Life in a Medieval College: The Story of the Vicars-Choral of York Minster

By Frederick Harrison | Go to book overview

PART FOUR: DISPUTES

CHAPTER 9
THE YEARS 1344-1347

When the great secular collegiate churches of this country were being founded, the addition of minor corporations of vicars to their constitutions can hardly have been contemplated. At York, for almost a century, the canons appear to have kept their residences with sufficient regularity to render unnecessary any recognised system based on the maxim, qui facit per alio facit per se. In the absence of any records earlier than the middle of the thirteenth century which might have thrown light on this point, it is possible only to speculate. It cannot, however have been very long after the year 1252 that either disinclination or inability to sing the offices or abstention from fulfilling the optional lesser residences1 rendered corporate and official action on the part of the chapter essential if opus Dei was to be observed with the diligence and the care that were worthy of a cathedral and metropolitical church. It may reasonably be concluded that it was during the second half of the thirteenth century that the prebendal system was weighed in the balances and was found wanting.2 While the regular clergy, under conditions in respect of the enclosed life which varied considerably, were kept close to their old-established practice of worshipping, conferring, working, eating and sleeping in common, the great colleges of secular clergy, who were bound only loosely to the ideal of worshipping and conferring together, had no work to do in common, and both ate and slept in their own houses, in which there was no compulsion for canons to reside except during their first, or greater, residences. At a time when great ecclesiastics might also

12

____________________
1
) Residence was of two kinds, viz., the greater (or compulsory) first residence of 26 weeks, and the lesser (or optional) residence of 24 weeks.
2
) The reason for this has been given in chapter II.

-177-

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