Readers of a certain age might remember the silly TV show The Flying Nun…religious brothers and sisters who take flight are nothing new.

When we lived in Wiltshire in England we learned the delightful story from the Middle Ages about Eilmer  a Benedictine monk of Malmesbury Abbey  who, in the eleventh century, jumped off the tower of the abbey church with some home made wings. Like Icarus he plummeted. The story is related by a monastic historian, William of Malmesbury:

He was a man learned for those times, of ripe old age, and in his early youth had hazarded a deed of remarkable boldness. He had by some means, I scarcely know what, fastened wings to his hands and feet so that, mistaking fable for truth, he might fly like Daedalus, and, collecting the breeze upon the summit of a tower, flew for more than a furlong [201 metres]. But agitated by the violence of the wind and the swirling of air, as well as by the awareness of his rash attempt, he fell, broke both his legs and was lame ever after. He used to relate as the cause of his failure, his forgetting to provide himself a tail.

Praise the Lord

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