Mediaeval writers have a predilection for wondrous and miraculous stories. For us this may seem naïve, especially when such stories are used as exemplum. But were people then really so childish? I have no illusions about the uneducated masses, tiling their land and hardly leaving their village, but the educated? In this story taken from Caesarius of Heisterbach’s Dialogus Miraculorum, two farmers fight even after death, when buried in the same grave. This to the horror of their families, who decided to end their mutual strive afterwards. Did Heisterbach’s readers and listeners really belief this? Or maybe there was not such a strict line between the acceptable and unacceptable. I remember a story of an anthropologist, telling that in the area of Africa where he did his fieldwork, people told him about miraculous events. No, they had not seen these themselves, but they happened some villages away.
The lesson of this story is however clear: people dwelling in small communities should live in peace.
Caesarius of Heisterbach, Dialogus Miraculorum, XI,26
De rusticis qui post mortem in sepulchro contendebant.
In Episcopatu Coloniensi duae generationes rusticorum inimicitias mortales exercebant. Habebant autem duo capita, duos videlicet rusticos magnanimes ac superbos, qui semper nova bella suscitabant, suscitata fovebant, nullam fieri pacem permittentes. Divino igitur nutu factum est, ut ambo uno die morerentur. Et quia de una erant parochia nomine Nuenkirgen, quia sic Domino placuit, qui per illos dissensionis malum ostendere voluit, in una fossa corpora eorum sunt posita. Mira res et inaudita. Cunctis qui aderant videntibus, corpora eadem dorsa verterunt ad invicem, capitibus, calcibus, ipsisque dorsis tam impetuose collidentibus, ut caballos indomitos putares. Mox unum extrahentes, remotius in alio sepulchro tumulaverunt. Et facta est rixa eorundem mortuorum causa pacis et concordiae vivorum.
contendo contendi contentus (-ere): to strife, fight
Coloniensis: of Cologne
inimicitias mortales: deadly enmities
magnanimis: proud, arrogant
suscito (-are): to raise
foveo fovi fotum: to keep warm, nourish
nutus (u stem, only nom sing. and acc. and abl sing. and plur, m.): command
dissensionis malum: the evil of dissent
Cunctis qui aderant videntibus: for all visible (`seeing’), who were present
ad invicem: to each other
capitis…collidentibus: abl abs
calx calcis (f.): heel
caballos indomitus: wild horses
extraho extraxi extractum: to draw out (extrahentes i.e. those present)
remotius: further away
tumulo (-are): to burry
facta…rixa…causa: the quarrel became the cause