(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Medieval

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman”*…

Lady Godiva by John Collier, c. 1897, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry 

… and in the relatively few instances in which they weren’t anonymous, they were often rarefied into the stuff of legend…

Many of us are familiar with the legend of Lady Godiva, who rode through the streets of Coventry naked, covered only by her long hair, so her husband would reduce taxes. This legendary story actually originates with a real early medieval English woman. Godgifu (who flourished from c.990-1067) was the wife of Earl Leofric of Mercia, and she was a major landholder in England before the Norman Conquest.

As powerful members of the nobility, Leofric and Godgifu were generous benefactors. As ‘the earl’s wife’, Godgifu is associated with her husband in the endowment and rebuilding of Stow St Mary, Lincolnshire in the 1050s, which was said to have been in ruins since it was burned down by Vikings. Leofric also endowed Coventry Abbey, an act with which Godgifu was associated in later accounts. Orderic Vitalis says that Godgifu gave ‘her whole store of gold and silver’, and this is said to include a necklace which was worth 100 silver marks. The Evesham Chronicle also names Leofric and Godgifu as founders both of Coventry, but also of the church of Holy Trinity, Evesham, to which they apparently gave a crucifix with figures of the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist.

In the centuries after her death tales of her beauty, piety and devotion to the Virgin Mary are known, though it is not until the early thirteenth century that we see the story of Godgifu’s naked horse ride through Coventry appear in sources. Roger of Wendover in his Flores Historiarum, writes that: 

The countess Godiva, who was a great lover of God’s mother, longing to free the town of Coventry from the oppression of a heavy toll, often with urgent prayers besought her husband, that from regard to Jesus Christ and his mother, he would free the town from that service, and from all other heavy burdens; when the earl sharply rebuked her for foolishly asking what was so much to his damage, and always forbade her ever more to speak to him on the subject; and while she on the other hand, with a woman’s pertinacity, never ceased to exasperate her husband on that matter, he at last made her this answer, ‘Mount your horse, and ride naked, before all the people, through the market of the town, from one end to the other, and on your return you shall have your request.’ On which Godiva replied, ‘But will you give me permission, if I am willing to do it?’ ‘I will,’ said he. Whereupon the countess, beloved of God, loosed her hair and let down her tresses, which covered the whole of her body like a veil, and then mounting her horse and attended by two knights, she rode through the market-place, without being seen, except her fair legs; and having completed the journey, she returned with gladness to her astonished husband, and obtained of him what she had asked; for earl Leofric freed the town of Coventry and its inhabitants from the aforesaid service, and confirmed what he had done by a charter.

Roger of Wendover is known for his exaggerations. This story is not corroborated by earlier sources and cannot be verified; thus historians must treat it simply as a colourful anecdote. Over the years, elements have been added to the legend, such as the fourteenth century miraculous version where Godiva is invisible, a sixteenth century modest version in ballad form, in which she requests that all the townsfolk stay indoors so as not to see her nakedness, or the late eighteenth century moralistic addition of Peeping Tom, who is struck blind after trying to glimpse her naked body. 

It might seem as if the later legend of Godiva has very little to do with the real evidence we have about the eleventh-century noblewoman and landowner Godgifu. However, some links can be made between the two figures. Godiva’s lack of adornment in her nudity would have seemed shocking to a medieval audience, not necessarily because nudity was an indication of sexual promiscuity, but because nobility was indicated by outer wear, like clothing and jewellery. By removing these, Godiva was not only removing her clothes, but also her status. Her nudity in this story does not function as a moral failure, but the converse, as an act of piety, in which she lowers herself in order to help those less fortunate, and her hair covers her ‘like a veil’ to protect her modesty. This piety is also present in the act of the real Godgifu giving away her precious necklace, an important symbol of status for elite women, to Coventry Abbey, as well as great quantities of gold and silver. Within the legend of Godiva and the real life of Godgifu there is a common thread of unadornment as a way of elite and wealthy women expressing religious piety.

Godgifu: The Bare Truth Behind the Lady Godiva Legend,” just one of the portraits of early medieval English women published every two weeks by Florence H R Scott.

* Virginia Woolf

###

As we get to know the players, we might spare a thought for Æthelthryth (aka Etheldreda and Audrey); she died on this date in 679. An East Anglian princess, a Fenland and Northumbrian queen, and ultimately Abbess of Ely, she is an Anglo-Saxon saint. Indeed, according to Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, “more medieval vernacular lives [about Æthelthryth] were composed in England than any other native female saint”– including an account contained in the Venerable Bede‘s Ecclesiastical History of the English People

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 23, 2021 at 1:00 am

“How does it happen that trade, which after all is nothing more than the exchange of products of various individuals and countries, rules the whole world”*…

 

Expandable version here

The map above is probably the most detailed map of Medieval Trade Routes in Europe, Asia and Africa in the 11th and 12th centuries you can find online. It includes major and minor locations, major and minor routes, sea routes, canals and roads.

martinjanmansson [see here] explains that:

Even before modern times the Afro-Eurasian world was already well connected. This map depicts the main trading arteries of the high middle ages, just after the decline of the Vikings and before the rise of the Mongols, the Hansa and well before the Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope…

Explore the global markets of the Middle Ages at: “An Incredibly Detailed Map Of Medieval Trade Routes.”

See also Michael Frachetti’s fascinating Long Now Seminar talk, “Open Source Civilization and the Unexpected Origins of the Silk Road.”

* Karl Marx, The German Ideology

###

As we contemplate commerce, we might spare a thought for Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire; he died on this date in 1778.  The Father of the Age of Reason, he produced works in almost every literary form: plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works– more than 2,000 books and pamphlets (and more than 20,000 letters).  A social reformer, Voltaire used satire to criticize the intolerance, religious dogma, and oligopolistic privilege of his day, perhaps nowhere more sardonically than in Candide.

 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 30, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand”*…

 

Build your own with The Medieval Fantasy City Generator

* Italo Calvino

###

As we wander within the walls, we might spare a thought for Henry I, King of Castile and Toledo; he died on this date in 1217 when a loose roof tile fell on his head.  He had become the monarch two years earlier, at age 10, when his father (Alfonso VIII of Castile) passed away.  His mother was Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile, the daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!”*…

 

According to the Aberdeen Bestiary: “There is an animal called the Yale. It is black, as big as a horse, with the tail of an elephant, the jaws of a boar and unusually long horns, adjustable to any movement the animal might make. For they are not fixed but move as the needs of fighting require; the Yale advances one of them as it fights, folding the other back, so that if the tip of the first is damaged by a blow, it is replaced by the point of the second.”

Also from the Aberdeen Bestiary, “in Asia an animal is found which men call Bonnacon. It has the head of a bull, and thereafter its whole body is of the size of a bull’s with the maned neck of a horse. Its horns are convoluted, curling back on themselves in such a way that if anyone comes up against it, he is not harmed. But the protection which its forehead denies this monster is furnished by its bowels. For when it turns to flee, it discharges fumes from the excrement of its belly over a distance of three acres, the heat of which sets fire to anything it touches. In this way, it drives off its pursuers with its harmful excrement.”

From a 13th century Bestiary by Hugh of Fouilloy: “There is a beast in the sea which is called a Sawfish, and has immense wings. When this beast has seen a ship making sail on the ocean, it raises its wings above the water and competes with the ship in sailing. (But when it has competed in sailing or racing against the ship) for 30 or 40 furlongs, being unable to sustain the exertion, it gives up, and lowering its wings draws them in. And the waves of the sea carry it back again, tired out, to its own place in the deep.”

These and other curious critters that may or may not have ever existed– but were featured in medieval Bestiaries— at “Ten Strange Medieval Animals You Might Not Have Heard Of.”

* William Golding, Lord of the Flies

###

As we contemplate cryptozoology, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953, on the death of her father, George VI, that Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, became Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom (and of 16 of the 53 member states in the Commonwealth of Nations), and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 6, 2015 at 1:01 am

An Honest Living…

 

This print of a clockmaker is the work of Jost Amman (1533-1591), Swiss book illustrator and one of the last major production artists working with woodcuts.  While it’s unlikely that Amman set out to catalog all of the jobs of his time, he did record them, and with great clarity.  The result is a set of 16th-century pre-photographic “snapshots” of the ways in which people conducted their business and livelihood– an Alphabet of Trades.

Barber/Surgeon

Thong Maker

His illustrations were in collaboration with with Hans Sachs for Eygentliche Beschreibung Aller Staende Auff Erden, published in Frankfurt am Main in 1568.  (The full text here is from Bibliothek des Seminars für Wirtschafts und Sozialgeschichte;  another useful full-text here indexes the images; and another here provides an English indexing of the trades).

More examples of Amman’s work at “Towards an Alphabet of Trades–“Snapshots” from 1568.”  (C.F. also, Medieval Occupations.)

###

As we punch in, we might spare a thought for Washington Augustus Roebling; he died on this date in 1926.  A civil engineer by training, he worked with his father, John Augustus Roebling, on the design of the Brooklyn Bridge; on his father’s death in 1869, Washington oversaw the completion of construction of the bridge– for twenty years from its opening in 1883, the longest suspension bridge in the world.  (In 1872, he was disabled by decompression illness suffered in a caisson used in the construction; from that time on, he was directed operations from his home in Brooklyn overlooking the site.)

source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 21, 2013 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: