Medieval Histories http://www.medievalhistories.com News about the Middle Ages Sat, 04 Oct 2014 08:38:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=383 Aggersborghttp://www.medievalhistories.com/aggersborg-viking-age-settlement-and-fortress/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/aggersborg-viking-age-settlement-and-fortress/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:35:31 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10974 New book tells the full story of the Viking-Age Settlement and Fortress at Aggersborg in Northern Jutland from the reign of Harold Bluetooth

Between 1945 – 52 the National Museum of Denmark carried extensive excavations out at Aggersborg, the largest of the Viking Ring fortresses. Later other explorations were carried out. Unfortunately the reports were never published. For a couple of years a dedicated group of medieval archaeologists from The National Museum of Denmark as well as the University of Århus have worked diligently to amass, complete and rethink this vast material. This spring the group presented not only a report in Danish but also a translation into English of most of the Danish publication. With more than 477 pages the English edition should answer a whole lot of those questions posed by archaeologists and historians without proficiency in the “Danish Tongue” (as the Vikings used to call their language).

It is of course a complicated book to review: dense and knowledgeable it presents us with a very detailed overview of not only the location and the history of the pre-fortress settlement and the fortress itself but also a catalogue of the finds, the zoological finds plus not least the view of the editors on the purpose of the fortress.

Aggersborg 2011
Aggersborg 2011 © Dovregubben

The fortress was probably the earliest of the ring-fortresses built between AD 970 and 980 (the fifth, the most recent, is still awaiting a proper dating). It overlaid an earlier settlement consisting of an impressive amount of sunken huts connected with a couple of large farms. Perhaps it was already a royal manor at the time when the fortress was constructed on a morainic island sloping down to the Firth of Lime (Limfjorden) between the later church to the North and the medieval manor (to the South). Even though it was abandoned very quickly (20-30 years after its construction) it continued to be prominent in the landscape. Today the rampart, the ditch and the axial streets between the four gateways of the fortress can be seen in the landscape marked out for the visitor by stones. Visiting the site even today, It is evident that it occupied a strategic location controlling the traffic of ships from Norway (entering through a channel from the North) as well as ships passing through the firth (which was at that point not a firth proper, but a belt or strait of narrow water connecting The North Sea and Kattegat. Visually it would have been possible to see bonfires lit as warning from afar (p. 24).

Aggersborg was laid out within a rampart enclosing a circular area covering approximately 240m in diameter. The rampart was laced with timer and fitted with four impressive gateways, from which four axial timber-paved roads divided the circle into four quadrants. Each of these quadrants held a group of four timber-houses of the Trelleborg Type positioned symmetrically around a courtyard. All-in-all the fortress contained 48 identical timber-houses. Excavations have yielded an elaborate number of archaeological finds – pottery, jewellery, tools etc. demonstrating that the site was inhabited while in use.

As to the current understanding of the fortress the primary investigators have obviously struggled to make proper sense of not only Aggersborg, but also the other ring-fortresses belonging to the military system, of which they were obviously a part (witness their design).

It appears, though, that the current most plausible theory is that the ring-fortresses were erected as part of a defensive system developed in view of the the militant aggressions of the German emperors Otto I and II and the new forms of warfare developed in the 10th century, characterised by wintering armies. In view of this Harold Blutooth not only strengthened the border at Dannewerck near Haithabu, but also built the ring fortresses as inland defensive structures, where dues and taxes could be collected, stashed and defended. But it also explains why they were abandoned soon after. In AD 983 Otto II died and left his reign in the hands of a three-year old boy. Until 994 his mother and later his grandmother were busy defending the boy from a Bavarian rebellion as well as the incursion of Slavs across the Eastern border. When at the age of sixteen, Otto III took over the reign, he marched to Rome in order to claim the titles as both King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor. During this power vacuum the son of Harold, Sweyn Forkbeard was able to mount his consistent raids on England, which ended in the final conquest in AD 1013. During this period the need to maintain the costly defensive ring fortresses seemingly disappeared. After the year 1000 they were history. (see p. 393 ff). We know that Sweyn revolted against his father post 983. Perhaps the fight between father and son was about where to allocate the military resources of the realm – for defense against a German aggressor or as investment in a major conquest?

The present report is obviously directed at specialists. Nevertheless it is very interesting as it makes not only Aggersborg but in fact the context of all the impressive ring-fortresses accessible to an English-speaking public. This is not least pertinent in view of the present endeavours to seek World Heritage Status for the ring-fortress at Trelleborg as well as a number of other Viking sites and monuments.

It is to be hoped that the editors and authors of the volume will consider a smaller publication presenting all the fortresses and their monumental context in Jelling as well as near Haithabu in Schleswig.

Karen Schousboe

aggersborg coverAggersborg. The Viking-Settlement and Fortress.
By Else Roesdahl, Søren M. Sindbæk, Anne Pedersen and David M. Wilson
Jutland Archaeological Society
Århus University Press 2014

 

 

READ MORE:

New Viking Ring Fortress Discovered

Viking Age Base-Camps along the Dutch Coast

Recent Research about Viking-Age Aggersborg

BOOK REVIEW: Royal Viking Fortresses

 

 

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Royal Viking Fortresseshttp://www.medievalhistories.com/royal-viking-fortresses/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/royal-viking-fortresses/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 12:43:06 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10969 The Ring Fortresses of Harold Bluetooth represent a remarkable engineering feat of 10th century Scandinavia. New book presents the latest research

Trelleborg, Aggersborg, Fyrkat, Nonnebakken and now Vallø are five of the most intriguing witnesses to the grandeur of the Royal project of Harold Blutooth.

Although they differ slightly in terms of size and the type of fortifications (some were fitted with moats, others not), it is obvious the circular fortresses were all built to the same specifications around AD 970 to 80. It is immediately obvious that the individual fortresses functioned as parts of a larger military system. However, the exact character of this military complex and its function (s) has been heavily debated for a long time. Were they defensive structures? Meant as ports for ships going on state-sanctioned Viking raids? Or were they perhaps regarded as ready camps for fugitives?

One of the challenges in answering these questions, is that there is in fact a lot to be learned from further excavations in and around the fortresses. Some of these are being withheld as part of the general opinion among archaeologists that it pays of to let future and more clever archaeologists do the work. Other explorations have simply not been carried out as yet.

Trelleborg in Winter 2013 - small river to the left. The for tree may be seen in the back
Trelleborg in Winter 2013 – small river to the left. The for tree may be seen in the back © Medievalhistories /CC

Between 2007 – 10 a specific set of questions were raised and a number of archaeological explorations were undertaken in order to answer these. The overall question was whether it had been possible to sail up to the fortresses and to what extent this had played a part in their location.

Recently the finds from this campaign were published in a report. The overall conclusion was that yes, the fortresses had been built in close connection with central transport routes running through the landscape and that they especially had access to the central water ways of that time. Whether located on the open coast as Aggersborg or on rivers like Fyrkat and Trelleborg, it was definitely possible to sail up through the waterlogged foreland and marshy wetland. However, only at one of the fortresses (Trelleborg) has it been possible to find remains of actual handling of Viking ships. The investigation concludes by pointing to the fact that actual shipyards might have been located even further inland, where sourcing of tree was simply easier.

The results of the excavations and explorations from 2017 – 2010 were recently published. Although in Danish, there is a very extensive English summary and anyone especially interested in the warfare of the Vikings should try and lay their hands on it.

Kongens Borge - CoverKongens Borge [The Fortresses of the King]
Rapport over undersøgelserne 2007-2010
By Andres Siegfried Dobat (ed)
Århus University Press 2013
ISBN 978 87 888415 76 6

READ MORE:

New Viking Ring Fortress Discovered

Viking Age Base-Camps along the Dutch Coast

Viking-Age Aggersborg

 

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The Age of the Vikingshttp://www.medievalhistories.com/age-vikings/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/age-vikings/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 10:30:18 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10955 There is a sympathetic subtext running between the covers of this new book about the Vikings: please stop spreading so much nonsense in TV-series…

In the middle of this fascinating book is a vignette about a group of teens, who had been studying the life and times of the Vikings during winter-term. Come summer they were camping at Stavgard on the large island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea east of the mainland of Sweden. Local lore said that this was where the Viking chieftain Stavar had hidden his vast treasure and the plan was to “live like Vikings” for just a couple of days. Here they started bonfires, baked their bread, fished for pike and trout, smoked perch and sacrificed it to the gods in order to secure an abundant harvest, good fortune and lots of gold and silver. In the end one of the youngsters struck luck when he followed a rabbit into its hole and could fill his hand with old coins. All in all they found 1452 Viking silver coins that had been hidden around the middle of the tenth century; nearly all of them Arabic Dirhams.

Anders Winroth tells this story in the beginning of a chapter (p. 99) on “Coins, Silk and Herring”, which aims to show to the reader how the Vikings as tradesmen played a very significant role when exporting Northern luxuries – pelts, walrus-tusks, amber and slaves to the merchants from the Middle East, trading in silk, spices and other luxurious items. Thus silver drained from Western Europe was to some extent re-circulated back into the European Economy on this great Northern arc of commerce. Although some of it obviously ended up in treasure troves on Gotland, a lot was re-circulated through the Viking Emporias of Birka, Haithabu, Dorestad, York and Dublin (to name just some).

Reconstruction of interior of the great Hall in Borg at Lofoten
Reconstruction of interior of the great Hall in Borg at Lofoten © Olav Eikenes (CC-NBY-2.0)

The reason to recount the adventures of the youngsters here is not so much that Anders Winroth took part in the youngster’s camping (he must have been too young). Rather the vignette is obviously used to demonstrate how the re-enactment of the life and times of the Vikings in Scandinavia is serious business; much in the same way as is the re-enactment of the life and times of the Indians on the Great Plains of America is to American schoolchildren. Respect for the indigenous people demands that some kind of serious “correctness” is at least sought after by serious teachers and their students.

Though this is not something, which figures on the surface of the text itself, the book is thus obviously about the “Age of the Vikings” as such and not about the many myths (except when they need to be debunked).

Instead the book simply demonstrates how it is possible to tell wonderful and entertaining stories of the real lives and times of people, who lived in days long gone by, without compromising the academic standards in any way. Suffice it to tell that any reader delving into the pages will be awarded with thrilling stories of a grand Viking party in a mead-hall, how to fight with a half-a-kilo axe, how to travel far from home down the Dnieper River, how to build a ship and how many hours it took, how chieftains turned into kings and how it was to live back home on the farm in a time when Pagans and Christians had to accommodate each other. Finally we are given a careful reading of the subtle art of poetry and goldsmithing plus the story of how it all ended.

This is not to say that the book is in anyway a handbook meant for re-enactors. Not at all! For one thing it is not luxuriously illustrated. In fact I missed out some obvious illustrations for instance of the whole treasure trove from Erikstorp, demonstrating the way in which the Viking woman must have worn it. (We are only presented with a photo of part of it).

Another reason, though, is that the book is not designed nor written to fill this niche. Rather it is meant as a – highly successful – piece of “Cultural History” in the grand traditions of Scandinavian historians like for instance Hans Hildebrand and Troels Frederik Troels-Lund. The overall question, which the book raises and answers in such a learned and comprehensive way is thus what life was like for Vikings, whether pillaging, trading abroad or sacrificing to the Norse Gods? And how it all made sense to these Northerners from ca. 793 – 1066?

Anders Winroth is – although Swedish by birth – the Forst Family Professor of History at Yale University. The book is written in near-perfect English although tiny mistakes have obviously slipped through the keen eye of the copyeditor. For instance, in Swedish it is called “rista i runor”; in English it is not called “inscribe in granite” but “inscribe on granite”… but this is really just a very minor quibble.

As will be apparent now, this book is obviously where to start for anyone fed up with MGM’s “Vikings” and even remotely interested in the real story behind.

Review by Karen Schousboe

The Age of the VikingsAge of Vikings -by Anders Winroth cover
By Anders Winroth
Princeton University Press 2014
ISBN: 9780691149851 (Hardcover
ISBN: 9781400851904 (eBook)

ABSTRACT (blurb):

The Vikings maintain their grip on our imagination, but their image is too often distorted by medieval and modern myth. It is true that they pillaged, looted, and enslaved. But they also settled peacefully and developed a vast trading network. They travelled far from their homelands in swift and sturdy ships, not only to raid, but also to explore. Despite their fearsome reputation, the Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets, and even the infamous berserkers were far from invincible.

By dismantling the myths, The Age of the Vikings allows the full story of this period in medieval history to be told. By exploring every major facet of this exciting age, Anders Winroth captures the innovation and pure daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage.

He not only explains the Viking attacks, but also looks at Viking endeavours in commerce, politics, discovery, and colonization, and reveals how Viking arts, literature, and religious thought evolved in ways unequalled in the rest of Europe. He shows how the Vikings seized on the boundless opportunities made possible by the invention of the longship, using it to venture to Europe for plunder, to open new trade routes, and to settle in lands as distant as Russia, Greenland, and the Byzantine Empire. Challenging the image of the Vikings that comes so easily to mind, Winroth argues that Viking chieftains were no more violent than men like Charlemagne, who committed atrocities on a far greater scale than the northern raiders.

Drawing on a wealth of written, visual, and archaeological evidence, The Age of the Vikings sheds new light on the complex society and culture of these legendary seafarers.

CONTENTS

1 Introduction: The Fury of the Northmen
2 Violence in a Violent Time
3 Röriks at Home and Away: Viking Age Emigration
4 Ships, Boats, and Ferries to the Afterworld
5 Coins, Silk, and Herring: Viking Age Trade in Northern Europe
6 From Chieftains to Kings
7 At Home on the Farm
8 The Religions of the North
9 Arts and Letters
10 Epilogue: The End of the Viking Age
Further Reading, Acknowledgments, Abbreviations, Notes, Bibliography, 
List of Illustrations, 
Index

READ MORE

Interview with Anders Winroth on myth versus history

Anders Winroth is also the author of The Conversion of Scandinavia: Vikings, Merchants, and Missionaries in the Remaking of Northern Europe. 

SEE MORE

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The Medieval Court of a Welsh Princehttp://www.medievalhistories.com/medieval-court-welsh-prince/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/medieval-court-welsh-prince/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 18:13:32 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10891 The Medieval Court of Llys Rhosyr to be rebuilt at St. Fagans

Reconstruction of the medieval court of the princes of Gwynedd, excavated a decade ago, has begun at St. Fagans, the National Museum in Wales.

In 1992 the archaeologist Neil Johnstone discovered the remains of Llys Rhosyr, one of the royal courts of llywelin Fawr, prince of Gwynedd in the 13th century. It was located in the South West of isle of Anglesey near Newborough on the way to Llanddwyn island.Llys Rhosyr from the air

The Llys Rhosur was one of the royal courts, through which the princes ruled when in residence. These ‘Llys’ were placed at regular interval in the Welsh Kingdom, each covering an administrative region, called a ‘commotes’. Llys Rhosyr was at the heart of the ‘Menai Commote’.

After king Edward I’s conquest in 1282, Rhosyr was largely abandoned. Perhaps stones and timber was removed from the dismantled court and used in his large castles. Later in 1332 the area became covered by sand-dunes, where it lay undisturbed until it was discovered in 1992.

The site has since then been partially excavated, revealing the remains of the main hall and a building believed to have housed the private apartment of the prince. The site has also yielded a number of finds like coins, pottery and other small artefacts. Much of this is exhibited at the local museum in the Prichard-Jones Institue in the nearby village.

reconstruction of llys Rhosyr at st fagansThe royal court occupied 1.3 acres, while the royal demesne is believed to have extended over the 600 acres, on which the new town of Newborough was established after the conquest. The prince’s tenants worked the land, while other peasants were responsible for the repair and maintenance of the royal buildings: the fence, the hall, the chapel and the lord’s privy and stable. These and other buildings (kilns, barns etc.) were outlined in the Welsh laws as the responsibility of the local peasants to keep and repair. Fair and markets were of course part of the regular on-goings at the Llysoedd

Although more than ¾ of the site is still waiting to be excavated it has recently been decided to spend funding on a reconstruction in the National Museum of Wales.

Reconstruction at St. Fagans

Llys Rhosyr © Menter Môn
Llys Rhosyr Photo: © Menter Môn

The complete court cannot be replicated without damage to the adjoining woodland so it is proposed that the main hall and adjacent chamber with only part of the surrounding wall should be constructed. These comprise replicas in rubble walling bonded with clay beneath thatched roofs. The hall will have a footprint 11m x 17m and the chamber 7.5m x 13m. With 9 meters high stone walls and a thatched timber roof, the building of the court will provide apprenticeships and trainee placements within the Historic Buildings Unit.

After the reconstruction the plan is to use the buildings for overnight stays so children may improve their understanding of medieval life.

The project feeds into the overall plan of Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service to focus on the Princes of Gwynedd and the places associated with that medieval dynasty as part of a development of the “ Wales Heritage project”.

SOURCES:

 Llys Rhosy and Bryn Eryr

Application Plan for development of St. Fagans

Interpretation Plan for the Princes of Gwynedd for Cadw May 2010

READ MORE:

Friends of Llys Rhosyr

Cae llys, Rhosyr: A Court of the Princes of Gwynedd
By Neil Johnstone
In: Studia Celtica 2000, Vol. 33, pp. 251 – 295

A Brief Report on Pen y Bryn and Aber Llys and castles of Gwynedd
By Paul Martin Remfry
Castle Studies Research and Publishing 2012

political power in medieval Gwynedd coverPolitical Power in Medieval Gwynedd. Governance and the Welsh Princes
By David Stephenson
Series: Studies in Welsh History
2014, 2. edition (1984)
ISBN-10: 1783160047
ISBN-13: 978-1783160044

 

 

 Llywelely ap Gruffud CoverLlywelyn ap Gruffudd: Prince of Wales
By Beverley Smith
University of Wales Press; 2014 New edition (2001)
ISBN-10: 1783160063
ISBN-13: 978-1783160068

 

 

 

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Painted ceiling in Pont-Saint-Esprithttp://www.medievalhistories.com/painted-ceiling-pont-saint-esprit/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/painted-ceiling-pont-saint-esprit/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 11:28:12 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10872 The medieval ‘Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit’ boast of a remarkable painted ceiling

The Piolenc was an old family of merchants, which lived in Pont-Saint-Esprit in the Rhone Valley from 1150 to 1763. The family is famous for its beautiful medieval house, which still stands.

This former mansion of a large family of merchants in the Rhone Valley – La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit – is a good place to get a feeling for what daily life in the 15th century was like.Guillaume de Piolenc - La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit

The family is known for having being part in a conflict with the Abbey of Cluny in the 12th century. As such it became the leader of the faction, which secured the place as part of the Royal dominion in 1301. Later the house was used as a center for royal and local jurisdiction. More precisely the house played a significant role in a royal entry in 1449. It is believed that the heraldic décor of the house was painted at that time by the owner, Guillaume de Piolenc and inspired by his Italian sojourn in Florence.

Today a Museum for Sacred Art, it is possible to see the house and enjoy the beautifully painted wooden ceiling.

VISIT:

La Maison des Chevaliers

READ MORE:

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Southern France

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Lagrasse

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Capestang

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Medieval Painted Ceilings in Lagrassehttp://www.medievalhistories.com/medieval-painted-ceilings-lagrasse/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/medieval-painted-ceilings-lagrasse/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:33:20 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10865 The small French village, Lagrasse, can boast of a remarkable treasure of medieval painted ceilings

Street in Lagrasse in Aude, FranceSouth of Narbonne in in the department Aude lies a small fortified village, Lagrasse, located right at the confluence of the Alsou and the Orbieu rivers at the foot of the Pyrenees. A charming place it can boast of an attractive market in the center, a lovely medieval bridge and any number of medieval houses in the center.

The village grew up around the Lagrasse Abbey also called Sainte-Marie d’Orbieu. It was founded in the 7th century by the Abbot of Narbonne, Nimphridius. It soon acquired land, castles, priories and land and during the 12th century it ruled over a large territory encompassing the land around Toulouse, Béziers and the County of Urgell.

In 2004 a community of canons regular moved to Lagrasse. The community lives according to the rule of St. Augustine and the canons dedicate their life to evangelization and to the development of liturgy (celebrating the Tridentine mass also called the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.

There is public access to the ancient parts of the abbey, which (partly) stems from the Carolingian times. The Abbey has undergone careful reconstruction and been excavated by archaeologists.

Medieval Paintings in Lagrasse

Poster for exhibition in Lagrasse of medieval painted ceilingsHowever, the painted ceilings in the medieval houses in Lagrasse are the real treasure. These ceilings can be found around different houses and access is not always possible. One of the most remarkable is the Maison de presbytère de Lagrasse, which has as a ceiling decorated with all the thinkable and unthinkable vices, you might imagine.

Recently an exhibition opened in the “Maison du Patrimoine de Lagrasse” (in the Presbytère) telling the story of these remarkable paintings and the exquisite vignettes. The exhibition also shows a series of painted boards from a house in Montpellier, plus presents the history behind the art-form in general. Another part of the exhibition consists of 19 boards, which were recently put up for sale by their owner. It appears some of the houses in Lagrasse are not properly protected and many are as yet not properly studied or restored.

VISIT:

Maison de Patrimoine de Lagrasse 

Abbaye de Lagrasse

The Medieval City

Images oubliées de Moyen Age

VISIT MORE:

Medieval Painted Ceiling La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Capestang 

READ MORE:

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Southern France

 

 

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Painted Ceilings in Capestanghttp://www.medievalhistories.com/painted-ceilings-in-capestang/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/painted-ceilings-in-capestang/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:31:37 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10861 Capestang is a sleepy village not far from Narbonne in Southern France. In the Middle Ages it belonged to the Archbishops in Narbonne.

The village lies at the bottom of a steep hill, where the local lords – le Gaucerand – had a castle. In the 12th century the archbishop from Narbonne built the castle, which still stands. During the Albigensian crusade les Gaucerand were hunted down and eliminated. This made room for the expansion of the bishop’s power. Dendrochronology has dated the great hall of the castle to between 1237 and 1279. Later in the 14th century Bernard Fargues (1311 – 1341), who was a nephew of Pope Clement V, had the great hall decorated with murals showing the heraldic signs of his family as well as those of the Archbishop of Narbonne and the King of France.Great Hall in Capastang

 

At that time the hall was vaulted. However in the 15th century, two archbishops, John Harcourt (1436-51) and Louis (1451-1460) capped the hall with a wooden ceiling, reducing the height of the room to 4.5 meters. At the same time the hall was divided into three minor chambers. This can be deduced from the programme of paintings, which the wooden ceiling still carries (and which is the real reason for visiting Capestang).

 

In its day the castle was home to the archbishop and his administration and court and it is believed to have been a cherished stop on the itinerary between the 18 castles, which belonged to the Archbishop.

 

However, in the 17th century the chapel was in ruins and in the 18th century the castle only served as the setting for the local court. In 1791 the castle was sold and used as a private residence. A thorough rebuilding nearly destroyed the ceiling. However in 1855 the ceiling was lowered even more and the late medieval splendour was hidden until late in the 20th century. The castle has been open to the public since 2008.

The city also boasts of an aborted collegiate church from the 13th century of which only the choir, a tower and a short aisle was finished.

SEE MORE:

Collegiate Church in CapastangOn the website it is possible to see a slideshow of all the 161 fascinating painted boards with their profusion of motives showing loving couples engaged in dancing, hunters, soldiers, dogs and grotesques.

Video about the paintings in Capestang, animated

 

 

 

 

 

 

READ MORE:

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Le Midi

Capestang : château des Archevêques

Capestang. Histoire et inventaire d’un village héraultais
By Pays Haut Languedoc et Vignobles. Tourisme et Patrimoine

VISIT:

Medieval Painted Ceiling La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Lagrasse

 

 

 

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Medieval Painted Ceilings in Southern Francehttp://www.medievalhistories.com/medieval-painted-ceilings-southern-france/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/medieval-painted-ceilings-southern-france/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 09:39:57 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10842 Painted ceilings became all the fashion in the later Middle Ages in Le Midi reaching from Catalonia to Northern Italy

In the later Middle Ages in Le Midi it became fashionable to lower the ceilings of the great halls in palaces by installing wooden ceilings constructed with wooden beams. Usually these beams were painted in glorious colours. Often the top of the wall was at the same time painted with a frieze – as in Palazzo Davanzati in Florence – or painted wooden boards were installed as part of the decoration, as in the Stag Room in the Papal Palace in Avignon – .

However, these examples represent no more than a gentle sounding board for the real treasures still found in public and private medieval houses in Le Midi (and further North). For more than a decade a group of dedicated art historians, archaeologists, architects and conservators /have worked to uncover and present this iconographic heritage, which gives an extremely important glimpse into the daily life of merchants, prelates and craftsmen from the 14th and especially 15th century.

Doves living behind a boards of a painted ceiling

One challenge here is that the ceilings are to be found in private homes. Many are not even known to the owners themselves as the painted celings still live a hidden life behind the white or stuccoed ceilings installed when that became fashionable. A third challenge is that French Law does not protect any old medieval house nor these precious pieces of art. Owners have been known to simply pry the painted boards from the ceilings and sell them on Ebay. Accordingly much work remains to be done, as is shown be a preliminary overview, which was published in 2011. Here 28 locations are presented in detail accompanied by sumptuous photos. The generosity of the group of academics should be complimented!

One of the places, where the public may fully enjoy the vibrant colours and funny vignettes is in the archiepiscopal palace in Capastang near Narbonne. Another place is the small village, Lagrasse, where the group has its organisational headquarters and where an exhibition recently opened in the ancient presbytery, telling the story of the painted ceilings. A third place is the La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit in Nimes, where it is also possible to get a feeling for the late-medieval elite contexts of these painted treasures.

At the same time a new video has been released by the CNRS in Paris, which tells the story in detail about some recently uncovered wooden paintings in Lagrasse and elsewhere.

READ MORE:

Cover of plafonds prints medieval paired ceilingsThe main introduction to the “Plafonds peints médiévaux” – the medieval painted ceilings – can be found in a publication from 2011, which may be downloaded from the website of RCPPM or requested by post from DRAC du Languedoc-Roussillon (5 rue de la Salle L’évêque, Montpellier) or from “RCPPM: plafondspeints@sfr.fr (Post will be charged):

Images oubliées du Moyen Age. Les plafonds peints du Languedoc-Roussillon
Montpellier, DRAC, 2011

Another publication of interest may also be downloaded from the website:

Plafonds peints médiévaux en Languedoc, Actes du colloques de Capestang, Narbonne, Lagrasse, 21-23 février 2008
Études réunies par Monique Bourin et Philippe Bernardi.
Presses Universitaires de Perpignan, Perpignan, 2009, 249 p, 110 illustrations.

WEBSITE:

Association international de Recherche sur le Charpentes et les Plafonds Peints Médiévaux

SEE MORE

Les Maisons Aux Images. Un film de Claude Delhaye, produit par CNRS 2014

VISIT:

Medieval Painted Ceiling La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Lagrasse

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Capestang

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New Perspectives on Medieval Scotlandhttp://www.medievalhistories.com/new-perspectives-medieval-scotland/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/new-perspectives-medieval-scotland/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:35:29 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10831 From 1093 – 1286 Scotland became a nation, fully recognized by the rest of Europe. This book offers new perspectives on the role of literacy and the growing institutions of Medieval Scotland

New Perspectives on Medieval Scotland 1093 -1286
By Matthew Hammond
Boydell and Brewer 2013
ISBN: 9781843838531

ABSTRACT:

The years between the deaths of King Mael Coluim and Queen Margaret in 1093 and King Alexander III in 1286 witnessed the formation of a kingdom resembling the Scotland we know today, which was a full member of the European club of monarchies; the period is also marked by an explosion in the production of documents.
This volume includes a range of new studies casting fresh light on the institutions and people of the Scottish kingdom, especially in the thirteenth century. New perspectives are offered on topics as diverse as the limited reach of Scottish royal administration and justice, the ties that bound the unfree to their lords, the extent of a political community in the time of King Alexander II, a view of Europeanization from the spread of a common material culture, the role of a major Cistercian monastery in the kingdom and the broader world, and the idea of the neighbourhood in Scots law. There are also chapters on the corpus of charters and names and the innovative technology behind the People of Medieval Scotland prosopographical database, which made use of over 6000 individual documents from the period.

Matthew Hammond is a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow.

Contributors: John Bradley, Stuart Campbell, David Carpenter, Matthew Hammond, Emilia Jamroziak, Cynthia Neville, Michele Pasin, Keith Stringer, Alice Taylor.Cover New Perspectives on medieval Scotland

CONTENT:

1 Introduction: The paradox of medieval Scotland, 1093-1286

2 The Scottish ‘political community’ in the reign of Alexander II (1214-49)

3 Homo ligius and unfreedom in medieval Scotland

4 Scottish royal government in the thirteenth century from an English perspective

5 Neighbours, the neighbourhood, and the visnet in Scotland, 1125-1300

6 Cistercian identities in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Scotland: the case of Melrose Abbey

7 The language of objects: material culture in medieval Scotland

8 Structuring that which cannot be structured: a role for formal models in representing aspects of medieval Scotland

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Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britainhttp://www.medievalhistories.com/scottish-independence-idea-britain/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/scottish-independence-idea-britain/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:10:30 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10825 When did Scots first think of Scotland as an independent kingdom?

When did Scots first think of Scotland as an independent kingdom? What did they think was Scotland’s place in Britain before the age of Wallace and Bruce? These questions are raised in a recent book trying to debunk some of the myths about Scotland

Cover - Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain from the Picts to Alexander IIIScottish Independence and the Idea of Britain. From the Picts to Alexander III
By Dauvit Broun
Edinburgh University Press 2007
ISBN: 9780748623600
ISBN: 9780748685196

When did Scots first think of Scotland as an independent kingdom? What did they think was Scotland’s place in Britain before the age of Wallace and Bruce? The answers argued in this book offer a fresh perspective on the question of Scotland’s relationship with Britain. It challenges the standard concept of the Scots as an ancient nation whose British identity only emerged in the early modern era, but also provides new evidence that the idea of Scotland as an independent kingdom was older than the age of Wallace and Bruce.

This leads to radical reassessments of a range of fundamental issues: the fate of Pictish identity and the origins of Alba, the status of Scottish kingship vis-à-vis England, the papacy’s recognition of the independence of the Scottish Church, and the idea of Scottish freedom. It also sheds new light on the authorship of John of Fordun’s chronicle, the first full-scale history of the Scots, and offers an historical explanation of the widespread English inability to distinguish between England and Britain. All this is placed in the wider context of ideas of ultimate secular power in Britain and Ireland and the construction of national histories in this period. The book concludes with a fresh perspective on the origin of national identity, and the medieval and specifically Scottish contribution to understanding what is often regarded as an exclusively modern phenomenon.

READ MORE:

Read more about the context of the work of Dauvit Broun, who was recently appointed professor at the University of Edinburgh

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Everyday Life in Medieval Scotlandhttp://www.medievalhistories.com/everyday-life-medieval-scotland/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/everyday-life-medieval-scotland/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:47:05 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10819 A History of Everyday Life in Medieval Scotland 1000 – 1600 presents different aspects of the ordinary daily life and the experiences and beliefs of the Scottish people

A History of Everyday Life in Medieval Scotland
Edward J Cowan and Lizanne Henderson
Edinburgh University Press 2011
ISBN: 9780748621569
ISBN: 9780748621576

Everyday life in medieval scotland. Cover

This book examines the ordinary, routine, daily behaviour, experiences and beliefs of people in Scotland from the earliest times to 1600. Its purpose is to discover the character of everyday life in Scotland over time and to do so, where possible, within a comparative context.

Its focus is on the mundane, but at the same time it takes heed of people’s experience of wars, famine, environmental disaster and other major causes of disturbance, and assesses the effects of longer-term processes of change in religion, politics, and economic and social affairs. In showing how the extraordinary impinged on the everyday, the book draws on every possible kind of evidence including a diverse range of documentary sources, artefactual, environmental and archaeological material, and the published work of many disciplines.

The authors explore the lives of all the people of Scotland and provide unique insights into how the experience of daily life varied across time according to rank, class, gender, age, religion and ethnic group. They look at the contextual nature of everyday experience and consider how this was shaped by national, regional and tribal considerations. They reveal the variations between Highland and Lowland, the Western Isles and the Northern Isles, inland and coastal, and urban and rural.

They examine the role played by language, whether Gaelic, Welsh, English, Pictish, Norse, Latin or Scots.

The book shows the distinctively Scottish aspects of daily life and how, through trading and contact with migrants, the lives of Scots were affected by other cultures and nations. Taken as a whole it represents a new way of looking at medieval Scotland and has implications and relevance for historians and their public across the discipline.

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New History of Scotlandhttp://www.medievalhistories.com/new-history-scotland/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/new-history-scotland/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:26:59 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10812 New History of Scotland is the flagship series for Edinburgh University Press

This series of classic textbooks has been a flagship series for Edinburgh University Press for many years. Written by authors at the forefront of their discipline, these books provide an ideal introduction to Scottish history for undergraduates and general readers.

Revised and updated editions of titles in this series are currently in preparation and are due to appear from 2010. The following list only comprises volumes, which touch upon Scottish medieval history

Editor of the series is Janet Wormald

The series comprises a number of monographs focusing on aspects or periods of Scottish history:

Power and Propaganda: Scotland 1306-1488. CoverPower and Propaganda: Scotland 1306-1488
Katie Stevenson
Edinburgh University Press 2014
ISBN: 9780748645862
ISBN: 9780748645879

Kingship and Unity: Scotland 1000-1306
G W S Barrow
Edinburgh University Press 2003 ( 2. Edition)
ISBN: 9780748617210
ISBN: 9780748618002

Court, Kirk and Community: Scotland 1470-1625
Jenny Wormald
Edinburgh University Press 1991
ISBN: 9780748602766

Independence and Nationhood: Scotland 1306-1469
Alexander Grant
Edinburgh University Press 1991
ISBN: 9780748602735

Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80-1000
Alfred Smyth
Edinburgh University Press 1989
ISBN: 9780748601004

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The Edinburgh History of Scotlandhttp://www.medievalhistories.com/edinburgh-history-scotland/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/edinburgh-history-scotland/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:08:06 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10805 The New Edinburgh History of Scotland is planned to comprise ten textbooks exploring the development of Scotland from earliest times to the present

The Edinburgh History of Scotland

The New Edinburgh History of Scotland comprises ten textbooks exploring the development of Scotland from earliest times to the present. Scotland’s evolution as a political entity provides the structure of each volume. Combining chronological narrative with analytical rigour, each book offers an informative and accessible account of a defined period in Scottish history. Authors make full use of the explosion of scholarly research that has taken place over the last three decades.

This series tells the story of Scotland as a political entity, but it also promotes an awareness of broader social, cultural and religious change and is informed by a richly textured understanding of the diversity of the Scots’ historical experience. To talk of the Scots – or the Scottish nation – is often misleading as local loyalty and regional diversity have more frequently characterised Scotland than any sense of ‘national’ solidarity. The authors in this series show that there are other and more revealing ways of capturing the distinctiveness of Scottish experience.

Series Editor: Roger A. Mason

The collection so far comprises seven volumes published between 2004 – 2011. Here is a list of the volumes focusing on the Middle Ages

 Domination and Lordship: Scotland, 1070-1230. CoverDomination and Lordship: Scotland, 1070-1230
Richard Oram
Edinburgh University Press 2011
ISBN: 9780748614967
ISBN: 9780748614974

From Caledonia to Pictland: Scotland to 795
James E. Fraser
Edinburgh University Press 2009
ISBN: 9780748612321
ISBN: 9780748612314

From Pictland to Alba, 789-1070
Alex Woolf
Edinburgh University Press 2007
ISBN: 9780748612345
ISBN: 9780748612338

Scotland Re-formed, 1488-1587
Jane Dawson
Edinburgh University Press 2007
ISBN: 9780748614547
ISBN: 9780748614554

The Wars of Scotland, 1214-1371
Michael Brown
Edinburgh University Press 2004
ISBN: 9780748612383
ISBN: 9780748612376

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Scotland: A Historyhttp://www.medievalhistories.com/scotland-history/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/scotland-history/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:50:14 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10797 Scotland: A History is the most recent publication seeking to cover the history of Scotland during the last 2000 years

Scotland: A History
Jenny Wormald (Ed)
Oxford University Press 2005
ISBN-10: 0198206151
ISBN-13: 978-0198206156

ABSTRACT:

Scotland: A History - CoverThe romantic tales of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, and Bonnie Prince Charlie have long dominated Scottish history. But the explosion of serious historical research in the last half-century has fuelled a keen desire for a better-informed and more satisfying understanding of the Scottish past.

This attractively designed book brings together the leading authorities on Scottish history, which range from Roman times until the present day, offering an accurate and sophisticated portrait of Scotland through the ages. The contributors take us from Medieval Scotland, to the crisis created by Mary Queen of Scots and the trauma of Reformation, to the reign of James VI and the Union of the Crowns (1603). They discuss the seventeenth century, when a stern Calvinist Kirk launched an unprecedented attack on music, dancing, drama, and drinking, and the remarkable transformation of enlightenment Scotland, when the small nation became a great force in European literature, with such eminent figures as David Hume, Adam Smith, Robert Burns, and James Boswell. We discover that in the nineteenth century the Scottish economy, by some criteria, outpaced the rest of Britain, and its pre-eminence in heavy engineering was unquestioned. And we follow Scotland through the turbulent twentieth century, enduring two world wars and a depression, before ending on a high note, with Scotland enjoying its first parliament in three hundred years.

What emerges is a portrait of a confident people, who slowly built an important place for themselves in the wider world: the story of a remarkably positive, assured, and successful kingdom.

CONTENTS:

Introduction

1: Katherine Forsyth: Origins: Scotland to 1100

2: Keith Stringer: The Emergence of a Nation-State, 1100-1300

3: Michael Brown and Steve Boardman: Survival and Revival: Late Medieval Scotland

4: Roger Mason: Renaissance and Reformation: The Sixteenth Century

5: Jenny Wormald: Confidence and Perplexity: The Seventeenth Century

6: Richard B. Sher: Scotland Transformed: The Eighteenth Century

7: I. G. C. Hutchison: Workshop of Empire: The Nineteenth Century

8: Richard Finlay: The Turbulent Century: Scotland since 1900

9: David Armitage: The Scottish Diaspora

10: Sally Mapstone: Scotland’s Stories

Further Reading

Chronology

Index

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Edited by Jenny Wormald, Honorary Fellow, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

Jenny Wormald is an Honorary Fellow in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh and was previously Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She is the author of numerous publications on early modern Scottish and British history and is the editor of the seventeenth century volume in the Short Oxford History of the British Isles series.

Contributors:
David Armitage, Harvard University
Stephen Boardman, University of Edinburgh
Michael Brown, University of St Andrews
Richard Finlay, University of Strathclyde
Katherine Forsyth, University of Glasgow
I. G. C. Hutchinson, University of Stirling
Sally Mapstone, University of Oxford
Roger Mason, University of St Andrews
Richard B. Sher, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Keith J. Stringer, University of Lancaster
Jenny Wormald, University of Edinburgh

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The Oxford Companion to Scottish Historyhttp://www.medievalhistories.com/oxford-companion-scottish-history/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/oxford-companion-scottish-history/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:27:59 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10790 This is simply one of the best introductions to the History of Scotland

The Oxford Companion to Scottish History

By Michael Lynch
Oxford University Press 2001
ISBN: 9780199234820
ISBN: 9780191727481

ABSTRACT:

Cover of: oxford Companion to Scottish History Over 500,000 words in length, and written by more than 70 distinguished contributors, the Oxford Companion to Scottish History aims to cover more than 20 centuries of history, and interpret history broadly, covering areas such as archaeology, climate, culture, languages, immigration, migration, and emigration. Multi-authored entries analyse key themes such as national identity, women and society, living standards, and religious belief across the centuries in an authoritative yet approachable way. The A-Z entries are complemented by maps, genealogies, a glossary, a chronology, and an extensive guide to further reading.

More than a historical dictionary or encyclopedia, the Companion’s coverage extends from Orkney and Shetland to Galloway, from the Western Isles to the Borders, includes historical personalities such as Columba, Macbeth, and William Wallace, and stands alone – when compared to its competitors – in providing analysis of issues such as national identity and living standards and by offering readers a broader range of topics and approaches. An essential and authoritative reference source for students and academics of Scottish, British, Irish, and European history, and related fields, it will also appeal to interested general readers, including members of the Scottish Diaspora – in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the US.

CONTENTS:

Preface
Acknowledgements
List of Editors and Contributors
Classified Contents
List of Abbreviations
Note to the Reader
The Oxford Companion to Scottish History A-Z
Glossary
Chronology
Maps
Genealogies
Guide to Further Reading
Index

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Edited by Michael Lynch, formerly Professor of Scottish History, University of Edinburgh

Michael Lynch was formerly Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh. He was also Chairman of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland and President of the Historical Association of Scotland.

Contributors:
Editor
Michael Lynch, formerly Professor of Scottish History, University of Edinburgh

Section Editors
Dauvit Braun, Lecturer in Scottish History, University of Glasgow
Ewan Cameron, Senior Lecturer in Scottish History, University of Edinburgh
Richard Finlay, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Strathclyde
Joan MacDonald, graduate of the Department of Celtic, University of Edinburgh
Norman Macdougall, Senior Lecturer in Scottish History, University of St Andrews
Margaret Mackay, Director of the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh
Duncan Macmillan, Professor of Fine Art, University of Edinburgh
Geoffrey Stell, Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland

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Names, Sprigs, Feathers, Tartans and Kiltshttp://www.medievalhistories.com/names-sprigs-feathers-tartans-and-kilts/ http://www.medievalhistories.com/names-sprigs-feathers-tartans-and-kilts/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 17:54:33 +0000 http://www.medievalhistories.com/?p=10715 Part of the Scottish brand are the well known names starting with Mac, the sprigs and feathers sported in the caps of chiefs and chieftains, the kilts and the tartans. But what is the story behind all this paraphernalia?
Scottish Mercenaries from ca 1630
Scottish Mercenaries in a Swedish army from ca 1630

One of the most distinctive feature of “Scottishness” is of course the names (typically Mac+something with mac being Gaelic for ‘son’). This system developed from perhaps as early as the 11th century, when it became common to distinguish between the clans by talking about the following of a distinct ancestor as the clan + eponym, for instance clan Domhnaill (or the Clan Donald). At the same time it became common to name the chief and later chieftains of the kindred group as Mac + eponym, thus Aonghas Mac Domhnaill (aka Angus MacDonald). Soon after the onomastic compound turned into a proper surname designating anyone from the upper echelons of the clan with a surname  MacDomhnail as a person belonging to this specific kindred. Somewhat later it became common to designate everyone from a specific region belonging to a specific clan through the appropriate surname. By the fourteenth century such surnames were in common use within Gaelic Scotland. For a chief, to keep tally of each and everyone amongst his followers, finally turned into a complicated business; hence his need of chieftains and further down the line, their dependents, to be able to “know” those on the fringes.

Sprigs and Feathers

Culloden the Clan Fraser Stone
Flowers at Culloden

To know who was whom and belonged to which clan was especially important in battles and skirmishes. Exactly when it became common to position twigs or sprigs from distinct flowers in the bonnets served in order to distinguish between friends and foe is nevertheless complicated to ascertain. However it is told about the aftermath of Colloden in 1745 how the clans of the fallen soldiers were identified. This helped family and friends after the carnage to get them buried side by side with their kindred. Perhaps it also identified them during battle (It should be remembered that clansmen fought at Culloden on both sides.); but “sprigs” are not seen in the otherwise fascinating Penicuik drawings of soldiers from the Jacobite revolution. As to the eagle feathers sported by chiefs and chieftains it is commonly believed to be a Victorian invention.

Tartans

Kilt 1570
Man dressed in a chequered jacket, trousers and wrapped in a “kilt”, ca 1570

Tartan is a woven material, generally of wool and chequered in different colours. It was common enough in the Iron Age with bits and pieces found by archaeologists both in Scotland and elsewhere in Northern Europe and all the way to the great Eastern steppes. It is believed that the word “tartan” is derived from the French tiretain. This French word is probably derived from the verb tirer in reference to woven cloth (as opposed to knitted cloth). Today tartan usually refers to coloured patterns, but originally a tartan did not have to be made up of any pattern at all.

The earliest mentioning of the word ‘tartan’ derives from the accounts of King James V, who in 1538 purchased “three ells of heland tartans” for his wife to wear. Another witness stems from the purchase in 1587 by Hector Maclean of sixty ells of cloth, “white, black and green”. These later became the traditional colours of the Maclean hunting tartan. From around the same time a contemporary description by Bishop John Lesley in 1582 wrote how “All, both nobles and common people, wore mantles of one sort, except that the nobles preferred those of several colours.” [1]

The first pictorial evidence is however a woodcut from around 1631 showing Scottish mercenaries in the army of the Swedish King, Gustav Adolph. The four fierce soldiers are obviously wearing tartan philamors or great kilts. Even earlier it is known that The Independent Companies of Highlanders were wearing kilts as part of their uniform. In 1739 their kilt uniform was standardised with a new dark tartan.

Lord Mungo Murrey 1668 - 1700
Lord Mungo Murrey 1668 – 1700

The myth is of course that the different patterns or tartans and their link to different clans were introduced at Culloden. However, it is generally believed that the soldiers would have discarded their great belted kilts before storming into battle as may be seen on the Pencuik drawings. (Hence the identification by sprigs of flowers.)

Whatever the case, it is a fact that an Act of Parliament, which was intended to disarm the Jacobite soldiers, proscribed:

That from and after the first day of August, One thousand, seven hundred and forty-six, no man or boy within that part of Britain called Scotland, other than such as shall be employed as Officers and Soldiers in His Majesty’s Forces, shall, on any pretext whatever, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland clothes (that is to say) the Plaid, Philabeg, or little Kilt, Trowse, Shoulder-belts, or any part whatever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland Garb; and that no tartan or party-coloured plaid of stuff shall be used for Great Coats or upper coats, and if any such person shall presume after the said first day of August, to wear or put on the aforesaid garment or any part of them… For the first offence, shall be liable to be imprisoned for 6 months, and on the second offence, to be transported to any of His Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years.

This proscription was not lifted until 36 years later.

However tartans was never prohibited for the upper echelons of highland society, nor for their women or lowlanders. Further, the use of tartans in clothing the new highland regiments was especially allowed. This caused a veritable explosion in the production of tartans in the second half of the 18th century, occasioning the later misconception that tartans as well as kilts were traditions invented by romanticists in the same way as ‎James Macpherson invented the poems of Ossian in 1760. This later led to the famous misunderstanding by trevor-Roper that tartans was something which had been invented in the late18th and 19th century. While it is correct that the reworking of an embellished tartan-system was a child of romanticism, there is no doubt that the inventors, William Wilson & Sons of Bannockburn, took care to work with a genuine tradition, when they embarked on building their fame as purveyors of kilts. Wilson corresponded with agents in the highlands between 1810 and 1820 and collected more than 200 specimens. This so-called Cockburn Collection is presently held in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Curiously enough the collection has not been scholarly edited and published.

Kilts

Penicuick drawing from ca 1745To sum it up: Clothes made of tartans – chequered woollen cloth – were well-known in Scotland from the 16th century an onwards; as it was elsewhere in Europe and in the later Middle Ages. At some point it simply became fashionable to use chequered cloths for the huge woollen cloaks or mantels, traditionally worn by men over their tunics and by women over their gowns, conventionally worn both belted and free hanging.

However, there is no reason to believe that these so-called great kilts were a recent invention. For instance there is evidence from bog finds from the Roman Iron Age that such throws – Roman Sagums – were adopted by Germanic people serving as Romans mercenaries; and that they afterwards had them transformed into distinct cultural icons [1]. Basically the great kilts were never anything but large cloaks or huge throws which might be buckled up for convenience, if not used as cover-ups when out in the open herding cattle, hunting deer or just plain blood-feuding. Perhaps it is worth remembering that the Scots word, kilt, is generally believed to stem from Old Norse kjalta (Skirt, Lap). In early medieval Danish kilta meant a fold, kiltning, an act of folding. We know that Viking Cloaks – Feldrs – could be quite large and also that vikings as seen on the picture- stones from Gotland seem to have worn short, wide breeches and large cloaks, presumably kilted up. However, again this needs a proper archaeological study.

Later in the sixteenth century it seems as if a new tradition was developed amongst Scottish Mercenaries, when they began to sport their kilted and chequered plaids as a specific “brand” signifying their celebrated ferociousness. At the same time it might even have felt natural to sport the specific tartans amongst fellow Scottish mercenaries as signs of which clan they each belonged to. These were probably the coloured mantles, which Lesley mentioned in his history (see above) and which another highlander, Buchanan recalled in 1582, when he wrote that the Scottish delighted in mottled clothes especially those with “long stripes of sundry colours… of purple and blue.” (Ibid. p. 179) We know that other mercenaries in the 16th and 17th centuries were marked out through their specific ostentatious clothing. There is all the reason to believe that a particular Scottish (and Irish) “folk-dress”  was transformed at the same time into what it later became: a soldiers garb.

Perhaps all this took place even earlier. We know that Late Medieval Scotland was characterised by a growing division between Lowlanders and Highlanders as already the historian, Alexander Grant wrote about in 1984, when he outlined the formation of the two distinct cultures, as famously characterised by Fordun in his chronicle from 1380:

The manners and customs of the Scots vary with the diversity of their speech. For two languages are spoken amongst them, the Scottish and the Teutonic; the latter of which is spoken by those who occupy the seaboard and the plains, while the race of Scottish speech inhabits the highlands and outlying islands. The people of the coast are of domestic and civilised habits, trusty, patient, and urbane, decent in their attire, affable, and peaceful, devout in Divine worship, yet always ready to resist a wrong at the hands of their enemies. The highlanders and people of the islands, on the other hand, are a savage and untamed nation, rude and independent, given to rapine, ease-loving, clever and quick to learn, comely in person, but unsightly in dress, hostile to the English people and language, and, owing to the diversity of speech, even to their own nation, and exceedingly cruel. They are however faithful and obedient to their king and country, and obedient to their king and country, and easily made to submit to law, if properly governed. [3]

However, this is all very tentative and needs a scholarly rethink!

Wish to read more about Scotland the Brand and its medieval icons? Please follow the links below

A Scottish Identity?

Early Medieval Scotland

Misty Scotland

The Battle of Bannockburn

Braveheart

Glencoe

Scottish Clans

Names, Sprigs, Feathers, Tartans and Kilts

NOTES:

[1] (History of Scotland. By John Lesley as quoted in The Oxford Companion to Scottish History. Oxford 2011, p. 179)

[2] This was recently argued by Susan Müller-Wiering in: War and Worship: Textiles from 3rd to 4th-century AD Weapon Deposits in Denmark and Northern Germany. Oxbow Books 2011

[3] As quoted in Independence and Nationhood: Scotland 1306-1469 (p. 201). By Alexander Grant. Edward Arnold 1984.

SOURCE:

The Oxford Companion to Scottish History
‪Michael Lynch (Ed)
Oxford University Press, 2001 – ‪732 sider

READ MORE

The Highland Tradition of Scotland
Hugh Trevor-Roper
in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger: The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 15–42
ISBN 0-521-24645-8.

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