Support the Abbey Museum!

The current COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on the Abbey Museum of Art & Archaeology.

Bringing people together in celebration of the fascinating moments in human history is at the core of our daily operation.

The Abbey Museum’s calendar of events have served as the main fundraiser to house and preserve an incredible collection of important human artefacts, antiquities, and stained glass since its inception in 1986. 

At the heart of the museum’s event focus is the Abbey Medieval Festival, an awe-inspiring transformation of time into the Middle Ages.  Tournament, pageantry, food and entertainment is brought to life in highly anticipated weekend each July.  We celebrated our 30th year of the festival in 2019, and welcomed over 30,000 attendees. 

Additionally, we provide hands-on school education programs comprised of archaeological digs, a knights and chivalry education program, Egyptian mummifications, heritage trail tours, and more.  We deliver these unique specialty programs to over 6,000 primary and secondary students each year.

We are a small workforce, heavily reliant on volunteer services.

At this point, all events and programs through July have been cancelled, with a vast level of uncertainty for the back half of the year.

We are unsure of how long we will face these challenges, but are optimistic that by carrying out our best efforts to support one another, we will weather this storm, ride through these difficult times, and rise again.

This is merely another chapter we must all endure.  How we respond now will shape our future.  Let us learn from the past, adapt for the now, and thrive once again!

We are so grateful for your support, and hope to continue to deliver the enriching colour and passion of our human journey.

Ad astra per aspera

Through adversity to the stars.

 

 

A Crusader’s Journey

Take ‘A CRUSADER’S JOURNEY’ with us, as we come together in support of those affected by the ongoing bushfires! Please help us sell all tickets so we can DONATE ALL WE CAN!

 Tickets Available now on Eventbrite! Click here!

This will be a night to remember as you become immersed in your journey along the Crusaders route delighting your taste buds with flavours from exotic lands.

Let your eyes feast on colourful characters from times long past as you step back in time.

This delightful evening is our crusade to raise funds to support those affected by the devastating bush fires and 100% of the profits will be donated.

Visti The Viking

Visti “the Viking” Skaanvad, who has been involved in Viking re-enactment for over 20 years, departed for Valhalla and the higher battlegrounds on 19th of February 2014.

Visti was well-known for his amber and Viking jewellery trading, and for his unique mead making. He started the Viking re-enactment group Saga Vikings in 1995 and in 2012, he donated his Viking ship “Fafnir,” which he had built by hand using traditional Viking tools and methods, to Abbeystowe for all to see during the festival.

Visti truly believed he was a reincarnated Viking from 1000 years ago.  He grew up and played on Lindholm Høje as a child, before the area was excavated in 1952, which later revealed the huge Viking burial site that can be seen today.

In true Viking style and because it was his deepest wish, Visti was cremated with a wooden Viking ship wearing his full Viking outfit of tunic, trousers, jewellery, Viking leather shoes and fur cloak.  In the graveyard of his hometown in Denmark, a runestone stands in his honour, complete with a bronze Viking longship on top.  Visti the Viking will be dearly missed.

“Cattle die, kindred die, every man is mortal: But the good name never dies of one who has done well.”

Photos courtesy of Visti’s daughter, Penny.

Carlo, Penny, Visti and his grandson

Fafnir in it’s prime

Penny and Carlo with the story of Visti’s creation.

Sailing near Woody Point.

Ready to go in the backyard.

Visti’s family.

Fafnir ready for battle.

Fafnir detail.

The Viking and his creation.

Stallholders at the Abbey Medieval Festival

Hark! Medieval stallholders, traders and vendors – we want you!

Merchants and stallholders selling or demonstrating wares at the medieval market-place is one of the most popular attributes of the Abbey Medieval Festival and a much loved favourite of fans and visitors!

Medieval Stallholders

The aim of the festival is to provide an authentic medieval environment, including the market place and each year carefully selected stallholders take part.  Stalls include items such as medieval food, arts, crafts and weapons such as medieval swords or shields. The period re-created at the Abbey Medieval Festival covers a thousand years – from AD 600 to 1600 – allowing a great variety of re-enactment arts and crafts.  

What medieval goods do you have?

High standards are set for our merchants, crafts persons or artisans, with the bench-mark being raised year-on-year, in order to consistently improve on our reputation as Australia’s most authentic medieval event.  With almost 30,000 visitors annually, we welcome new merchants and crafts persons to our market. Participation is on a first-come, first-accepted process, providing the criteria is met.  Applications are now open for the 2019 festival, and if you would like send us an application, please read the Medieval Stallholder Requirements to check the necessary details. Wearing a costume appropriate to your time period is a requirement and a general reference to the particular era your goods relate to should also be made in your application.

Demonstrators’ stalls

Demonstrators of crafts should use materials of the period; for instance, card-weaving displays should have cards of appropriate materials, such as leather, bone or wood. Modern playing cards used in tablet weaving displays are not in keeping with our medieval theme and are not acceptable.  We accept that some crafts may need to use some modern tools and materials however, these should be kept to a minimum and if possible out of sight of the public. Blatantly modern items are not in keeping with our medieval theme and should be hidden or eliminated.   And each year we ask traders to work a little harder to become an authentic participant!

Here are some examples of our stallholders  or demonstrator skills that we are sourcing:

  • Calligraphy
  • Illumination
  • Book binding
  • Leatherwork
  • Jewellery
  • Metalwork and black-smithing
  • Armour and weapons
  • Enamel work
  • Carving in wood, bone, antler and ivory
  • Mosaic
  • pottery
  • Glasswork
  • Stained glass
  • Painting in fresco, tempera and oils
  • Stonework
  • Embroidery and other textile arts
  • Spinning, weaving and dying
  • Tablet weaving
  • Braid making
  • Cooking

 

We especially welcome purveyors of crafts that are specifically medieval, such as pilgrim badge makers, potters making authentic medieval pottery, costumers in the style of the period, armourers, and so on.

Submit an application form!

So, if you are a merchant or craft-person selling or demonstrating wares that were part of the artistic heritage of the Middle Ages, we want you! Remember to check out the details firs, and if you are still interested, submit your application for 2019.

The do’s and don’ts of feasting (Part I)

Today on Medieval Eye for the Modern Guy we look at the do’s and don’ts of feasting.

A few rules of thumb as you prepare yourself for the upcoming Abbey Medieval banquet.

What to Wear

We shall of course not even suggest to lecture the Ladies on what to wear as their fashion sense should always be beyond reproach. Gentleman however may require some discrete coaching on what is expected at a banquet and what are definite medieval faux pas!

Obviously a gentleman would never dream of sitting down to dine in polite company in armour. The same goes for carrying weapons such as axes crossbows etc. After all you are going out for an intimate dinner for 300; not a family reunion. Daggers are an exception as they are simply too dainty to be considered a weapon and the jewelled hilt just cries out to be accessorised. The only weapon you will require is your rapier sharp wit (having a few trusty armed retainers ready outside with a fast getaway horse can be handy if your rapier wit gets you into trouble)

A few hints for the truly fashion conscious; rusty armour is out; shiny silks, fine furs and brocades and damasks are in. Don’t be afraid to mix your colours or go with a simple parti-colour for a striking effect by dressing with one side white or gold and the other red or blue.  Bareheaded is so common so hats are also in this season but if you really want to stand out try a circlet of silver or gold to accent your luxurious locks, and it keeps them out of your food. Furs are always in but they should be artfully tailored and not look like you are still sharing them with the animal. Also don’t be disappointed that no one believes a great hunter when you have a sheepskin draped over your shoulders.

The best maxim is coats bright, hose tight, furs exotic, hats amazing, codpiece outlandish, manners polished and smile dashing and you can’t help but be a hit with the ladies and a threat to your peers.

Image source: Pinterest

Tools of the Trade

It goes without saying that to dine properly you will of course require servants, but if you are travelling light you should still have the following:

  • Spoon ( silver or gold preferred)
  • Knife (small and sharp)
  • Napkin (white linen, silk is so overdone)
  • Bowls ( clean, precious metals or decorated ceramic are acceptable)
  • Cup or goblet ( silver or gold always acceptable though venetian glass is trending right now)
  • Finger bowl with warm scented water (for hand washing not plunge bathing)

These items can be used individually, sequentially, in combinations but NEVER all at once.

(Please note: This is information pertaining to dining in the Middle Ages: no “tools” are required for our banquets)

Instructions for use

Spoons are for eating pottages, soups and deserts which are placed in your bowl, never in your hand or neighbour’s hat. The knife (definitely not your dagger) is used for cutting your food into dainty morsels (gobbets) which you then pop into your mouth with your fingers. Whilst some foods can be taken on the point of a knife (not soups) it shows a definite lack of breeding to do so and gobbets of food should be eaten with the fingers (your own).  Don’t hack at your food with your knife like you are running late for the Crusades and don’t want to miss out on all of the fun and taking an axe to the roast, or your neighbours, is definitely a big no.  A two pronged fork is acceptable for pasta and shellfish but don’t flash it round like some nouveau rich burgher out to impress his boorish urban friends. Some also think it is stylish to use a spike to place food in the mouth; but ask yourself if a fork is doubtful how can eating with half of a fork be acceptable?  Your napkin is to be used for wiping your mouth, fingers and utensils. Keep it classy and simple and remember that eating with your fingers never goes out of style.

The Abbey Medieval banquets take place on the 30th June and 7th July and there will be no better place to put your medieval manners into practice.  Get your tickets here.

By Damien Fegan

 

 

 

Swords – an introduction to sharp pointy things!

He who hath no sword,

(let him sell his garment and buy one.  Luke 22:36)

No item in medieval history excites as much curiosity and misinformation as the Sword. Light, well balanced and deadly, a medieval sword was not the slightly sharp crowbar of popular myth. A typical single-handed sword weighed generally between 700 g and 1.5 kg at the most.  As a comparison a 1 litre carton of milk weighs 1kg: if you are strong enough to put milk on your breakfast cereal unaided, you could easily lift a sword. Most swords had a tapering double- edged blade, a crosspiece to protect the hand, a grip and a pommel below the grip to act as a counterweight.

Feeling groovy?

Many swords feature a groove or grooves running down the blade. Called the Fuller, this strengthens the sword by adding multiple curves into the profile of the blade, making it lighter and stronger. The groves are not, repeat NOT to:

  • make the blood to run out when you stab someone. Neatest correct entry does not necessarily win in battle!
  • reduce suction! A sword is steel, not rubber, suction is not a thing to worry about
  • inflict more dreadful wounds
  • allow air into the wound. Exposure to air is rarely fatal.

The sword was the most versatile, expensive and prestigious of weapons of the middle ages. It could be used to attack with cut, slash or thrust and could also to defend, though swords were designed to be used with a shield until the introduction of two handed swords in the 1300’s. This coincides with the development of plate armour, as it is a good idea to have a bit of extra protection if you are can’t stop incoming nasty things with your shield! The medieval two handed sword generally weighed under 2.5 kg; often much less.

Whilst the giant 10kg sword of popular myth would make an impact on an opponent, actually hitting them with it, without popping your shoulder, elbow and wrist joints might prove difficult. It is not so much a matter of having a sword light enough to swing for hours on end rather than being able get your sword where you need it in the split second that it needs to be there!

Swords at the Abbey Medieval Festival

The weapons used by the re-enactors at the Abbey Medieval Festival generally only differ from the originals in the sharpness of their edge. Swords were rarely razor sharp, not because they could not achieve a razor edge (after all what did they shave with?) but because a thin razor edge would blunt immediately on contact with a hard surface such as armour or another sword. A sharp chisel edge was preferred for most swords; if you have ever plunged your hand into a box of old tools and come into contact with the business end of a wood-working chisel, you can appreciate how devastating a chisel edged sword could be.

It became customary to use blunted or “plaisance” (pleasant) weapons in tournaments; though believe me, the experience can only be considered pleasant when compared with being hit by a sharp sword.  During the Renaissance it became customary to “foil” or blunt and cover the tip of a rapier when practising your swordsmanship, which is a sensible precaution if you want to keep your friends.

Don’t forget, if you are planning on bringing along your favourite (steel, wooden, foam, cardboard, big, small, indifferent) sword to the festival this year, as well as your ticket, you will need a weapons permit so that we can keep everyone safe. Click here to apply.

By Damien Fegan

Win a VIP experience for 8 people!

Win a VIP experience!

Competition now closed!

Everyone has to agree that the nobility and royalty had it good during the medieval era.  After all, if you were poor, nobody cared and it wasn’t called the Dark Ages for no reason. So who would like to have a little taste of the good life – medieval style.

We are offering you the chance to win VIP experience for you and 7 other people.  Worth $2000 this is a fantastic way for you to experience the Abbey Medieval Festival royally!

Here’s what you have to do –

  1. Click here and fill in your details,
  2. Submit
  3. Done.

We have made it easy for you because, after all you could potentially be a VIP!

Don’t miss out and please pass on to your friends!

(T&Cs for competition)

What to expect in the VIP area!

This is what you can expect expect to enjoy when you visit the Abbey Medieval Festival as a VIP.

  • The best parking on site, especially for people with kids and prams, older people or those that simply don’t want to walk.
  • Undelayed entry to the festival via the ‘VIP only’ gate – no queues included with your VIP experience! (follow the instructions carefully on your ticket!)
  • Exclusive access to the VIP only area all day – wander in and out at your pleasure!
  • Our hosts serve food and beverages throughout the day, including morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea (no alcohol before 10.00am)
  • VIP-only entertainment
    • Opportunity to meet this year’s line up of jousters,
    • Enjoy some henna from Karvan Saray (a group representing an oasis on the Silk Road, near Damascus) 
    • Witness a Shuvani dance show (Shuvani Carnivale Historique is a  vibrant and colourful troupe of historical re-enactors, performers and merchants who pay tribute to medieval nomads of the Silk Road that migrated out of India a millennium ago).
    • If you feel like a walk around join our volunteer Jess on a VIP tour to a number of groups including Historia (multi period group of re-enactors, artisans and museum professionals), Cottereaux (A mercenary group that portrays life in a siege mercenary company)  Rafnheim  (a Germanic Iron Age group representing a period which pre-dates the Viking era, offering an exclusive opportunity to join in a children’s workshop and an adult’s workshop!)
  • VIP-only seating at each joust, with the best view- and don’t be shy to grab yourself a lance-tip as a souvenir!
  • VIP only amenities – again, no queues (Thank Goodness for that!!)
  • Opportunity to meet and greet the jousters, and special photo opportunities!

 

So, don’t miss out, click here for your chance to win this amazing prize.

 

The Peacock Feast

A medieval feast can seem a bit strange to modern sensibilities. Food is served in removes, which are miniature multi course meals in their own right and the choice of fare can often limit choice of supplier: unless of course you live in an area where the local Coles stocks porpoise and beaver. Then,  there is all of the ritual which could turn an intimate thirty dish meal shared with a few hundred of your closest friends into a full blown theatrical production.

Enter the Peacock.

The Peacock Feast

During the later middle ages there arose a tradition of taking vows during feasts, generally at the urging of the host. Feasts were the perfect venue for young, and young at heart knights to be urged to greater and greater deeds of glory. After all there were chivalrous companions to urge you on, beauteous ladies to impress and alcohol, which then as now, helps make the impossible seem quite achievable. These typically were not your typical New Year’s resolution type vow such as promising to drink less and exercise more, watching your diet etc. but full on deeds of valour such as holding ground against all comers in a joust at the low end, to liberating the Holy Land at the upper end of the scale.

The best time during a feast to take one of these vows; the chivalric ones that were likely to get you killed, was during the presentation of the subtlety. The presentation of the subtlety was the high point of the feast. As could be expected they were anything but subtle and could take the form of a rare and fantastic beast, a confectionary sailing ship or if your budget is slightly larger you build a castle wall out of roast poultry and garrison the towers with roast deer boar and goats!  The ‘four and twenty blackbirds baked into a pie’ was actually a thing though the birds were presumably inserted into the pie after it was baked. Once the pie was, very carefully, cut open the birds would fly out singing to the delight of the diners. Possibly because live blackbirds are not an approved food additive this tradition has sadly been in decline at dinner parties.

A more subtle subtlety was the presentation of a bird, such as a swan or peacock, which had been roasted and then its skin, which had been carefully removed and roasted separately was stitched back on; complete with feathers.  Prised for their majesty in the case of the swan or its display, in the case of the peacock they made perfect subtleties, especially given the relative scarcity of fresh unicorn.

The Peacock Vow

The first Vow of the Peacock was in fact fictional, a tale written in 1312 by Jacques de Longuyon which introduces the ideas of the Nine Worthies of Chivalry (more about which in a later blog) and more importantly for now the practise  of using the presentation of the subtlety to swear an oath. For the potential medieval hero, presentation of a magnificent subtlety at a feast was the perfect time to make outrageous vows as it had all of the necessary ingredients:

  1. Large gathering of your peers and superiors
  2. Chivalrous companions
  3. Lots of wine
  4. Ladies to impress
  5. Heralds, jongleurs and minstrels to immortalise your vow
  6. Lots of wine

De Longuyon’s poem struck a chord and life quickly took to imitating art and we know of several similar vows being undertaken at later feasts involving Audubon subtleties including vows taken on peacocks, swans, herons, pheasants and even a sparrowhawk. It seemed hardly was a bird out of the oven before some gallant had slapped a hand on it vowing loudly to do or die.

For our Feast of the Peacock, the magnificent subtlety will be in form of a large peacock cake displaying its plumage as it is served to the high table. Whilst it will not contain real peacock that does not mean you cannot make a heroic vow when you catch sight of it.  Just remember though, you will be held to your vow!

In case you are wondering peacock is overrated as a delicacy as it tastes much drier than swan, but if you think the time is right in your life to commit a vow, get your banquet tickets here.

Blog by Damien Fegan

Something for the Lords!

There is something for every Lord and Lady at the Abbey Medieval Festival BUT if ever there was a festival demonstrating male prowess, strength and survival skills, this festival could be described as a very male expression.  My Lords…we have tried to pick a few to summarize ….but you simply have to see them all.

Tournament of Strength and Skill

Located in the Castle arena, this competition is hosted by the Company of the Phoenix with entrants hailing from various re-enactment groups participating at the festival. The Tournament of Strength and Skill is a medieval obstacle course designed for training for the field of battle and to test the combatants’ physical prowess. Made up of obstacles to test a number of important skills that a combating Lord would require on the field of battle such as speed, balance, strength, ability to vault a horse and accuracy with a spear, lance and sword.  You can’t possibly watch this and not engage your male competitive spirit.

War Machines

While this is not a performance, you do not want to miss Cottereaux’s ‘Behemoth’, the largest functioning medieval Trebuchet in the southern hemisphere.  It will showcase its firepower twice a day. A Trebuchet (French trébuchet) is a  medieval siege engine of catapult or stave sling design, and functions by the use of a swinging arm to cast a projectile. The traction trebuchet, also referred to as a Mangonel,  first appeared in Ancient China during the 4th century BC as a siege weapon. During sieges, heavy stones were cast sometimes with oil and fire to damage castle walls and while it would be very tempting to use the Trebuchet to hurl naughty little Lords afar, the Sheriff would not encourage this practice.

Battle displays

Travel back in time to the Dark Ages (Byzantine era) by taking a stroll through the Commons where Jorth Gar – the New Varangian Guard is located.

The Byzantine Emperor Basil II formed the Varangian Guard to act as his elite personal bodyguards.  Membership initially consisted of the fierce Rus Vikings, however after 1066, the ranks of the Varangian Guard swelled as mighty Saxon warriors sought membership.  The rewards were lucrative and their reputation was legendary.  It was not easy to join the Varangian Guard as their battle skills were exceptional.   Prospective members not only had to pay to join, they had to prove themselves worthy often by a show of combat skill against existing seasoned veterans of the elite Varangian Guard.

The re-enactment group Jorth Gar will present a series of single combats and heroic fighting.  In their day, the warriors of the Varangian Guard needed to acquire and maintain their skills and learn new technology. This combat display is a crowd engager and demonstrates the variety of weapons and fighting techniques available to the Varangian Guard.

You will be in awe of the Varangian Guard.

Turkish Archery

You’ll have heard of the ancient tradition of Turkish Oil Wrestling, which is a huge crowd favourite of the festival, not only for its display but for it’s historical accuracy and it also is one of the five tournaments of the festival. Traditional Turkish archery will not disappoint you either.  This performance demonstrates the use of bows and arrows in various traditional ways such as during the times of war and peace. The Turks were very effective in using bows and arrows shooting very accurately in a variety of situations. The demonstrations will include use of whistling arrows for game and communication purposes, shooting in attack and retreat situations (singly or as a group)Boys Skirmish at Sephoria

Watch different Crusader groups combat at Skirmish at Sephoria (on Sunday only in an army format), shooting down in to a well or down from the top of castle wall, speed shooting and other demonstration of various Turkish shooting techniques.

There’s something for everyone at the Abbey Medieval Festival, after all , learning is not just confined to the young.  Find out more about what’s on a this year’s Abbey Medieval Festival, and get your tickets here.