Cadfael & Maniples


After writing the first post last night I got a hankering to watch one of the Masterpiece Mysteries(!) that inspired the title of this blog, Cadfael. Some of you might have seen this series and know exactly how good it is, some of you probably have no idea who this crime-fighting Welsh monk is. Let me just say that Sir Derek Jacobi is a stellar actor and it comes out in his portrayal of Cadfael the Benedictine monk in the Abbey of Shrewesbury. I highly suggest renting a few episodes from netflix or some other fine rental establishment.

The reason this got me thinking of poison is because in the series Cadfael is the herbalist and physician in the monastery and oftentimes the particular episode involves someone being poisoned, stabbed, drowned, hung, trampled, set afire. You know, really happy stuff. However Cadfael always gets his man, or if it is a murderess, his woman.

There is something that has always irritated me about the Cadfael series though, and more generally, about portrayals of liturgical services on the silver screen. It always seems that Hollywood, or in this case the BBC, are completely and totally ignorant when it comes to correctly portraying Christian services.

One of the worst is when they have the priest wearing his stole (epitrachelion) on top of his chasuble (phelonion). This bugs me to no end. How hard is it to Google pictures of a mass or liturgy? Honestly, you’d think they were doing it on purpose just to annoy me. In the Cadfael series they have the Abbot wearing all sort of bizarre and interesting pseudo-medieval “vestments” that have no bearing to historical vesture whatsoever. And they seem to think everything looked poor and decidedly worn out, when in fact the Abbeys had some of the greatest vestments of all. This photo below is a shot of a cope from 1040 A.D.


Does this look like it’s made out of home-spun wool? No. It does not. It is silk and gold embroidery, come on people, let’s get things right.

I must say one of the most amusing things that I’ve seen in a long time was Robert De Niro playing a Roman Catholic priest in the movie True Confessions. The thing that struck me was that in the opening scene of the movie he is serving as the priest in a High Mass and, more importantly, is serving correctly. I have included it at the end of this post just because it’s so fun to watch. You see, it isn’t that hard to do your research and do things right.

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