Thoughtful in The Dark

The Monastery and The Sword

March 23, 2022 Ralph Cortes Season 3 Episode 20
Thoughtful in The Dark
The Monastery and The Sword
Show Notes Transcript

Since I can remember, I have loved not only History, but moreover, everything that deals with medieval subjects and/or The Crusades. This episode is one that I wrote considering actual historic details and accounts of some of the many books I have read. I combined a fictional character and places to actual historic events. The result of this production gives me chills every time I listen to it. If you love History as much as I do, this episode will blow your mind! I hope you like it.

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The Monastery and The Sword

In a faraway region of the country of Valiak, a precinct separated by the valleys of Northttad and Dormth, lies an architectural wall of a building known as the Makkad Monastery. Erected in between the 9th and 10th centuries, its dark past and tormented history have preceded the rhetoric that most of its occupants share to this day.

It is said that the foundations of this magnificent structure sit on the graves of many of its victims. The land by which its known to represent, have been said to be haunted by the struggling undead entities that once resided there.

But none of the stories have resonated through history as loud as that of a monk named Rumak. History shares through oral tradition that this young man separated from society as a devoted member of the church and ended up as a member of the Brotherhood of Volm. This organization was rendered its power by the highest ecclesiastical authorities, with its main mission being to punish those who resisted against the church’s creed and established holy laws of the land.

There was no oversight as to how these laws were enforced, but historical evidence points to a violent and bloody clash of non-believers, sinners and spiritual rebels being slaughtered unmercifully by the swords of those members of the brotherhood, to include Rumak. In terms of what they received as punishment, was determined by the severity of their accusations. But historical records indicate that extremities were amputated, internal organs removed, and even session of beheading.

Rumak was assigned to perform many of these atrocities. He felt no guilt, no remorse, and of course, no need for repentance as he felt this was the right thing to do for his country, for his people, and for the church. And then, came that evening. That night when the slotted execution of a rebel history came to know as unidentified was scheduled. Rumak was the executioner. The rebel was to be beheaded—according to church—for transgression against the church and its people, having taken part of a sinful and unwanted sexual exchange with a married woman. As later revealed by the church, the sentence was justified, and all defense arguments by the convicted sinner were never heard.

With just hours ahead of the planned execution, Rumak decided to walk about the monastery in search for mental and spiritual fortitude. His room was in the west wing of the monastery. As he opened his door, a large hallway directed him to the main quadrant of the building to the east, or to the high priest offices and administrative affairs to the west. Once at the end of the eastern side of the hallway, a large and circular stairway directed him to higher floors where more rooms were available, and where high-priced war trophies laid safeguarded by the monastery’s high guard battalion. The smell of the blood shed for the occupation of these relics was almost vivid in the air.

But the executioner Rumak, decides to head downstairs. His steps, marked by the heavy boots he wore made a loud clicking sound as his steps seemed to sing a deplorable melody with each step. All the lives he had taken up to that point spelled each word that monastery conveyed. Its mystery, its calamities, its atrocious existence. They were all in the air and in inside the loud echo each step produced.

Once at the bottom levels of the monastery, the look and the energy in the air changed. Rumak found himself in another hallway, although this one seemed to be headed nowhere. There were no doors. No rooms on sight. Just a long corridor that almost disappeared in the distance. It was so quiet, that it almost seemed like the sounds of death and the dark history of the place became audible. The horses, the sword strikes, the screams; they were all outlining every inch of that architecture. The floor was decorated by tiles in both red and black colors. The roof so high up that looked almost invisible through the vague efforts from Rumak to distinguish.

He decides to walk toward the infinite direction of that senseless hallway. His boots once again, singing the melodies of death as went on. To his surprise, on the walls, were picture frames containing some of the church’s historic and most significant triumphs. From battles to church approved executions, these historic events were laid in front of him as a reminder of not only the undeterred determination from the church to establish its power, but also to make everyone understand the price of refusing to obey.

Among them, Arnold of Brescia also known as Arnaldus, an Italian canon regular from Lombardy, called on the Church to renounce property-ownership and participated in the failed Commune of Rome of 1144-1193. Exiled at least three times and eventually arrested, Arnold was hanged by the papacy; his remains were burned posthumously, and the ashes thrown into the River Tiber. Gerard or Gherardo or Gherardino Segarelli was the founder of the Apostolic Brethren (in Latin Apostolici). He was burned at the stake in 1300. Next, was Fra Dolcino. He was the second leader of the Dulcinian reformist movement who was burned at the stake in Northern Italy in 1307. Following, was Matteuccia de Francesco. An alleged Italian witch and nun, known as the "Witch of Ripabianca" after the village where she lived. She was put on trial in Todi in 1428, accused of being a prostitute, having committed desecration with other women and of the selling of love potions since 1426. She was judged guilty of sorcery and sentenced to be burned at the stake.

Joan of Arc considered a heroine of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years' War. She was burned at the stake by the order of Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais. Following her depiction was that of Jan Hus, who became a Church reformer and the inspiration of Hussitism, a key predecessor to Protestantism, and a seminal figure in the Bohemian Reformation. Hus is considered by some, to be the first Church reformer. He was executed under the orders of Baldassarre Cossa, and the Council of Constance. 

The so-called accomplishments were endless. And those hallway walls were all filled with them.  Hundreds of executions and kills in the name of the church. They were all displayed until the eyes could see no more. Rumak kept his pace. He walked and digested each execution display admirably until the moment when he can clearly see a door at the end of the hallway. This door was made of heavy wood with a metal framing. Its swings beautifully handmade with excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail. It had no color. The wood’s natural maroon and beige taste made it even more beautiful. And at the center top of this astonishing piece there was a placard. A sign that identified its purpose for being there. This golden and engraved piece read Caliburn. Rumak’s amazement was overwhelming! He knew exactly what that name meant. Richard I was King of England from 1189 until his death in 1199. Richard is known as Richard Le quor de lion or Richard the Lionheart, because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior. Richard had already taken the cross as Count of Poitou in 1187. His father and Philip II had done so at Gisors on January 21, 1188, after receiving news of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin. After Richard became king, he and Philip agreed to go on the Third Crusade. The greatest conquers and kills during these endeavors, were made by his sword, the one he called Caliburn. Behind this door, laid this majestic piece of military and church history. The weapon used by one of the greatest crusade commanders ever to fight for the liberation of the church in the Jerusalem region against the sultan Saladin.

As he opened the door, the background was filled with the chants of battles-past and the tales of the savagery of battle and the thirst for power. The glow that shaped the sword was inexplicable. The dim light that was warming the room, came only from three separate torches hanged from the cornered walls that formed a triangle. Caliburn was in the middle. And although illuminated, this source of light was not strong enough to convey such radiancy. It seemed as if Caliburn glowed with its own source of energy. Sounds of battle and conflict slowly flew from within its material composition and filled the room with its violent past.
Caliburn was formed by a golden crest at the top of its handle. Beautifully crafted and with specific minute details, this semi-rounded crest had a circle in its middle. Inside this circle was the face of a lion. Its eyes were red. It had a short handle covered in black leather material with interlaced triangular metal decorations of flowers. Preceding the blade section, there was a beautiful piece of stabilizer with a dragon carved on each side. The blade, although thin, was made out very hard and sharp metal. Ideal for rapid swings and handling while riding on a horse. Rumak could not contain both the excitement and the reaction to what was taken place. Here in front of him was the sword of Richard the Lionheart, Caliburn. And as this realization took over him, the bells of the monastery began to toll, reminding him of his duties ahead. It was time to become the executioner. He tightens his gloves with the symbol of the Brotherhood of Volm embroidered on them and then begins his walk back to the site. The sharp sound of his boots registering such events once again. 

Upon reaching the area of execution, he is surprised by the sight. There is no one there. The lot is empty. A high-ranked guard of diocese with a serious and ominous stare on his face, points to a door located in the eastern corner of the open plaza. A door normally used only by officials and high clergy of the church. He then begins his small walk toward this door as the same time the bells cease from making its announcement. As he opens the large and beautifully crafted door, he is confronted by what he sees. Instead of a normal execution ritual, he notices a sort of ceremony instead. High priests, servants and officers, all members of the military ensemble, surround a body that lies with the highest honors and colors of the monarchy. Rumak is now feeling confused. He has been summoned not to kill, but to form part of a special ceremony instead.  The details previously made public by the church concerning the condemned, were false. The information was only published to disguise the deployment of higher ranked military personnel, along with royalty and high church priests.

To his amazement, he recognizes the colors, and he recognizes the wound. On the left shoulder of this lifeless body, was a bloody mark. As he got closer to the remains, he noticed that there was still a piece of the arrow with it. Although the forces that accompanied him tried to remove this section of the arrow off him, their efforts proved futile. There on that bed, risen almost like an altar, was the body of the owner of the sword he just admired minutes before. He was in the presence of the body of Richard I, Richard the Lionheart. As both of his admiration and confusion began to redefine his facial expressions, a high priest explained the procedure. Richard the Lionheart’s heart and internal organs were to be removed from his lifeless body before the body conservation and embalmment took place. This was the day’s mission for Rumak. He was to remove all these body parts for posterity.

Rumak removed his gloves, and after a lengthy and detailed ceremony, prepared to conduct his duties. Richard survived this wound. History recounts that he was still alive and capable of giving orders and make rational decisions. But the severity of the infection in his wound transformed into gangrene, which ultimately killed him. As Rumak removed the heart of this fearless warrior, it was placed in a ceremoniously decorated container to be later taken to Rouen, Normandie for proper burial. After the heart was treated in such respectful manner, so were his entrails, which were also prepared to travel, but this time to the Chalus commune in western France, where he died. The rest of the embalmment continued with the use of various substances, including frankincense, a symbolically important substance, because it had been present both at the birth and embalming of the Christ.  

No one knows the exact location of the Makkad Monastery to this day. The latter story of whatever happened to Rumak after these events is also a historical mystery. Details and facts concerning these events have been gradually lost in time. But one thing is certain, the reaction Caliburn displayed upon Rumak’s presence that night in that hidden room of the monastery, validates the argument that perhaps, not all is lost, and that we may yet to find the real end of all this story. The story of mankind has always been associated with the violence it can be a part of, and this did not exclude the church. And for that reason alone, as the narration of this story nears its end, we cannot say the same about Rumak, Caliburn, and the Makkad Monastery. It is possible, that this story never really ended. There is room for the opportunity of more to be found. If there’s something that time has proven through history, is that it always reveals the answers to many of our questions. We only must exercise patience and the virtue of an opened mind.

R. Cortes / Thoughtful in The Dark 2022