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Barbati Fratres

Bearded Brothers---at an earlier date known as the Conversi---craftsmen known among the Conventual Builders, admitted to the Abbey Corbey in the year 851, whose social grade was more elevated than the ordinary workmen, and were freeborn. The Conversi were Filicales or associates in the Abbeys, used a monastic kind of dress, could leave their profession whenever they chose and could return to civil life. Converts who abstained from secular pursuits as sinful and professed conversion to the higher life of the Abbeys, could stay without becoming monks. Scholae or gilds of such Operatives lodged within the convents.

We are told by Brother George F. Fort in his Criticat Inquiry Concerning the Mediaeval Conventual Builders, 1884, that the scholae of dextrous Barbati Fratres incurred the anger of their coreligionists, by their haughty deportment, sumptuous garb, liberty of movement, and refusal to have their long, flowing beards shaven-hence their name---thus tending to the more fascinating attractions of civil life as time carried them forward through the centuries to the middle of the thirteenth, when William Abbott, of Premontr, attempted to enforce the rule of shaving the beard. "These worthy ancestors of our modern Craft deliberately refused,'' and they said, "if the execution of this order were pressed against them, 'they would fire every cloister and cathedral in the country." The decretal or edict was withdrawn.

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