The Monks of St. Norbert the Hedwig

Sep 24, 2008

Posted by: SueTLC | Comments


Here is the tale of The Monks of St. Norbert the Hedwig, or more accurately a cool story from the Hexham Courant I saw one day pop up in the gazillion google alerts I get each day.

While I did not think this was not particularly a front page of Leaky News worthy item, it really did catch my attention, because it’s one of those offbeat, random stray tangential background (sorta) facts which perhaps influence the creation of the world of Harry Potter which appeal to me so. It also contains a bit of history, history history, and especially- medieval history, which I just love so very much.

This piece involves the story of a tiny village of Blanchland, which as the paper notes is “one of only six listed villages in England, takes its name from the 12th century “White Monks” who founded its abbey.

The White Monks were also called the Norbertines, after their founder, St Norbert, whose mother happened to be called Hedwig of Guise.

As any fool knows, Norbert was the baby dragon adopted by Harry Potter’s giant friend Hagrid, and Hedwig stars in all seven Potter books as Harry’s grouchy owl. Thus Rowling is a boffin ’ Q.E.D.”

Q.E.D. INDEED! It would appear our Norbert was no master of riding animals for he apparently saw the error in his ways for he was “born around the year 1080 with a silver spoon in his mouth, Norbert had a severe attack of piety after falling off his horse in a thunderstorm. He swapped his velvets and silks for sackcloth and began a new life of holy deprivation, deliberately looking for icy puddles to walk through in bare feet.”

He soon gained followers, and later his order, The Norbertines (am waiting for the new Wizard rock group to be named as such, what a fun name!) were granted a plot of land, and though their abbey later faded away, there remains a tea room -The White Monks tea room. It is described as such as being “in the village square, with its paired lancet windows and steeply pitched roof, has a medieval, chapel-like air about it, probably thanks to its designer Samuel Sanders Teulon.

SS Teulon has been called the “rogue architect” of the mid-Victorian era, and he set his gothic stamp on houses and churches up and down the country, leaving them bristling with ribs, spires, arches and columns.”

Not quite like Madam Puddifoots I should think, but fascinating none the less. You have to wonder though, if say people like Stuart Craig and those who would create the sets for the films, and now for the theme park even pay attention to random things like this. In my own mind’s eyes, I’ve often pictured the villages of Hogsmeade being a bit more haphazard and hodgepodge, being full of buildings in all manner of architectural style and structure, built through the years by the various generations of wizards that inhabited them. This is one of the many great hopes I have for the Scottish book, that Jo will give some random background in not just only the relationships and origins of the Founders, but as well as tiny hints, glimpses of the beginning of say the Leaky Cauldron or how Gringotts, and most especially, the building of Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, with all the various hidden rooms and chambers.

Ahhh such fun FUN to daydream about-in the meantime I really like the name St.Norbert the Hedwig, and if I ever made a wizard rock song or group I think I shall use that!

Finding Hogwarts

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