A few weeks ago, I was reading Life in a Medieval Village by Francis and Joseph Gies. That book details life in an English “open field” farm village circa the 12th and 13th centuries. Amongst the pages of that book was the following passage, which I found to be very useful in detailing what exactly might be found inside a church or temple in a pseudo-medieval setting:
In 1287 Bishop Quinel of Exeter listed the minimum furnishings of a church: a silver or silver-gilt chalice; a silver or pewter vessel (ciborium) to hold the bread used in Communion; a little box of silver or ivory (pyx) to hold the remainder of the consecrated bread, and another vessel for unconsecrated bread; a pewter chrismatory for the holy oils; a censer and an incense boat (thurible); an osculatorium (an ornament by which the kiss of peace was given); three cruets; and a holy-water vessel. The church must have at least one stone altar, with cloths, canopy, and frontal (front hanging); a stone font that could be locked to prevent the use of baptismal water for witchcraft; and images of the church’s patron saint and of the Virgin Mary. Special candlesticks were provided for Holy Week and Easter, and two great portable crosses served, one for processions and one for visitation of the sick, for which the church also kept a lantern and a hand bell. To these requirements a list dictated by Archbishop Winchelsey in 1305 added the Lenten veil, to hang before the high altar, Rogation Day banners for gang week, “the bells with their cords,” and a bier to carry the dead. Conspicuously missing were benches, chairs or pews; the congregation stood, sat on the floor, or brought stools.It’s an inventory like this that makes one of the more difficult aspects of refereeing a breeze – coming up with treasure. It’s always nice to spice up the treasure list of a dungeon with something other than yet another gold necklace or ruby the size of a fist. Taking a look at the above passage, we can see a plethora of objects that are just begging to be gilded, bejeweled, or adorned and thereby bump up their market value. This is also a good starting place for determining what exactly might be found in your name level clerics stronghold/church once it’s time to start detailing those things out. Although this inventory is for a small church of the Christian faith, it’s not too difficult to adjust it to fit any sort of religion – real or imagined – that may exist in your own campaign.
The church was supposed to have a set of vestments for festivals and another for regular use. Bishop Quinel recommended a number of books to help the priest: a manual for baptism, marriage, and burial; an ordinal listing the offices to be recited throughout the church year; a missal with the words and the order of the Mass; a collect book container prayers; a “legend” with lessons from the Scriptures and passages from the lives of the saints; and music books, including a gradual for Mass, a troper for special services, a venitary for the psalms at matins, an antiphoner for the canonical hours, a psalter, and a hymnal. Books and vestments were stored in a church chest.