Act of Homage Algo
The junior who was to become the vassal of his senior (seigneur) appeared bareheaded and weaponless as a sign of his submission to the will of the lord and knelt before him. The vassal would clasp his hands before him in the ultimate sign of submission, the standard Christian attitude of prayer, and would stretch his clasped hands outward to the lord.
The lord in turn grasped the vassal's hands between his own, showing he was the superior in the relationship. The vassal would announce he wished to become "the man", and the lord would announce his acceptance. The act of homage was complete.
The vassus thus entered into a new realm of protection and mutual services. Through the touching of hands the warrior chief caused to pass from this own body into the body of the vassal something like a sacred fluid, the hail. Made taboo, as it were, the vassal thereupon fell under the charismatic power, pagan in origin, of the lord: his mundeburdium, or mainbour, true power, at once possessive and protective.
The physical position for Western Christian prayer that is thought of as typical today—kneeling, with hands clasped—originates from the commendation ceremony. Before this time, European Christians prayed in the orans, which is the Latin, or "praying" position that people had used in antiquity: standing, with hands outstretched, a gesture still used today in many Christian rituals.
The gesture of homage (though without any feudal significance) survives in the ceremony for conferring degrees at the .
Eginhard records the solemn commendatio made to Pippin by Tassilo, duke of Bavaria in 757, ("commending himself in vassalage between the hands" (in vasatico se commendans per manus), he swore—and the word used is "sacramenta"—, placing his hands on the relics of the saints, which had apparently been assembled at Compiègne for the solemn occasion, and promised fidelity to the king and to his sons: the relics touched were those of saint Denis, Saint Rusticus and Saint Éleuthère, Saint Martin and Saint Germain, a daunting array of witnesses. And the men of high birth who accompanied him swore likewise "...and numerous others" Eginhard adds (Eginhard, Annals 757).
Read more about this topic: Commendation Ceremony
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