What Was A Pardoner In The Middle Ages?


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A Pardoner or Quaestor was a medieval official with three main activities: the selling of indulgences (literally, pardons for sins committed), the selling of relics (apparently sacred objects) and preaching. By Chaucer's time, it had become quite common for wealthy people to give money to the church instead of doing penance for their since; of course, a lot of it ended up in the pockets of men like Chaucer's Pardoner, who is represented as wholly greedy and corrupt. He also makes a good living selling "relics" such as a pillow-case which he claims is the Virgin Mary's veil, or pigs' bones supposed to be the bones of saints. The rest of his time is devoted to preaching against the very sins he most enjoys committing himself; after a good sermon, he then demands large sums of money from his hearers, ostensibly to cleanse their souls but actually to fund the Pardoner's lifestyle: "I wol drinke licour of the vine/ And have a joly wenche in every towne."

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