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Banners of the Festival: Craft Spotlight

Origin of the Banners

This series of seven banners is based on those of the Assisi festival of Calendimaggio the origins of which are related to the ancient customs of many different European peoples, and especially to the Roman celebrations known as the “Fasti di Maggio”.  The medieval tradition of celebrating the arrival of Spring in early May sees groups of revellers serenading through the streets of their towns. Assisi however has another aspect to its festival, as there is a deep-seeded rivalry between the “Upper” and the “Lower” parts of the city. The feuding began in the 14th century between Nepis and the Fiumi families, who are the respective leaders of each faction.

The Assisi Festival

The city is split in two by this rivalry, the Nobilissima Parte de Sopra and the Magnifica Parte de Sotto, compete with each other for control of the Palio through parades, re-enactments and musical performances, all inspired by medieval life. Each brigata or company of singers, elect a signore and from among all the signori, a King of the festival is chosen. They then elect a “Queen of May” who is born through the streets on a cart festooned with flowers, encircled by young girls waving flowering branches called maggi. Song and music fill the streets and piazzas: madrigals, choral and solo pieces, traditional melodies and improvised ones, every sort of popular song accompanied by violin, mandolin, guitar, and harmonica. Throughout all the events the banners are used as a identification system, as well as a coat of arms for each of the districts, displaying their allegiance to one of the two factions, as well as highlighting where performers are from.

What they Represent

Sestiere is an Italian word derived from sesto, ‘sixth’ – it means ‘one-sixth part’, that is, one of the 6 quarters of Assisi, each sector of the city being divided into 3 rioni (singular, rione) quarters or districts. These sestiere are where the banners of the festival originate from, each representing their respective districts, or in the case of La Magnifica Parte de Sotto, the half of the city controlled by the faction led by the Fiumi family.

Symbolism of the Banners

Assisi of Cal Banners 1

Assisi of Cal Banners1

La Magnifica Parte de Sotto has the Fiumi family arms with its five Crown battlements.

 

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 2Assisi of Cal Banners 2Il Sestiere San Giacoma (St Jacob or James)  The somewhat curious symbolism of the pierced tower has been attributed to the small church San Giacomo de Muro Rupto (St. Jacob of the broken wall) situated some 50 yard or meters south of the San Giacomo gate for which the quarter is named.

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 3Assisi of Cal Banners 3Il Sestiere San Francesco  the main symbol of the shield is not a cross but rather the letter tau, the name of the letter ‘T’ in the Greek, Hebrew, and ancient Semitic alphabets. Various interpretations can be accorded the three blue stars – they may stand for the first three followers of St. Francis.

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 4Assisi of Cal Banners 4Il Sestiere San Pietro – The fisherman’s boat recalls Peter’s occupation of fisherman in Galilee.  The golden keys to the Kingdom of Heaven stand for the power of popes over matters both spiritual and temporal.  The Lorraine Cross was early-on identified with the Patriarchal Cross, and St. Peter is considered the first Patriarch of the Roman Church.

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 5Assisi of Cal Banners 5Il Sestiere Porta Perlici – Of the six porte, or gates, that allow access through the outermost defensive walls of Assisi, Porta San Perlici watches over the northeastern front. Two major roads form a vague ‘Y’ as they converge onto the gate.

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 6Assisi of Cal Banners 6

Il Sestiere San Rufino – It honors the first bishop of Assisi, Rufino, who was martyred in the 3rd century by being tied with a knotted hemp rope to a millstone and drowned in the nearby river Tescio.  The green fern represents the many pine trees which grace the district.

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 7Assisi of Cal Banners 7 Il Sestiere Porta Moiano – The shield consists of the seven stars of the constellation Ursa Major.  It is also associated with Saint Clare (Santa Chiara in Italian).

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog by Sue Green.

Interested in seeing the banners in person? Be sure to keep an eye out for them at the Abbey Medieval Festival 30th Anniversary Celebration on July 13th and 14th.

 

Sponsor Post: North Harbour Heritage Park to open in late 2019

The North Harbour Heritage Park is a new community attraction comprising a vast expanse of parkland, river access including a canoe launch/fishing platform and an interpretive centre focusing on the heritage aspect of the site.

The Heritage Park is a 3 year project which on completion at the end of 2019, will have invested over $3m, with $1,535,062 of funds coming from the Federal Government through a funding agreement with the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology. Funding is through the Community Development Grants programme, provided through the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. The $1,535,062 Grant has been matched by North Harbour. The Abbey Museum and North Harbour are also working in partnership and providing significant in-kind support through project planning, project management, post-construction operation and maintenance.

The first stages of construction were completed in 2018, including roads and other infrastructure including picnic areas with shelters, BBQs, tables and benches and toilet facilities. As work progresses, the team is working to ensure the heritage remains are preserved and available for viewing and enjoyment by the general public.

Project Manager Bryan Finney said, “Construction is progressing well, we expect to start work on the interpretive building in the next few weeks. Work is also progressing on the Park infrastructure which includes a 1.5km walking track around the lake. As part of this work, the archaeologists monitoring construction have uncovered building foundations that were not previously known.

“We’re hoping to begin allowing public access by around the middle of the year with an official opening sometime in the second half of 2019.”

Retaining and preserving the historical remnants of the North Harbour site has been an important part of the North Harbour planning process. Following an application process initiated by the developers of North Harbour, the area has been listed and protected on the Queensland Heritage Register since 2011 as a place of Queensland State significance.

North Harbour’s Heritage Expert is Steve Chaddock from Timeline Heritage who is working with a team of archaeologists at the remains of the “Moray Fields” property that was built by George Raff at what is now the North Harbour site. Steve said: “We are looking to carefully record the exposed areas of the old house and its outbuildings and yards so that we can later interpret that to the public and in advance of a tree management program aiming to preserve the State Listed archaeological remains.”

The history of the site will be interpreted from a dedicated “interpretive centre” that delivers a ‘mind map’ of the site before it is experienced first-hand. The facility will present historic photographs, sketches and display objects which will allow visitors to appreciate the stories and significant developments from the past up to the present day.

Interpretation delivery will be provided in the landscape alongside a network of heritage trails and using static signage as well as digital content for mobile devices. The delivery of interpretation will be aimed at school-aged students as well as local, state and international visitors learning about local history and South Sea Islander heritage.

On a broader community level, the South Sea Islander history of the site has presented an opportunity to recognise the contribution made by past generations of South Sea Islanders and provide a tangible, visitable focus for the Island and Australian South Sea Islander community and their descendants. Space is made available for the South Sea Islander community to remember their ancestors at this place.

The Heritage Park area is currently able to be accessed on Saturday mornings at 7.00am for those participating in the free, weekly North Harbour River parkrun. Check out the Facebook page for more information, including directions.

Find North Harbour

North Harbour’s Sales and Information Centre & Display Village with café and two playgrounds is open seven days a week, 10am-5pm. Located on the corner of Buckley Road and Fraser Drive, Burpengary East, the Display Village showcases 33 brand new home designs from 17 of Australia’s best builders. North Harbour recently won the UDIA Queensland Award for Best Residential Subdivision and is EnviroDevelopment Accredited.

Visit the North Harbour website for more information on building new houses at North Harbour. Sign up for email updates to keep up to date with the latest news, events and information, including our regular events, or follow us on Facebook.

Reenactor Spotlight: Historia’s Damien Fegan

Five decades of re-enactment

As we approach the 30th Abbey Medieval Festival and the start of my fifth decade as a re-enactor I think these are appropriate milestones for me reflect on what has passed. I am the first to admit that even though I have now performed at 28 Abbey Festivals I am still having difficulty in grasping that the event is turning 30; my how times flies when other people are having fun trying to stab, and bludgeon with a variety of pointy metal objects.

The growth of the festival and the growth of living history or re-enactment in Queensland are intrinsically linked, as I believe it is no accident that there are more re-enactors in Queensland than there are in the rest of Australia. Strange as it may seem even many of the ancient and modern era re-enactment groups have many of the medieval re-enactors who regularly perform at the festival among their core members. After all after you have spent a small fortune and years of research on getting your medieval impression happening properly, starting again from scratch for a completely different era makes perfect sense; at least to some of us!

Why Medieval re-enactment?

This does beg the question what is the attraction in re-enactment that makes the time, money and effort worthwhile?

Speaking from personal experience it is quite simply more emotionally and intellectually rewarding in ways not many activities can be. It has introduced me to people of such prodigious talents and intellect that I feel awed to call them my friends.

Over the last .4 of a century as a re-enactor I have been assaulted with swords, axes and spears by friends (and total strangers), danced, laughed myself sick, fired cannons, commanded tanks and shield walls, made stone tools, forged iron, smelted bronze, been an archery target, given presentations at museums, made ancient cosmetics, eaten amazing foods, drunk way too much, made my own shoes and clothing, heard medieval Latin mass, invocations to Mithras, amazing stories and astounding music, participated in tournaments, jousts and puppet shows, built furniture, created artworks, smelt perfumes worn by ancient Pharaohs, Emperors and Shahs, made and fought in armour, researched and recreated 600 year old rituals and had my mind opened to an array of cultures, cuisines, beliefs and experiences I could not have imagined when I started.

Reenacting: A Passion for the Past

For me it has also opened a career in museums, education, publishing, theatre and film that were certainly not on my radar when I left school and started work in the Justice department! As a result of this awakened passion for the past it I have hiked through primeval forest in search of wild Bison, stood on the snow covered walls of Novgorod, watched desert sunset from the roofs of Xiva, dawn over Hagia Sophia and moonrise over the gilded domes of the Moscow Kremlin, uncovered human remains in Malbork, visited Roman temples and oh so many castles, dined in yurts on peaches from Samarkand, explored millennia old citadels on the Silk Road and stared in wonder at the art and artefacts in a hundred museums and sites in Europe and Asia.

In short re-enacting been a mind altering and life changing experience that, God willing, will continue for a long time to come because being a history nerd can really be quite exciting at times.

Guest Blog by Damien Fegan. To see more of his life as a re-enactor, and to keep up to date with his work, check out his Facebook Page: Museum History Guy.

If you would like to see Damien’s re-enactment group Historia please look for them at the Abbey Medieval Festival 30th Anniversary Celebration on July 13th and 14th.

Capturing The Moments

Our guest blogger is an Abbey Medieval Festival Volunteer Photographer. She writes about her day at the Tournament below.

Why I am an Abbey Medieval Festival Volunteer Photographer?

Like most visitors to the Abbey Medieval Festival I became entranced from the moment I entered the gate.  As I was greeted with a “my lady” and a snap of my wristband I was transported to another time, another place.

Photo by David de Groot

Inside the gates so much to see, smell, taste, experience and especially to photograph! Forget a safari or road trip, I hardly put my camera down! I knew I wanted more than anything to photograph inside the second rope. This was a world of swirling Romani skirts, the clash of sword on armour, the crack of a jousting lance as it shatters, of smiling kids running and playing barefoot. For photographers capturing each and every moment of the experience is paramount. I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer as a photographer for 2011, and again in 2012, not just the Medieval Tournament but also other great events at the Abbey Museum.

We  photographers get funny looks. Comments about our “medieval Canons” or the contrast between our costume and the hefty gear we carry around. We try our hardest to keep from blocking others views of the activities. Many times this means spending the day in wet and sometimes muddy clothing from sitting or laying on the ground. I call it being authentic.

Photo by Jeff Fitzpatrick

So how does a photographers day start? For me it starts months before as I work on my “medieval camouflage”. By blending into the rest of the festival as much as possible I can capture the day better, and combined with my official Abbey Medieval Festival Volunteer Photographer Tunic I’m ready to go as unnoticed as possible.

The night before the tournament begins I set an alarm, and a backup, for early in the morning. Inevitably, I wake early from the excitement and by four I’ve gotten up to check that I have batteries, backup batteries, flash, monopod, lenses, spare lenses, and the all important memory cards packed. I also take the time to gather up fingerless gloves, a warm hat, the list goes on!

Before the gates open and the grass is dry, photographers can be seen setting up, getting photos of fellow volunteers, the morning sun setting the castle aglow, glinting off a sword propped against a shield, or trying to plan out how to best capture everything.

And then the day begins!

For those who have experienced a tournament you know there’s so much to see and do. Photographers get assignments to cover, but there’s always more to fit in. Many times we may forget to eat or stop for more than a quick drink at the fountain because something just happened to catch our eye. From the chilly morning, to sunny bright afternoon, then back to the brisk evenings we’re there in the grass capturing each moment of the festival. But our day is hardly over when the gates close. After driving home we  get all our cards downloaded, backed up, and reformatted. Batteries charged, a bite to eat and to bed to try and rest. Meanwhile images flits through our brain, and which ones we want to try and capture the next day! Even long after the final boom of the cannon on Sunday there is work to do, processing, editing and submitting all the photos to the Abbey Festival for use in promoting this great event.  While this doesn’t seem much to some people, we photographers tend to have thousands of photos each day and that can sometimes take us all the way up to our deadline a month after the festival.

Guest Blogger:  Neda Lundie

Neda Lundie was born in the United States and now a citizen of Australia, Neda Lundie fell in love with photography at an early age. From the moment she picked up her first 110 camera as a kid in the early 80’s, to buying her first SLR second hand in year 11, the important thing for her has been to capture life to preserve memories.

Neda has covered events at the Abbey Museum since 2011 including Abbey Medieval Festival, Kids Medieval Fun Day, Picnic at Pemberley, Kids Dig it Day and new to 2012. the Birds of Prey Experience.

Christmas in the Middle Ages 1 of 3

 

{We are pleased to present you with another guest blog by Sir Justyn – ‘Christmas in the Middle Ages’ Part 1 of 3 for your Christmas break reading}

Celebrating a Middle Ages, Medieval Christmas

Often when we think of Christmas, we think of it as a time for holiday, family and friends, a well deserved break from the year’s labours. Some people view it as an exercise in capitalism and retail selling, others as a strictly religious affair but often what we don’t realise is that Christmas existed long before the modern era.
Many people credit the Victorian era, which is 1837AD to 1901AD, as the source of most of our Christmas traditions originated; what these folks miss is that the Victorian era saw the revitalization and an interest of the Medieval  period and it’s customs and traditions.
In the Middle Ages you might be surprised to learn that at Christmas people gave each other gifts, decorated their homes, went carolling, feasted on seasonal foods and drink and celebrated the Feast of Saint Nicholas the Wonder Maker, albeit on December 6th not on the 25th.

In fact the whole of December was a month of celebration. Recently I wrote on my Facebook page  “In the Middle Ages, December marked a time where most of the years hard agricultural work had been done and many folks could start to relax in anticipation of the celebration of Christmas. All planting had been done and animals were housed for the onset of winter. There were 12 official days of holidays and feasting spread throughout December and as a result most people had the opportunity to simply sit back and relax for the entire month! How times have changed.”

Middle Age Christmas Festivities Abounded

What did they do during this time of holiday and festivities?

  • Singing and dancing was popular.

Much like parts of continental Europe and the Middle East today, in the Middle Ages, whole communities would come together and take part in singing and dancing as a community. Imagine if you will, a hundred small villages and towns having an old fashioned country medieval barn dance and you are fairly close to how it might have been.
Music of course would accompany these activities and were mostly performed by local minstrels – often merely an average person who had a knack for playing music just as it was in many Australian communities 50 to 100 years ago. These activities involving music and dance were a staple part of any festive occasion on the medieval calendar and certainly more so during the winter month of December

  • Carols and hymns were a frequent occurrence during this time.

Carols were more of a secular type of song, whereas hymns were religious in nature. The distinction has not really changed when compared to today, except that today many songs that we call carols were actually hymns in the Middle Ages.
Carols were often ribald and light-hearted songs with a seasonal relevance whereas hymns were more austere and sung the year round.  Another distinction with carols were that even though they had spiritual or religious themes and connotations,  they were less complicated to learn and sing, They were aimed for the common folk, and usually written by laymen and not the clergy.

  • Theatre was also a popular December form of entertainment.

Plays and pageants, mumming and allegorical or festive tournaments were all forms of theatre abounding in Medieval Christmas times.
Plays often had strong moral points to them and were originally performed by monks. While they were frequently used as a way to teach common folk Biblical tales,  just as often they acted out the life and tales of a saint.

At other times  they were plays which told of ribald, slapstick characters and lewd stories causing them to be banned from church grounds and the clergy forbidden to take part in them. As unacceptable as they were to the church, even these had strong moral points to impart.

  • Pageants were something a little grander.

There was no stage present but rather wagons constructed with two levels and moved to a given place in town or city with adequate performance space. This was the forerunner of the mardi  gras as it is seen today.
In medieval York and Chester these parades with a convoy of wagons each performing a short play would travel through the streets from dawn until dusk each Christmas. Imagine if you will a train of stages coming to your place of work or home, performing plays and moving on, one after the other all day long. It could almost be seen a s a medieval form of television! Back in the Middle Ages however, acting was considered one of the lowest forms of employment or profession again something that is starkly contrasted in our own day and age.

  • Mumming was a form of medieval street theatre.

 

This included plays, costumes, music and dance. Groups of mummers would frolic from neighbourhood to neighbourhood in a form of both structured and improvised theatre performances. It was very important that the mummers were incognito. They would apply makeup, masks, cloaks and hoods in very much what was not just a forerunner again of mardi gras but perhaps more recognizably as Carnivale or a Masque Ball.
These requirements of disguise were a superstition that went back to pagan times, as did many other parts of Christmas tradition, in that the mummers were summoning or performing to entice the sun back and shorten the winter.

It was claimed that if a mummer’s identity was revealed the magic would fail and the winter would be long and harsh. In the Middle Ages it was not as much a superstition as a courtesy. It was bad manners to publicly point out the identity of a mummer – not for reasons of pagan superstition but for the sake of maintaining the mystery of the performance and its performers.

 

Guest Blogger:  Sir Justyn
{Justin Webb a.k.a. Sir Justyn is a professional medieval performer, educator, medieval combat instructor and author, internationally renowned for public speaking and displays. He has performed, taught and spoken not only in Australia but also in England and France. He is also the leading member of Eslite d’ Corps, a high quality 14thC Living History group. You can learn more about Sir Justyn at www.sirjustyn.com and on his Facebook page.}

In part 2 of 3 of Sir Justyn’s Medieval Christmas blog articles we will look at Magic, Christmas horticultural traditions and seasonal saints.

C15th Medieval Lingerie Discovered!

A Fabulous Feminine Find !

{Another post from our guest blogger – Kat Woods}

When I woke yesterday morning and read a post on my facebook page from a fellow friend, I didn’t think it would be such a monumentious day. Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, you are seeing Medieval Underwear!

 

Underwear!

These garments, which I personally believe are linen due to them being in such close proximity to the skin and therefore having to be laundered frequently, have laid hidden in a vault beneath the floorboards of Lengberg Castle in East Tyrol, Austria since the 15th century.

The find, four bras (2 of which look like modern Bra’s and 2 which are described as ‘shirts with bags’) and two pairs of pants, were discovered by Beatrix Nutz, of Innsbruck University and she faced scepticism until radio-carbon dating proved otherwise.

Already since this article was first posted on the Daily Mail website in the UK yesterday, many have discussed the finds.

Two woman rightly say
“One find doesn’t mean all women everywhere during the 800years of “middle ages” wore underwear but obviously some of them, in some places at one time, did.”

“I do not believe it’s quite a shock, especially if you are a woman : wearing breasts is heavier than you think, it can hurt if you have big breasts, so why wouldn’t have a woman looked for a way to feel better in her body?”

Today, another woman backs up my own thoughts and research with  “Until today it was just a myth:  ‘The tailoring skills to make intricately cut and shaped clothing did not really develop in Europe until the middle of the fourteenth century. About this time, women began wearing an undergarment of stiffened linen, tightened by front or back laces. In the fifteenth century this item was known as a pair of stays or bodies in English and corps or cors in French. The English word corset presumably comes from a version of the French cors. At first corsets were made of two layers of linen, held together with a stiff paste. The resulting rigid material held in and formed the wearer’s figure.’   Now we know more  :)”

From my experience into researching medieval ladies headdresses from various effigies throughout the UK the bust line is far higher than the modern bust line and the cleft of the bust is just below the collar bone. We know ladies that this is not possible; boobs cannot be that pert without some form of body binding. The Roman acrobats had leather bustiers as they are portrayed in mosaics, and we know the Italian ladies of the Renaissance also had leather laced up corsets of a similar form alongside the early Tudor corsets. Elizabeth I Funeral effigy at Westminster had reeds in her linen corset as I myself have seen it. I too have found refs’ for ‘a pair of bodies’ and ‘corsettus’ and Queen Philippa, wife to Edward III, had documented a red velvet corset, cut in 13 pieces, although there is no descriptions as to how this would look.

And I noted elsewhere yesterday “Lack of evidence doesn’t mean that evidence is lacking, we just haven’t discovered it yet.
These fabulous feminine finds to me is proof for years that backs up my hunch, there were medieval undergarments similar to Roman acrobats depicted on Mosaics. :-)”

But let’s be honest here ladies, my sisters in the Medieval Re-enactment fraternity, it maybe ‘one find’ but it is one find that gives us a closer glimpse into the woman’s side of the Medieval World, a world that is always hidden and overshadowed by the Medieval masculine world, but has always been there. Such wonderful finds like this, turn all our thinking onto its head and make us all address and re-evaluate our own research and sharing such valuable research information to each other without any bitchiness, backstabbing or malice, is what it’s is all about. I LOVE this part of our hobby. I love it when a find is found and tangible proof finally appears to back up your own private musings which you dare not say aloud for fear of being set down publicly because you dare to think outside the box by looking at other references differently, piecing them all together like a jigsaw until you have the full picture.

Until yesterday, a part of my jigsaw picture to medieval undergarments for many a year was missing from my talks of “Dressing of a Lady” ( shown here) which we did with our Group ‘Age of Chivalry’ for English Heritage. The missing piece has now fallen into place.  I cannot wait to read what the M.E.D.A.T.S  ( Medieval Dress and Textile Society)  conference discusses and many respected Medieval persons, medievalists and Historical Costumiers think when they put their thoughts to the discussion but until then I shall be happy to read the Full Article in Aug issue of BBC History and I pick up my copy today YAY!!

Guest Blogger:  Kat Woods

{~Runs a business www.kats-hats.co.uk which has raised the costume and headwear standards in re-enactment throughout the UK, Europe, Australia and USA  by producing High Quality Bespoke pieces of work for Re-enactors and Medieval Interpreters in the UK and Worldwide, English Heritage, CADW and Museums.
~Been a key participant in re-enactment for over 26yrs and in that time has portrayed Medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan and Regency with Dance and period style dresses and accessories. Is a keen researcher of period costumes and headwear but specialises in the medieval period as this is where her heart and passion is strongest. This has led to a lot of ecclesiastical research in particular photographing tomb effigies and has a large data base of primary sources.
~Ran a successful medieval dance group, called ‘The Court of King Edward’ for Excalibur Medieval Society, which had a reputation of being the best in the South West of England.
~ Now part of ‘Age of Chivalry’, a Fourteenth Century Medieval Group which specializes in the re-creation of Full Contact Tournament Fighting and Dance of the period of Edward, The Black Prince which she runs with Richard Babbage.
~Participates in dance workshops by renowned Historical Dance teachers of the Early Dance Circle, Diana Cruickshank and Philippa Waite. Attended workshops by the late Peggy Dixon.
~Organises medieval society weekend tours of Medieval Exeter with its Medieval Underground Tunnels.
~Has been made honorary member of many other UK societies due to her help and advice.
~Kat is working on a book about medieval headdresses from her research of Female Medieval Tomb effigies. She had exclusive access to the effigy of Princess Beatrice, Countess of Arundel in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel and had written permission from Arundel Castle to contact the Courtauld Institute of Art for more detailed photographs of the Duke of Norfolk’s ancestor.}

Medieval Bras and Undies.

Our latest guest blogger was wondering whether to start her forthcoming series with the topic of ‘bras and knickers’ or just to jump in with Medieval Sanitary Customs (of the female kind.)

Medieval Under-Clothing.

Medieval clothing is a topic which is dear to any Lady’s heart, and why not?

With such fabulous gowns and sumptuous fabrics, why not dress in her finest every chance she gets? Talks such as these, are always enthusiastically attended, but after it’s all over, there’s a crowd that hangs back to ask the really, really pertinant questions.

Everyone knows that medieval women didn’t wear underwear. No pants- everyone knows that. And bras are a pretty modern invention, aren’t they? Aren’t they?

See a pair of Reproduction Medieval Underpants.

Actually, no. Medieval women did wear underwear, and not the corsets and chastity belts that Hollywood would have us believe. Thrilling archaeological finds in Europe have discovered underwear- women’s underwear- and Abbey Festival-goers will have a chance to hear about them and see a pair of reproduction medieval underpants at a lecture in the University Pavillion on both days.

 

Guest Blogger:  Rosalie Gilbert

{Rosalie Gilbert is a re-enactor and historical clothing enthusiast whose main interest is the lives of medieval women.

Rosemalie is a life member of FOTAM; has been re-enacting for 10 years with various groups of late is associated with Knights of Lion Rampant.  She wrote our first stringently-accurate costume guidelines for our stall-holders.  Rosalie has been a long-time volunteer at many Abbey Museum events including the Abbey Medieval Festival.  We are sure Rosalie’s lectures at this year’s Tournament will be as well attended as her previous ones.

Visit her website at http://rosaliegilbert.com for more information about the lives of medieval women.}

Medieval Hounds

This is the final of our guest-blogger Sir Justyn’s series – ‘The Horses, The Hawks and The Hounds.’  Enjoy.

The Noble Medieval Hound

The third most important animal to nobles of the Middle Ages was the humble hound. So common today are dogs that we can come to neglect their prestige and importance among the lords and ladies of yore.  Hounds were considered most noble of beasts based upon his loyalty, kindness and other qualities of great nobleness. As you may have already surmised nobles kept and used hounds primarily for hunting.

There were in total six types of hounds you might encounter in medieval times:

  • running hounds,
  • greyhounds,
  • alaunts,
  • mastiffs,
  • spaniels
  • lap hounds.

Of these breeds five were used for robust purposes such as the hunting, guarding and fighting spoken of earlier and were well praised by noble men.

The poor little lap hound was considered a ladies hound.  They were used for both companionship and to keep fleas off the lady who kept the hound,  as written by medieval authors Gaston de Foix and Edward of Norwich! They were somewhat considered the lesser hound, especially among the men. It seems not to be until a few centuries later that men became fond of these small dogs.

This medieval illustration is from Gaston Phoebus’ Livre de Chasse

A hound in a medieval noble’s house was very well kept in almost the same way we might keep our dogs today with sufficient bedding, shelter, warmth, good food, clean water and plenty of room to exercise.  Gaston Phoebus, the Count of Foix wrote in his famous book” Livre de Chasse” in the 14thC of a medieval dog pen; “there are two gates to the enclosure; one opened only for the hunt, the other that leads to a sunny outdoor enclosure. The hound house is divided into three sections; one for the hounds, one for the handlers and a third with six sticks with gutters for the hounds to urinate on, the gutters taking their business to an outside area.” He goes on to write that servants must sleep with the hounds and that the kennels are to be kept warm with a fireplace and chimney. Accompanying illustrations in Livre de Chasse show a kennel that looks more expensive than a serf’s cottage. Edward of Norwich, writing his book The Master of Game in the early 15thC, which was largely a copy of Livre de Chasse but with some English flavour and relevant regional changes,  suggests instead stones for the hounds to urinate upon and just one child to sleep in the kennels if the kennels are small. He also, like Pheobus, suggests that a chimney and fireplace be set in the kennel for the comfort of the hounds when they are cold or have swam and need to dry out.

So what of these hounds not suited for the lap of a lady?

Running hounds were used more for boar hunting (though some proved also to be good at hunting deer) and needed to be strong, bold, and fast over short distances.  Primarily they used to press a boar and to fight him at close quarters. They were not good at sustaining a chase and gave up the chase relatively quickly. They were not called running hounds for their ability to run but rather to set upon or “run” their quarry into the ground, though it is also hinted that they may be called this because a man can keep pace with them while running.

Greyhounds were prized for their ability to chase quarry over a long distance at great speed and without losing sight of the prey or giving up. They were perhaps the most valued of all hounds and their nature as today was kind, not too fierce, playful and joyous.  Curiously the greyhound is the only hound mentioned specifically by name of its breed in the Middle Ages, perhaps a testament to their esteemed position among hounds. These hounds were well suited to pursuing quarry over long distances, overtaking it and bringing it to the ground usually with a mounted posse of men right behind to assist.

Aluants were hounds that were said to be the strongest and best shaped of all hounds and they required more detail to training than other hounds to ensure it was manageable at all times. In fact it was written by Edward of Norwich that an alaunt could be either most gentle of nature or most vicious and indeed men were wounded and at times killed by their own alaunts. Not only are the alaunts the most strong but he writes they are also the most hare brained. The alaunt was able to run as fast as a greyhound over a short distance and any beast he could seize with his powerful jaws he could bring down with little effort and hold and not leave it. These hounds were used for bear and bull baiting in blood sports and also called great butchers’ hounds because they were kept by urban butchers to guard and to clean up the mess that went with the trade. They also served as protectors of their master’s home.

Mastiffs were primarily hounds used to guard their medieval master’s beasts, home and goods. They were considered ugly and churlish in shape and nature and loved for it. Occasionally mastiffs were bred for hunting wild boar or for retrieving prey taken by hawks. Of all the hounds the mastiff is the least described in the medieval books on hunting, suggesting that they were indeed more of a footnote if you will than a prized hound for the hunt.

Spaniels were small hounds used for retrieving prey that was hot at a distance or taken by birds thus giving them a second name; birds of the hawk.

Loyal hounds,  they were described as:

  • always following their master
  • never becoming lost from him even in a crowd
  •  constantly wagging it’s tail
  •  flushing out game chasing fowl and wild beast with much excitement and noise
  • and excelling in hunting quail and partridge.

These hounds were also encouraged to swim and burrow for prey during the hunt but they were also considered a detriment among greyhounds for they would often chase whatever they found regardless of their masters wishes and lead the greyhounds into a chaotic dithering chase.

 

Guest Blogger: Sir Justyn
{ Sir Justyn is a professional medieval educator, performer and fight instructor who attends events, schools and clubs, Australia-wide and internationally, bringing history to life wherever he goes.   You can see Sir Justyn’s Birds of Prey from the Full Flight Conservation Centre in the encampment of Eslite d’ Corps, the 14thC Living History group and household of Sir Justyn at the Abbey Medieval Festival.  Sir Justyn, Eslite d’ Corps (EdC) and Full Flight Conservation Centre can also be found on Facebook.  For more information on falconry and hawking visit EdC Medieval Falconry.}

Medieval Medicinal Herbs : Wound Herbs

Following on from Monday’s Medieval Surgery post we are pleased to present an offering by our newest guest blogger who has presented us with a list of  3 really useful medieval herbs which are still found in many house-holds nowadays.

Medieval Medicinal Herbs : Wound Herbs

Comfrey; Symphyrum officinallis.

A Perennial, it  grows to a height of 600-900mm when in flower.
Displaying a beautiful Blue flower, it will ramble across you garden. If allowed to it will become a rampant pest. We accept that it’s country of origin was China, and that it was traded down the “Silk Road” maybe as early as Roman times.
Comfrey was most commonly used as a poultice or a herbal tea, for breaks, bruises, sprains, and internal hemorrhaging.   Young leaves can be added to a Medieval Salad, or fritters. It will thrive in most soil conditions, and is a valuable addition to any compost heap.

Lady’s Mantle; Alchemilla vulgaris.

The French called it “Pied de Lion”.   A perennial – while this plant is small in stature at 300mm in height, it produces a ‘Major flower and plant of Alchemy’.  This herb is claimed by ‘Venus’ for all women, given that it benefits them most. It was widely used for its drying and binding virtues, and is an amazing wound herb.
Known to help women who have overcome ‘Flagging breasts’, making them smaller and firmer, both when taken internally and applied externally. Again we see the application of a known Medieval herb, as a herbal tea, and an ointment, or poultice.
One of the most endearing features of ‘Lady’s Mantle’ occurs when the dew alights upon it, staying for many hours in a most delicate way. This wonderful herb will grow in most soils and conditions, both in shade and full sun.

Yarrow; Achillea millefolium.

Yarrow, with its botanical name,  is linked to one of legends’ greatest heroes. It is said of Achilles that he tended the wounds of his men.  Hence, most of its common names are linked back to war:  ‘Herbe  Militaris’; ‘Soldiers Woundwort’; and amusingly ‘Devil’s Plaything’.  During the Medieval period it was a herb connected with the casting out of witches, and at one time dedicated to the Devil.
Having strong antiseptic qualities, this herb is good for the stomach, kidneys, skin and heart, and as a salve, external wounds. This herb was also known to the Chinese, in ancient times. With 49 Yarrow stalks being a form of divination, connected to I Ching, or Book of Changes.
A perennial herb, growing to a height of 600-900mm. That likes a generally rich moist soil, and loves the full sun.

 

Guest Blogger:  Warwick Halse Jnr.

{I am a Re-enactor with many years of experience attending the Abbey Tournament. Over a long period I have enjoyed several incarnations in re-enacting. In ‘Saga Vikings’ I was a Skarld. During the same period, I was also ‘Lion Herald’ with Knights Order of Lion Rampant. After several good years there I have moved on to ‘Elite de Coups’ as Baron Christian Christiansonn, of the Danish court of King Valdmar IV Attadage (mid 14th century). I maintain a close relationship with ‘Traders of Freiol’ a great Viking period traders group and many other amazing re-enactors here in Queensland.

In my other life, I am the manager of “CREEC” nursery (a small community nursery), at 150 Rowley Rd, Burpengary, 4506. Phone; 07 3888 9285, e-mail; creec@bigpond.com . I have over 20 years within the Queensland Nursery Industry, and now have a strong commitment to the environment, and educating the general public in the many advantages of using Australian Native plants.
My close friendship with Justin Webb, also involves School Shows, and other public performances. Outside of re-enacting, I enjoy surfing, fishing, hunting, being a 5 day a week gym junkie.  My greatest pleasure comes from the people I meet, the ideas I am exposed to, and the wonderful friendship that are the “Silver” lining in my life.}

 

Medieval Surgery – An Insight

 

Medieval Surgery is a featured Workshop at the Abbey Medieval Festival.  For your pleasure and interest we are featuring our latest guest blogger!

Medieval Doctor’s Journal
by Magister Mathieu medicus

Eve of feast day of St Lazarus

 

It’s been a trying day for me with only a few weeks to go before the great tournament, and so many new visitors to the city. The

One unlucky French squire was struck hard upon his head but fortunately I was  young knights have been showing off with the excitement, as expected, with a few unfortunate injuries occurring.

Unable to diagnose, as described by Avicenna, that he had no hidden fractures and so was not required to make incision into his head. Instead I treated him with a poultice of absinthe, vinegar, artemisia, wild celery, onions, rue and cumin, which are mixed in lard and flour and applied to the affected part. He should recover well, God willing.

I visited Sir Barnard again this morning, to see how his leg was healing. He was kicked by a horse in his leg, over 4 months ago, which became infected and was weeping from many places. Every time one would close, another would open in a different place. I was called to see him and ordered his servants remove all the previous ointments and only wash his leg with very strong vinegar every day. By this, all the cuts are now healed, and he has recovered enough that he shall be riding with the King again within a week, much to the annoyance of many local emirs!

I need to check on the apothecary again this evening, as I have need of many items that are brought in by traders from abroad, and he has promised me that he has new shipments of frankincense and even some herbs that do not grow well nearby.
My day will finish with overseeing my assistants in making various powders I will need for treating the wounds which will surely come when the tournament begins!

 

Guest Blogger:  Michelle Barton

{Michelle Barton, a Brisbane local, has been re-enacting medieval life since 1993, ranging from steel combat in 12th mail armour to learning the frustrating art of card weaving. She is also a veterinarian of over 15 years experience, so an interest in medieval medicine and surgery, and trying to find the truth from the myth, was always guaranteed. Her medieval medical texts are starting to rival the numbers of veterinary texts in her house! Presenting this information to others in a fun and engaging manner is an added bonus. }

The Medieval Horse

Another guest blog post for your pleasure!

Horses were one of the most valued and convenient of commodities in the medieval period.

 The real value of a horse in Medieval Times.

We take horses for granted in our modern age but to the people of the Middle Ages they were as important as a car is to us today.  Of course like cars today, not everyone owned a horse in the Middle Ages.

Most of the common folk got about on foot and it was only the prestigious that owned a horse, important members of society such as but not limited to nobles, merchants, clergy, and servants of the wealthy and well established tradesmen or professionals.

Horses were animals of great importance not just for the use of transporting a rider but also for war, hunting, transporting goods, services and information. This could be done either by a rider on horseback, a man on foot leading a horse (or perhaps a mule) or by cart, wagon and for the very rich, by coach.

 So what kind of horses did they have?

Breeds as we know them today were non existent in the Middle Ages.

Horse in Saracen kit

Horse from re-enactment group Order of the Horse

Horses were not classified by breed but function.

It was a very simple process of classification.

If you were to

  •  need a riding horse, you buy a riding horse,
  • you need a war horse, buy a war horse.
  • Need a cart horse? You guessed it, buy a cart horse.

There were of course specialised traders and breeders who would deal in a specific kind of horse but not so much specific breeds.

 Horse breeds of  1000 years ago.

Historians and horse enthusiasts are still debating today what breeds of horses were around in the medieval period.

What is almost certain is that none of the breeds that we have today were likely around 500-1000 years ago.

Selective breeding has more or less made it impossible for us to ascertain, with the exception of some pony breeds such as the Icelandic pony and the Dartmoor pony, exactly what these horses would have been. Instead we see modern “reproductions” or likely suspects. Of all types of horses, the one which has perhaps received the most attention in academic and Living History circles is the war horse.

So important to a knight was his war horse that he could not be considered for knighthood without one and without showing adequate cavalry skills. In fact the word that was used to describe a knight in the languages of the day, were words which described a cavalryman. Chevalier, ritter, caballero; all were words that meant mounted warrior. A man without a horse or the skills needed to ride in battle was not a knight at all.

 

War Horses of the Middle Ages

There were two types of war horse in the Middle Ages, the prized and highly valued destrier and the less expensive, more expendable charger.

The destrier was the most expensive horse on the market. Vastly specialised and trained in war it was as much a weapon to the knight who rode it as was his lance and sword. These horses were always stallions and their natural aggression was harnessed and encouraged in acts of war. They were also used in tournaments and often knights jousted for the purpose of knocking an adversary from his saddle and claiming the horse for himself as rules oft times allowed. A destrier could cost in the realm of £20-30 which was the equivalent of a common mans earnings of 10 years or more!

Chargers were war horses that were not as highly prized and more commonly found on a battlefield than a destrier. Less costly at around less than half the price of the destrier, they were still very much trained for battle but were less prestigious than their great cousins. They too were stallions for the same reasons.

Many people automatically picture a heavy draft when they picture a medieval war horse but this is not the case at all. Most draft breeds did not come about until the renaissance and some not until the time of the industrial revolution and they were bred for pulling heavy loads not for swift and agile manoeuvres in war and combat. Instead the medieval war horse has much in common to it’s descendants of Iberian stock. Andalusian, Lipizzaner, Barb, Lusitano, Knapstrupper and Frederiksborger are all horses which are highly likely to be a good facsimile of a medieval war horse. Clydesdales were never medieval war horses the breed being first recorded in the 19th century and shires originated only a hundred years earlier during the 18thC. It is still debated wether or not the Percheron was around and used as a war horse and if it was it was certainly different to the breed today. Friesians are also subject to an identical debate.

Other types of horses were

  1. courser: a horse used specifically for hunting or for endurance and speed,
  2. rouncey: riding horse,
  3. ambler: another riding horse that could move more swiftly,
  4. sumpter: a pack animal and
  5. hobilar: a rugged and hardy pony which later descended into a “hobby” horse.

All of these horses especially the war horse breeds would have been very fit and strong horses because of the fact that they were in constant use. Today we exercise horses for our events and then transport them to the event whereas in the Middle Ages they were the transport and their exercise was more often than not all of their everyday  practical activities.

Modern jousting horses are similar to the medieval horse in that breed is not important (except for those with large bank accounts and a determined approach to authenticity) but the ability and willingness of the horse to take on the task, excel and enjoy it most certainly is of great importance.

 

Guest Blogger: Sir Justyn
{Sir Justyn is a professional medieval educator, performer and fight instructor who attends events, schools and clubs, Australia-wide and internationally, bringing history to life wherever he goes.   You can see Sir Justyn’s Birds of Prey from the Full Flight Conservation Centre in the encampment of Eslite d’ Corps, the 14thC Living History group and household of Sir Justyn at the Abbey Medieval Festival.  Sir Justyn, Eslite d’ Corps (EdC) and Full Flight Conservation Centre can also be found on Facebook.  For more information on falconry and hawking visit EdC Medieval Falconry.}

 

Birds of Prey at the Abbey

Birds of Prey and Knights go together don’t they?

The medieval knight  of popular media is usually dressed in shining armour, upon a fiery steed, jousting and riding off into war and gallant adventure or committing wicked atrocities to the defenceless common folk but not often is he pictured with a hawk on his glove.

Yet this was more common than the knight in shining armour.  Birds of prey were an important part of medieval aristocratic life and both lords and ladies often went about their daily duties with a hawk or falcon within arms reach.  These birds played an important role in a triumvirate of animals which also included horses and hounds. Primarily used for hunting, these birds were used as a fashion statement as well as a functioning part of the noble household’s food supply.

Falconry with Flair and Finesse

Birds of prey were very special to the noble class of medieval Europe. These birds were treated very well, housed, kept, groomed, fed and handled on a daily basis. Some nobles kept their favourite bird with them at all times; by their bed, in church, at tournaments or at feasts and formal occasions.  They were not just enamoured of their ability to hunt, their majestic, proud appearance or aesthetically pleasing design but also of their place in the natural world. Raptors soared above the ground free of terrestrial restraints coming to ground only when to suit their own purpose or when wounded or killed. To the mind of the battle born warrior these birds were their idealistic equal, a mirror image of themselves among the common folks.

Something else they felt was parallel between themselves and birds of prey was that they were unequalled in the art of slaying. That is to say, in the natural world the raptor was greatly feared and respected by other animals, birds and land dwelling prey who understood that a conflict with these creatures would lead to wounding or death, temporary escape if you were lucky.

Respect for the Predator

I was fortunate enough one day to witness this in great example as the following tale recounts:
I was observing three crows, scavenging a space for food when suddenly without warning a small bird, what looked to me a pigeon, fell from the sky, a lifeless mass.The three crows immediately moved to set upon this bird and just as suddenly, with an elegance and grace that spoke of its skill and power, a falcon landed on top of the bird and mantled it, spreading it’s wings over it’s prey and adopting a threatening posture to challenge and ready to defend that which it considered to be rightfully its own.
The pigeon was obviously its kill and as soon as it made eye contact with the three crows, all three scattered to give the falcon space and seeing that none dared intrude on its authority, took to the sky again with its prey. The crows did not for one second dare to rise to the falcons challenge; they understood their place in the natural order of things.

This too is how the medieval noble viewed himself among his social inferiors; dominant and unquestionable, through his social position, and his skill as a warrior.

Birds of Prey in Medieval Times

Birds of prey can be found in medieval manuscripts, carvings, sculpture, paintings and heraldic achievements such as shields, badges and crests. Take for example the heraldry of Sir Justyn Webbe, fictional knight of the 14thC who uses his legitimate family arms today. Upon his shield he bears four peregrine falcons which denote swiftness and loyalty, their gold colour (represented by yellow) denotes faith and obedience.  The falcon was also seen by the church as a symbol of true conversion from pagan beliefs. King Edward III of 14thC England favoured the use of a falcon as one of his primary badges of livery and favour. So as you might deduce, the falcon used as a heraldic device can tell a lot about a man’s character and history.
In the Middle Ages hunting with birds of prey was divided into two groups based on the type of bird being used.
Falconry was the art of flying falcons to hunt for game and hawking was the same art when using hawks or eagles. A falconer was the name given one who engaged in falconry and an austringer was the name of one who went hawking.  Owls were not used at all and rarely kept because of superstition associated with them .
The often-quoted Book of St Albans or Boke of St Albans 1486, has a list of birds and who may fly them as according to social rank. It has been dismissed by many historians as being idealistic at best. Indeed there is much evidence from the Middle Ages to suggest that the proposed list of birds restricted by social rank never existed or was enforced at all.

Authors note: The art of falconry, that is hunting game with birds of prey, is illegal in Australia. The author does not participate or endorse this illegal activity within Australia. The birds of prey used by Sir Justyn are from Full Flight Conservation Centre and are flown not to hunt but for rehabilitation and educational purposes.

Guest Blogger: Sir Justyn
{ Sir Justyn is a professional medieval educator, performer and fight instructor who attends events, schools and clubs, Australia-wide and internationally, bringing history to life wherever he goes.   You can see Sir Justyn’s Birds of Prey from the Full Flight Conservation Centre in the encampment of Eslite d’ Corps, the 14thC Living History group and household of Sir Justyn at the Abbey Medieval Festival.  Sir Justyn, Eslite d’ Corps (EdC) and Full Flight Conservation Centre can also be found on Facebook.  For more information on falconry and hawking visit EdC Medieval Falconry.}

Will My Medieval Dress Fit Me?

The Abbey Medieval Festival is pleased to offer you this Costuming post by our special guest blogger who has a wealth of experience with differing costume and dress styles and fittings when attending Medieval Events.

What Medieval Dress Style will suit me?

You may think that all medieval women were tall and slender but this is not the case. Look at the C14th Queen of King Edward III, the gentle yet clever Philippa of Hainault. Loved and worshipped by her Husband, loved and adored by the people even after her death, she was no stick insect and yet was the epitome of elegance and bringing her and her unique styles from Valenciennes, Belgium (Valenciennes can be found today in Northern France), influencing the fashion at court with her native ladies and throughout English Noble and Middle Class society.
Hopefully this short post will cover the basics and give you an idea of what would suit your body shape best for you to feel and look totally fabulous at the festival this year.

Slender, “Willowy” and Athletic Figure Styles

If you are of a slender build ( or athletic), you can pretty much wear almost anything in the medieval era, from a well cut C13th garment that is loose fitting, to a C14th Cote-hardie as pictured here. along with a well cut sideless surcote,  a C15th French Burgundian Gown or Kirtle.
What to avoid?

Too much fabric for starters! Be aware of hanging sleeves over narrow ones if part of the fashion of the era you portray. These will swamp your slender frame unless cut with care and thought, should you choose to have them.

The neckline on a C14th gown can be higher above the bust and can be off the shoulder to add some sensuality.

For the C15th keep to a high waist and belt, as it will give you the illusion of curves for your derrière.

Keep the style simple and elegant without too much fuss and your whole look will be a success!

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The Voluptuous, Curvy and Hourglass Fashions

If you are curvaceous and have an hourglass figure, get yourself a well fitting bra and hang the cost. Those girls need to be contained but also on show!  Not authentic in reality but you want then to be secure and comfy under your gown.
Any C13th loose fitting gown will look ok, but will drape heavily according to your bust size, so be aware they may not be flattering and if wearing a sideless surcote, cut it wide at the shoulders and wide across bust.

Any C14th gown in the English, French or Spanish styles would suit as gowns in the C14th were cut to the figure for both sexes due to the new invention of buttons, making garments close fitting. Sideless Surcotes look great on this shape figure too as the cut away sides are flattering to the waistline. Necklines can be lower to show upper parts of the breasts and off the shoulder as of the C1350’s at court. The Hips in these style gowns will be covered and hide a multitude of sins for the modern woman, but they did enhance their derrière with fox tails under their gowns, so show off your lower curves in your gown with pride! (Ankles and wrists were extremely sexy and never shown! So show off your upper breasts and backside and be totally authentic!)

Any C15th Gown would also suit the hourglass figure enhancing your breasts as the V neckline for the larger busted lady is very flattering, also if the neckline skims the tops of the shoulders too showing more of the curve of the neck under the dancing veil from the Hennin headdress but again be modest and have a neckerchief of transparent material, silk organza for example, tucked in ( although most modern men would disagree with this!)
What to avoid?
With an hourglass figure your breasts will be the main problem, so trick the eye and enhance your slender waist. Not much can be done with this body shape in the C13th clothing as it’s so loose fitting even if tucked into a belt and pulled out under the ribcage. It makes you look frumpy. Keep to silks or linens if you do wear c13th clothing, in a simple cut, as they will drape heavier and flatter more with more fabric in the skirts of the gown about the legs and ankles to balance the eye.
For the C14th, wear your belt lower than your waist, more towards your hips, this will elongate you from your bust making you look slimmer. Also avoid large hanging or excessively dagged sleeves of the French Style as these near your bust will make you look larger than you are. If you do choose to have hanging sleeves, have then hanging long from the elbow, as seen right pictured here
Keep your tippets narrow and neat if you choose to wear them. Make your gowns very full in the skirts, if you have enough fabric to direct the eye down and to balance your frame. If wearing a sideless surcote, avoid narrow fronts on them. Keep the front of your surcote wide (nipple width is a good indication of what would flatter your body shape best) along with the back being wide, as seen left here.

For the C15th the only difference would be to keep the cut of the gown simple once again and not to have it high waisted. Cut the gown’s waist low on your narrowest point to flatter your figure best and also have your belt at this point too or have a very wide belt. It does not look flattering if your bust over hangs though!

 

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The luckiest of all of the Body Shapes – the Pears

With a Pear shape figure, consider yourself to be one of the lucky ones, as this was the shape that most fits medieval depictions of the female medieval form.
It is hard to determine if a pear shape figure was under the long loose fitting gowns of the c13th, but one from the Mannesse Codex pictured here would look good on your frame with a smaller neckline, with the folds falling from either a set neckline or cut to incorporate the fullness required to achieve this look

As would a fashionable C14th gown pictured here on the right.
A larger than normal derrière and belly was considered the perfect figure for birthing and considering it was the sole purpose of medieval Noble women to provide heirs, it stands to reason many images were depicted thus. A C14th Gown cut with a full skirt is most flattering and can have either a square neckline or a rounded one, hanging sleeves, dagged sleeves, narrow sleeves, you get the idea. A sideless surcote will flatter this shape figure well too.

The C15th Houpplande as well as the Burgundian and Spanish Gowns look good on the pear shaped figure too with the tiny waist and ribcage able to take the high waist level and belt.

What to avoid?

No much to be honest, like I said above, you are one of the lucky ones. Keep your necklines fitted to your shoulders and torso and then let the fabric fall into full skirts and the gowns of the medieval period flatter your body shape best, so relish in it and enjoy your body in a stunning gown.

 

 

Guest Blogger:  Kat Woods

“Let me introduce myself.
My Name is Katrina Wood, I belong to a small C14th group here in the UK called ‘Age of Chivalry’ and I have re-enacted for 26 years.
I have been approached by The Abbey Medieval Festival, which has a reputation second to none in the UK, to do a small blog on Female Medieval Costumes suiting and flattering body shapes.” Note from Jo – Kat’s really modest bio really should include her website which is:  http://www.katshats.co.uk/