All about Foy
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What is The Conquest of Foy all about?
The year is 1066.
Saint Foy's reliquary is one of the most visited shrines in the empire.
Foy would work miracles for some, but for others... strange curses.
The dangerous relics fall into the hands of Duke William of Normandy (William the Conqueror) and he can't resist the opportunity to use them as a weapon in one of the greatest battles of the middle ages.
The battle of Hastings. Is William in control, or is this Foy's conquest?
Conques Abbey, France
The beautiful 11th century Abbey of Sainte-Foy in Conques, southern France. This is where The Conquest of Foy tale begins, in Chapter 1.
(also featured in the opening scene of the book trailer)
The entire village of Conques seems to be locked in time with its mostly medieval architecture still intact today. The majority of visitors today (and for the last 1000 years) are pilgrims on foot as they head to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. One of the world's most popular pilgrimage trails, The Camino.
Saint Foy's reliquary
Saint Foy (or Faith) lived in Agen in Gaul (France) late 3rd century.
At the age of just 12 she was martyred by Romans and was buried just outside the walls of Agen.
The story of Foy's brave martyrdom swiftly spread throughout France.
Before long, she was officially declared as a saint and the popularity of her miracle-working relics soared. By the 9th century, her rapidly growing cult lead to one of the most famous cases of furta sacra (relic theft) of the middle ages, in 866. The successful theft saw Foy's relics move from Agen to Conques, where it remained. Which is where The Conquest of Foy's narrative comes into play.
The gilt reliquary statue was crafted early 11th century.
A particular poet of the time deemed it too beautiful for pilgrims, fearing it would "lead to idol worship".
Though, you'd be forgiven if you thought the statue's haunting head looks nothing like a 12 year old girl. Recent historians have raised theories that Foy's statue head was actually repurposed, originally meant for a Charles the Great (Charlemagne) statue, 8th century.
What is Furta Sacra?
Medieval Bishops and Abbots relied on the donations of pilgrims to support their wealthy lifestyles and building projects.
But to lure the pilgrims, they needed a popular saint.
Furta Sacra (Latin for sacred or relic theft) was the practice of sending your own monk-thief to a rival abbey and pose as a novice. Living within the community of monks until there was an opportunity to steal the prized relics. The process would often take several years.
This map of 11th century western Europe features in the opening pages of the book. The Conquest of Foy narrative does travel aggressively between these locations, so this map will be helpful to get your bearings. It certainly was for me. I had this up on a wall while I drafted the manuscript.
Not featured in the novel, I created this conceptual map of 11th century London to help me visualise scenes. The Conquest of Foy is often set in "Thorney Island, London", which is where Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster is today. Though, in the 11th century, with its natural moat, it was the perfect location for Edward the Confessor's palace, abbey and monastery. Away from the crowds of London upstream, near London Bridge & St. Paul's, with it's population of roughly 20,000. Difficult to imagine.
Characters - Visual reference for the author
Although I have a clear (and lengthy) character list in the opening pages of the novel, being a visual-type, I needed to see the types of characters I was creating the narrative. So, I made this visual reference. Linking The Conquest of Foy to characters I've loved from movies, art and even bands.
I printed it out and pinned it up at my desk at work and by my computer at home. Recognise any? (Best viewed from a desktop)
Note: These character pictures are not in anyway connected with The Conquest of Foy.
For every scene, there was research. I'm definitely grateful for some of the amazing modern and medieval historians that inspired me along the way. This is about half of the books and sources I used to ensure The Conquest of Foy held historical accuracy, but these are my favourites.
Battle Abbey & Battlefield, England
My wife, Amber, and I visited Britain in 2006 and it's where the seeds of Foy's story were cultivated. William the Conqueror's 1066 invasion on English-soil is the setting around the narrative of The Conquest of Foy, and the inspiration came when we visited the location of the Battle of Hastings, along with the beautiful abbey.