7 Jun


MONKS CHOIR photo: Monks Choir Chairs DSCN0108.jpg
They had it made in the good old, bad old days.

I mean, some fellows (very few, really) made what would have seemed to them to be a fortune, usually on the backs of real workers who toiled into early graves. After all, then, like now, was a time in which money lubricated everything and made the world go round. And if you were going to make a pile of cash you really needed others to do the donkey work.

If was only fair, wasn’t it?

But back then (and I’m talking medieval here, Tudor, that mind of period) there was a lot of faith around. God was a really important guy because, rather than being part of a debate over his celestial reality he WAS real. There was no doubt about it. There could be no argument. God and Heaven and Hell were so real they terrified everyone. People back then didn’t realise that the religion that had dominated everything since before they were born was a construct (in the 4th Century) by a Roman ruler who was desperate to hold an empire together when it was showing signs of falling apart. They didn’t know that it had started as a convenient stepping stone that Roman money and Roman power could elevate beyond all reason.

Back then it was everything that ever had been or was. It was more important than wealth, riches, life, death, even love. And the Hereafter was the prize. The Romans, fastidiously, had woven strands of hope into that Hereafter so that Heaven and Hell weren’t all that there was. They invented intermediary states of being. So if a person had committed the odd little sin he might wait around for a time in purgatory, where he might contemplate the reasons for his non-instant arrival in Paradise before seeking eternal forgiveness.

And it was at this point that wealth entered into the equation. If he accrued enough wealth during this life (and I’ve noted already that it was most likely on the backs of the poor and feeble) then he might use some of it in order to pay for his early arrival into Heaven on his decease, and to hell with those who really created the wealth. The church (catholic) arranged it. He paid them and they made sure he went straight to heaven, bypassing purgatory or at least spending less time there than his evils on Earth might have demanded.

Monks were paid to pray for him. More monks were paid even more to chant his achievements and remind their God that he was really a good egg and didn’t deserve the nastiness of purgatory. Money was making not only life on Earth go round, but the Afterlife as well.

And it was all such a neat system. All it depended on for success was unbreakable faith in the reality of Catholic teaching. Whilst that faith held strong, and it did because doubting was most certainly not allowed and visited with colossal punishment if it was detected, the route for money was the poor to the rich then the rich to the church and then to… the pope? If not him then a handful of powerful men of God who lived the purest of lives in the company of prostitutes and rent boys.

All of the above makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea for religion in its most powerful, clinging form to reappear today. Then politicians (those with wealth to spare, say, like those who always do best in our undemocratic electoral system) would be able to bypass Hell and purgatory and spend a few of their ill-gotten pennies on the odd chantry housing choirs of melodious monks singing them to glory as they zoom past “go” on their way to Paradise.

At least someone would see their treasures even if they are pompous pontiffs and priests in bejewelled frocks.

There’s always a downside, though. If the glorious Maggie Thatcher had paid to have her soul forwarded to the Hereafter then the poor sods chanting her on her way would run out of time before they’d done the job properly. Some songs might never end….

© Peter Rogerson 07.06.15


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