A Carmelite Preacher Satirist.
Thomas Conecte (or Connect) was born in Rennes, in Brittany in northwestern France in the 1390s. He joined the Carmelite order of friars and by 1428 was a popular preacher in Cambrai, Tournai, and Arras in the area of northeastern France bordering on what is now Belgium. Though he denounced gambling, his chief target of criticism was the fashion for very tall and elaborate female headdress. It is said that his sermons—which drew crowds as large as 20,000—were so effective that gamblers destroyed their dice and cards and women their tall headdresses immediately upon hearing his preaching. The famous eighteenth-century English essayist Joseph Addison had heard of, or read of, these sermons and described the women present at them in their tall headdresses "like a forest of cedars with their heads reaching the clouds." Soon caught up in the reform movement among the Carmelites in the fifteenth century, Conecte's denunciations of overly "secular" priests earned him the hostility of the ecclesiastical hierarchy of his diocese; he had to flee France to Italy, where he became involved in the reforms of the Carmelite convents at Florence and later at Mantua. By 1432, he made reforming trips to Venice, and finally to Rome, where he attacked the papal curia and the papacy of Eugenius IV for vices. He was condemned by the Inquisition and publicly burned at the stake as a heretic in 1433.
SONG UPON THE TAILORS
introduction: The poem "Song Upon the Tailors" appears in a manuscript miscellany originally written at Reading Abbey in England, now in the British Library (MS Harley 978, folio 78). The author was a cleric both learned and witty as he plays on both the Christian concept of transubstantiation (the belief that the elements of the Eucharist actually transform into the body and blood of Christ upon consecration) as well as the gods of ancient Greece and Rome to elevate the importance of tailors' activity in reworking older clothes for new owners.
Ye are gods: …
Gods certainly ye are, who can transform
an old garment into the shape of a new one.
—The cloth, while fresh and new,
is made either a cape or mantle;
but, in order of time, first it is a cape,
after a little space this is transformed into the other:
thus ye "change bodies."
When it becomes old, the collar is cut off;
when deprived of the collar, it is made a mantle:
thus, in the manner of Proteus, are garments changed;
nor is the law of metamorphosis a new discovery.
—With their shape they change their sex; …
—When, at length, winter returns, many
engraft immediately upon the cape a capuce;
then it is squared;
after being squared it is rounded;
and so it becomes an almuce.
—If there remain any morsels of the cloth
or skin which is cut, it does not want a use—:
of these are made gloves; …
—This is the general manner [in which]
they all make one robe out of another,
English, Germans, French, and Normans,
with scarcely an exception.
source: Song Upon the Tailors, in Satirical Songs and Poems on Costume: From the 13th to the 19th Century. Ed. Frederick W. Fairholt (New York: Johnson Reprint Corp, 1965): 29–39. Text modernized by Laura Hodges.
Joseph Addison, The Spectator (Friday, June 22, 1711).
Hervé Martin, Le Métier du prédicateur (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1988).
Henri Peltier, Histoire du Carme (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1958): 60.
Johannes Baptiste Schneyer, ed., Wegweiser zu lateinischen Predigtreihen des Mittelalters (Munich: Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1965).