. “Your son is right: he needs to learn more than reading and writing.”

“What should he practice?” she asked him, concerned.

Josseran had the answer. “At the barns of Berzé,” he said, “the monks manage their finances with the surrounding peasants’ families. They hire them to farm the abbey’s plots, to harvest the crops, and then they store them in the barns to help feed Cluny during the winter.”

I smiled. I could feel Josseran grabbing Caerus’ lock.

“If I could learn from them,” he continued, “I would be able to manage my own lordship with ease, since the size of Bagé is smaller than Cluny’s lands around Berzé.”

What a masterful introduction. Josseran was perfect in his delivery! Even though he hadn’t yet started his argument.

“Wouldn’t it be better to learn here at the heart of the abbey with the grand cellarer who supervises all Cluny’s lands?” argued brother Rucelinus.

“And you wouldn’t be far from home,” added Clementia.

The tuft was slipping away.

Josseran stood up. “You all know me,” he said, looking around the table. “I am very serious about my studies, and I do my best at the schola. Brother Rucelinus, you have seen me for hours every afternoon and evening learning the difficult art of copying a manuscript.”

The grand claustrum nodded.

“If I learn more skills in Berzé, I will be happier. Why? Because my confidence in handling the Lordship will rise. Hence my subjects, well fed, will be contented too.”

I thought the delivery was a little bit solemn, but Josseran was skillfully advancing his rhetoric. Now on to the Logos.

“The skills I can learn in Berzé,” he said, “perfectly match what will be needed in Bagé. If I can manage the cultivation of different crops, then my Lordship, even though small, will prosper. This gives the Duchy of Burgundy another reliable vassal.”

He then sat down, his right hand closed in a fist as if he had Caerus’ hair in it.


A few days later I was back in Berzé. Father Eusebius was not to be seen on his bench because of the hot weather.

The buildings, made of stone, were much cooler. Wiping sweat from my forehead, I headed for his cell. The good Father was sitting on his bed reading a manuscript in a language I couldn’t figure out. He stopped to greet me.

“Ah Renbaudus! It’s been a while. I was wondering if the heat was keeping you in Cluny.”

“The weather is not the reason, Father,” I said. “Homework is. I wish I could come more often.”

“Any questions today?”

“No. Just an update about Kairos.”

He thought for an instant and finally remembered.

“Did you use it?”

“I told Josseran what you taught me, Father,” I said, “because he wanted to escape the iron grip of his mother.”

“Did he make any progress?”

“Yes and no.” I hesitated. “We applied your strategy for grabbing Caerus’ tuft and it was flawless. Josseran added to that a perfect Ethos, Pathos, and Logos that would have influenced any reluctant mother.”

“And it didn’t work?”

“It did! Brother Rucelinus agreed with his words, and you know how fond he is of Josseran.”

“So what is the problem?” Father Eusebius said, raising his white eyebrows. “His mother?”

“She agreed, too.”

“So he did take care of his Kairos?” said Father Eusebius, breaking into a smile.

“Clementia, Josseran’s mother, will…” I hesitated again before going on, “…will come to see you tomorrow.”

What?” The good Father jumped from his bed in a way I had never seen. “She is coming to visit me?”

I nodded.

He sat back down. “Why?”

I could hear some anguish in his voice. I paused and tried a diplomatic answer. “She knows you well, because I often tell her how wise you are and how much you are teaching me through your informal lectures.”

“You do, Renbaudus?”

“Yes, Father, and now that Josseran wants to come here, she is trying to make sure everything will go well. You are like a beacon of knowledge. She wants to be reassured.”

Father Eusebius scratched his white-haired head. “Well,” he said, “I think it’s not too much if all she wants is to make sure her son will be well taken care of. I can do that. I can give her a few words of reassurance.”

I shook my head.

Father Eusebius was surprised. “Is that not enough? What should I do then?”

“She would like to stay here,” I said. “And learn from you.”


Father Eusebius almost fell from the edge of his bed. “What nonsense are you talking about?”

“Clementia thinks that while Josseran learns here about managing crops, she could stay too and spend time with you to learn new concepts.”

“This is not possible! Why do that?”

“She thinks she can learn valuable lessons from you and pass them on to her son,” I said.

The good Father was now sitting straight up on the edge of his bed. “I can help her,” he said, “but I don’t want to have someone around me all the time. If I am here in Berzé it’s because I wanted to be in a quiet place to write and be able to meditate.”

“You can tell her tomorrow.”

“I will.”

“That might put in jeopardy Josseran’s ability to stay here.”

“Renbaudus,” Father Eusebius said with a frown, “please don’t use this kind of tactic with me.”

I smiled. “I learned many things from you.”

“This one? A disguised threat?” he said rather sharply. “I don’t think I have ever taught you that.”

I lowered my head. “True. But I want Josseran to come here.”

“And what do I always say when you are facing a problem?”

“Think!” I said, “That’s what you say.”

“So let’s think and solve this problem.”

The bell of Berzé was ringing Terce when Josseran and his mother arrived. I had stayed there, thinking with Father Eusebius about how we would handle the Bagé family. This visit needed to be just that: a short visit. Josseran could get acquainted with Berzé and his mother could get reassured about the safety of her son.

Clementia had made an effort to dress up. Instead of her usual dark loose gown, she wore a neat green gown that clung to her rotund figure. The top was open to show a white chemise. A loose-fitting wimple tied with a yellow band of silk was draped around her head and shoulders.

Nonetheless, her face showed some signs of worry. The only time she had traveled in all her life was to come from Bagé with her son, after the death of her husband, to Cluny. Since then, the Lordship had been taken care of by Josseran’s aged grandfather who was expecting his grandson to succeed him as soon as possible.

As they dismounted their horses, I rushed to them, happy to see my friend. “Welcome to Berzé! Was it a quick trip, as I told you?”

“Yes it was,” said Josseran. “I am finally glad to see it.”

Josseran was all smiles. But not his mother. “I didn’t know it was so small.”

“If you compare it to Cluny, it is true that it is very small, but it’s peaceful. Berzé is just one of the many barns of the abbey.” I lowered my voice. “It is one of the most favorite places of the great abbot Hugh.”

Clementia nodded. “That’s what he told me when I requested the authorization to move here permanently. He also warned me that Berzé was not Cluny and that I might get bored quickly,” she said. “But I explained that as long as there was a chapel I could go to and pray, I would never get bored.”

I swallowed hard. She was determined to settle in Berzé. We’d better not miss Caerus’ next appearance.


I showed them around. The barns, the chapel, the refectorium and the cells. It took some time.

“Where do you sleep?” asked Josseran.

“In the guestroom,” I said. “Which most of the time is empty.”

“But when the great abbot comes, he has a private room?” said Clementia.

“Not at all,” I said. “He sleeps in the guestroom or in the common room with the other monks. Like in Cluny. There is little private space here. Cells are reserved for the oldest monks.”

“I will sacrifice my privacy for Josseran’s future,” said Clementia, lifting her head. “Where is Father Eusebius? We haven’t seen him yet.”

“During the summer, he goes out very early to get some fresh air before retreating to his cell,” I said. “We will find him on his bench on the other side of the barns.”

Reaching the area of the benches, we noticed that Father Eusebius was praying. “We have to wait,” I whispered. “He doesn’t like to be interrupted.”

We found some benches and sat, waiting. The good Father was mumbling some prayers. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, he lifted his head as if awakening. He waved to us to come.

“You must be Josseran,” he said, smiling, “and you must be his dedicated mother.”

Clementia blushed. “Father, you are too nice to me,” she said. “We are just a modest family trying to make ends meet for the next generation.” She placed her hand on Josseran’s shoulder.

“Renbaudus has told me so much about you,” said the little Lord of Bagé, eyes twinkling. “I’ve been eager to meet you!”

The good Father laughed. “I am afraid Renbaudus is overconfident in his judgment.” He offered Clementia a seat on the bench.

“I am sure he is not,” answered Clementia, while settling on the bench, “and I want to learn from you too.”

“It will be my pleasure to share with you my knowledge, gleaned throughout my trips.”

I stiffened. Was Father Eusebius pushing Caerus out of his hiding place?

“Where did you go?” asked Clementia.

“Many places,” he said. “It would take too long to tell you the details. But I spent many years in the land of the Saracens.”

“In…with the heathens?”

“Yes. I became acquainted with them, learned their language, their customs and read their books,” he said. “My knowledge comes mainly from those readings.”

Josseran was impressed. “You must have fought them hard to get their knowledge!”

Father Eusebius laughed. “Not at all! I befriended them. Otherwise how would I be able to learn their language?”

“Can you say something in the heathens’ tongue?” said Josseran. “I heard that you can get sick just by hearing it.”

The good Father opened his mouth, but Clementia suddenly stood up. “Wait! I would love to hear it,” she said, “but I think it is time to go. We have already taken too much of your time.”

“Mother, already?”

“Josseran, you may stay here today and come back with Renbaudus tonight. I will wait for you. Praying,” she concluded, her voice trembling.

Caerus had been a little bit elbowed and pushed around, but his tuft had been seized.

As Father Eusebius had told me the night before, sometimes the perfect Kairos will not show up for a long while. But it is possible to help it by pushing forward.

By making things happen.


Berzé: small village near the abbey of Cluny.
Cluny: abbey located in Burgundy, France. Cluny was the head of the most powerful monastic movement in the Middle Ages.
None: mid-afternoon prayer around 3 pm. It is supposed to be the ninth hour of the day, hence the name. It is interesting to know that the word “afternoon” comes from “after none.”
Cantus Planus: also called “plain chant” or “plain song”. That was the popular music in Medieval era, sung exclusively in churches and monasteries with no instruments and only one tone. Gregorian chants were a very popular form of Cantus Planus. You can hear one at the beginning of each videoblog.
Great Shadow of Death: of course you know the meaning! (Ahem, just in case, go to this episode to learn more about it.)
Pimen: it is a drink made from wine mixed with spices.
Prandium: lunch.
Aristotle (384BC-322BC): He was one of the Greek founding fathers of Western philosophy along with Socrates and Plato. His views are still actively studied today.
Miles: soldier
Thucydides (460BC-395BC): He was a Greek historian. He is considered the father of scientific history because of his careful research about facts and analysis of decisions taken by governments.
Librarium: you can guess by yourself ;)
Morpheus: he is the Greek god of dreams. He has wings and can take any human form to appear in your dreams. Much better than The Matrix guy!
Scriptorium: it means “place of writing”. It didn’t always exist in a monastery. Often monks would copy manuscripts in their own cells.
Grand cellarer: Do you need any explanations?
Grand claustrum: he was in charge of the librarium and the scriptorium.
Terce: mid-morning prayer around 9am. It is supposed to be the third hour of the day, hence the name.

The Great Shadow of Death (II)

Thursday, June 19th, 1079

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.



The next time I met Father Eusebius, Henry was with me. The Great Abbot Hugh had authorized us to spend the night in Berzé. Delighted at the prospect of more freedom, we rushed there just after the None prayers.

Berzé was one of the barns around Cluny Abbey. Crop harvests were stored there waiting to feed the large population of the mother house. Its peaceful atmosphere and its proximity had made it a favorite of the Great Abbot.

At Berzé, the cena was, as always, pleasant. The harsh Cluniac monastic rules didn’t apply at the small church, and we felt good escaping the detailed rules of Cluny. Sitting among elderly monks, we could talk freely while eating, something that was not permitted at the mother house.

As we were enjoying a warm pottage with freshly baked bread, Father Eusebius looked at me. “Renbaudus, I am curious to know what happened to the Prime cleaning of your classroom.”

Henry turned to me before I could open my mouth. “Now I get it!”

The good Father looked puzzled.

Before he could say anything, I waved my hands. “Please Father, let me explain from the beginning.” I gave Henry a warning look. He shrugged and focused on his pottage.

“After our conversation, I gathered my six classmates who were supposed to do the cleaning of the classroom. I told them that I wanted to play Knights & Heathens. Everyone cheered. I said that I wanted to play in the morning. Josseran who, as you know. is the smartest of the bunch, asked me when we were going to play, as we had no time between Prime, the cleaning, and the start of the lectiones.”

Father Eusebius listened carefully and Henry slowly emptied his bowl.

“I asked my group if they had any ideas, but no one answered. I then suggested that maybe we could play and clean at the same time. They looked at each other and Guy asked how we could achieve that.”

Several other monks started to pay attention. Father Eusebius raised his white, bushy eyebrows. “I am curious too. What was your idea?”

“I explained that we would all be Knights and everything that had to be cleaned would be Heathens. Everyone thought it was a great idea. I asked if they would come next morning after Prime and I got a resounding ‘Yes!’ which pleased me.”

Father Eusebius looked around the table. “I think that was a good idea.”

Everyone agreed.

“So next day after Prime, did everyone come?”


“Every single classmate came. Even Hilduinus who is the youngest and we feel is still a toddler,” I answered, pulling off a big chunk of bread from the still-warm loaf. “I felt proud of myself.”

The good Father frowned.

“I am sorry. I shouldn’t have. Because then, we grabbed our brooms made of boxwood branches and started to feverishly attack the dust all around the room.”

“And this was when the Heathens started to win!” offered Brother Tolius, the prior of Berzé.

I looked down at my remaining pottage. “Yes. It sort of got out of hand.”

Father Eusebius looked around the table. “I think we should congratulate Renbaudus for his efforts.” Several heads nodded. His gaze returned to me. “Tell us what you learned from this first attempt.”

“We were so excited to fight the dust with our brooms that we didn’t notice we were not cleaning anything,” I said. “We were laughing and running all over the place. The dust flew everywhere. A few of us got hit by some else’s broom. And then Brother Servius opened the door.”

Around the table, most of the monks were smiling. Father Eusebius tried to remain solemn. “Was it time to start the first lectio?”

I nodded.

“You must have felt uncomfortable,” said the good Father.

“I thought I was going to die right there! Father Servius was furious. He kicked my butt out of the room and sent me to the Great Prior for punishment.”

Henry was laughing. “That story was very popular around the abbey for the next few days.”

Father Eusebius smiled. “Renbaudus, did you understand what was wrong with your agreement?”

“Yes. It should have been much more detailed.”

“What happened next?”

“The Great Prior, Father Odo, asked me a few questions and I explained about having people work in agreement with you. He then ordered me to clean the whole room by myself after the lectiones were over.”

“Fair enough?” asked Father Eusebius.

“Yes it was, and Henry was nice enough to help me.”

The good Father turned to my friend. “I know we can always rely on you, Henry.”

He shrugged. “Renbaudus didn’t do anything wrong. He tried to make things better. It just didn’t go the way he wanted.”

“I thought the Great Prior would ground me for several days,” I said, “but he surprised me. He told me to gather my group in the afternoon, to review my strategy, and start the Prime cleaning again the next morning.”

“He gave you another chance? That was noble,” said Father Eusebius.

“Yes, but that gave me a lot of ‘Great Shadow of Death’ feelings because I didn’t want to mess up again. So I took a long walk around the walls of the abbey, thinking about what I could do.”

Everyone at the table was paying attention.

In the corner of my eye I saw Father Eusebius retreating a little bit and smiling to himself. That made me feel good. He trusted my abilities. He knew I couldn’t fail.

Brother Tolius couldn’t wait. “Did you find a new idea?”

I looked at Father Eusebius. I must have looked proud.

Of me.

Of him.

“Yes, I did.”


The prior got excited. “So? Tell us!”

The other monks shushed him and they all looked at me.

“As I was walking, I thought the ‘Knights & Heathens’ idea was not good because it didn’t fit in a classroom. I had to find something, a reward within the setting of the room. But I couldn’t think of anything. What we usually like to do happens outdoors.”

Henry nodded. “It is so much fun to be running outside.”

Everyone shushed him.

“One thing I learned a while ago from Father Eusebius,” I said, “is that if you cannot find a good answer to your problem, try to reverse it.”

The good Father nodded in appreciation.

“So I asked myself, what could be helpful for them in the classroom setting?”

The grey-headed monks around the table suggested a few solutions:

“Reviewing lessons?”

“Correcting homework!”


I turned to Henry. “You know what? Each time we have a problem, we should come here and ask them. They have all the answers. And fast!”

We all laughed.

Brother Tolius was still curious. “How did you convince them?”

“After None I gathered my group in the small cloister. They were not really eager to listen to me. They had endured the ire of Brother Servius while getting extra homework. The last thing they wanted to hear was one of my new ideas.”

I was getting thirsty from talking so long in front of such a wise assembly. Henry understood, and gave me a bowl of fresh grape juice. I quickly downed it, cleaned my mouth with the back of my hand, and went on with my story.

“I asked them, ‘Do you always have time to do your homework before the schola? Do you always understand the exercises?’ They shook their heads, not saying a word for fear of having to commit to anything I might offer. I then said, ‘Before the first lectio, we have plenty of time to clean the room. Then those who want to ask a question can do so. But you can only ask one question. If you want to ask a second one, you must first answer a classmate’s question.’ After thinking about it, they all agreed.”

“Very elegant solution,” chimed in brother Gregorius. “A perfect distribution of the weight in a very scalable way.”

I frowned, not understanding what he meant.

Father Eusebius helped me. “He means that you made sure that there were not only people asking questions, but also that everyone got the opportunity to ask at least one. Very shrewd indeed.”

Brother Tolius was again curious. “Next morning, how did it go?”

I smiled. “I had doubts, but everyone came. We quickly cleaned the room and then sat in small groups to help each other. When Brother Servius opened the door, he was astounded to see us, writing, reading, or talking quietly to each other.”

There was silence in the small refectory.

Father Eusebius slowly stood up, his joints creaking. “Thank you Renbaudus, for this enjoyable story. As I keep saying to you and Henry, there is always a way. Just think! There is always an answer. If we cannot see it, often it is because we don’t want to see it. But the solution is there, whether we like it or not.”

I didn’t grasp his cryptic words. I looked at Henry who shook his head, letting me know that he also could not understand what the good Father meant. But by then I was too tired to ask.

Maybe tomorrow.


Berzé: small village near the abbey of Cluny.
Cluny: abbey located in Burgundy, France. Cluny was the head of the most powerful monastic movement in the Middle Ages.
None: mid-afternoon prayer around 3 pm. It is supposed to be the ninth hour of the day, hence the name. It is interesting to know that the word “afternoon” comes from “after none.”
Cena, cenae: dinner, supper.
Lectio, lectionis: lesson, class, lecture.
Ire (from the Latin ira, irae): anger, rage. The words “irascible” or “irate” are derived from it.
Extra: believe it or not but this is also a Latin word meaning “outside of.” Here the meaning suggests “more than the regular homework. Outside of the regular amount.” Think also extraordinary, extraterrestrial, or extra time!

The Great Shadow of Death (I)

Thursday, June 19th, 1079

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.



Whenever I went to Berzé, I could tell that Father Eusebius was excited to see me. I took this feeling for granted, but as I matured, I came to have much more respect for him.

He was a treasure trove of uncommon ideas. His travels and his contacts with different cultures had made him a cultivated man. The time spent with the Saracens had a major influence on him. In their wonderful libraries he had read books from their greatest thinkers and from ancient civilizations.

Even though, in my child’s mind, I couldn’t understand why he had lived among heathens, something must have been good, because he was now such a wise man.

I came to him one day, and started complaining about my classmates of the schola at Cluny Abbey. He stopped me right away, raising his hand.

“Renbaudus,” he said, as he sat in the shade of the huge barns, “please be silent.”

“I am sorry, Father, if I interrupted you,” I said, annoyed at being rebuffed. I sat too on the bench next to him.

“You are not interrupting but I think I heard the voice of the Great Shadow of Death.”

I winced. I knew right away what he meant. The Great Shadow of Death was something he had already explained to me.

“Whenever we are feeling bad, sad, disappointed, angered, or jealous,” he had told me, “anything that makes us uncomfortable, you must know that the Great Shadow of Death has taken you over.”

The first time he had explained that to me, I got really scared. “But Iesu will save me?” I’d responded, panicked.

“No, Renbaudus, He cannot help. Nobody can.”

Tears welled up in my eyes. “Father, this is worse than hell!”

He nodded. “Yes, because you burn. From the inside.”

“But I’ve never smelled smoke coming from my insides!”

“It is because the Great Shadow of Death burns very slowly. You won’t smell it, you won’t see it but you will feel it, especially in your stomach or your heart. Sometimes your eyes will get blurry and that is the smoke of the Great Shadow of Death.”

He paused, giving me time to absorb what he had just said. “It is called Great Shadow because it clouds your judgment, and Death because this repetition of burning from the inside will slowly kill you.”

That was awful!

In my child’s mind, I thought for a while. True, when I was angry my stomach would churn and my eyes would get teary. I hated this feeling! And it was going to kill me insidiously. That was not fair. I looked at Father Eusebius. “If I pray faithfully, can I get rid of it?”

“No. God cannot help. It is inside you, creeping out at the slightest hint of anger.”

His answer left me scared and helpless. I lowered my head.

We stayed silent for a while.

“I can feel it, Father. The Great Shadow is burning here,” I said pointing to my stomach.

“Good, my son. It is important to become aware of it. A lot of people don’t even notice it.”

Father Eusebius took a deep breath. “Can you keep a secret?”

I nodded.

“There is a way to fight the Great Shadow of Death.”


My spirits quickly lifted. “How can I?” I asked.

Father Eusebius put a finger on his mouth while looking around suspiciously. He moved closer and whispered, “Don’t talk too loud. If the Great Shadow can hear you, it’s over,” he said dramatically.

“So what should I do?”

“God doesn’t leave us naked to face our challenges. He always leaves a solution. If you let the Great Shadow of Death take you over, then the fire and the smoke will burn your body and your judgment. You must get higher. Above the smoke.”

I nodded, not really understanding what he meant.

“It is like a ladder leaning against a fortification. If you stay at the bottom of the ladder, you have no chance of survival. If you climb up quickly and surreptitiously, you can reach the top of the wall and may beat your enemy. Right?”

“Yes, Father. Climbing a ladder on a rampart I understand. But how do you climb the ladder inside your body?”

“Primo, by understanding that the Great Shadow has taken you over.”

“I just did, Father!”

“Good! Secundo, you must discover what kind of feeling the Great Shadow is using.”

“Right now, I guess it’s fear. Fear of the Great Shadow.”

“Well done, my son. Tertio is to go higher on the ladder. You have to know that the highest level of this ladder is pure happiness.”

“Happiness? How do I get happy if I am scared like I am now?”

Father Eusebius smiled, and then said, “Climb the ladder. Go higher. Change what is in your mind.”

I cannot!” I blurted.

“Yes you can. You just don’t know that you can,” laughed the good Father. “It will take some time but I swear to you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, that you can. Any of us can. We just don’t know it!”

Father Eusebius looked deep into my eyes. “Do you think God would leave us helpless? He gave us everything we need. We just forgot how to use this divine tool that is our mind!”

“My mind? A divine tool?”

“Yes, Renbaudus. Let me prove it to you by doing a little experiment. Can you remember a happy moment in the last few days?”

“Yes, I can!”

“What was it?”

“When I played Knights & Heathens with my friends.”

“Can you describe what you see in your head?”

“We are running around, laughing, and pushing each other.”

“Do you feel good, thinking about this moment?”


“See: the Great Shadow of Death is gone.”

I was astounded. He was right. I had no more fear. “This is incredible, Father!”

“I told you. It is a divine tool. You must be the master of your mind. Not the other way around. Your mind shouldn’t dictate your thoughts.”


“Decide for you. Renbaudus, you must be the master in your head.”

That’s why I winced when Father Eusebius told me he had heard the Great Shadow of Death coming when I was complaining about my classmates. And I knew what he meant.

I had to be the master. In my head.


“Let’s start again from the beginning,” said Father Eusebius. “What was the reason you came to see me today?”

This time, I carefully chose my words. “I wanted to have your advice about something that is happening at the schola.”

The good Father nodded, listening.

“Our magister, Brother Servius, has asked me to supervise my younger classmates and have them clean the classroom after Prime, before we start the lectio in the morning.”

Father Eusebius raised his white, bushy eyebrows attentively.

“I asked them to come to the classroom when the bells are ringing the end of the Prime prayers but, besides Josseran, very few of them show up. Often, I end up sharing the cleaning with one or two classmates instead of six. They are not serious, they are a problem.”

Father Eusebius grinned. “No Renbaudus, you are the problem.”

His answer took me by surprise. “I am the problem? But I am in the classroom after Prime. They are not!”

“You expect them to be there?”

“Yes, I do. I asked them.”

“That’s why you are in trouble. If you expect something from someone and if that person doesn’t live up to your expectations, you are disappointed.”

“Of course.”

“Renbaudus, never expect anything from anyone!”

“Really? But how do I get things done? How can we clean the classroom together?”

“If your classmates are not coming it is because they don’t have a reason to. If you tell them to be there after Prime, why should they come? That’s why you are the problem.”

“I still don’t understand. What else can I do? Threaten them with my sword?”

Father Eusebius laughed. “You could. But I am not sure you would get great results. Anyway, as soon as you would stop threatening them, they would not come. Think some more.”

I scratched my head. “I could pay them.”

“It is possible. Let me ask you: where is this money coming from? If one day you don’t have any, they will not do the job. Agreed?”

I crossed my arms, unhappy. “Things are complicated. Why didn’t God make our world simpler?”

“Because he wants you to learn. Use your brain. Think my son, think. Can you give me an example from your life in Cluny where things are simple?

I didn’t hesitate. “When we play Knights & Heathens!”

“Why is it so? What’s the difference with cleaning the classroom?”

I laughed out loud. “Father, you’ve never played Knights & Heathens? It’s a great game. There is a lot of action. It’s fun! But cleaning the classroom…”

“I see. Do you have rules when you play Knights & Heathens?”

“We do.”

“Everyone agrees with the rules?”

I smiled. “I know you Father, you always do like Socrates. With your questions, you are helping me find the right answer!”

The good Father chuckled. “My son, you are getting too smart for me.”

“Now I can see why cleaning the classroom is not successful. When I required them to come after Prime, they didn’t agree. I just made up my rules and expected them to follow me. This is why it is not working. This is why I am the problem!”

“Wonderful, Renbaudus!”

“We have to agree on the rules,” I said. “Maybe we can even make them entertaining. That would be a great reward.”

Father Eusebius patted my back. “Ah, this is getting interesting,” he said. “I would be curious to know how you could do that.”

“I will tell you as soon as I…sorry, as soon as we implement those rules.”

“Well done, Renbaudus. You thought hard and found new keys to unlock a difficult situation.”


Berzé: Small village near the abbey of Cluny.
Saracens: Name given by Europeans in the Middle Ages to all who professed the religion of Islam.
Heathens: In the Medieval era, a person who did not hold Christian beliefs.
Schola, scholae: school.
Cluny: Abbey located in Burgundy, France. Cluny was the head of the most powerful monastic movement in the Middle Ages.
Magister, magistri: teacher, tutor.
Prime: Early morning prayer rung by the bells around 6 am.
Lectio, lectionis: lesson, class, lecture.
Socrates (469BC-399BC): He was one of the founding fathers of Western philosophy along with Plato and Aristotle. He is famous for his “Socratic Method” where he would ask a student a series of questions to help stimulate thinking and find ideas.

Ethos, Pathos, Logos and Me (II)

Tuesday, June 10th, 1079

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.

Ethos, Pathos, Logos and Me (I)

Tuesday, June 10th, 1079

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.



Joy filled my soul whenever I visited Berzé. With Father Eusebius supporting me, I always felt like a winner. Back in Cluny, I felt like someone not very smart, especially when studying difficult subjects. My friend Henry helped me. He understood what the teachers meant and explained everything so well.

One can understand why I was looking to escape the iron grip of the Cluny schola for the bucolic atmosphere of Berzé. Here I was again, looking for some encouragement. As usual, Father Eusebius was somewhere in the shadows of the barns. Sometimes he took a quick nap, but always awoke upon hearing my footsteps as I ran to find him.

“Here is my young genius!” he said cheerfully while rubbing his eyes, still red from the nap.

“Father, I am lost! Between the Ethos, the Pathos, and the Legos that brother Sergius taught us this morning, I don’t see the point of all of these useless words! All I want is fight our enemies.”

“Well, Renbaudus,” Father Eusebius said, “you are going to lose.”

“Why? I am working very hard to learn horse riding and swordsmanship. Now only Henry can beat me.”

“And why is this so?” he asked, with a slight smile.

“I don’t know. He is not that much stronger. Somehow he always finds the right moment to strike me. It’s as if he can read my thoughts.”

Father Eusebius laughed out loud.

“Why is it so amusing?” I was disappointed by his attitude.

“Because, Renbaudus, he is reading your thoughts!”

“That’s impossible!”

“Henry has learned to read your body language. Before you move he knows what you are going to do.”

I was shocked. “How can he do that?”

“He is using his brain much more than you. Hence the Ethos, Pathos, Logos and not Legos as you said earlier.

I couldn’t believe it. We had studied such difficult concepts that morning. How could this be linked to Henry’s ability to beat me? “How is it possible? Words and swords? Linked together?”

“Yes, my son. Do you want to know why?”

I nodded, waiting to discover another mystery from my mentor.


“Do you know who Aristotle was?” asked Father Eusebius.

“No I don’t,” I said cautiously. “Was he a valiant knight?”

He chuckled. “He was a knight, yes, but instead of using a sword he used words.”

I frowned. “Words cannot be stronger than a good sword that can kill you.”

“Don’t be so sure,” he said. “If your teacher calls you names and everyone laughs at you, how do you feel?”

“Like… I want to disappear!”

“And my son, what is disappearing? Isn’t it the same idea as that of dying, of being no more present, right here?”

That made sense, and I nodded. “You are right, Father. I know that words can be powerful. If Hilduin does wrong to me, I call him a name that I am sure will sting him.”

“Thank you. You see now that words can be very powerful.”

He paused, smiling. “Let’s talk about Aristotle, this Greek thinker who lived a long time ago. He understood that words equaled power. The power to convince, the power to win someone over, the power to win an argument.”

That was interesting. I looked off in the distance. If I could convince Henry, maybe he would lend me his favorite sword.

Father Eusebius waited until I looked back at him, and then continued. “He spent a lot of time studying, and found the secret to winning a sound argument: the secret of how to have others follow you because of your words.”

“What is this secret?”

“Three magic words,” the good Father answered in a whisper, “Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.”

What? But this is what we studied this morning! This is not a secret!”

“Did you understand what was taught this morning?”

“No,” I whispered.

“So these three words are still secrets for you. And secrets are always magical, Renbaudus. If you want to learn to have the power I just told you about, you’d better understand the three of them!”
“I want to understand!”

“Good, my son. Now tell me what you remember about the morning lectio.”

I kept silent for a while, embarrassed.

“What is the problem? Come on, tell me.”

“I am sorry Father, but I got sleepy. You know brother Sergius’s voice is perfect to doze off to.”

The old cleric shook his head, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “I guess I must start from the beginning.”


“What’s your favorite game?” asked Father Eusebius.

“Knights & Heathens,” I answered, remembering all the fun we had while pretending to be heroes fighting the Infidels.

“Good. Now, who among your friends says, “Let’s play Knights & Heathens”?

“Usually it is Henry.”

Suddenly, Father Eusebius looked at me more closely. He seemed worried. “Why do you and your friends always accept his offer?”

I reassured the good father. “Oh, you know Henry! He is very serious-minded when we play. He tries to balance the teams so we can all have fun. He is so devoted to the game that nobody would dare try cheating.”

“Ethos!” whispered Father Eusebius, with a slight smile on his face.

“I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

“You just said it, Renbaudus. Sincerity! Good reputation! Devotion! These are all the marks of Ethos as defined by the great Aristotle. You play with Henry because he is trustworthy. You wouldn’t play with someone who was known as a deceiver.”

“Father, I get it. If I want to be a convincing person, I need Ethos. I need to be serious minded and have a good reputation. But what about Pathos?”

Father Eusebius reflected for a moment, scratching his white-haired head. “Sometimes when you don’t want to play, what is Henry’s reaction?”

“Actually, it is difficult to resist, because when Henry mentions all the fun I will miss if I don’t play, I usually change my mind. How could I miss this joyful time with my friends?”

“And there is your Pathos, Renbaudus!” he said triumphantly. “It is the emotion that drives us. It can be pleasure, ambition, or anger. Anything that makes us human beings do things we wouldn’t usually do.”

As I thought about Aristotle’s concepts, I wondered if Henry was aware of them, or if it was just natural for him. I felt a little bit envious.

Father Eusebius looked up at the darkening sky and the declining sun. The bell of Berzé sounded None.

“I must go soon,” he said. “Let’s see if Henry is also using Logos. Are there any other reasons he gave you to play this game?”

I kept silent, blushing. Noticing my silence, he looked at me and saw my red complexion. “Uh, Renbaudus, I have to leave, but you wouldn’t want to miss the last of the three secrets that so far you understand so well. Is there something difficult you need to tell? Even to an old and trusted friend?”


I cleared my throat. “It is not that difficult but with you… a holy man…”

Father Eusebius’ face lit up. “I was young too,” he said with a laugh. “We all have desires. There are many beautiful things on Earth created by God.”

I nodded eagerly. “Yes there are beautiful damisels in the village at Cluny. Henry says if we play Knights & Heathens often, we will get better, stronger, and we will win more often.” Trying to sound casual, I added, “I know that the damisels secretly watch our games and cheer for some of us.”

Smiling, Father Eusebius put a hand on my shoulder. “Thank you for trusting me with this matter. God forbid I tell anyone. I will take it to my grave.”

“Thank you, Father. But tell me, is Henry using Logos?”

“Indeed. He is giving you practical reasons as to why you should play. Logos, as you should know, means “word” in Greek. When we talk about Logos, there are no emotions involved, only facts. Logos appeals to your logic. It’s all about why you should do something. In your case, you can enhance your physical skills by practicing this game over and over. To which, by the way, Henry or you, finally suggests…”

I cut off Father Eusebius. “I know! To another Pathos…the pretty damisels.”

He tapped my back. “Excellent! You now understand Aristotle’s three principles to giving a convincing speech.”

“Yes, Father. If I absolutely want someone to help me, I should do three things: primo, state how much I am trusted and respected for my knowledge; secundo, tell that person how much fun he will have helping me; and tertio, explain what he can get or learn by helping me.”

Father Eusebius nodded. “Well said. Don’t forget, though, that your message must be true and appealing to your interlocutor. You wouldn’t want to try to convince an old woman to become a miles.”

I laughed out loud as the sun set over Berzé.

He looked me in the eye. “Could you do me a favor, Renbaudus?”

“Of course Father, and I want to thank you for enlightening me.”

He lowered his voice. “Please, try, in the next few days, to find how to apply the three secrets to your life. You don’t want Henry being the only one enjoying their power.”

“I’ll do my best, and I’ll report to you.”

“God bless you, my son.”

As he was about to stand, he stopped. “Did you know that Aristotle was a teacher?”

“No, but he couldn’t be as good as you, Father.”

He let out a little laugh. “Ah, Renbaudus, you just made my day brighter! Aristotle was a greater teacher than I can ever be. To prove it,” he said, “let me tell you the name of one of his young students: Alexander the Great.”

He stood up and left me wide-eyed and speechless.

Alexander The Great? I thought. The greatest warrior of all times? The man who conquered almost all the known world, never to be defeated?

Benedicite Dominum !” I mumbled, slowly standing up as Father Eusebius cautiously made his way to the chapel.


Berzé: Small village near the abbey of Cluny.
Cluny: Abbey located in Burgundy, France. Cluny was the head of the most powerful monastic movement in the Middle Ages.
Bucolic: charming scenery in the countryside.
Aristotle (384BC-322BC): He was one of the founding fathers of Western philosophy along with Socrates and Plato. His views are still actively studied today.
Lectio, lectionis: lesson, class, lecture.
None: Mid-afternoon prayer rung by the bells around 3pm.
Interlocutor: conversation partner.
Miles, militis: soldier.
Alexander the Great (356BC-323BC): He was one of the most successful military commanders of all time and is presumed undefeated in battle.