If you havent yet read this goatspiring fic by @sathinfection, please do.

What a great way to wake up

Unless you’re Joly

Everything is perfect.

(unless you’re joly) (oh joly honey no)


Give me an Enjolras who’s charming.

Give me an Enjolras who’s smile will light up a room.

An Enjolras who’s seen as this beautiful, untouchable ray of light, but when he talks his voice is warm and kind.

Give me an Enjolras who scares people when he’s angry, because no one expects it.

Give me an Enjolras who is charming, but capable of being terrible.

joly, bossuet and religious orders, 2/2 (bini)


okay, so here is the second half of my insanely long thoughts about hugo’s depiction of joly and bossuet as monks:

Laigle de Meaux, we know, lived more with Joly than elsewhere. He had a lodging as the bird has a branch. The two friends lived together, ate together, slept together. Everything was in common with them, even Musichetta a little. They were what, among the Chapeau Brothers, are called bini.”

in my first post, i talked about the possible interpretation that “frères chapeaux” referred to the brothers of the christian doctrine, a religious order committed to education. here, i’m going to be looking at the word “bini”: what it means, and what it says about joly and bossuet.

so, bini. here’s how the word is explained in various editions of the brick:

  • free online French edition: “Frère chapeau : religieux laïque, portant donc chapeau et non capuchon, attaché au service d’un père de son ordre. C’est pourquoi ils vont par deux : bini.”  [Lay monk, thus wearing a hat and not a cowl, attached in service to a priest of his order. This is why they come in pairs, ie, “bini.”]
  • rose: “In certain monastic orders, lay brothers wore a hat instead of a cowel. ‘Bini’ refers to two who share virtually everything.”
  • donougher: “Bini is Latin for ‘two by two,’ junior monks (Hugo uses the term ‘frères chapeaux’) being required to process in pairs behind the senior dignitaries.” (hat tip to notquitelostnotquitefound for providing this note!)

unlike with “frères chapeaux,” i’m not going to suggest a totally new definition of the word. rather, i’d like to meditate on the significance of pairs in christian doctrine and specifically in monastic life, and what that might mean for bossuet and joly.

the idea of two same-gender religious figures being paired together in some way has a long history in the church. in the gospel, when jesus sends his twelve disciples out into the community, he does so in pairs:

  • “He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” (NRSV, Mark 6:7)
  • the same verse, from the 5th century latin vulgate translation: “Et circumibat castella in circuitu docens et convocavit duodecim et coepit eos mittere binos et dabat illis potestatem spirituum inmundorum.
  • see the “binos” there? that’s the same word as “bini,” only in a different case. (let’s be real — i do not know the first thing about latin. but my classicist bud clarabeau does, and she hooked me up. thanks bud!)

following christ’s example, early missionaries traveled the roman empire and beyond in pairs of both mixed and same genders. these pairs didn’t just work together for reasons of safety or convenience; the church fathers make it clear that there was a spiritual benefit in companionship. we see this argument reproduced in thomas aquinas’s caetana aurea, a biblical commentary composed of fragments from earlier commentaries:

  • “The disciples of Christ are called two by two [bini], and sent two by two [bini], since charity implies more than one, as it is written, “Woe to him that is alone.” [Eccles 4:10] Two persons lead the Israelites out of Egypt: two bring down the bunch of grapes from the Holy Land, that men in authority might ever join together activity and knowledge, and bring forward two commandments from the Two Tables, and be washed from two fountains, and carry the ark of the Lord on two poles, and know the Lord between the two Cherubim, and sing to Him with both mind and spirit.” [link]

there’s something valuable and holy about working in pairs, then, rather than being alone. certain tasks can only be accomplished through fellowship with a companion.

the importance of pairs in monastic traditions can be traced directly back to these early missionaries. saint francis of assisi, the founder of the franciscan order, sent out his first disciples in the same manner as christ:

  • "Then the blessed Francis called them all to himself and told them many things about the kingdom of God, contempt of the world, denial of their own will, and subjection of the body. He separated them into four groups of two each [binos]. Go, my dear brothers, he said to them, two by two [bini et bini] through different parts of the world, announcing peace to the people and penance for the remission of sins.” [the life of st francis]

furthermore, bernard of clairvaux, who was influential in shaping the cistercian order, drew a conscious parallel between disciples or missionaries going out into the world “bini et bini” and monks walking “bini et bini” in religious processions:

  • "We fittingly process two by two [bini et bini], for the holy gospels bear witness that thus were the disciples sent out by the Savior with the purpose of commending brotherly love and community life. If someone takes it into his head to walk alone, he disturbs the procession and not only harms himself but is a nuisance to others as well. These are people who segregate themselves, animals devoid of the Spirit. They make no effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” [original; translation]

thus, both donougher and the french editor (whose name escapes me) are right in that bini relates to priests walking in pairs during processions. but the meaning of the reference for joly and bossuet becomes all the more powerful when we understand the deep spiritual significance of this choreography. the comfort that joly and bossuet derive from one another’s presence, the way that their friendship deepens their commitment to the revolution, the way that they join “activity and knowledge” together in their actions….all of that fits perfectly with monastic partnership.

i should mention that i’m not suggesting that hugo knew about any of this with regards to monastic pairs, or that he intended to make all these specific allusions. hugo’s position on monasticism is complicated, in a word, and it’s always good to remember that. but i also don’t think that this long digression is completely divorced from the canon, either. even if hugo didn’t know why some monks walked in pairs, or shared their belongings, he obviously found the fact that they did meaningful. knowing the theological significance only enriches the comparison.

on that note, i thought i’d end with an excerpt from an essay i found about early monasticism in egypt. clearly, hugo had no idea what these monks had been up to over a thousand years earlier, but i still find the comparison with joly and bossuet interesting and powerful:

The monastic literature of late antique Egypt makes frequent reference to two monks living together and being recognized as “brothers.” Most prominent are stories where two “brothers” went to the city together to sell their handicraft. When one of them fell into sin with a woman, the other promised to share the burden of the penance. This is depicted as a great example of charity, and indirectly confirms that hagiographers and their audience were familiar with the notion that two monks could share the same spiritual capital as it were, through the act of vicarious penance. This commitment extended even beyond death. Paired monks, as I like to call them, are often reported to have made a promise to one another to be united in death and to be buried in the same tomb, so that their relation may extend into the afterlife (31-32).

going out into the city together! sharing the burden of sexual sin! united in death and for all eternity! i mean, come on. *sniff*

joly, bossuet and religious orders, 2/2 (bini)