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Goliard (Medieval clergy)

They were chiefly clerics who served at or had studied at the universities of France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and England, who protested the growing contradictions within the church through song, poetry and performance. Disaffected and not called to the religious life, they often presented such protests within a structured setting associated with carnival, such as the Feast of Fools, or church liturgy.[1] […]

The goliardic class is believed to have arisen from the need of younger sons to develop means of support. The medieval social convention of primogeniture meant that the eldest son inherited title and estate.[5] This practice of bestowing the rights of inheritance upon the eldest son left younger sons to seek other means by which to support themselves. Often, these younger sons went, or were sent, to the universities and monasteries of the day, where theology and preparation for clergy careers were a major focus.[5] Many felt no particular affinity for religious office,[5] and often could not secure an office even if they desired one because of an overabundance of those educated in theology.[6] Consequently, over-educated, under-motivated clerics often adopted not the life of an ordered monk, but one mainly intent on the pursuit of carnal pleasures.

[…] Expressing their lusty lifestyle, the goliards wrote about the physicality of love, in contrast to the chivalric focus of the troubadours.[10] They wrote drinking songs, and reveled in riotous living.[4] Their satirical poems directed at the church were inspired by their daily worlds, including mounting corruption in monasteries and escalating tensions among religious leaders.[11] As a result of their rebellious writings against the church, the goliards were eventually denied the privileges of the clergy.[4]  […]

The University of Paris complained:

‘Priests and clerks.. dance in the choir dressed as women… they sing wanton songs. They eat black pudding at the altar itself, while the celebrant is saying Mass. They play dice on the altar. They cense with stinking smoke from the soles of old shoes. They run and leap throughout the church, without a blush of their own shame. Finally they drive about the town and its theatres in shabby carriages and carts, and rouse the laughter of their fellows and the bystanders in infamous performances, with indecent gestures and with scurrilous and unchaste words.[14]’

Source: Goliard – Wikipedia


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Clerici vagantes (Medieval wandering clergy)


  1. Tim B.

    “A peculiar type of vagantes arose in France in the twelfth century, later spreading to England and Germany. These were the roving minstrels: mostly dissolute students or wandering clergy, first called clerici vagantes or ribaldi (“rascals”), later (after the early 13th century) chiefly known as goliardi or goliardenses, terms apparently meaning “sons of Goliath”. They were masters of poetic form, but many councils of the 13th and 14th centuries sought to restrict the goliards and their excesses[which?]. These measures seem to have practically suppressed the goliards in France by the end of the 13th century, but in Germany they survived under various names until the late 15th century. Hugo von Trimberg devoted a special chapter of his Der Renner (“The Runner”) to the ribaldi and other vagantes, and in England Geoffrey Chaucer alluded to them in uncomplimentary terms.”

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