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George.
02-22-2007, 06:50 AM
I have an amateur historian’s interest in the Portuguese navigations of the 15th and 16th centuries, when they discovered most of the great ocean routes of the world.

One thing that I have been curious about is the role of religion aboard. In King’s ships and on official expeditions, of course, there were often priests on board. But the merchant vessels and small exploration ships on which most trips took place had no room for priests. I have a small collection of early logbooks and accounts of voyages, and priests almost never went.

My question is: what religious rites would those crews observe on long trips? Mass? Confession? Six o'clock services? Certain feast days? Who would lead them?

Remember, all Western Europeans were Catholics back then. This is before Martin Luther, and also before the Counter-Reformation.

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
02-22-2007, 07:00 AM
Portugal and 700 years ago - no idea.

But there is a story from my fathers family of the most miserable collection of sailors ever seen - In the west of scotland it is considered bad luck to have a priest (minister) on a boat - One year they held the general assembly on the island of Aran.

George.
02-22-2007, 07:23 AM
500 years ago.

GregW
02-22-2007, 08:30 AM
The captain being already almost god like to most seaman, would have fit the role rather nicely.

Joe (SoCal)
02-22-2007, 08:33 AM
I say the captain as well. George didn't you watch "Master & Commander " ?

Remember Capt. Jack Aubrey committing the dead to the sea. I think he did a fitting mass.

For God & England ;)

George Ray
02-22-2007, 08:46 AM
Gets to the day to day relation of man to the spiritual, .. i.e. not doing it because the 'earthly powers that be' are watching, rather they do it from shallow custom or deeply felt need.

**********************************
Possibly helpful:
(a) Hakluyt
(b) www.sacred-texts.com


Hakluyt's Voyages, the short title of a collection of original records of English voyages overseas before 1600. The full title is The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation (published, folio, 1589; expanded to three volumes, 1598–1600). The editor was Richard Hakluyt, clergyman, geographer, and promoter and historiographer of the English expansion. The materials he collected after 1600 were in part included in the more ambitious, but much less careful or complete, work of Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625, four volumes, folio).

Hakluyt's American section, volume 3 of the Voyages and part 2 of Purchas, is an admirable body of source materials for the early history of the English in the New World, the first such collection published for any European nation. For virtually every voyage of importance, Hakluyt procured a full narrative by a participant and added many official documents and private letters. He thus preserved the original and often unique records of the voyages of Jacques Cartier, Sir John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Martin Frobisher, John Davys, Thomas Cavendish, Sir Walter Raleigh (to Guiana), and (in Purchas) Henry Hudson and William Baffin. He also preserved the records of the colonial projects of French Florida, Adrian Gilbert's Newfoundland, and Raleigh's Virginia.
(from:http://www.answers.com/topic/hakluyt-s-voyages)


Sacred Texts: http://www.sacred-texts.com/search.htm

The search function at the web site returns numerous referances to a query "sailor".

George.
02-22-2007, 10:23 AM
The captain being already almost god like to most seaman, would have fit the role rather nicely.

In the British Navy we read about in Patrick O'Brian, yes. But this is 300 years before that.

The Master is the master of the ship. The Pilot is the master of navigation - one decides which way to steer, the other decides how.

The Captain is the captain of the men and of the enterprise, almost in a military sense. He knows commerce and war, but not navigation. Most likely, he was appointed by the ship's owners (or the King, on a King's ship) because he is trustworthy, or because his family is owed a debt, or as a reward for some other service.

And then there is the Scribe, who keeps the books, and writes the record of the voyage (though not the log book, which is kept by the Pilot, often in secrecy). He might actually be a priest, or to have studied to be one at some point, as the professions of clerk and cleric were rather close those days. More likely, just a bureocrat, a sort of snitch on the captain - a zampolit representing the commercial interests that fund the voyage.

George.
02-22-2007, 10:24 AM
Maybe this should be up on the orlop...

Hwyl
02-22-2007, 10:32 AM
Did Christobal Colombe carry a Priest? I know he started from the wrong part of Iberia, but his voyages are well researched.

Seems that there are conflicting hopes here. The clergy have a vested interest in claiming they know how the world lies (pun intended). The explorers have a vested interest in debunking the status quo.

Galileo and Darwin being great examples.

Keith Wilson
02-22-2007, 10:40 AM
FWIW, there is, or was 250 years ago anyway, a very strong tradition among British and American sailors that having a clergyman aboard is bad luck. Not really the period you're interested in, and Protestants, but it would be interesting to see how far back it goes.

George.
02-22-2007, 10:49 AM
In the 1500s, official expeditions generally did have priests. Not only did they calm and confort the men in case of peril or privation - there are plenty of recorded examples - but they also helped to consacrate and validate the ritual of taking possession of new lands and trade routes "in the name of His Most Christian Majesty." Remember, the Church was the mediator in the Treaty of Tordesilhas...

Missions of exploration and trade were different. On the first Portuguese fleet to come to Brazil and take official possession of the land, there were priests, and they said mass ashore. But there is no mention of any priests for years after that, in the records of the far more serious and challenging expeditions that came to chart the new coast, and of the merchant voyages that followed on their heels. The ships for which a crew list survives had no priests on board.

The same applies to voyages to India, until the naus started getting (too) big and carrying hundreds of passengers, around 1550.

carioca1232001
02-22-2007, 04:49 PM
Quoting George:

"The same applies to voyages to India, until the naus started getting (too) big and carrying hundreds of passengers, around 1550."

I am no historian, but .....The Holy Inquisition was brought to bear on the Indian populace - and my ancestors - sometime before 1550.

By the latter date, the Portuguese were already entrenched, having arrived on India´s Konkan Coast in 1498.

Could the Holy Inquistion have been brought about without the presence of priests ? Are they any records of a similar Inquisition in Brazil ? Without the presence of priests ?

Perhaps you could tell us a bit more, by way of the historical manuscripts and other documents in your possession.

ishmael
02-22-2007, 05:49 PM
I'm not sure how this fits in, but in modern Catholicism as I understand it the laity, usually high up, but not confined, can give the mass and offer communion. They can't hear confession or offer absolution. I wonder if that was true in the 15th century? It would conveniently skirt any superstition of sailors to have a deacon rather than a priest on board.

Bob Cleek
02-22-2007, 06:22 PM
Actually, to have to have a priest for saying Mass, at which the communion bread would be consecrated. No priests, no Mass. However, there are many other services in the Catholic liturgical tradition that could be performed by lay people. I expect that the Catholic practice was no different than the later naval traditions that are well known to us. Sunday mornings, everybody lined up and the captain would read prayers, lead the crew in saying the rosary or provide a reading from scripture. Certainly, reading the psalms would be likely.

paladin
02-22-2007, 08:33 PM
about 1000 years ago King Christian the First sed...ya'll ain't gonna go nowhere unless ya gotta priest on board....I assume that it was to approve the rape, pillage, and plunder.;)

peb
02-22-2007, 09:56 PM
Actually, to have to have a priest for saying Mass, at which the communion bread would be consecrated. No priests, no Mass. However, there are many other services in the Catholic liturgical tradition that could be performed by lay people. I expect that the Catholic practice was no different than the later naval traditions that are well known to us. Sunday mornings, everybody lined up and the captain would read prayers, lead the crew in saying the rosary or provide a reading from scripture. Certainly, reading the psalms would be likely.

Very interesting question George. Bob's speculation is interesting, but I wonder if it is quite right. With the English of Napoleanic times, the merging of state and religious authority made it quite natural for the captain to lead church services. In a Catholic culture, the seperation of religious and secular authority was pretty well defined for over a millenia (excepting of course the papal states), I am not for sure the leading of religious services by a captain would have been the case. Just speculation.

carioca1232001
02-23-2007, 05:55 AM
"In King’s ships and on official expeditions, of course, there were often priests on board."

George, had I read your posting more carefully...... well, my query regarding the Holy Inquisition would not have been posed.

I have reminiscences of hearing the term "Bula Papal" quite frequently, "Papal Bull' if I you like, no offence meant or implied.
Neither much about religious customs at sea, nor on land , be these from five centuries ago or current ones.

But was most intrigued on learning of certain eating customs of Bahian and Northeastern seamen. A direct handout from the Konkan coast, I am nearly sure, from the days that naval vessels used to come directly from the latter place to Salvador, Brazil´s capital at the time. But this is off thread....

Andrew Craig-Bennett
02-23-2007, 06:27 AM
Just a thought, but Magellan carried several priests, according to Pigafetta's account of the voyage.

Indeed, it was his attempt to forcibly convert Lapu-Lapu on Mactan that led to his death.

And look what I found on Google; there's an academic study of the question:

http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003-1615(194801)4%3A3%3C302%3ARAOTSV%3E2.0.CO%3B2-T

George.
02-23-2007, 08:26 AM
As peb points out, a “captain” back then would be most unlikely to be seen as the natural leader of religious ritual. The Church was not nearly as intertwined with the government as it became after the Counter Reformation.

Also, captains were most likely uneducated and barely literate – thus the need for another officer, the scribe. The pilots were also more likely to be able to read Latin, in which some of their treatises and almanacs were written (others were in Arabic).

Magellan did take priests, but his was a major official expedition.


...there are many other services in the Catholic liturgical tradition that could be performed by lay people.

Like which? And how does one qualify to perform them?