Excitement at the Hog’s Snout–Part 1

Rain was pouring down when I arrived at the Hog’s Snout, and I was glad that my friends had secured the table nearest the fire.  The young monk Michael was there with Hubmaier and Zell.  I had told him that he would recognize Hubmaier by his size, his lion’s mane of shoulder-length hair, and his coat trimmed in budge.

Cartoon of Zasius

We had eaten all the tripe and reduced the bread to crumbs when Fabri, at last, arrived, and though he dropped wearily upon the settle, his dignity flowed around him like the elegant robe he wore.  There was no evidence of his former poverty, for he was the protegé of the jurist, Ulrich Zasius, and often represented the well-known legal scholar in class and in court. 

Not that Fabri lived like a maggot in bacon, for Zasius was stingy in many ways.  But he did make sure Fabri’s wardrobe was commensurate with Zasius’ own dignity and with the value that he placed on the young legal scholar.  Indeed, Fabri was working on his second law degree and would soon have doctorates in both civil and canon law.

“Then, he’ll be a two-headed doctor,” Hubmaier said to Michael, as Fabri scratched his dark, day-old beard and surveyed the empty platters.

Hubmaier pushed the ale toward him.  “We waited for you like four pigs wait on another.  I hope you ate at Zasius’ table.”

Fabri rubbed his eyes.  “No, I’ve been at the printer’s proofing Zasius’ latest treatise.  I close my eyes and see type lying backward.”

“I’ve money,” Hubmaier said.  “I’ll get you a dumpling.”

Fabri shook his head.  Then he noticed Michael.  “Ho.  How do you fare, young monk?”

“I’m well, Doctor Fabri.”

“You don’t have to call me that unless you’re in my class.”

“When I am a Doctor,” Hubmaier said, pushing forward his huge chest, “You shall all bow and scrape my boots and call me ‘Doctor’.”

“You’ll have to get some boots,” Zell said.

“And a haircut,” I said.

“So that you look not so much like a trained bear,” said Fabri.

Then a loud commotion caused us to turn toward the door. . .

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Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Excitement at the Hog’s Snout–Part 2

Fabri’s Many Talents

A loud commotion caused us to turn toward the door as a man’s voice shouted, “I told you to wait outside!”  The speaker was large, larger than Hubmaier, wearing a scholar’s robe that was mud-streaked and rumpled.  It ballooned around him in the wind from the opened door.  I could not see to whom the man spoke, but I saw the sleeve of the gown draw back and then fly down, a vulture’s wing.  There was the slightest cry, no louder than the mew of a kitten, and something scurried on all fours out the door. 

The room was silent as the large man rejoined a table of four slovenly companions.  “Damned swine dog,” I heard him say.  “How can he learn anything if he can’t be taught obedience?”

Fabri’s stool scraped the floor.

“Must we do this?” Hubmaier said with a sigh.

Fabri strode across the crowded room and out the door.  The bully looked for a moment at the door Fabri had closed behind him, and then he too rose and went out into the stormy night.

Now we all grabbed our cloaks.  I saw that the big man’s companions also rose.  A crowd gathered in the street, which ran ankle-deep in rain.  By the lanterns, I could see Fabri kneeling in the water, talking to a young boy.

The bully stepped forward.  “That’s my property there.  You’ve no business with it.”

Fabri stood, his soaked robe clinging to his legs, rain running in streams down his face.  But he was a jurist, an orator, and he knew how to give his voice authority over the storm, over the drumming downpour on the tiles, over the murmuring crowd.  “Your property?  How is this child your property?”

“His uncle in the Tyrol gave him to me as servant, if I would educate him.”

“I see you are educating him in the Triumvirate of starvation, cold, and drowning!”

The crowd laughed a little, even the bully’s friends.  But he leaned forward, his arms straight at his sides ending in fists.  “Leave the boy alone.  Go back to your ale, Master Fabri.”

“Oh, you know my name?  Then you should know that it is Doctor Johann Fabri of Leutkiirch in Allgäu.  I’m taking this boy tonight.  You may press your claim in the courts.  But mark me well.  You can not win.”

“Win in court against Ulrich Zasius’ lackey?  I expect not.  But right here, right now?  I wager I can win here.”

But Fabri was already undoing the carved wooden buttons of his robe. . .

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Excitement at the Hog’s Snout–Part 3

Behaviour Unbecoming a Priest

Both men took off their cloaks.  The bully simply hitched his robe up in his belt.  But Fabri slipped out of the robe belonging to Zasius and faced his opponent in his long shirt and hosen.  His white smocked blouse was radiant against the dark.  The bully looked huge, a minotaur.  He wore no biretta.  Oddly, I thought, Fabri kept his on.

They made only a half circle in the narrow street before the bully stepped in, aiming a mighty swing at Fabri’s face.  But Fabri quickly dodged the blow.  Grabbing the man’s arm as it passed his face, and twisting neatly around, he pulled the fellow backward while tripping him.  The man pulled Fabri down with him, but loosened his hold when his head hit the street, and Fabri was back on his feet like a cat.  The big man began to get up.  “Oh, so it’s wrestling you want!”

Fabri launched a punch into the man’s nose that shot blood in all directions.  This time the fellow reeled back but did not fall.

I saw the dagger just as Zell called out a warning.  Fabri jerked off his biretta, and as the fellow slashed at him, he used the biretta to snag the dagger.  When the bully tried to pull it back, Fabri punched him hard in the stomach.  When he doubled up, Fabri kicked him in the face and he fell back.

The man’s companions stepped into the street.  Zell whispered an oath and began to undo his own robe.  But Hubmaier’s voice, another trained in oratory, flowed out over the crowd.  “Now gentlemen, scholars all, let us think about this.  A street brawl will undoubtedly come to the attention of the Rector, who will have us all arrested, fined, and expelled in disgrace for “behaviour unbecoming a priest.”  Presently, it appears your friend has had an unfortunate accident.  It appears that he has fallen out of a wagon onto the street.  Does it not appear so to you gentlemen?”

Whether it was the logic of the argument or the significant bulk of the man who delivered it, the bully’s friends paused and then, without a word, gathered round the loser, as we went to Fabri.

“Doctor Fabri!” said Michael.  “That was extraordinary!”

Fabri shivered.  “Was it?  Christ, I’m shaking all over.”  I handed him the robe, but he only looked at it as if he had forgotten how to put it on.

Hubmaier then took it and helped Fabri get his arms into it.  “By the muses, Fabri,” he said.  “I hope I never get on your bad side.”

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Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Beggars and Scholars

Last evening, I invited the young monk, Michael Sattler, to the Hog’s Snout.  Though I could see that he longed to accept, at first, he was reluctant.
But the University forbids ale houses,” he said.  

“There’s a room in the back kept for students.  If we cause no trouble, we are left to ourselves.  Of course, no liquor or wine will be served to us.”

“What time?”

“We all have to be in our lectures in the morning at six,” I said, “so no one idles about in the night.  Come to the alehouse at five this afternoon.  Hubmaier will be there, perhaps Fabri, and Zell.  My coterie of companions will fit you like a glove.”

“I must be in my room at the Abbot’s by eight on the clock.”

From this I learned that, because his monastery, St. Peter’s of the Black Forest, has no university house, he has been given a room in the back of the Abbot’s townhouse. 

These are grand accommodations.  The rumor is that nineteen craftsman’s cottages were torn down to make room for the abbot’s gardens.  Though Brother Michael says that the monastic guest rooms do not compare to the luxury of the rest of the house, surely he is more comfortable than Zell and I, who share a tiny, dirty room in a boarding house.

The worst thing about our house is that all the other boarders–and there are many–seem to have young, urchin boys to attend them.  In a university town, these homeless boys are as common as the stray dogs from whom they often try to take food. 

The odious practice is that a university student will agree to teach the boy in exchange for his services.  Frequently, the boy is even given away by his family in a desperate hope that he may somehow be educated, for no one is so poor that he does not know that education is a necessity in this modern world.  

Instead, it often happens that the poor unfortunate is driven by his so-called scholar master to beg and steal for the both of them.  He is beaten and abused, forced to sleep in the barn or on the stoop.  These boys are called “shooters”.  My friend, Fabri, was once such a boy, so hungry that he would sweep the taverns just to pick the crumbs from the floorboards.

Which explains what happened at the Hog’s Snout last night. 

 For more on the destitute life of shooters, see The Autobiography of Johannes Butzbach and  The Autobiography of Thomas Platter. 

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1509 Back at Last!

Thank the Muses!  I have made my way back to the University.  When I had to leave, I despaired of ever returning.  But the Fates were kind.  After three years of working for the printer, H. Gran, my finances are repaired to the point that I can return for the Doctorate, though the sharp pinch of extremity follows me wherever I go

What a spectacle is the first day, as the faculty, drawing themselves to full height to better impress the new students, glide by in the robes of their rank, the Masters and Doctors distinguished by the trim on their square birettas, the Rectors by their scarlet gowns.  At throat and wrist peek snow-white ruffles of collar and cuff.  Scallops of fur trim hoods and cloaks.  Black on black brocade encases chests and pleated sleeves drape off shoulders.

Among the lay students, one can know who is nobility, who of a burgher family, who an artisan by their hats, coats or cloaks, even their shoes.  Among these,  red is favored or a deep forest green or gold the color of ripe wheat.  Hats are round or square, floppy or stiff, brimmed or not.  Students belonging to religious orders are identified by their habits, the brown Carmelites, the white Cistercians, the black and white Dominicans, the gray Franciscans, and the black Benedictines, who look like crows.

I spy a young crow pressed against the wall, receiving looks of disdain from the lay students, perhaps because of his habit, perhaps because of his obvious naiveté as he clutches his Aristotle.

“Hail, young brother!  Are you lost?  You look as bewildered as a pick-purse caught in the act.” 

“I’m not sure,” he glances at my biretta, “Master. . .?”


“Master Capito.  I was told I must swear the oath of allegiance to the Rector.”

“That occurs just down the hall.  I’ll show you.  What is your name?”

“I am Brother Michael.  Sattler.”  He is a small young man, and when I put my arm about his shoulders, the gathered sleeve of my robe drapes his back like a cape.  His head is shaved in the manner of monks, with a honey-colored ring surrounding the tonsure.  His eyes, blue as forget-me-nots, sponge up the grand scene sprawling about us. 

“This is my first day,” he whispers.

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