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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Cistercian clothing

The following anecdote is recounted by Walter Map c. 1181-93:

The lord king, Henry II, of late was riding as usual at the head of all the great concourse of his knights and clerks, talking with Dom Reric, a distinguished monk and an honourable man. There was a high wind; and lo! A white monk was making his way on foot along the street and looked around, and made haste to get out of the way. He dashed his foot against a stone and … fell in front of the feet of the king’s horse, and the wind blew his habit right over his neck so that the poor man was candidly exposed to the unwilling eyes of the lord king and Reric. The king, that treasure-house of all politeness, feigned to see nothing, but Reric said sotto voce, ‘A curse on this bare-bottom piety’. I heard the remark and was pained that a holy thing was laughed at, though the wind had only intruded where it was rightfully at home. However, if spare diet and rough clothing and hard work cannot tame them, and they must have ventilation too to keep Venus at bay, let them go without their breeches and feel the draught. I know that our flesh – worldly and not heavenly though it be – does not need such defences: with us Venus, apart from Ceres and Baccus, is cold: but perhaps the Enemy attacks those more fiercely whom he knows to be more stoutly fenced in. Still, the monk who tumbled down would have got up again with more dignity had he had his breeches on.

[Walter Map, De Nugis Curialium - Courtiers’ Trifles, ed. and tr. M. R. James, rev. C. N. L. Brooke and R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford, 1983), p. 103.]