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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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
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.
Regals or Organ (Royal, 14 E iii).
Regals and Double Pipe (Royal 2 B vii).
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Knight of the Fifteenth Century
The cut is a spirited little sketch of a mounted knight. The horse, it may be admitted, is very like those which children draw nowadays, but it has more life in it than most of the drawings of that day; and the way in which the knight sits his horse is much more artistic. The picture shows the equipment of the knight very clearly, and it is specially valuable as an early example of horse trappings, and as an authority for the shape of the saddle, with its high pommel and croupe.
King, &c., in Pavilion before Castle
We give another representation from the picture of John Ball, the priest who was concerned in Wat Tyler’s rebellion, taken from a MS. of Froissart’s Chronicle, in the Bibliothèque Impériale at Paris. The whole picture is interesting; the background is a church, in whose churchyard are three tall crosses. Ball is preaching from the pulpit of his saddle to the crowd of insurgents who occupy the left side of the picture.
The picture represents Johanna de Warn, who also gave what is described as a well-built house, with a louvre, in St. Alban’s town. This house, again, is of timber, with traceried windows, an arched doorway with ornamental hinges to the door, and an unusually large and handsome louvre. This louvre was doubtless in the roof of the hall, and probably over a fire-hearth in the middle of the hall, such as that which still exists in the fourteenth-century hall at Pevensey, Kent. The lady’s face is strong corroboration of the theory that these are portraits.
The custom of having instrumental music as an accompaniment of dinner is still retained by her Majesty and by some of the greater nobility, by military messes, and at great public dinners. But the musical accompaniment of a mediæval dinner was not confined to instrumental performances. We frequently find a harper introduced, who is doubtless reciting some romance or history, or singing chansons of a lighter character. He is often represented as sitting upon the floor.
It represents a sally of the garrison of Nantes on the English, who are besieging it. The man-at-arms who lies prostrate under the horse-hoofs is one of the garrison, who has been pierced by the spear whose truncheon lies on the ground beside him.
The unarmed man on the left is one of the English party, in ordinary civil costume, apparently only a spectator of the attack.
Funeral Service of a Hermit
French National Library
There were also female minstrels throughout the Middle Ages; but, as might be anticipated from their irregular wandering life, they bore an indifferent reputation.
Rogerus, chaplain of the chapel of the Earl of Warwick, at Flamsted. Over a scarlet gown, is a pink cloak lined with blue; the hood is scarlet, of the same suit as the gown; the buttons at the shoulder of the cloak are white, the shoes red.
Sir Richard de Threton, priest,who was executor of Sir Robert de Thorp, knight, formerly chancellor of the king, and who gave twenty marks to the convent. Our woodcut gives only the outlines of the full-length portrait. In the original the robe and hood are of full bright blue, lined with white; the under sleeves, which appear at the wrists, are of the same colour; and the shoes are red.
the grateful monks of St. Alban’s have recorded the names and good deeds of those who had presented gifts or done services to the convent.
At f. 106 v. is Dns. Bartholomeus de Wendone, rector of the church of Thakreston, and the character of the face leads us to think that it may have been intended for a portrait. His robe and hood and sleeves are scarlet, with black shoes.
Defending the Bridge
Cymbals and Trumpets
The cross-bowman is winding up his weapon with a winch, his shield is slung at his back.
The cut, from a MS. in the French National Library, gives the interior of the courtyard of a great house. We notice the portion of one of the towers on the left, the draw-well, the external stair to the principal rooms on the first floor, the covered unglazed gallery which formed the mode of communication from the different apartments of the first floor, and the dormer windows.
Those more terrible engines of war which ultimately revolutionised the whole art of warfare, which made the knight’s armour useless, and the trebuchet and arbalest the huge toys of an unscientific age, were already introduced; though they were yet themselves so immature, that for a time military men disputed whether the old long bow or the new fire-arm was the better weapon, and the trebuchet still held its place beside the cannon.
Cannon and Mortar
The illustration may represent to us the merry Sir Dinadan driving to the tournament of the Castle of Maidens
The man on the right of the cut wears a visored helmet, but it has no amail; his body is protected by a skirt of mail, which appears at the shoulders and hips, and at the openings of his blue surcoat; the legs are in brown hose, and the feet in brown shoes. The centre figure has a helmet and camail, sleeves of mail, and iron breastplate of overlapping plates; the upper plate and the skirt are of red spotted with gold; his hose and shoes are of dark grey. The third man has a helmet with camail, and the body protected by mail, which shows under the arm, but he has also shoulder-pieces and elbow-pieces of plate; his surcoat is yellow, and his hose red. The artist has here admirably illustrated the use of the crossbow. In one case we see the archer stringing it by help of a little winch; in the next he is taking a bolt out of the quiver at his side with which to load his weapon; in the third we have the attitude in which it was discharged.
The woodcut represents the characteristic costume of three orders of religious with whom we have been concerned—a bishop, an abbot, and a clerk.
In the year 529 a.d., St. Benedict, an Italian of noble birth and great reputation, introduced into his new monastery on Monte Cassino—a hill between Rome and Naples—a new monastic rule. To the three vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, which formed the foundation of most of the old rules, he added another, that of manual labour (for seven hours a day), not only for self-support, but also as a duty to God and man.
The Nuns of Fontevraud was another female order of Augustinians, of which little is known. It was founded at Fontevraud in France, and three houses of the order were established in England in the time of Henry II.; they had monks and nuns within the same enclosure, and all subject to the rule of an abbess.
In the cut we give a representation of the battering-ram It contains curious contrivances for throwing up scaling-ladders and affixing them to the battlements, from which the inventors of our fire-escapes may have borrowed suggestions; and others for bridging wide moats and rivers with light scaffolding, which could be handled and fixed as easily and quickly as the scaling-ladders. The drawing of the ram only indicates that the machine consists of a heavy square beam of timber, provided, probably, with a metal head, which is suspended by a rope from a tall frame, and worked by manual strength. The cut is especially interesting as an illustration of the style of armour of the latter part of the fifteenth century. It gives the back as well as the front of the figure, and also several varieties of helmet.
Picture represents very clearly the half-armour worn by the Arquebusier and the weapon from which they took their name.
In the picture in the French National Library, the beds are arranged at the side of the apartment in separate berths, like those of a ship’s cabin, or like the box beds of the Highlands of Scotland. It is necessary, perhaps, to explain that the artist has imagined one side of the room removed, so as to introduce into his illustration both the mounted traveller outside and the interior of the inn.
In the MSS. we not unfrequently find the ordinary musical instruments placed in the hands of the angels
Clerk in Orders is still the legal description of a clergyman; and men whose occupation is to use the pen are still called clerks, as lawyers’ clerks, merchants’ clerks, &c. Clerks were often employed in secular occupations; for example, Alan Middleton, who was employed by the convent of St. Alban’s to collect their rents, and who is represented in the picture from their “Catalogus Benefactorum” (Nero D. vii., British Museum), is tonsured, and therefore was a clerk.
The Cellarer was in fact the steward of the house; his modern representative is the bursar of a college. He had the care of everything relating to the provision of the food and vessels of the convent. He was exempt from the observance of some of the services in church; he had the use of horses and servants for the fulfilment of his duties, and sometimes he appears to have had separate apartments. The cellarer, as we have said, wore no distinctive dress or badge; but in the Catalogus Benefactorum of St. Alban’s there occurs a portrait of one “Adam Cellarius,” who for his distinguished merit had been buried among the abbots in the chapter-house, and had his name and effigy recorded in the Catalogus; he is holding two keys in one hand and a purse in the other, the symbols of his office; and in his quaint features—so different from those of the dignified abbot whom we have given from the same book—the limner seems to have given us the type of a business-like and not ungenial cellarer.
Squires are unarmed, and mature men of rather heavy type, different from the gay and gallant youths whom we are apt to picture to ourselves as the squires of the days of chivalry attendant on noble knights adventurous.
The illuminators are never tired of representing battles and sieges; and the general impression which we gather from them is that a mediæval combat must have presented to the lookers-on a confused melée of rushing horses and armoured men in violent action, with a forest of weapons overhead—great swords, and falchions, and axes, and spears, with pennons fluttering aloft here and there in the breeze of the combat.[Pg 376] We almost fancy we can see the dust caused by the prancing horses, and hear the clash of weapons and the hoarse war-cries, and sometimes can almost hear the shriek which bursts from the maddened horse, or the groan of the man who is wounded and helpless under the trampling hoofs.
The woodcut represents, probably, the cellarer of a Dominican convent receiving a donation of a fish.