Excerpts from the Visitation Register of Eudes (in Latin, Odo) Rigaud, Archishop of Rouen, 1248-69
Note: Eudes was born around 1200-10, and was consecrated Archbishop of Rouen in March, 1248. He conducted numerous “visitations” (inspections) of the religious houses and parish clergy in his archdiocese in Normandy. At a visitation, the archbishop examined the assembled religious community openly, and also, when necessary, met privately with individuals. At the end of a visitation the archbishop gave orders, as needed, for correcting problems and punishing individuals.
Source: Sydney M. Brown, trans., The Register of Eudes of Rouen, ed. Jeremiah F. O’Sullivan (New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1964), pp. 2, 4, 12, 13, 16, 18, 19.
[18 July 1248. At Montivilliers, a wealthy abbey of Benedictine nuns.] We visited the monastery and found everything in it to be in good condition.
[20 July 1248. At Jumièges, an abbey of Benedictine monks.] We arrived at Jumièges and made a visitation there. We found that Brother William of Beaunay and Brother William of Bourg-Achard were ill-famed of the worst vice [sodomy]; we decreed that they be sent to other monasteries, there to expiate their offenses. Likewise, we found that the subprior was a disturbing element among the brothers; we decreed that he should be removed altogether from the office of subprior.
[31 July 1248. At Envermeu, a Benedictine priory dependent on Bec.] At Envermeu. We visited the priory and found that they have an income of four hundred pounds and more. They are burdened with a debt of three hundred pounds. The prior keeps no accounts of the condition of the house; we ordered him to cast [reckon up] his accounts at least four times a year. Sometimes they eat meat when it is not necessary; we ordered them to abstain from eating meat.
[13 September 1248. At Beaulieu, a priory of Augustinian canons.] At Beaulieu. They have an income of four hundred fifty pounds; they owe one hundred eighty pounds. Everything is in good condition.
[22 September 1248. At Ouville, a priory of Augustinian canons.] We were at Ouville again. We found that the prior wanders about when he ought to stay in the cloister, nor, indeed, does he remain in the cloister one day in five; he does not follow the rule of the monastery; he is a drunkard and of such shameful drunkenness that, because of his inebriety, he sometimes lies out in the fields; he attends festivities, drinking bouts, and banquets given by lay folk; he is incontinent [sexually active], and his relations with a certain woman in Grainville and with the lady of Routot are subjects of scandal; there is also a certain Agnes in Rouen. Item, Brother Geoffrey is ill famed of [i.e., is notorious for his relations with] the wife of Walter of Ecaquelon, who bore him a son. Item, the sources of income are not well written down; we ordered that they should be better kept. Item, we found that the prior, despite our predecessor’s prohibition that he should not undertake the execution of anyone’s will, has undertaken that of Dreux.
. . . Item, William, priest of Cailleville, was convicted of drunkenness, and he confessed and swore in our presence that if anything more be heard about him on this infamy, and if it be worthy of belief, he will regard his parish as resigned from then on. Item, the priest of St-Vaast-de-Dieppedale was convicted and confessed that he was guilty of playing ball in public, in which game one of the players was injured, and he swore to us that if he should be convicted of this again he would regard his parish as resigned from that time on. Item, the priest at Ermenouville was convicted of [sexual] incontinence, and he confessed and swore to us that if any more of this infamy be heard, and if it be worthy of credence, he would regard his church as resigned.
[13 October 1248.] [W]e visited the priory of St-Martin [-Ouen?]-de-Gisors. We found that the monks, as of custom, ate meat, were not accustomed to observe the rules of fasting, wore unauthorized pelisses [outer garments made of animal skin with the fur or wool on the inside] in violation of the Rule, and slept on feather beds. We ordered them to keep the fasts, to put away their unauthorized pelisses and feather beds, and to refrain from eating meat. Only two monks were in residence. They have an income of forty pounds of Paris; they owed nothing.
[4 January 1249. At the Benedictine abbey of St-Armand-de-Rouen.] We visited the monastery of St-Armand-de-Rouen, where we found forty-one veiled nuns and six due to take the veil. They make profession only when they receive the archbishop’s blessing. We ordered that when they had reached the age for taking the vows, they should wait yet another year before making profession. Sometimes they sing the Hours of the Blessed Mary and the Suffrages [anthems and prayers to the saints, said after Lauds and Vespers] with too much haste and jumbling of the words; we enjoined them to sing these in such a way that those beginning a verse should wait to hear the end of the preceding verse, and those ending a verse should hear the commencement of the following verse. . . There are three priests in perpetual residence. They [i.e., the nuns] confess five times a year. They do not keep the rule of silence very well; we enjoined them to correct this. They eat meat freely in the infirmary, to wit, three times a week. Sometimes the healthy ones eat with the sick in the infirmary, two or three with one sick sister. They have chemises [linen underwear, forbidden by the Rule], use feather beds and sheets, and wear cloaks of rabbits, hares, [civet] cats, and foxes; we utterly forbade the use of rabbit skins. The nuns sleep cinctured and in their chemises. [The Benedictine Rule required monks and nuns to wear their cinctures (belts) at all times, and to sleep in their habits.] Each nun receives a measure of wine, but more is given to one than to another; we ordered that wine should be given to each according to her needs and in equal measure, and if one of them should without permission give a portion of her wine to another outside the house she should be compelled by the abbess to go without wine the next day. The monastery has debts amounting to two hundred pounds and an income of one thousand pounds. The abbess does not give detailed accounts to the community at large; we ordered her to cast her accounts each quarter.