Iona was an important religious centre in the 8th century, and a busy place. Monks ferried passengers between the mainland and the Holy Isle; used the Monastery's boats for trade, and traveled on pilgrimages further afield, or to convert others to Christianity. They were accomplished sailors and fishermen.
Below is a more recent version of the coracle, similar to the one Durstan and the Monks could have used. It's light enough for a man to carry on his back when he's away from the water.
Some of the men were farmers, who reared sheep and grew crops, as Durstan does. There were the craftsmen and artisans too; a blacksmith and others.
I began to see this as a world where there wasn't a great deal of love. Faisal, had become Abbot on the death of a relative, and not because of any vocation or humanitarian reason. He is motivated by power and greed; more concerned with the size of his coin chest than a Monk's soul. The punishments are severe, and so he maintains control.
I read the Benedictine rules written in the 5th century. It seemed to me that men and boys could easily be deprived of all sensory pleasure if an Abbot followed these, and religious conviction, to the extreme. Monks and oblates shouldn't laugh or smile. There were prayers every night to interrupt sleep, celebacy too; little food, and fast days to follow. A way of breaking a man's spirit if placed in the hands of an Abbot such as Faisal!
The 8th century British Isles was a land ruled by Abbots, warlords, and powerful men who set themselves up as kings. There were wild animals in the forests, and those who had been cast out for violent behaviour, or whom circumstance had made desperate. If a Monk ran away he wouldn’t necessarily have a weapon to protect himself, and would only survive if he could find enough food, fresh water and shelter to do so. It would be difficult to get another Lord to take him on. The only redress lay then with a greater Churchman or King, but so many others would already be asking for their help.
We have evidence that the Church tried to intervene, as St Aidan did in the 7th century at Lindisfarne, but this wasn't the case everywhere. Without a doubt, the quality of life in 794AD depended on having the right Abbot, Lord or King; also if you were free, and not enslaved, choosing a God or Gods whom you believed could offer you their protection.
This was Durstan's world, until he met Ailan...
and there's been another great 5***** star review on Amazon for The Monk who Cast a Spell:
"A really enjoyable look into the life of a 17 year old Monk, around the time of the first Viking raids... Exciting moments... brutality, bravery and love. I hear there is to be another book to continue the saga - can't wait."
If you would like to read Durstan's story please click Amazon
Thank you for visiting the Hope and Dreams blog. I hope you are having a great Easter!