Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Brotherhood of Death

If you lived in 15th century Italy and found this scary cloaked man rattling his chains behind you then you were in some serious trouble. He was a member of the fraternity called The Brotherhood of Death and his job was to make a condemned prisoner's last days on earth more comfortable. He showed up in your prison cell before you were to be hanged, cut your hair, got that last meal, and then said a few prayers for your soul. Then, he followed behind you on your way to the gallows and sometimes collected alms for your soul. After your execution, he was also the guy who was responsible for cleaning up the executioner's mess - ie. collecting the rope and burying the corpse in a mass grave.

The executioner gets all the glamour while the Brotherhood of Death guy is just another one of those underappreciated worker bees of the Renaissance.

Sournces and Futher Reading:
Engraving - Cesare Vecellio
Jacob, P. L. Manners, Customs and Dress during the Middle Ages, London, Chapman and Hall, 1876.

6 comments:

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

You always find the most fascinating tidbits of history!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Yes, but how many fingers does he have?

Very cool forgotten history -- Elizabeth Kerri is right, you do have the most fascinating tidbits of history. :)

Mindy said...

Oh MORE, more, more! I love this sort of stuff!
(btw, how's baby doing? Is he letting you get some sleep yet?)

Rosie said...

'd probably die of a heart attack if this crept up behind me and handed me a cup of tea.

Bearded Lady said...

Elizabeth and Susan - thanks!

Mindy - He actually has been a bit tough lately. He must be going through a growth spurt again. I am awful at that whole letting them cry it out thing. I just can't do it.

Rosie- ya, you would think they could put on something a bit more cheery on your execution day.

Mindy said...

A Clown would probably scare me more than Brother Death would. Clowns are such scary creatures!