Viaticarus References

I'm interested in making a character around the Viaticarus flaw from Grogs, probably a minor knight. He was struck down in combat, appeared to die, was granted Extreme Unction, and recovered. He's now legally dead, socially marginalized, and spiritually liminal.

I seem to recall reading about the historical reality, but in a limited search can't find material. References?

If I recall correctly, his wife is now a widow, his heirs inherit, and he is expected to withdraw from the company of the living.

The whole Viticarius thing seem to be somewhat ahistorical, but probably matches some people's beliefs from the time.

According to Catholic doctrine, one of the reasons for giving Extreme Unction to the sick is to help recovery. So a person recovering after being granted Extreme Unction is not to be considered anything special.

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At minimum I think the requirement of an outcast flaw is unwarranted- the rest is an interesting idea in terms of accidental supernatural effects and carries undertones of a precursor to vampirism.

It's probably some weird magical or faerie effect. There are ways to justify it in a world of actual supernatural forces. The recovered are fine, but someone who rises from death is clearly in violation of the natural order - which ignores that Lazarus was entirely welcome to his family, but stories are often inconsistent with each other and local custom.

I'm thinking he rose from death as he's under a death prophecy or something.

The revenant implications are interesting, yes. The outcast flaw may be a bit much, but is easily worked.


This is a flaw from Grogs. It might be meant to work in a close community of superstitious people used to sudden death in their midth, like: miners, woodsmen, soldiers or Grogs. Educated people, especially those with knowledge on Church matters, should be immune to it.
Immunity to the temptation of demons, difficulty crossing thresholds, and gradual resemblance to a corpse over time might be subjective and depend on living in that small community?

I have references somewhere, but Grogs was written a long time ago! I'll try to dig something out. I know it came about in relation to lepers, who were given the last rights so that their 'widows' could remarry. (note that this was a folk tradition rather than Church doctrine; but happened nevertheless)


Anyway, the Thomist response of late 13th century is, that Extreme Unction is repeatable and does not change the recipient in any way for the remainder of his life (i. e. imprints a character on him). In particular it cannot result in a Flaw like Viaticarus, which is hence only in the imagination of superstitious people.

Just as well that Thomas Aquinus is too late for canonical ArM5 then :slight_smile:

More seriously, the idea that a man could be legally dead yet still alive (the original undead) continued right into later centuries. As I noted, this was folk belief but still practised (although how widely I can't say).


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Telling the real story of how Thomist cosmology was researched, communicated, discussed and approved by the Papal curia can be made the focus of a saga. But it better be already true when it is starting to be researched. :innocent:

Or you can have Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas and many other cosmologists/theologists smothered in their cribs in time. :nauseated_face: Brighde Bronach (DI p.11ff) at work in her youth?

I had my characters meet an ailing Thomas Aquinus in 1274 on the Appian Way. He'd just been struck on the head by a falling branch. It was part of a bigger story that the characters decided not to investigate...


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OK, there's an unsurprising conflict between folk tradition and the Wise Estate. That just means I need some philosophically inclined person to object that This Seems Strange and It's Is Not Supposed To Be. (Invoking the medieval fiction equivalent of Clarke's First Law, second clause.) Something extra is going on.

I may be remembering the social treatment of lepers.

Yep. Take a look here:

Leprosy seems to have reached the rest of Europe during late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, with the imperial Church reducing formal restrictions on lepers while setting aside funds for leprosaria where clerics would treat the afflicted.[12] Such leper houses are documented at St-Oyen in 460, Chalon-sur-Saône in 570, and Verdun in 634;[12] their management was often provided by monastic orders.[14] The area of modern Belgium alone may have had as many as 700 or 800 prior to the Crusades.[12] Christian folklore misunderstood the parable of Lazarus and Dives as a historical account and took the sore-covered beggar in the story as St Lazarus, patron of lepers;[15] the military order St Lazarus was established to care for lepers in Crusader Jerusalem and subsequently operated other leprosaria around Europe. Some colonies were located on mountains or in remote locations in order to ensure isolation, some on main roads, where donations would be made for their upkeep. Others were essentially hospitals within major cities. In 1623 the Congregation of the Mission, a Catholic society of apostolic life founded by Vincent de Paul, was given possession of the Priory of St. Lazarus, a former leper house in Paris, due to which the entire Congregation gained the name of "Lazarites" or "Lazarists" although most of its members had nothing to do with caring for lepers.
Debate exists over the conditions found within historical colonies; while they are currently thought to have been grim and neglected places, there are some indications that life within a leper colony or house was no worse than the life of other, non-isolated individuals. There is even doubt that the current definition of leprosy can be retrospectively applied to the medieval condition. What was classified as leprosy then covers a wide range of skin conditions that would be classified as distinct afflictions today.[16] Some leper colonies issued their own money or tokens, in the belief that allowing people affected by leprosy to handle regular money could spread the disease.[17][18]

This is just a general purpose overview - but it shows that there are many aspects not yet treated in HoH:S p.95ff The Curse of Leprosy.

EDIT: Here is a page from 11th century Codex Aureus of Echternach, which speaks for itself:

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That's probably it. Provides a model for the treatment of the Dead Knight, outcast [due to layer of story], although he obviously is not in a colony of viaticari(?)/revenants.*

*Although a colony or social status of revenants is an interesting fantasy concept, it's a bit beyond this medieval fantasy.

Had my Rhine Gorge saga continued, the party would have met Albertus Magnus through their mutual acquaintances: the count and countess von Wied.

So history as told could continue :nerd_face: :

Pope Gregory X convened the Second Council of Lyon to be held on 1 May 1274 and summoned Thomas to attend.[73] At the meeting, Thomas's work for Pope Urban IV concerning the Greeks, Contra errores graecorum, was to be presented.[74]
On his way to the council, riding on a donkey along the Appian Way,[73] he struck his head on the branch of a fallen tree and became seriously ill again. He was then quickly escorted to Monte Cassino to convalesce.[72] After resting for a while, he set out again, but stopped at the Cistercian Fossanova Abbey after again falling ill.[75] The monks nursed him for several days,[76] and as he received his last rites he prayed: "I have written and taught much about this very holy Body, and about the other sacraments in the faith of Christ, and about the Holy Roman Church, to whose correction I expose and submit everything I have written."[77] He died on 7 March 1274[75] while giving commentary on the Song of Songs.[78]