Rulers and Government
19 photos 53 photos in 4 sub-albums
The Economy and Trade
2 photos 69 photos in 5 sub-albums
Life in the Middle ages
97 photos in 5 sub-albums
frequently the different members of the same band of minstrels present differences of costume, as in the instance here given, from the title-page of the fourteenth century MS. Add., 10,293; proving that the minstrels did not affect any uniformity of costume whatever.
Wool Merchants from Northleach Church
The Bayeux tapestry is probably our earliest trustworthy authority for a British ship, and it gives a considerable number of illustrations of them, intended to represent in one place the numerous fleet which William the Conqueror gathered for the transport of his army across the Channel; in another place the considerable fleet with which Harold hoped to bar the way. The one we have chosen is the duke’s own ship; it displays at its mast-head the banner which the Pope had blessed, and the trumpeter on the high poop is also an evidence that it is the commander’s ship.
William de Langley, who gave to the monastery a well-built house in Dagnale Street, in the town of St. Alban’s, for which the monastery received sixty shillings per annum, which Geoffrey Stukeley held at the time of writing. William de Langley is a man of regular features, partly bald, with pointed beard and moustache, the kind of face that might so easily have been merely conventional, but which has really much individuality of expression. The house—his benefaction—represented beside him, is a two-storied house; three of the square compartments just under the eaves are seen, by the colouring of the illumination, to be windows; it is timber-built and tiled, and the upper story overhangs the lower. The gable is finished with a weather-vane, which, in the original, is carried beyond the limits of the picture.
The donors seem to be chiefly tradespeople rather than merchants of the higher class, and of the latter half of the fourteenth century. Here, for example, are William Cheupaign and his wife Johanna, who gave to the Abbey-church two tenements in the Halliwelle Street. One of the tenements is represented in the picture, a single-storied house of timber, thatched, with a carved stag’s head as a finial to its gable.
In the Additional MS. 11,695, in the British Museum, a work of the eleventh century, there are several representations of warriors thus fully armed, very rude and coarse in drawing, but valuable for the clearness with which they represent the military equipment of the time. At folio 194 there is a large figure of a warrior in a mail shirt, a conical helmet,[Pg 316] strengthened with iron ribs converging to the apex, the front rib extending downwards, into what is called a nasal, i.e., a piece of iron extending downwards over the nose, so as to protect the face from a sword-cut across the upper part of it.
They were grateful men, these Benedictines of St. Alban’s; they have immortalised another of their inferior officers, Walterus de Hamuntesham, fidelis minister hujus ecclesiæ, because on one occasion he received a beating at the hands of the rabble of St. Alban’s while standing up for the rights and liberties of the church.
View of Jerusalem
The archers of the castle found shelter behind the merlons of the battlements, and had the windows from which they shot screened by movable shutters; as may be seen in the next woodcut of the assault on a castle. It would have put the archers of the assailants at a great disadvantage if they had had to stand out in the open space, exposed defenceless to the aim of the foe; all neighbouring trees which could give shelter were, of course, cut down, in order to reduce them to this defenceless condition, and works were erected so as to command every possible coigne of vantage which the nooks and angles of the walls might have afforded. But the archers of the besiegers sought to put themselves on more equal terms with their opponents by using the pavis or mantelet. The pavis was a tall shield, curved so as partly to envelop the person of the bearer, broad at the top and tapering to the feet.
The illustration shows a group of people crossing the bridge into a town, and the collector levying the toll. The oxen and pigs, the country-wife on horseback, with a lamb laid over the front of her saddle, represent the country-people and their farm-produce; the pack-horse and mule on the left, with their flat-capped attendant, are an interesting illustration of the itinerant trader bringing in his goods.
In the middle of the picture is a castle with a bridge, protected by an advanced tower, and a postern with a drawbridge drawn up. Archers, cross-bowmen, and men-at-arms man the battlements. In front is a group of men-at-arms and tents, with archers and cross-bowmen shooting up at the defenders. On the right is a group of men-at-arms who seem to be meditating an attack by surprise upon the postern. On the left, opposed to the principal gate, is the timber fort shown in the woodcut. Its construction, of great posts and thick slabs of timber strengthened with stays and cross-beams, is well indicated. There seem to be two separate works: one is a battery of two cannon, the cannon having wheeled carriages; the other is manned by archers. It is curious to see the mixture of arms—long-bow, cross-bow, portable fire-arm, and wheeled cannon, all used at the same time; indeed, it may be questioned whether the earlier fire-arms were very much superior in effect to the more ancient weapons which they supplanted.
The most usual foreign pilgrimages were to the Holy Land, the scene of our Lord’s earthly life; to Rome, the centre of western Christianity; and to the shrine of St. James at Compostella.
The number of pilgrims to these places must have been comparatively limited; for a man who had any regular business or profession could not[Pg 160] well undertake so long an absence from home. The rich of no occupation could afford the leisure and the cost; and the poor who chose to abandon their lawful occupation could make these pilgrimages at the cost of others; for the pilgrim was sure of entertainment at every hospital, or monastery, or priory, probably at every parish priest’s rectory and every gentleman’s hall, on his way; and there were not a few poor men and women who indulged a vagabond humour in a pilgrim’s life. The poor pilgrim repaid his entertainer’s hospitality by bringing the news of the countries through which he had passed, and by amusing the household after supper with marvelous saintly legends, and traveler’s tales.
The woodcut is a reproduction from the frontispiece of one of Hulsius’ curious tracts on naval affairs, and represents the ship Victoria, in which Magellan sailed round the world, passing through the straits to which he gave his name.
The Parish Clerk sprinkling the Knight and Lady
Picture shows the costume and the holy water-pot and aspersoir, and to indicate how he went into all the rooms of the house now into the hall sprinkling the lord and lady who are at breakfast.
The Parish Clerk sprinkling the Cook
The picture will shows the costume and the holy water-pot and aspersoir, and to indicate how he went into all the rooms of the house—now into the kitchen sprinkling the cook.
In the MSS. we not unfrequently find the ordinary musical instruments placed in the hands of the angels; e.g., in the early fourteenth-century MS. Royal 2 B. vii., in a representation of the creation, with the morning stars singing together, and all the sons of God shouting for joy, an angelic choir are making melody on the trumpet, violin, cittern, shalm (or psaltery), and harp.
There is so much of character in his squire’s face in the picture, and that character so different from our conventional idea of a squire as he leans over the horse’s back talking to his master.
For an actual historical example of the tournament in which a number of knights challengers undertake to hold the field against all comers, we will take the passage of arms at St. Inglebert’s, near Calais, in the days of Edward III., because it is very fully narrated by Froissart, and because the splendid MS. of Froissart in the British Museum supplies us with a magnificent picture of the scene.
The illustration is from the valuable MS. Life and Acts of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. The present is part of a fight before Calais, in which Philip Duke of Burgundy was concerned on one side, and Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, Richard Earl of Warwick, and Humphrey Earl of Stafford on the other.
The use of the regular mine for effecting a breach in the wall of a fortified place was well known, and often brought to bear. The miners began their work at some distance, and drove a shaft underground towards the part of the fortifications which seemed most assailable; they excavated beneath the foundations of the wall, supporting the substructure with wooden props until they had finished their work. Then they set fire to the props, and retired to see the unsupported weight of the wall bringing it down in a heap of ruins. The operation of mining was usually effected under the protection of a temporary pent-house, called a cat or sow.
The woodcut from a MS. of Lydgate’s “Storie of Thebes”, gives a general view of a town. The travelers in the foreground are a group of Canterbury pilgrims.
The chief sign of the Canterbury pilgrimage was an ampul (ampulla, a flask); we are told all about its origin and meaning by Abbot Benedict, who wrote a book on the miracles of St. Thomas. The monks had carefully collected from the pavement the blood of the martyr which had been shed upon it, and preserved it as one of the precious relics.
Another of these guilds was the ancient company or fraternity of minstrels in Beverley, of which an account is given in Poulson’s “Beverlac”. When the fraternity originated we do not know; but they were of some consideration and wealth in the reign of Henry VI., when the Church of St. Mary’s, Beverley, was built.
Seizing that moment, a party of camp followers run forward with a couple of planks, which they throw over the moat to make a temporary bridge. They are across in an instant, and place scaling-ladders against the walls. The knights, following close at their heels, mount rapidly, each man carrying his shield over his head, so that the bare ladder is converted into a covered stair, from whose shield-roof arrows glint and stones roll off innocuous. It is easy to see that a body of the enemy might thus, in a few minutes, effect a lodgment on the castle-wall, and open a way for the whole party of assailants into the interior.
When many combatants fought on each side, it was called a tournament. Such sports were sometimes played in gorgeous costumes, but with weapons of lath, to make a spectacle in honour of a festal occasion. Sometimes the tournament was with bated weapons, but was a serious trial of skill and strength. And sometimes the tournament was even a mimic battle, and then usually between the adherents of hostile factions which sought thus to gratify their mutual hatreds, or it was a chivalrous incident in a war between two nations.
Suppose the king and his chivalry in the following woodcut to be only summoning the castle; and suppose them, on receiving a refusal to surrender, to resolve upon an assault. They retire a few hundred yards and dismount, and put their horses under the care of a guard. Presently they return supported by a strong body of archers, who ply the mail-clad defenders with such a hail of arrows that they are driven to seek shelter behind the battlements.
The woodcut shows the style of carriage associated—grotesquely associated, it seems to our eyes—with the armour and costume of the Middle Ages. It might represent Duke Theseus going in state through the streets of Athens, hung with tapestry and cloth of gold, to the solemn deed of arms of Palamon and Arcite.
The picture which we here give of an anchoress, is taken from a figure of St. Paula, one of the anchorite saints of the desert.
The best and clearest illustration which we have been able to find of the usual costume in which the hermits are represented, we here give to the reader. It is from the figure of St. Damasus, one of the group in the fine picture of “St. Jerome,” by Cosimo Roselli (who lived from 1439 to 1506), now in the National Gallery. The hermit-saint wears a light-brown frock, and scapular, with no girdle, and, over all, a cloak and hood of the same colour, and his naked feet are protected by wooden clogs.
The woodcut, greatly reduced from one of the fine tournament scenes in the MS. history of the Roi Meliadus, shows the temporary gallery erected for the convenience of the ladies and other spectators to witness the sports. The tent of one of the knights is seen in the background, and an indication of the hurly-burly of the combat below
In the monumental effigy of Sir Robert Shurland, who was made a knight-banneret in 1300, we seem to have a curious and probably unique effigy of a knight in the gameson. We give a woodcut of it, reduced from Stothard’s engraving. The smaller figure of the man placed at the feet of the effigy is in the same costume, and affords us an additional example.
The reclusorium, or anchorhold, seems sometimes to have been, like the hermitage, a house of timber or stone, or a grotto in a solitary place. In Sir T. Mallory’s “Prince Arthur” we are introduced to one of these, which afforded all the appliances for lodging and entertaining even male guests.
Sir Launcelot and a Hermit
This engraving of the latter part of the fourteenth century, gives a very clear representation of a ship and its boat. The earl is setting out on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In the foreground we see him with his pilgrim’s staff in hand, stepping into the boat which is to carry him to his ship lying at anchor in the harbour. The costume of the sailors is illustrated by the men in the boat. The vessel is a ship of burden, but such a one as kings and great personages had equipped for their own uses; resembling an ordinary merchant-ship in all essentials, but fitted and furnished with more than usual convenience and sumptuousness.
The accompanying drawing is perhaps one of the clearest and best contemporary illustrations we have of these mediæval galleys. It will be seen that it consists of a long low open boat, with outrigger galleries for the rowers, while the hold is left[free for merchandise, or, as in the present instance, for men-at-arms. It has a forecastle like an ordinary ship; the shields of the men-at-arms who occupy it are hung over the bulwarks; the commander stands at the stern under a pent-house covered with tapestry, bearing his shield, and holding his leader’s truncheon. A close examination of the drawing seems to show that there are two men to each oar; we know from other sources that several men were sometimes put to each oar. The difference in costume between the soldiers and the sailors is conspicuous. The former are men-at-arms in full armour—one on the forecastle is very distinctly shown; the sailors are entirely unarmed, except the man at the stroke-oar, probably an officer, who wears an ordinary hat of the period, the rest wear the hood drawn over the head. The ship in the same illustration is an ordinary ship of burden, filled with knights and men-at-arms; the trumpeters at the stern indicate that the commander of the fleet is on board this ship; he will be seen amidships, with his visor raised and his face towards the spectator, with shield on arm and truncheon in hand.
Besides the pipe and horn, the bagpipe was also a rustic instrument. The picture is a shepherd playing upon one.
Saxon freemen seem to have universally borne arms. Tacitus tells us of their German ancestors, that swords were rare among them, and the majority did not use lances, but that spears, with a narrow, sharp and short head, were the common and universal weapon, used either in distant or close fight; and that even the cavalry were satisfied with a shield and one of these spears.
Saxon Soldier, in Leather Armour
Saxon Horse Soldiers
In the accompanying woodcut from a Late Saxon MS. in the British Museum we have a curious evidence of the way in which custom blinded men to any incongruity there may be in the association of the harper and the juggler, for here we have David singing his Psalms and accompanying himself on the harp, the dove reminding us that he sang and harped under the influence of inspiration. He is accompanied by performers who must be Levites; and yet the Saxon illuminator was so used to see a mime form one of a minstrel band, that he has introduced one playing the common feat of tossing three knives and three balls.
The Dominicans and Franciscans arose simultaneously at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Dominic, an Augustinian canon, a Spaniard of noble birth, was seized with a zeal for converting heretics, and having gradually associated a few ecclesiastics with himself, he at length conceived the idea of founding an order of men who should spend their lives in preaching. Simultaneously, Francis, the son of a rich Italian merchant, was inspired with a design to establish a new order of men, who should spend their lives in preaching the Gospel and doing works of charity among the people. These two men met in Rome in the year 1216 a.d.
It is curious to find that even at so late a period as the time of Queen Mary, the shepherds still officiated at weddings and other merrymakings in their villages, so as to excite the jealousy of the professors of the joyous science.
The accompanying wood-cut, from a MS. in the French National library, may represent such a rustic merry-making.
The picture is of a royal dinner of about the time of our Edward IV., “taken from an illumination of the romance of the Compte d’Artois, in the possession of M. Barrois, a distinguished and well-known collector in Paris
Robert Braunche,of Lynn
Regals or Organ (Royal, 14 E iii).
Regals and Double Pipe (Royal 2 B vii).
The humble life of the country rectors and vicars.
There is an ancient rectory house of the fourteenth century at West Deane, Sussex, of which we give a ground-plan and north-east view on the following page; but the rectory belonged to the prior and convent of Benedictine Monks of Wilmington, and this house was probably their grange, or cell, and may have been inhabited by two of their monks, or by their tenant, and not by the parish priest.
The humble life of the country rectors and vicars.
There is an ancient rectory house of the fourteenth century at West Deane, Sussex, of which we give a ground-plan and north-east view on the following page; but the rectory belonged to the prior and convent of Benedictine Monks of Wilmington, and this house was probably their grange, or cell, and may have been inhabited by two of their monks, or by their tenant, and not by the parish pries
In a reclusorium, or anchorhold, there was always a “cell” of a certain construction, to which all things else, parlours or chapels, apartments for servants and guests, yards and gardens, were accidental appendages.
Of the quilted armours we know very little. In the illuminations is often seen armour covered over with lines arranged in a lozenge pattern, which perhaps represents garments stuffed and sewn in this commonest of all patterns of quilting; but it has been suggested that it may represent lozenged-shaped scales, of horn or metal, fastened upon the face of the garments. In the wood-cut here given from the MS. Caligula A. vii., we have one of the clearest and best extant illustrations of this quilted armour.
Saxon soldier in armour
Every castle offered hope, not only of hospitality, but also of a trial of arms; for in every castle there would be likely to be knights and squires glad of the opportunity of running a course with bated spears with a new and skilful antagonist. Here is a picture from an old MS. which represents the preliminaries of such a combat on the green between the castle walls and the moat.
Men who are in the constant habit of bearing arms are certain to engage in friendly contests with each other; it is the only mode in which they can acquire skill in the use of their weapons, and it affords a manly pastime. That such men should turn encounters with an enemy into trials of skill, subject to certain rules of fairness and courtesy, though conducted with sharp weapons and in deadly earnest, is also natural.
A woodcut of the fifteenth century, from a manuscript life of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, in the British Museum; the subject is the presentation of the pilgrim earl to the pope, and it enables us to bring into one view the costumes of pope, cardinal, and bishop.
The woodcut shows us a group of pages imbibing chivalrous usages even in their childish sports, for they are “playing at jousting.” It is easy to see the nature of the toy. A slip of wood forms the foundation, and represents the lists; the two wooden knights are movable on their horses by a pin through the hips and saddle; when pushed together in mimic joust, either the spears miss, and the course must be run again, or each strikes the other’s breast, and one or other gives way at the shock, and is forced back upon his horse’s back, and is vanquished.
Pilgrim, from Erasmus’s “Praise of Folly.”
The staff, or bourdon, was not of an invariable shape. On a fourteenth-century grave-stone at Haltwhistle, Northumberland, it is like a rather long walking-stick, with a natural knob at the top. In the cut from Erasmus’s “Praise of Folly” ” it is a similar walking-stick; but, usually, it was a long staff, some five, six, or seven feet long, turned in the lathe, with a knob at the top, and another about a foot lower down.
Pilgrim on Horseback
Pilgrim in Hair Shirt and Cloak
Picture represents very clearly the half-armour worn by the pikeman and the weapon from which they took their name.
The annexed woodcut represents passengers paying toll on landing at a foreign port. The reader will notice the picturesque custom-house officers, the landing-places, and the indications of town architecture.
The picture is a curious illumination from the Royal MS. 2 B vii., representing a friar and a nun themselves making minstrelsy.
A group of musical instruments from one of the illustrations of “Der Weise König,” a work of the close of the fifteenth century.
Monumental Brass of Alderman Field and his Son, a.d. 1474
The Chapter-house was always on the east side of the court. In establishments of secular canons it seems to have been always multi-sided with a central pillar to support its groining, and a lofty, conical, lead-covered roof. In these instances it is placed in the open space eastward of the cloister, and is usually approached by a passage from the east side of the cloister court
The Scriptorium is said to have been usually over the chapter-house. It was therefore a large apartment, capable of containing many persons, and, in fact, many persons did work together in it in a very business-like manner at the transcription of books.
The manner of bringing up a youth of good family in the Middle Ages was not to send him to a public school and the university, nor to keep him at home under a private tutor, but to put him into the household of some nobleman or knight of reputation to be trained up in the principles and practices of chivalry. First, as a page, he attended on the ladies of the household, and imbibed the first principles of that high-bred courtesy and transcendental devotion to the sex which are characteristic of the knight. From the chaplain of the castle he gained such knowledge of book-learning as he was destined to acquire—which was probably more extensive than is popularly supposed.
Next, round plates of metal, called placates or roundels, were applied to shield the armpits from a thrust; and sometimes they were used also at the elbow to protect the inner side of the joint where, for the convenience of motion, it was destitute of armour. An example of a roundel at the shoulder will be seen in one of the men-at-arms in the woodcut
In the illustration, of early fourteenth-century date, the scene of the dance is not indicated; the minstrels themselves appear to be joining in the saltitation which they inspire.
The last cut is taken from the painted glass at Tournay of the fifteenth century, and represents marchands en gros. This illustration of a warehouse with the merchant and his clerk, and the men and the casks and bales, and the great scales, in full tide of business, is curious and interesting.
Man-at-Arms and Archer of the Fifteenth Century
Sometimes a little below the lower knob there is a hook, or a staple, to which we occasionally find a water-bottle or a small bundle attached. The hook is seen on the staff of Lydgate’s pilgrim.
We have specially to call attention to the two men who are throwing shells, which are probably charged with Greek fire. This invention, which inspired such terror in the Middle Ages, seems to have been discovered in the east of Europe, and to have been employed as early as the seventh century. We hear much of its use in the Crusades, by the Greeks, who early possessed the secret of its fabrication. They used it either by ejecting it through pipes to set fire to the shipping or military engines, or to annoy and kill the soldiers of the enemy; or they cast it to a distance by means of vessels charged with it affixed to javelins; or they hurled larger vessels by means of the great engines for casting stones; or they threw the fire by hand in a hand-to-hand conflict; or used hollow maces charged with it, which were broken over the person of the enemy, and the liquid fire poured down, finding its way through the crevices of his armour.
At the west end of Laindon Church, Essex, there is a unique erection of timber, of which we here give a representation. It has been modernised in appearance by the insertion of windows and doors; and there are no architectural details of a character to reveal with certainty its date, but in its mode of construction—the massive timbers being placed close together—and in its general appearance, there is an air of considerable antiquity. It is improbable that a house would be erected in such a situation after the Reformation, and it accords generally with the descriptions of a recluse house.
The subject represents a scene from some romance, in which the good knight, attended by his squire, is guided by a damsel on some adventure.
Knights, Damsel, and Squire
We may say here that it was not unusual for people in fine weather to pitch a tent in the courtyard or garden of the castle, and live there instead of indoors, or to go a-field and pitch a little camp in some pleasant place, and spend the time in justing and feasting, and mirth and minstrelsy.
The other great invention of this period was that of armorial bearings, properly so called. Devices painted upon the shield were common in classical times. They are found ordinarily on the shields in the Bayeux tapestry, and were habitually used by the Norman knights. In the Bayeux tapestry they seem to be fanciful or merely decorative; later they were symbolical or significant. But it was only towards the close of the twelfth century that each knight assumed a fixed device, which was exclusively appropriated to him, by which he was known, and which became hereditary in his family.