DCD Reg. III f. 139r.

Registered copies of letter of confraternity, 1431

The monastic archive contains a number of original letters of confraternity from other religious communities, granting spiritual benefits to the monks of Durham. The monastic registers contain copies of the letters whereby they granted to others, religious and lay, such benefits. The form of such letters varied slightly, and hence it was desirable to copy into the register the full text of each. Here, as usual, the recipient, Richard Neville earl of Salisbury is named before the prior and chapter and greeted warmly 'deuocionis intime continuum incrementum et gloriam consequi sempiternam' [view]. His liberality and affection towards St Cuthbert and the monastery 'inducunt vt vobis gratitudinis vicissitudinem spiritualiter rependamus. Vnde vos in confratrem spiritualem capituli nostri Dunelm- admittimus per presentes Vobisque in quantum in nobis est omnium missarum vigiliarum ieiuniorum oracionum predicacionum diuinorum officiorum ceterorumque operum pietatis que per nos et successores nostros tam in monasterio nostro predicto quam in cellis ab eadem [!] dependentibus fiunt aut fient inperpetuum domino largiente participacionem concedimus specialem' [view]. And when from this light he by death shall be called away, and this to them with certainty shall have been intimated, for him, as for their other dead brothers, they will render the customary suffrages of prayers in each future year for all time.

Letters such as these are one of the few documents that touch on the central spiritual activities of the monastery's life, and it is interesting to note that spiritual merit was believed to be gained by the monks by preaching. Such letters were a valuable means of thanking the monastery's friends and encouraging them to remain so; consequently the Durham monks were careful not to debase their value by issuing them too liberally. Here Prior Wessington sought to secure the favour of the chief representative of the Beaufort faction of the Neville family, having granted sorority to his formidable mother Joan the previous year (cf. Loc.XXV:124), see Dobson, pp. 187-88.Following the text of the letter there is a brief entry which exemplifies the alternative approach to registration, the memorandum: only the variable details of the 'Littera breuiatoris' [view] are recorded, the letter being in "the common form", cf. an obit-roll carried by such a bearer, Loc. I:11, and reference to bearers of an indulgence, 2.13.Pont.12 . The page illustrates well the way in which it was designed for convenient use, with space separating off each document copied and a brief description set outside the text-block in the margin; at Durham in cartularies the same purpose was generally served by slightly different means, the description copied from the dorse of each original charter being written within the text-block, but in red, which perhaps reflects the fact that with a cartulary a viable amount of red could be made up and used up at a single sitting (Cart.II). Not that the registers were always maintained from day to day: it is noticeable that runs of documents sometimes appear to have been entered at the same time, to judge by the identity of the hand and ink, presumably from drafts, and this is particularly the case with the prior's personal registers (Reg. Parv.)