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As my manuscript for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, a tale of the lengths a medieval Saxon mother will go to protect her children, awaits the copy editor, I am compiling a list of tweaks to make. For instance, mention that the Saxon family has to go through the city of Cologne to reach the west gate.

But there is one note where I wrote, “Never mind. Was right the right time.”

It is about tonsures. When Merovingian Queen Mother Itta converted a royal Frankish villa to a double monastery at Nivelles, she had her daughter Saint Gertrude tonsured  to protect the girl’s virtue.

Nuns were tonsured? Well they did cut their hair close, the result of which was hidden under a veil. And this abbey for monks and nuns might have started out as following the Rule of Saint Columbanus or something close to it. The clerics who consulted Saint Gertrude were Irish.

So I though I would need to tweak Anglo-Saxon priest Father Osbald’s response to nine-winter-old Sunwynn’s question, “Do we have to shave our hair in that strange way?”

But by the mid-eighth century, most abbeys were shifting to Benedictine rule, and Nivelles likely was one of them at that time. So Father Osbald reply is still, “No, child. The tonsure is an honor reserved only for men of the clergy.”

As part of my research into tonsures, I encountered a controversy over exactly what hairstyle eighth century male clerics were supposed to wear. Visit English Historical Fiction Authors for my post on a tiff over tonsures.

Roman tonsure

Clerics sporting the Roman tonsure (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)

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