Saturday, August 22, 2015

Scotelen van houte - Wooden bowls

De doorsnee veertiende eeuwer at normaliter van houten eetgerei. Hij maakte hierbij vooral gebruik van schotels die in diepte konden variëren tussen onze hedendaagse kom en bord. Afhankelijk hiervan waren ze geschikt om er zowel droge als natte waren uit te eten, men denke hierbij aan bijvoorbeeld brood of stoofpot. Het Brusselse broederschap van Sint Jacob dekte op Heilig Sacramentsdag in 1340 de tafels voor haar leden met hultene scotelen ende erdene drincpotte. En het Brugse Bouc vanden Ambachten van ca. 1371 verteld ons dat een doorsnee huishouden een scotelvat had omme in te doene hun scotelen van houte.

The average person in the fourteenth century used a wooden bowl to eat from. Its depth could vary considerably but normally it would be possible to use it for both dry and wet food, like bread or stew. In 1340, the Brussels fraternity of Saint Jacob prepared its tables for its members for the feast of the Holy Sacrament and would put wooden bowls and earthenware drinking pots on it. The Bruges Bouc vanden Ambachten of c. 1371 tells us that a household would have a 'scotelvat' ('bowlbarrel') to put its 'bowls of wood' in.

Bowl in the Flehite Museum in Amersfoort, 1350-1375

De schotels werden door de schoteldraaiers gemaakt. Rekeningposten in de boekhoudingen van vele adellijke huishoudens tonen dat ze met honderden en soms duizenden tegelijk werden aangeschaft, jaar in jaar uit. Dit duidt op een constante doorloop en daarom op hun vergankelijkheid. Dat er vandaag de dag niet heel veel van worden aangetroffen in archeologische opgravingen kan verklaard worden uit hun recyclewaarde in de vorm van brandhout. Nadat ze niet meer bruikbaar waren om van te eten zullen ze in het vuur zijn geïndigd.

The bowls were made by the bowlturners. Household accounts of many noble houses show that they were bought by the hundreds and sometimes thousands, every year. This means they did not last long. The fact that not many are found these days in archaeological excavations can be explained by their value as firewood after they were no longer usable to eat from

 
Bowl in the Flehite Museum in Amersfoort, 1350-1375


Naast schotels kende men ook 'ruwe schotels' en platelen. De ruwe schotel was een stuk goedkoper dan een normale schotel. Waarschijnlijk ging het hierbij om een platte schotel die in sommige regios ook wel als teljoor bekend stond. Deze waren enkel geschikt om droge waren van te eten. Platelen daarentegen waren grote opdienschotels. Zij waren duurder dan de normale schotel en werden ook in veel minder grote oplages aangeschaft. De normale schotel kende een alternatieve benaming in het Sticht (bisdom Utrecht), namelijk een spauwert. Uit de boekhouding van het huishouden van de Utrechtse bisschop van 1378 weten we dat een ruwe schotel 0,1 plak kostte, een spauwert / normale schotel 0,4 plak en een plateel 1 plak. Er werden bijvoorbeeld in 1378 aangeschaft:
- Item 6 groete platelen: 6 plakken
- Item een 25 spauwerts: 9 plakken
- Item 50 ruwer scotelen: 4 plakken
- Item 50 spauwerts: 1 schelling 6 plakken
- Item 100 ruwer scotelen: 10 plakken
- Item 50 spauwerts: 1 schelling 2 plakken
- Item 9 platelen: 1 schelling

Next to bowls there were also 'rough bowls' and 'platelen'. The rough bowl was a lot cheaper than a normal bowl. Probably it was a flat bowl, a plate, which in some Dutch areas was known as a teljoor (current German still uses the word Teller). These could only be used for dry food. Platelen on the other hand were big bowls or plates to serve food from. They were more expensive than normal bowls and were also bought in smaller quantities. The normal bowl was known under a different name in the Bishopric of Utrecht, it was called a 'spauwert' there. The accountbook of 1378 of the household of the bishop shows that a rough bowl (a plate) cost 0,1 plak, a normal bowl / spauwert was 0,4 plak and a plateel was 1 plak. For example these amounts were bought in 1378:
- Item 6 groete platelen: 6 plakken
- Item een 25 spauwerts: 9 plakken
- Item 50 ruwer scotelen: 4 plakken
- Item 50 spauwerts: 1 schelling 6 plakken
- Item 100 ruwer scotelen: 10 plakken
- Item 50 spauwerts: 1 schelling 2 plakken
- Item 9 platelen: 1 schelling



Crosscut drawing of one of the bowls found at De Hof in Amersfoort, 1350-1375

Om ervoor te zorgen dat de leden van Deventer Burgerscap correct uitziende replicas van veertiende eeuwse houten schotels konden aanschaffen heb ik zoveel mogelijk archeologische vondsten daterend uit die tijd en uit de Lage Landen op een rijtje gezet. Aan de hand hiervan hebben we afgelopen winter een groepsbestelling gedaan bij onze vriend en houtdraaier Zeitenhandel / Daniel van den Woldenberg. Middeleeuwse schotels werden normaal gezien in groen hout, dat wil zeggen ongedroogd hout, gemaakt. Hierdoor kon het hout nog iets vervormen. Tevens zijn de draaisporen of 'ribbels' veel zichtbaarder in groen hout. Beide karakteristieken vinden we terug in de archeologische vondsten. Dit vinden we niet erg, het geeft een stuk juist karakter! Het stuk op de negende foto hieronder is duidelijk in groen hout gemaakt. We zijn erg tevreden met en trots op de reproducties en zullen er natuurlijk iets zuiniger mee omspringen dan de veertiende eeuwer. ;-)

To make sure that the members of Deventer Burgerscap would be able to acquire historically correct looking replicas of fourteenth century wooden bowls I have made a list of all the archaeological finds of these from that time and from the Low Countries that I could look up. With the help of this we have made group order with our friend and wood turner Zeitenhandel / Daniel van den Woldenberg last winter. Medieval bowls were normally made from green wood, that is to say fresh wood that is still relatively wet. This caused the wood to possibly still warp a bit. The traces of the turning process, so called 'ribs', are very visible in green wood. Both features are present in the archaeological finds. We do not mind this, it adds character to a piece! For example the one in the ninth photo below was made in green wood. We are very happy with and proud of the reproductions and of course we will be a bit more protective of them than they would have back then. ;-)

























Museum photos courtesy / copyright of Bertus Brokamp
Replicas photos courtesy / copyright of Isis Sturtewagen

Friday, December 12, 2014

A fourteenth century wedding

 
 
I had promised to write this, and a lot earlier actually, but I had not come round to doing it. So finally, here it is: the piece about the fourteenth century Dutch wedding DB had organised in Archeon.


As in 2013, Archeon would have a cooking-themed event in the last weekend of september. Last year, DB had visited this event, and we had just been cooking and preparing some late Medieval dishes. It had been a lot of fun though. This year however, we were thinking of making it a tad more festive. Around march already, we had plans for a little banquet. The event would coincide namely, with the LPLG (the Dutch umbrella foundation for most Living History groups in the country) which was held in Archeon as well in 2004, and during which the earliest composition of our group agreed to merge with other members of the LHO, as they had basically the same idea as we, a group of citizens and craftsmen from a Dutch city in the second half of the fourteenth century. Thus, we were basically celebrating the tenth anniversary of the group. As I - Laurens - myself, and Nijso had our birthdays earlier in september as well, this called for a feast. Also, we had heard that our German friend from MiM would pay the park a visit as well.

 

But to add to this, Vera, who has also been an employee of the historical theme park for seven years, was very keen to organise a wedding. She had picked up that in 2008, when she first came to work there, Mirjam (a former collegue, and also a friend of mine outside of Living History) had had plans to do a wedding  with her boyfriend at the time, Sander, who is also my good friend and former Archeotolk and DB-prospect. But as the relationship ended, this plan would never take place. Earlier, in 2004, there had been a wedding as well by Mante and Matthijs, then in a relationship, and in the two years following, between Wike (a former member of DB, who migrated to Sweden) and myself, even though we never dated.
Because Vera had the strongest connections and influence inside Archeon, she would take up the task of arranging it from within, and Bertus (although he was engaged in other activities mostly) and I would do some external work. This resulted in a small research on medieval wedding customs that proved helpful, as we had entirely lost all information Mante had sorted out in 2004 (and also I found out some new information).


As Vera became ill in the week before the event - she was struck with influenza or something - there was some slight panic. In the worst case, she couldn't make it and her collegue Maaike, who was also her trusted ceremony-mistress, or someone else had to fill in as the bride. Up untill the last moment, there was some uncertainty about whether she should make it, and also who exactly would play the groom, but in the end, she felt well enough and everything went as planned. The groom would be played by Daniel van den Woldenberg, one of the members of MiM, because he has a fancy outfit. This would add something extra to the wedding, as German customs were slightly different from Dutch ones, and we could have both (or none, where information was lacking). One thing, for example: apparently the bride wore red in Germany, which was lucky because Vera had just finished a red surcotte.



Historically, the bridal couple to be would make it's intentions public, with the approval of the parents (or guardians) at a public but sacred place, often in the church yard, or near a chapel or convent. Not inside the church though, as this was, at the time, solely a house of prayer (this would change in the next two centuries, getting all sorts of church-unrelated activities inside, which would have been one of the nuisances of Dutch protestants, even though they kept weddings inside the church afterwards, as it became a sacred bond).
When the engagement had been proclaimed, three instances on which banni (objections to the marriage, as the couple might be related or one of them was already married) could be uttered, were presented. If all was well, the wedding could take place.
Normally, the couple to be would visit the priest one or two days before the wedding, to be blessed and be educated in how to be a good christian couple, so as to make sure their offspring would not be raised as heathens, and both spouses would be well aware of their marital tasks. Although the husband was formally the head of the family, these tasks were not all in his favour: he too had a lot of work to do to please and sustain his wife. Although the church would not officially admit to pleasure during marital sex, of course a priest knew that the bride and groom would have a much happier marriage if some enjoyment would take place.


On the day of the wedding, it was advised by clerical writers, to do this at a 'good hour' which was supposedly between 7 an 10 AM, or between 2 and 4 PM. Because of the Archeon day-planning, this was however not very practical. We decided to let the ceremony take place at noon, which was much more agreeable for everyone. The ceremony, as far as I could reconstruct it, consisted of the bride walking to the groom waiting with the priest and the witnesses, to be presented to him by her father or guardian, as is still common. They would then shake hands as all agreed it was a good match, and bride and groom would be led by the priest to the entrance of the church, or a little chapel, or maybe even a sacred object in the church-yard. They would not enter the church. As opposed to modern times, the priest would not ask anymore of anyone opposed, because they would already have had three chances before. The bride and groom would then repeat after the priest their vows (in this instance, rather uniform), and the ring and some wedding gifts, often coins, would be placed in a bowl of silver, or precious material, with a linen cloth covering it. The couple would be placed under a long decorated or white cloth, held by their respective fathers, or other male relatives in their absence, as some sort of blanket to represent the wedding bed. It also has symbolical associations with either the heavens, or with the robes of the Holy Mother looking after married people and of course their children. The priest would then lift one part of the cloth and get the ring (or this might be presented to him by an acolyte), bless it with holy water, and hand it to the groom, who would then place it on the hand of the bride. This would not happen vice versa, as Medieval people had a sort of aristotelian idea about how men would be much better in controlling their urges, thus not needing to show the world they were married, whereas women, always prone to lechery, would have to show they had been married off and had become decent enough women. In reality, however, one can imagine that, ring or no ring, either man and woman could find tricks to indulge in adultery, as many fourteenth century stories tell us (they were officially 'high class literature' but often seem upon us as some sort of comical porn novels with a morale at the end, such as, don't be a stupid man, or, women need loving too).
After all this, the couple would be blessed and a mass would be held inside the church, not only in their honour, but of course, mostly in the honour of God, and to remind them again to be good, decent christians.



Officially, there was no strict need to have the actual marriage and the wedding feast on the same day, but it will often have taken place anyway. There wasn't even an official need to invite anyone to your marriage, which would probably be handy if you tried to marry without consent, but otherwise, I reckon, your parents would dislike it. I even found that up until 1560, the church disapproved of, but condoned clandestine weddings, where a couple would just agree to be together from the next time they had sex onwards. The children from these bonds would be legitimate and they would certainly help if one of the partners had been promised to someone she or he didn't want. The only problem was, that if one of the partners decided to divorce, because he or she wanted to marry someone else, or the parents threatened to do something nasty, there was absolutely no guarantee for you. If the partner would just deny that you were married, it was off. The only thing the church could or would do, was try to reconcile them, and tell the duped party that they should have been married before the church, so everyone would know and it was written down. Through accounts of these cases, it is that we even know of this practice. The greatest problem was, that from that moment on, the children would be deemed illegitimate and had no security for their future (unless the remaining parent was super rich or something).
In the earlier Middle Ages, it was even a custom to have a man and a woman live together for a while, to have them experiment with their bodies, and they would be as if married, but only for a while. If the partners and their parents agreed, they could then officially marry, if not, they would separate. I'm not sure what happened to incidental offspring of these temporal bonds. From other research, I have found that even in the fourteenth century, it was a custom rather than an exception, that a man and a women would have a sexual relationship outside marriage, from which they had children, and these would be bastards, but apparently the parents of the couple were totally fine with it. I reckon that in some instances, either the parents or the lovers recognized that they weren't suitable marriage material but liked to be together and fuck, or the custom of temporal bonds had continued up to this age. If the parents came from rich noble families, the bastards would often receive grants of land from them or their unofficial families.


Now, back to the event. We had no mass after the ceremony, because this would take too long, and it would bore the public and ourselves. Instead, we moved straight on to the wedding bed ceremony. Originally, the couple would be brought to their bed by the parents and family and friends and have some sort of paganistic ritual where the family would hold up the blankets (as seen before in the ceremony) and everyone would watch them have sex or something. Christianity wouldn't have any of this, so the ritual was transformed into something more prudish: the couple would be placed on the bed, clothed, probably laying down on top or under the blanket, and receive blessings from the priest again. Officially, the should remain abstinent for one to three days out of respect for this blessing in the face of God, but I doubt they would have. Vera and Daniel just sat down on the bed and received the blessing, to talk to the public afterwards about what the whole ceremony had been about.


We now took a short break, to relax, and this was especially necessary for Vera, who was still somewhat ill and super stressed. Luckily, both days were absolutely tremendous considering the weather, it was still like summer, and that at the end of september (then again, 2014 is said to have been the warmest year since some 300 years). This would soon prove to be a slight problem, as we had set up the tables for the wedding feast on the hottest spot of the medieval market square, at the middle of the day. It must have been somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees Centigrade still. While the cooks, the personnel and the public reclined in the shade, we, as the wedding guests, were seated in the hot sun during dinner. It was worth it though, because the food, prepared by MiM, under the supervision of Ronald Vetter, the chef, was delicious.
 

Then, during this feast, came the prime moment. You might even wonder why I have not elaborated about this before, or even mentioned it, but this is because this momentwas seperate from the church ceremony. These days, it is custom to have the couple kiss at the altar after they have given eachother the ring and have been bleesed by the priest, but in the fourteenth century, this was not so. The couple would face eachother in the middle of the U-shaped table formation, surrounded by all the guests, and a pile of cakes would be held or placed in between them. The pile of cakes, or rather cookies, had been made by Renate, the baker, and she held it up, while Vera and Daniel had to stand on the tips of their toes to give a quick smooch. Seeing the pictures, this was apparently enormously funny.

 

After the feast, most of the vistors went to see the gladiator show, and after that, slowly left the park. Some people thought the wedding was real and came to congratulate the couple and thank them for the small portions of food they had been allowed to enjoy. Now it was time for us to relax. We had a few drinks, talked, and cleaned up as much as we could before it became dark. This happened early, as it was officially autumn, and unlike the summer, dusk fell about 8 PM. Vera, not too well, went home around this time, shortly after that followed by Bertus and Isis who live in Alphen. The Germans of MiM slept in the Roman inn, and the few remaining DB-members, namely Reinier, Marije, Christie and myself, slept in the tents we had brought.

 

On saturday we had been joined by Wilg and Bryndis, and Bea, on sunday by the Wessels family. Nijso also left on saturday evening. The sunday was mostly the same as saturday, but Ronnie (Ronald) and Taija Vetter had to leave early for home (they live in Edinburgh now). After the cleaning and breaking up of the stuff, we went home, except for the remaining Germans, who would leave the next morning.


Laurens Feijten

All photo's are made by Hans Splinter












Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A tight fitting hood with armpit straps.

It has been a long while since I posted on the Deventer Burgerscap blog. But my participation in the latest DB event and the questions I got after my hood that I wore there have nudged me back to the writing table. The hood in question is one that I made years ago already and which is tight fitting, with a front button closure, a short and squarish shoulder mantle and with straps running under the armpits connecting front and back of the said mantle.

Photos courtesy of Hans Splinter, 2014

The tight fit enables the wearer to wear a mantle or other outer garment on top, such as was the (male) fashion in the 1360s and 1370s, without too much bulky fabric around the neck. The straps under the armpits enable the wearer to shift the mantle, from a position where the buttons are in front on the chest to or from one where they are on the right shoulder, while the hood stays in its proper place.This way of carrying your mantle was also fashionable in those days. Lastly, when worn without any outer garment on top, the armpit straps make this a very practical hood for use during outdoor activities since the hood-mantle can not be blown up into your face by the wind.

Photos courtesy of Isis Sturtewagen & Hans Splinter, 2014

This hood is in fact a prototype but still needs replacing by a new and better one. You know how these things go. For the prototype we (Isis helped me out) made a pattern with a seam in the neck. This made for an unwelcome bunching up of fabric in the front where the buttons and buttonholes are. Since then we have learned that a tight fitting hood can also be made with the usual pattern of two large pieces that only get augmented by two inset gores on the shoulders. The new pattern in cheap fabric has already been made.

Now let us go to the sources, because, what is this!? young men wearing tight fitting buttoned hoods? It seems that the reenactment (and academic?) community has long believed that buttoned hoods were something that only women wore. In their book 'Textiles and Clothing' on the textile finds from London the authors write that 'this type of closely fitting hood is typical of the late 14th century and is to be seen in many manuscript illuminations and sculptural figures. It was worn mainly by women ... '. Luckily for us they write about this hood because they found one (of a type without armpit-straps):


The book also mentions the find of part of a buttoned hood from Dordrecht in the Netherlands from c. 1400, but alas does not give a photo or drawing of it.
When we look into textual sources from that era, we find evidence of men wearing hoods with front closures ánd armpit-straps! First there are the purchases made in 1362 and 1363 for his young lordship of the towns of Schoonhoven and Gouda: Jan van Blois (nephew of Charles de Blois, but unlike the rest of his family resident in the Netherlands and fluent in Dutch):

- Item van 12 zulveren caproenhake 8 s.
- Item om lint van gaerne caproen mede te binden onder den arm 16 d.
- Item om rebant miins joncheren caproen onder den arm mede te binden 14 d.
- Item om lint caproene mede te binden 2 sc. 8 d.

This translates as:
- Item, of 12 silver hood hooks, 8 shillings.
- Item, of ribbon of yarn, to bind the hood with under the arm, 16 pennies.
- Item, of ribbon, to bind my young lords hood with under the arm, 14 pennies.
- Item, of ribbon to bind the hood with, 2 shillings 8 pennies.

Here we see that one of Jan's hoods was closed with silver hooks. The absence of buttons mentioned with hoods in the accounts does not mean these hoods were not buttoned. Buttons in this era were most of the time made of cloth. What we also encounter in these accounts is the fact that Jan's hoods were often bordered with silver or gold ribbon:

- Item 7 ellen zulverboerts op caproene te legghen, delle 10 s.
- ... 4 ellen goudboerts tot 2 caproenen, coste d'elle 6 s. 8 d.

This practice may explain why the find from London is missing the border of its mantle and face opening. The most valuable parts would have been cut off before it was discarded of.

Next to the household accounts of Jan van Blois we have the Limburger Chronicle as a source. Written in the German town Limburg an der Lahn in the late 14th century, it mentions for the year 1362:

Unde di junge menner drugen alle meistlichen gekneufte kogeln als die frauwen, unde di kogeln werten bi drissig jar, da vurgingen si.

This translates as:
And the young men all wore mostly buttoned hoods like the women, and these (type of) hoods were worn for thirty years, after this it (the fashion) went away.

From this we can conclude that the hood with button (or other front) closure was worn both by (young) men and women from c. 1360 to c. 1390. Lastly we arrive at what they looked like in art and where this art originates from so that it can tell us in what area these hoods were worn. We encounter them in England (Warwickshire and East Anglia), France (Ile de France), the Northwest of the Holy Roman Empire (Low Countries, Westphalia), the West of said empire (Alsace), the South-East of said empire (Württemberg, Thuringia, Bavaria), Switzerland and lastly Northern Italy (Lombardy, Tuscany). So a quite large part of Europe.

Top: Weepers from the effigy of Thomas Beauchamp (+1369) in Warwick
Bottom: Egerton Genesis, East Anglia, 1350-1375 - BL Ms. Egerton 1894

Left: Aristotles Politica and Oeconomica, 1376, Nicole Oresme, Paris - Brussels, Bibl Royale Albert Ier, 11201–02, Book I
Right three: Livres de Modus et Ratio, 1374-1379, Paris - Paris, BNF, Français 12399

Top left: Osnabrücker Altar, 1370-1380 - Wallraf Richartz-museum, Cologne
Top right: Missal of Arnold van Oreye, lord of Rummen, Meuse region, 1366 - Museum Meermanno Westreeniaum 10 A 14
Bottom left: Letter of indulgence from Herkenrode, 1363 - Provincial Library Limburg, Belgium
Bottom right: Herforder town council in the Herforder Stadtrechtsbuch, 1368-1376

Left: Stained glass in the church of Niederhaslach, Alsace, c. 1360
Right: Speculum Humanae Salvationis, Alsace, 1370-1380 - Paris, BNF, Latin 511

Top left: Johann Ehinger (+1368), Mayor of Ulm - Münster, Ulm
Top right: Weeper from the effigy of Gunter XXV von Schwarzburg (+1368) - Arnstadt, Liebfrauenkirch
Bottom left: Southern portal of the Dom of Augsburg, 1356-1376
Bottom right: Rudolf von Ems Weltchronik, South German, c. 1370 - München Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek Cod. Germ. 5

Effigy of the wife of Francois I (+ 1362/1363) and a weeper beneath said effigy - La Sarraz, Switzerland

Top left: Count Porro offers to Madonna, from chapel in Lentate sul Seveso, c. 1370 - Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
Top right: Quilted textile from Florence, 1360-1400 - Victoria & Albert Museum, London, no. 1391-1904
Bottom: Guiron le Courtois, Lombardy, 1370-1380 - Paris, BNF, Nouvelle acquisition française 5243 


In some of the above pictures it seems that no buttons or hooks can be seen because of a mantle going over top. But in case of the rightmost one of the Warwicks the open folded 'collar' does give a front closure away. And in case of the leftmost of the aldermen of Herford you can see buttons indicated beneath his chin if you look closely. The others I have included because the fact that they are so tight fitting means they must have had a front closure hiding underneath that mantle. Of course, if they had armpit-straps can not be said for sure.