A Pictorial Tour of Medieval Cathedrals.

This is by no means a comprehensive survey of medieval cathedrals. It does however cover a significant number in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France. These are immense buildings with varied history and the survival of some is truly remarkable. You will find that some cathedrals have more information than others, this is simply because I either have more information on these cathedrals or more information is known.

They are sorted alphabetically by location

All the photos are mine

1. Albi

Saint Cecile Cathedral

Building Begun: 1282

Building Finished: Not entirely complete until 1492 but mainly finished by 1383

It was built as a statement of church authority over the surrounding populous as part of the conclusion of the Albigensian Crusade, something I will write more about at a later date. It is not an accident that it looks like a fortress.

Length: 113.50 m

Width: 35 m

Height: The belfry is 78m

Biggest brick cathedral in the world.

Style: Southern Gothic

The paintings in the nave were done between 1509 and 1512 and are surrounded by 29 chapels

Source Albi information booklet: ISBN: 9782913641792

For more information

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/albi-cathedral

Albi Cathedral Albi cathedral inside

2. Angers

Saint Maurice Cathedral

Building Begun: 12th century. This cathedral is the product of several rebuilding projects. The striking west front that you can see in the first image dates from c. 1170.

Building Finished: The cathedral was finished  in the late 13th century with the chancel dating from c. 1270, the steeples were added later in the 15th century and and a central tower in the 16th.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic, with some Renaissance additions.

Height: The steeples stand at: southern 70 m northern 77 m

Length: The nave is 950 m

The nave dates from the mid 12th century and is an excellent example of the emerging Gothic style, with some features remaining Romanesque.

Sources: Angers information booklet.

For more information

http://www.spottinghistory.com/view/1111/angers-cathedral/
Angers CathedralAngers Cathedral inside

3. Bayeux

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building Begun: Early 1000s, but what remains now is largely 13th century

Building Finished: This cathedral was built in several stages due to a number of disasters, but the majority was finished by the end of the 13th century with some chapels built in the 14th century and the central tower in the 15th century.

Style: Norman Gothic and some Romanesque inside

People involved: Much of the early construction was continued under Bishop Odo the brother of William the Conquerer

Major Disasters: In 1105 Henry I King of England set fire to the town of Bayeux and the cathedral. The cathedral was also set on fire during the English period of anarchy (1136-1154). Raids in the Wars of Religion in 1652 resulted in interior destruction.

The cathedral was also the original home of the Bayeux Tapestry which depicts the Battle of Hastings and its lead up. In fact it is possible that the tapestry was commissioned by Bishop Odo for the consecration of the cathedral. For more on the tapestry read my earlier post.

Source: Bayeux Cathedral information booklet. ISBN: 9782915762549

For more information see

http://bayeux-bessin-tourisme.com/en/visiteguidee/the-cathedral-of-bayeux/

Notre Dame Cathedral Bayeaux

bayeaux inside

4. Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral

Building Begun: The building you see now was begun in 1070s but it stood on the site of an earlier church. There have been several additions since then: The eastern arm of the church was extended in the 1130s and the staircase towers date to 1166. The quire was rebuilt in 1175 after a fire gutted it in 1174. The current nave was begun in 1377 and the main tower was finished in 1498. In the 1800s the north west tower was found to be dangerous so it was demolished and replaced by a copy of the south west tower.

Style: Romanesque, English Perpendicular Gothic, French Gothic.

Height: The central tower in 249 feet high.

The cathedral was part of the monastery until it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540

Major Disasters: Parts were damaged in WWII

The Cathedral is arguably best known as the site of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket ,Archbishop of Canterbury, at the hands of Henry II’s  knights in 1170. Becket was canonised in 1173 and was arguably more of a problem to Henry II dead than alive. He was also very profitable for the cathedral as it became an important place for pilgrimage. For an eyewitness account of the death of Thomas Becket http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/Grim-becket.asp

Sources: Canterbury Cathedral Booklet. ISBN 9780906211441

For more information

http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/conservation/history/

Canterbury Cathedral Canterbury Cathedral inside

5. Carcassonne

Saint Michel Cathedral

Built: Originally in the 13th century, but rebuilt in the 14th century as a fortified church following damage during war.

Style: Gothic with a little Romanesque

It was originally built as a parish church but was elevated to cathedral status in 1803.

For more information

http://archiseek.com/2009/1879-carcassonne-cathedral-france/

Carcassone real

Carcassone real inside

6. Cashel

Ruined cathedral on The Rock of Cashel

Building: c. 1230, main part finished c. 1270. But the tower dates to the 15th century. It was squeezed in between the earlier Cormac’s Chapel and the Round Tower

Style: Predominantly Gothic.

Major Disasters: Sacked by Lord Inchiquin on behalf of the English Parliament in 1647.

The cathedral was used until 1749 when the old site was abandoned and St John’s in the town below the Rock was conferred cathedral status. The cathedral was allowed to become a ruin.

Source and for more information: http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/media/NEW%20Rock%20of%20Cashel_3.pdf

Cashel cathedral

Cashal cathedral inside

7.  Chartres

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building: The foundations of this cathedral are Romanesque. The crypts are the only surviving part from this time and are the largest in France. Building of this part of the cathedral was begun in 1020 after a fire, though there have been earlier churches on the site. After another fire in 1194 construction of a new Gothic cathedral, which is primarily what remains today, was begun and took roughly 30 years. The two towers are a mixture of styles because they were built at different times. The cathedral also suffered an earlier fire in 1134 and the bell tower was destroyed, it was after this that the north west tower was built in the Romanesque style. It originally had a wooden spire, but this was destroyed in the 1500s and a stone spire built. The tower was originally free standing. The majority of the cathedral is 13th century with an astonishing 80% of the original stained glass remaining. It has not been substantially rebuilt, which is unusual in medieval cathedrals.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic.

Height: NW tower: 113 m SW tower: 105m.

Length: 130m

As well as it’s asymmetric towers Chartres is also known for its labyrinth. This can be seen in the the image below. The labyrinth probably dates to the 1200s, though it may have been earlier. It was a form of prayer and meditation for pilgrims and clergy as well as possibly the site of rituals.  Pilgrims of all types still come to Chartres to walk the labyrinth. It is surprisingly calming. For more labyrinth information

http://www.labyrinthos.net/chartresfaq.html

Sources: Chartres Cathedral Guide: ISBN: 9780853726593 and http://chartrescathedral.net/chartres-cathedral-facts/

For more information http://chartrescathedral.net/chartres-cathedral-facts/

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral. inside

8. Dublin

Christ Church Cathedral

Building Begun: c. 1030 , but rebuilt after the Norman invasion in 1170 in Romanesque style. It was also extended in 1358. The south nave wall and roof collapsed in 1562 which necessitated more rebuilding. It was also heavily restored in the mid 1800s.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic.

Richard Strongbow, father in law of William Marshal, and one of the leaders of the first Norman invasion of Ireland, was buried in Christ Church Cathedral when he died in 1176. His effigy was destroyed when the wall fell on it in 1562, but as it had been the site where rents had been paid in that part of Dublin a new Strongbow effigy had to be supplied the replacement dates from the 14th century. This is the effigy you see today.

Sources: Christ Church information leaflet

For more information http://christchurchcathedral.ie/visit-us/history-and-guides/

christ church cathedral dublin

christ church cathedral dublin inside

9. Dublin

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Building: A stone church was built on this site in 1191 but it was rebuilt in the early 13th century. The Lady Chapel was added in 1270, the west tower was rebuilt after a fire in 1370 and the spire dates to 1749. It was also restored in the 1800s.

People Involved: In some ways it’s best known for its connections with Jonathan Swift who was Dean there from 1713-1745, he is also buried in the cathedral.

Sources: St Patrick’s information booklet and http://www.stpatrickscathedral.ie/History-of-the-Building.aspx

St patrick's cathedral dublin

St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin inside

10. Elgin

Ruined Cathedral in Elgin Scotland

Building: Elgin began to be built in 1224. It was expanded after a fire in 1270 and remodelled again after an attack by Earl of Buchan in 1390 and Alexander Lord of the Isles in 1402. Its roof was lost shortly after the reformation and the central tower fell down in 1711. In the 1820s its potential as a visitor attraction was recognised and what remained of the ruin was stabilised.

Sources: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_133

Elgin Cathedral

Elgin cathedral inside

11. Ely

Ely Cathedral

Building: Known as the ship of the fens, work on the existing building began in the early 1080s. It was built on the site of older churches founded on Etheldreda’s monastery. The shrine to Etheldreda remained a pilgrimage point until it was destroyed in 1541. The central tower also fell over in the 1300s and the octagonal tower you can see today was built. The west tower was extended in the 14th century with a belfry and supporting turrets added to the existing Norman tower. The lady chapel was completed in 1349. The interior hammerbeam roof dates to the 15th century. The cathedral was originally a monastic community, but it this was dissolved in the dissolution of the monasteries and the the cathedral was re-founded in 1541.

Style: Romanesque, with some Gothic additions.

Height:  West tower is 66m.

Length: The nave is 76m long.

Sources: Ely information leaflet and http://www.elycathedral.org/history-heritage/the-story-of-ely-cathedral

Ely cathedral

Ely Cathedral inside

12. Glendalough

Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Building: Part of the Glendalough monastic community. The nave probably dates to 900-1000 and the chancel and sacristy probably date to 1100-1200. It ceased to be a cathedral when the diocese of Glendalough was united with Dublin in 1214. The light coloured stone in the arch comes all the way from Bristol in England, which gives a pretty good indication of how wealthy the Glendalough community was at one point. The “flight of the earls”, which is the name for the departure of many of the last of the Gaelic chieftains of Ireland,  in 1601 really spelled the end for the Glendalough community and the buildings all began to fall into disrepair. In the 1870s Glendalough came under he control of the Board of Works  and they undertook to renovate what remains.

Style: Romanesque and a little Gothic.

Length: 29.6m

Source: Glendalough Booklet. ISBN: 9781905487462

For more information: http://visitwicklow.ie/item/cathedral-of-st-peter-and-st-paul-glendalough/

Glendalough Cathedral

Glendalough cathedral inside

13. Hereford

The Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Ethelbert the King.

Building: The building was begun in the early 1100s and the nave, the quire and the crossing still largely date from this time, although it was altered in the 1300s to reflect changing tastes. The wooden interior of the quire dates from the 14th century. The lady’s chapel and crypt below it both date to the 1220s and the north transept was also reconstructed in the mid 1200s. The main tower was constructed in the 14th century. The greatest change to the building work of the cathedral came in 1786 when the west end and its tower collapsed on Easter Monday. The west front was rebuilt and completed by 1796 but it was never popular as it was quiet plain, so it was replaced again in 1908. There was also rebuilding work done in the 1800s

Style: Romanesque and Gothic

Hereford Cathedral is also home to the chained library which was originally held in the lady chapel and is an amazing example of medieval book security. They also hold the Hereford Mappa Mundi, a spectacular map of the world dating to c. 1300.  For more on the Mappa Mundi http://www.themappamundi.co.uk/ for more on the chained library http://www.herefordcathedral.org/visit-us/mappa-mundi-1/the-chained-library

Sources: Hereford Cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9780904642148

For more information: http://www.herefordcathedral.org/

Hereford Cathedral

Hereford cathedral inside

14.  Kilfenora

Cathedral of Saint Fachtna

Built in the late 1100s after Kilfenora became a diocese. The chancel is now roofless, but parts of the cathedral are still used today. A wooden roof painted with small stars on a blue background remained over the chancel until the last century. Interestingly the diocese of Kilfenora is so small that there is not a specifically appointed bishop, therefore the Pope takes the role of Bishop of Kilfenora.

Kilfenora is also home to several high crosses, which mainly date to around the 12th century. It sits in the fascinating landscape of the Burren.

Source: A site visit in 2012. For more information http://www.theburrencentre.ie/the-burren/kilfenora-the-city-of-the-crosses/

Kilfenora cathedral

Kilfenora cathedral inside

15.  Kilkenny

Saint Canice’s Cathedral

The building work for the existing cathedral began in c. 1202, but it was on the site of an earlier monastery and the round tower was already standing as it had been built in c. 849. The work on the existing cathedral was complete in 1285.  The central bell tower collapsed in 1332 and had to be repaired, though the ribbed vaulting you can see from the interior was added in 1475 and is purely decorative.  The cathedral was also significantly damaged by Oliver Cromwell in 1650 and it was left roofless and abandoned for 12 years, before eventually being restored. There was also extensive restoration work undertaken during the 1800s and the 1900s. The roof of the nave dates from this time period.  The choir stalls were installed in 1901.

Style: Early Gothic, predominantly.

Length: Approximately 69 m

Width: 37.5 m

Source: St Canice’s information leaflet. For more information

http://www.stcanicescathedral.ie/visitors-information-page50542.html

St Canice's Kilkenny St Canice's Kilkenny inside

16.  Kirkwall Orkney

Saint Magnus Cathedral

Building: St Magnus was founded in c. 1137.  The St Rognvald chapel was added in the 13th century along with the west door. The cathedral was also extended in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was built of local red sandstone and yellow sandstone.

The cathedral was built when Orkney was still part of Norway. Orkney didn’t become part of Scotland until 1468 when the islands were annexed by Scotland as part of a failed dowry payment. While the Orkneys remained part of Norway St Magnus was part of the diocese of Trondheim. In 1486 King James III assigned the cathedral to the people of Kirkwall

St Magnus is the patron saint of the Orkneys. Magnus was the eldest son of one of the Earls of Ornkey, his cousin Haakon was the eldest son of the other Earl. They spent much of their life in disagreement, though it was said that Magnus was the more popular and the more pious. After the death of both their fathers this antagonism continued between the two Earls. A meeting was agreed in 1117 to try to resolve some of the differences. They both agreed to bring only 2 ships and a limited number of men, but Haakon broke the agreement bringing 8 ships full of armed men. Magnus refused to let his men defend him against his cousin instead offering three options to Haakon other than killing him. Haakon was willing to accept the 3rd option, which was to blind and maim Magnus and cast him in a dungeon. But Haakon’s advisors told him Magnus had to die. The task fell to Haakon’s cook Lifolf who took up an axe and killed Magnus. Magnus’ last words are said to have been “Take heart, poor fellow, and don’t be afraid. I’ve prayed to God to grant you his mercy.’ Magnus was initially buried on Birsay but miracles began to be spoken of at his grave. The Bishop of Orkney declared him a saint not that long after.

In 1129 Magnus’ nephew came from Norway and defeated Haakon’s son Paul and became Earl of Orkney. He had made a vow that if he succeeded in becoming Earl of Orkney he would build a stone church at Kirkwall and dedicate it to St Magnus and have his relics places there. Earl Rognvald founded St Magnus in 1137 and St Magnus’ relics remain there today along with Earl Rognvald’s.

Style: Northwest European Romanesque and early Gothic.

Source: St Magnus booklet. ISBN: 9780711744677.

For more information http://www.stmagnus.org/

St Magnus' cathedral

St Magnus' cathedral inside

17. Leicester

Saint Martin’s Cathedral

Building: The cathedral was begun in 1000s. There is still a small amount of the 1086 cathedral visible. The Doomsday Book records that there were three churches in Leicester, the current cathedral was one of them.

The church was rebuilt in the 13th century as Leicester Abbey. The nave and the chancel were extended in the 15th century. The spire was added in 1757. It was much restored in the 1800s as well. In 1927 Leicester was given a bishop again and the Church of St Martin became Leicester Cathedral.

Leicester Cathedral has been best known recently for being the re internment site of Richard III. Richard III died at Bosworth Field in 1485, the last English king to die on the battlefield and the final Plantagenet King. He was buried at Greyfriars and was rediscovered under a car park in 2012. He was re-interred in March 2015.

Source: http://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2012/10/31/leicester-cathedral/ and Leicester Cathedral booklet.

Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral inside

18. Lincoln

Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Building: The cathedral was founded in 1072 and was consecrated in 1092. Its roof was destroyed by fire in 1141 and rebuilt by 1148. In 1185 an earthquake destroyed much of the cathedral and it was rebuilt by St Hugh of Lincoln between 1192 and 1200.  The east transepts were built in c. 1200 and the main transepts in c. 1210. In c. 1230 the chapter house was built. In 1237 the main tower collapsed. The angel choir was built between 1256-80. In 1311 the central tower was raised and the western tower was raised in 1420. In 1549 the spire blew down and the western spires were removed in 1807. The cathedral was much restored in the 1900s.

Style: Gothic and Romanesque.

All the towers had spires until 1549 when the central tower’s spire blew down. For a significant period of time after the 1311, when the tower was raised to its present height, Lincoln Cathedral is thought to have been the tallest buildings in the world.

Lincoln Cathedral is the burial place of the viscera of Eleanor of Castile the wife of Edward I. She was present for the consecration of the Angel Choir in 1280. When she died ten years later her viscera were interred at the cathedral. It is also the site of one of the Eleanor Crosses, the crosses that Edward I had built to remember Eleanor of Castile at the places where her coffin stopped on its return to London.

Sources: Lincoln Cathedral information leaflets and http://lincolncathedral.com/building/history/

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral inside

19. London

Southwark Cathedral

It is ambiguous when there was first a church at Southwark, but an Augustinian priory was re-founded in c. 1106 by two Norman knights. Like most of the area surrounding it the priory was under the control of the Bishops of Winchester. The Bishops control included the Southwark prostitutes. After the dissolution of the monasteries the church became the property of Henry VIII . It was renamed St Saviours and rented to the congregation. A group of merchants bought the church from James II in 1611 for 800 pounds.

By the 1820s the physical state of the building had become a real cause for concern. There was a lot of argument about what to do, at least partly because there were concerns with the new London Bridge and it coming closer to the church Eventually restoration was agreed upon. A new diocese was created for the area in the mid 1800s and as part of this a new nave was built in 1895. In 1905 St Saviours became Southwark Cathedral.

Source: http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/

Southwark Cathedral

20. London

Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Building: The first cathedral was built in c. 604.  It was rebuilt in stone in 962. After more destruction it was rebuilt again by the Normans beginning in 1087. The quire was the first part of the Norman cathedral finished in 1148, which meant that it could be used for worship as soon as possible. Parts of the cathedral were destroyed during the reformation and under Henry VIII, namely some of the shrines. In 1561 lightning struck the spire and destroyed the steeple and much of the roof. Plans were made for reconstruction, but were never fully carried out as they were interrupted by the English Civil War. The parliamentary forces took the cathedral and its Dean and Chapter were dissolved. The lady chapel became a preaching auditorium and the nave was used as a cavalry barracks with sometimes up to 800 horses stabled inside.

By the 1650s the building was in extensive disrepair, but when Charles II was restored as King plans were made for restoring the cathedral. A plan was actually agreed on in August 1666, which was unfortunately only one week before the Great Fire of London. The scaffolding around the cathedral helped to fuel the fire and as the high vaults fell the books stored there added to the fuel. There were even reports of the stone being so hot that some of it exploded. The structure was beyond hope of rescue.

The building you see now is the masterpiece of Christopher Wren. It took nine years to plan and approximately 35 to build. The final stone was laid in 1708.

The Cathedral is also justly famous for surviving the Blitz of the WWII.

At 111 m St Paul’s was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962.

Source: https://www.stpauls.co.uk/history-collections/history/cathedral-history-timeline

St Paul's Cathedral London modle

 Model of how it would have looked before the Great Fire of London

St Paul's Cathedral London

St Paul’s as it is now

21.  Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building: Tradition has it that Notre Dame’s first stone was laid in 1163, it was built in Gothic style. The choir and the double deambulatory were built first and finished by 1182, the last three bays of the nave were finished by 1190, the facade, the first two bays of the nave and the gallery of kings were complete by 1225 and by 1250 the upper gallery, the towers of the facade, the side chapels and some of the flying buttressing was complete. The first spire was added in c. 1250 to the transept tower, a bell tower that at one stage held five bells. It was taken down between 1786 and 1792. In the mid 1800s during the restoration of the cathedral a new spire was added, it is a stand alone tower and is modelled on the spire built in Orleans in 1852.  The transept arms, the north and south counter braces, were extended in the late 13th early 14th century along with the construction of the choir chapels and the asps between the buttresses. There was also fairly extensive restoration work done in the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the addition of a new sacristy, the restoration of many of the statues and the installation of new windows.

During the French revolution the cathedral also suffered. The 13th century spire was demolished, 28 statues from the gallery of kings were destroyed, all the major portal statues apart from the statue of the virgin from the cloister portal were also destroyed.

Notre Dame is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. It is an excellent example of the Gothic style which was just starting to develop in detail at the time of its construction. It has survived with a remarkably small number of disasters considering its long history.

Source: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/spip.php?article393

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris inside

22. Paris

Saint Denis Cathedral

Building: The cathedral stands on the site of the tomb of St Denis, who is thought to have been the first Bishop of Paris. He was martyred in c. 25o CE.   While there has been a church on this site since the 6th century in was Abbot Suger in the 12th century who began the Gothic cathedral. It was not a cathedral at this stage, it was the church for the Abbey of St Denis. The church was extended in the 13th century during the reign of Louis IX who later became St Louis. The church suffered at the hands of war and revolution, but was restored in the 19th century. It became a cathedral in 1966.

St Denis has been the burial place of the Kings of France and their families since the 6th century. The cathedral now holds more than 70 effigies. These include: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, though they have no contemporary effigies and their remains were transferred from the Madeline Cemetery in Paris by Louis XVIII, Henri II and Catherine de Medici, King Dagobert, one of the earliest kings of France, and Louis VII, the first husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Many tombs have been moved here over the years. For a full list see http://www.monuments-nationaux.fr/fichier/m_media/20/media_fichier_fr_Plan.Basilique.Gisants.PDF.1.pdf

It also contains the royal ossuary, which is where the bones exhumed from the royal tombs during the Revolution were gathered by Louis XVIII.

Sources: St Denis leaflet, http://saint-denis.monuments-nationaux.fr/

St Denis Cathedral St Denis inside

23. Peterborough

Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Building: The first church on this site was 655 CE as part of a Celtic abbey. It was destroyed by a Danish attack in 870 and the site was abandoned until the 10th century when a Benedictine community was founded on the site. But in 1070 Hereward the Wake arrived and this led to great damage to the building following resistance to the Norman Conquest. A accidental fire in 1116 caused more damage so it was decided to build an entirely new church which took 120 years and 11 Abbots to complete. The west front, which you can see in the photo, is probably Peterborough’s most recognisable feature, it was completed in the 13th century. The arches are 26m high. The nave’s ceiling was probably completed around 1250 and is the only surviving wooden ceiling of this age and design in the UK.

Peterborough Cathedral is the burial place of Katherine of Aragon and was the original burial place of Mary Queen of Scot after her execution in 1587. Her son James I had her body moved to Westminster Abbey.

Source: Peterborough Cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9780851014593

For more information http://www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk/

Peterbourgh Cathedral Peterbourgh Cathedral inside

24. Rouen

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building: The Romanesque parts of this cathedral began to be built in c. 1000, it was blessed in 1063.  In 1144 it was decided to add a tower to the cathedral and the whole cathedral began to be reconstructed as a Gothic edifice. The Saint Romain tower on the left is a remaining part of some of the very early rebuilding and you can begin to see the transitional style from Romanesque to Primitive Gothic. The reconstruction of the entire cathedral as Gothic began in c. 1185. In 1200 a fire destroyed much of what remained of the Romanesque cathedral and most traces of the original Romanesque cathedral were removed in remodelling after the fire. The three bays chapel was built in c. 1302 and the windows were opened up in c. 1370. The cathedral was much embellished in the 15th century in the Flamboyant Gothic style, including the top of the Saint Romain tower. In 1514 the wooden spire was destroyed by fire. The central tower was rebuilt and made taller following the fire and it became a lantern tower, with a spire that reached 132 m. This spire was destroyed by another fire in 1822, and the spire that stands there now is the result of a competition for designs.

The cathedral was badly damaged during WWII.  It took a direct hit which barely missed supporting pillars but did extensive interior damage. Soon after the St Romain tower caught fire during another bombing and the bells in the tower melted. The cathedral was only just saved from falling down completely and was rebuilt in the following years.

Rouen Cathedral is the burial place of Henry the Young King, the heart of Richard I, Rollo the first Duke of Normandy and the re burial place of Empress Matilda.

Source: Rouen Cathedral Booklet. For more information http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/rouen-cathedral

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral inside

25. Salisbury

Salisbury Cathedral

Building: Foundation stones were laid in 1220 and the three eastern chapels were the first parts to be completed. The main body of the cathedral was finished for consecration in 1258, but the whole project wasn’t complete until c. 1266. The tower and spire were added between 1300 and 1320, it stands at 123m, and since the 16th century has been the tallest spire in England. The original builders had not intended to include the tower and the spire and they began to bear down on the remainder of the building by the mid 14th century pushing columns out of alignment. So a process of reinforcement including buttresses, iron ties and strainer arches was begun. The eastern end of the cathedral including several chapels was reconstructed in the 15th century. The cathedral suffered during the English Civil war with damage to the bell tower, significant damage to the cloisters, which were used to house dutch prisoners, and lead stolen from the roof. It suffered less than some of the other cathedrals though and was refurbished during the Restoration. The cathedral was heavily remodelled during the 1700s including the destruction of what remained of the bell tower and the removal of two porches. The interior was significantly remodelled as well with the levelling of much of the floor for a new altar, the removal of medieval glass and the white washing or removal of medieval wall paintings. It was remodelled again in the 1800s and 1900s.

Salisbury Cathedral holds one of only 4 remaining copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. It is currently housed in the chapter house and can be viewed there.

It is also the burial place of William Longsword. Illegitimate son of King John and Earl of Salisbury. Some of  his original tomb remains in wood.

Source: http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/history/new-start-building-cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral Salisbury cathedral inside

26. St David’s

Saint David’s Cathedral

Building: St David’s was founded as a monastery in c. 601 after St David died, but the present cathedral was begun in 1181. In 1220 the central tower collapsed. The building was then damaged by an earthquake in c.1247. The Holy Trinity Chapel was built in the 16th century, the nave roof and the ceiling and were reconstructed in the same time period. Much of the building was damaged during the English Civil War. The west front was rebuilt in c. 1793. The cathedral was restored in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The nave is the oldest surviving part of the cathedral. It’s built in Transitional Norman style. The wooden ceiling was built in the mid 16th century.

St David’s is the site of the shrine of St David. It has been a place of pilgrimage since the 600s and remains so today.

St David’s is also the burial place of Gerald of Wales, the famous chronicler of both Wales and Ireland, he campaigned to be Bishop of St David’s, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Source: http://www.stdavidscathedral.org.uk/index.php?id=679

St David's Cathedral

St David's Cathedral inside

27 . Waterford

Christchurch Cathedral

Building: It is quite plain that the building standing on this site now is not a medieval cathedral. The current cathedral was built in 1773 after the old cathedral was deemed to need replacement. The city corporation felt that the Norman cathedral was old fashioned and wanted a new modern cathedral so they petitioned the bishop, telling him that the old cathedral was too run down. Tradition has it that rubble was dropped strategically near the bishop when he visited to convince him that the cathedral needed replacing. He agreed in 1773. However in a testament to the Norman masons and a fairly clear sign that the cathedral was not falling down, the cathedral was so strong that it had to be blown up with gunpowder rather than just pulled down. The current building is a reasonably unusual, for a cathedral,  neo-classical Georgian style which was immensely in fashion when this cathedral was built.

The medieval cathedral which stood on this site before it was, quite possibly unnecessarily, blown up dates originally to 1096 when it was built by the recently converted Vikings.

For me the main point of interest is that it was in this early cathedral that Richard Strongbow and Princess Aoife were married in 1170. Strongbow was one of the Normans whom King Diarmait Mac Murchada invited over to Ireland to reclaim his kingdom of Leinster. He promised Strongbow his daughter in marriage if he came, as well as the chance to inherit the kingdom. Strongbow was one of the first of the Normans in Ireland and they never left. Thus Mac Murchada’s legacy is somewhat mixed. Strongbow and Aoife were also the parents of Isabel de Clare and thus the parents in law of William Marshal. Strongbow died in c. 1176, ultimately leaving Isabel as one of the greatest heiresses of her time.

The Normans also significantly rebuilt the cathedral in 1210 and continued to add to it until it was blown up in the pursuit of fashion in 1773.

Source: http://christchurchwaterford.com/heritage/

Christ church cathedral waterford

Christ church cathedral waterford inside

28. Winchester

Winchester Cathedral

Building: A Saxon cathedral was begun on this site in c. 648 but was slowly replaced by the Norman Cathedral and finally demolished in 1093 when the old and new building converged. It is possible that there was the intention to later rebuild and extend the western structure in a more ‘modern style’ but the black death in 1348, which halved the population of Winchester and the population of monks, put a stop to any ambitious rebuilding plans. In the late 14th century the three west porches and the great west window were created to close off a cathedral that had been truncated by necessity. The nave was also dramatically refurbished in the Gothic style in the early 1400s, though some romanesque elements remain.

The Holy Sepulchre chapel by chance retains some of the original 12th century wall paintings depicting the entombment of Christ. The crypt is also an interesting feature of the cathedral as it is flooded for much of the year and has been so since the beginnings of the cathedral. The water comes up through a well behind the high altar as well as through the actual floor of the crypt.

Winchester Cathedral has seen a number of important events. William Rufus was brought there after he was ‘accidentally’ shot dead in the New Forest. His remains lie in mortuary chests in the cathedral along with, probably, those of King Canute. Henry IV and Joan of Navarre were married in the cathedral as were Mary Tudor and Phillip of Spain. Henry III may have been baptised there, he was born in the castle, and the ill fated Prince Arthur, the older brother of Henry VIII, certainly was.

The Puritans did extensive damage to the cathedral when they came through, they stole all the treasures and used the bones of kings and prelates to break the main windows.

Winchester Cathedral is also the site of the Winchester Bible, a fantastically decorated illuminated manuscript commissioned by Bishop Henry of Blois, the younger brother of King Stephen, and dating to the early 12th century. It is four volumes and was worked on for twenty years by scribes and illustrators.

The cathedral is also the burial place of Jane Austen

Source: Winchester cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9781857593990

For more information: http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/

Winchester cathedral

Winchester cathedral inside

29. York

York Minster

Building: The building of the Norman cathedral began in 1080. The cathedral was then extended in 1160 with a new eastern arm. The main massive rebuilding project began in 1120 with the rebuilding of the south transept in Early English Gothic style. This rebuilding project continued over a number of years. The north transept was completed in 1253, the chapter house in 1290, the nave in 1338, the lady chapel in 1373, the east end in 1420 and the central tower in 1465. The building was consecrated as the minster in 1472. The nave roof and the bell towers were badly damaged by fire in the 1840s and in 1984 the south transept roof was destroyed by fire.

One of the better known elements of York Minster is the quire screen with its fifteen kings. It was built in c. 1450 and contains sculptures of the fifteen Kings of England from William the Conquerer until Henry VI. On a side note a duplication of the screen as part of a side board can be seen in St Paul’s cathedral in Melbourne Australia.

Underneath the cathedral are the remains of the Roman Principia where it is possible Constantine was proclaimed emperor in CE 306.

Source: York Minster Information Booklet. ISBN: 9781907750274

For more information: https://www.yorkminster.org/learning/school-visits/activities-amp-resources/york-minster-fact-sheets.html

York Minster

York Minster inside

Clonmines Medieval Town

IMG_1917

One of the more interesting medieval sites that not that much is known about. Clonmines is the remains of an abandoned town with the ruins of two churches, three tower houses and an Augustinian Priory. The town was a port that may have been connected with New Ross in the early 1200s. It was an important town. In the 1300s justice was dispensed from there and the road between Wexford and Clonmines was considered a main road. Unfortunately the town was abandoned in the 1600s when its harbour silted up, but there were Augustinians there still into the 1700s. Clonmines also maintained a political presence into the 1800s with the final MPs leaving in 1801.   
IMG_1919 IMG_1920

Clonmines today is on private land so access isn’t possible, but the view across the river is staggering.

IMG_1918

For more information

http://www.bannowhistory.ie/journal-2-bannow-historical-society/

Medieval Crossword

Hello

I had some free time yesterday and I was in the mood for making a puzzle, so I’ve made this medieval crossword. I just thought it could be interesting. If anyone wants to have a go and gets stuck on any of the answers, a few can be found on this blog, then just leave a comment and I’ll let you know what the answer is.

Hope you enjoy it.

Ellen

Medieval Crossword 33

Across
7. The Founder of Fontevraud. (6, 2, 9)
8. Jocelin de Brakelond wrote the chronicle of where? (4, 2, 7)
9. “To his …, her …: may we be in one … for a long time.” Heloise to Abelard. (4)
11. The granddaughter King Diarmait of Leinster who was one of her time’s greatest heiresses. (6, 2, 5)
13. The medieval name from Chepstow (7)
14. One of the names for a small gallery situated in the front of a glacis. It enabled miners to listen for noises of enemy miners.(6)
16. Catherine of Sienna sucked what from the sores of the sick. (3)
19. Who was Regent of England from 1216-1219. (7)
20. The man who was King of Jerusalem during the disastrous Battle of Hattin in 1187. (3, 2, 8)
22. An alternative name for the King of England who first invaded Ireland. (5, 10)
23. In the singular Ely derives its name from what? (3)
26. The son of Henry II who died in 1183. (5, 3, 5, 4)
28. Richard of Cornwall was what to Henry III (3)
29. Alternative name for the battle which occurred in 1217 and saw the beginning of the expulsion of Louis VIII from England. (7, 4)
30. Archbishop of Ardbraccan who died in c. 657 (5)
31. The victor of Stamford Bridge (6, 9)
33. The castle situated on the River Medway whose keep was built in c. 1127 by William of Corbeil (9)
Down
1. Lanchei was the name given in the Domesday Book for what which is now an area of London. (7)
2. First Earl of Hereford. (5, 10)
3. One of the substances that could have been poured from a murder hole (3)
4. Hereditary castellan of Lincoln Castle who died in c.1230. (6, 2, 2, 4)
5. The only woman to be Queen of England and Queen of France on separate occasions. (7, 2, 9)
6. An alternative spelling of a city in Tunisia occupied by the Normans from c. 1148-1160. (5)
10. An alternative spelling for legislative or judicial gatherings in Anglo Saxon England. (6)
12. The site of the signing of the Magna Carta. (9)
15. An alternative c.14th century adjective for having leprosy. (5)
17. In the singular what did the paternoster guilds make? (6)
18. Outlaw who died in the battle of Sandwich. (7, 3, 4)
21. Which battle is seen to be the beginning of the end for King John holding significant portions of what is now France. (6, 2, 8)
24. A Derbyshire castle that was built by the Peverel family and became property of the crown in 1155. (8)
25. The wife of Llywelyn Fawr and daughter of King John. (4, 2, 5)
27. The name of the violet dye obtained from a specific lichen. Used for dyeing cloth and in illuminated manuscripts
32. “I have no claim to anything here save through….” The History of William Marshal. (3).

 

 

Fontevraud, Robert d’Arbrissel and Monasticism.

Fontevraud has appeared in some of my other posts because Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard I and Isabelle of Angouleme are buried there.

richard and is

Isabelle of Angouleme and Richard I

henry and eleanor

Henry II and Eleanor

It is, however, an absolutely fascinating place in its own right and one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen.

Fontevraud was founded in c. 1101 by Robert d’Arbrissel. The remains of his tomb can be seen below.

robert of A

Robert d’ Arbrissel was an enigma even in his own time. Fulke V of Anjou described him as a thunderclap of holy exhortation which lit up the whole church with its eloquence. Peter Abelard, a fascinating figure in his own right, called him “That outstanding herald of Christ.” But many contemporary churchmen viewed Robert as a danger to his own soul and the souls of his female followers. Robert was everything from a parish priest, to a student, to a hermit, but he has been remembered as the founder of Fontevraud.

Fontevraud was an atypical abbey even for its time because it was founded as a mixed community of men and women and the Abbess ruled over the whole community, male and female. This was exceptionally unusual. The fact that many of Robert’s followers were women was part of the reason he was distrusted, but was also in a way a product of his times. With older men marrying much younger women widowhood was common, but it is clear at Robert’s message and personality attracted not only widows but unhappy wives. Some of his followers were also former clerical wives cast aside in the newer push for chastity amongst the clergy. This was also a time where clerical celibacy was seen to imply a strict separation of men and women in religious life. An ideal that Robert definitively did not share. (Venarde, xi-xxix).

In fact it is quite possible that the majority of Robert’s followers were women. The only piece of surviving spiritual writing from Robert himself is directed to Countess Ermengarde of Brittany who was the sister of Robert’s main patron Count Fulke V of Anjou.

angers

The walls of Chateau d’Angers the home of the Counts of Anjou, though these were built after the time of Count Fulke V.

Ermengarde herself was fascinating. She was the daughter of Fulke the IV of Anjou, engaged but never married to Duke William IX of Aquitaine, the grandfather of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and then the wife of Count Alan IV of Brittany. She was her husband’s regent while he was on crusade from 1096 till 1101. She became dissatisfied with her marriage and attempted to end it through flight and an appeal to an ecclesiastical court, but she failed to get the annulment. It was shortly after this in 1109 that Robert wrote to her. She was described by poet-bishop Marbode of Rennes, who hated Robert, as powerfully eloquent, extremely astute and the glory of Brittany. In later life, after her husband retired to a monastery in 1112, she played an important role in the court of her son before following Bernard of Clairvaux to Burgundy. Bernard himself was an interesting figure, if very strange and in my opinion quite annoying, and I will write more on him in a later post. In Burgundy she became a nun before going with some fellow nuns to the Holy Land where her brother Fulke was King of Jerusalem. She returned to Brittany where she remained active at the court until she died in 1147. The extent of her relationship with Robert is unknown, it is possible that she visited Fontevraud but it can’t be proven. The letter he wrote to her just after she attempted to have her marriage annulled is very interesting.(Venarde, 68-69).

It is too long to go into great detail here, but a basic breakdown is possible.

1. The spirit of pride is bad

2. Do not trust or yield to every spirit

3. Take heart and be strong.

4. Do not regret too much that you are bound to an infidel husband. You can still benefit God’s people.

5. Don’t be too anxious about changes of place and appearance.

6. Fear not enemies of Christ for they will not harm you unless God allows it.

7/8. Do not get puffed up by good fortune or shattered by adversity, for those who fear God want for nothing.

9. Believe, love, hope in God, do good, settle in the land of your heart and feed on its riches.

10. Flee the wicked words of savage men in your heart.

11. Alms and prayer are good if done for God but profit nothing if done for the praise of mankind.

12. Many clerics are hypocrites

13. You can not get out of your own marriage but you should do what you can to get your daughter out her her’s as it consanguineous.

14. Don’t disclose all your plans to all your household and friends, many are self serving.

15. Exercise caution and discretion in all things.

(Venarde, 68-79).

Fontevraud also rose out of a period of change for monasticism in general. There was the beginnings of a shift in the way monasticism was practiced. The Cistercians rose out of a reaction against the interpretation of benedictine monasticism which created great wealth and power for the institutions, not the monks themselves necessarily. The best example of this was the monastery of Cluny which was founded  in 910 and financed by Duke William I of Aquitaine. Cluny created a number of brother and sister houses which answered directly to Cluny. By Robert’s time it had gained exceptional wealth.

musee de moyen age

The Exterior of the Musee du Moyen Age in Paris. Which was originally the Paris townhouse of the Abbots of Cluny.

The Cistercians were a reaction against the opulence and focus on wealth that Cluny represented. They favoured a strict adherence to the rule of Benedict and Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the leading lights. The Cistercians wanted to go back to the basics and their monasteries were heavily focused on self sufficiency, simplicity and were often remote and agrarian.

riveauxRiveaux Abbey, a Cistercian abbey in England.

Robert’s Fontevraud was different again. In c. 1101 Robert settled his followers at what would become Fontevraud. Until that point he had been an itinerant preacher, albeit with a significant number of followers including a number of noble women. In fact he departed to continue preaching by c. 1103 having seen the beginning of permanent monastic settlement and appointed two female superiors. However it was not until October 1115 that an Abbess of Fontevraud was appointed after Fontevraud has been recognised by papal authority. Robert’s intentions for this mixed community were never exactly clear, except for working towards spiritual excellence. Despite this when he died on February 25th 1116 and was buried at Fontevraud, Fontevraud and the daughter houses it had established were, as described by Venarde, “Well on the way to becoming the wealthiest order of monasteries for women in Roman Catholic Europe.” (Venarde, xxii).

font outside

The statutes of Fontrevraud are reasonably clear but they don’t conform exactly to specific monastic orders. Sisters and brothers lived and worshipped together. The women were guided by the rule of St Benedict, but the statutes don’t make clear whether the male members are to follow Benedictine or Augustine rule. So they are neither monks nor cannons, they are simply called brothers and Robert makes clear they are in the service of and obedient to the women of Fontevraud. (Venarde, 84-87).

There were a number of interesting women who became Abbesses of Fontevraud, Petronilla the first Abbess being one of them. She was a noble widow who became a follower of Robert’s and he personally appointed her the first Abbess of Fontevraud. Another was Matilda of Anjou. She was abbess from c. 1150 -1158. She is remarkable because if not for one of the most interesting accidents in the medieval period she would have been Queen of England. She was the daughter of Fulke the V of Anjou, the brother of Ermengarde and patron of Robert, but she was married to William the only legitimate son of Henry I. William drowned on the White Ship in 1120 along with much of the young nobility of England and France. Matilda could have remained at court and she did for a time. Henry I was more than happy to have her and he would have married her off again. In the end though she took vows at Fontevraud in c. 1128 and became Abbess there in c. 1150.

Many of the early Plantagenets were patrons of Fontevraud, as evidenced by the fact that four of the them are buried there. Indeed Eleanor of Aquitaine spent her last years there and died there in the 1204. She was a great patron of Fontevraud throughout her life. One of her surviving charters is evidence of her patronage. In this charter she gives the abbey and the “nuns serving God there” the “rent of one hundred pounds, in perpetual alms, from the provosture of Poitiers and the vineyard of Benon, particularly what is received from Marcilly.” (Epistolae).

Fontevraud as a complex of buildings has gone through many changes since it was built. The church was begun to hold the body of Robert and is Romanesque in style with a Byzantine influence. It dates from successive periods in the 1100s. You can see the interior below.

roof font main hallside chapel

You can see the spectacular grandeur of Fontevraud’s exterior built in the beautiful creamy local tuffeau stone in the photos below.

IMGFont church est_8136 Font long

When it was built much of the interior would have been painted.  Some of the early paint remains in fragmented sections.

Font paint

Some of the later paintings can be seen in more detail. As can be seen in the  chapter house photo below, which was painted and remodelled in the 16th century to show the wealth and prestige of King Francis I.

font side chapel painting

 Probably my favourite of all the buildings is the kitchen. It  dates to the early 1100s though it has been remodelled. It is built of the more heat resistant charente stone. It is also built in the Byzantine Romanesque style brought back from the crusades.

font kitchen from back

font kitchen

The interior is constructed so one embrasure was used to make hot coals and the meals were cooked in the embrasures away from the prevailing wind to prevent the blowback of smoke. The central chimney got rid of both smoke and vapours.

font kitcehn inside font kitchen inside

The fact that anything of Fontevraud survives at all is really saying something because it was deconsecrated in the revolution and  Napoleon decided to use it as a prison in 1804 and it remained one for a long time. In fact the last prisoners left in 1985.  The abbey was completely restored in the 20th century and now is also used for a variety of art installations such as the two that can be seen below. The first was in the dormitories and the second was in the cloister and could be walked on, giving you different perspectives of an ancient building.

Font Dorm

Font art

The gardens are also absolutely worth visiting.

font gardensfont gardens2
Font garden

It is a truly beautiful place with a fascinating history. A place where the calm seems to have seeped into the stone.font cloisterI went to Fontevraud so I could see Eleanor of Aquitaine’s tomb but it is much more than that. It is truly one of the most incredible places I have ever been.

font back

Bruce L. Venarde. Robert of Arbrissel. ISBN: 9780813213545.

Eleanor of Aquitaine Charter to Fontevrault, 1185 at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/885.html, accessed 26/9/2010.

Other sources include the signs at Fontevraud, and my university course notes on monasticism.

The photos are all mine.

Richmond Castle

Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire is one of my favourites and this is at least partly due to the relatively intact St Nicholas’s Chapel which dates to the late 11th century. It was in this chapel that I came the closest I have ever come to telling off another tourist. I was standing there marvelling at the fact that it had survived, that it had the original circular windows, the original barrel vaulted ceiling and the remains of a tiny bit of the original paint. Then a woman came in with two friends and she just stood there complaining that the windows were too small and didn’t let in enough light. I didn’t tell her off, but it was a near thing.

So St Nicholas’s Chapel is where I’m going to start. It was built in the late 11th century and is an excellent, if a bit mutilated, example of a castle chapel.

st nic chap 2

In this photo you can see the beautiful round windows and the edge of the barrel vaulted ceiling. These windows would have been the backdrop to the altar and there may have been a pane of stained glass in the central window.

Around both sides of the room was a bench and an arcade with columns. The bench would have been used as a seat and although the columns have been torn away you can see the remaining stubs in the photo below.

IMGst nic chap 3_1151

The walls would have been painted, probably in yellow or cream with red to mark out the lines of masonry. Some of the red paint survives and can still be seen, just, in the top of the arches.

st nic chap 5

St Nicholas’s Chapel is one of the earliest parts of the castle, but Richmond’s origins are a little obscure. It was definitely one of the castles erected in the aftermath of 1066, but there are conflicting sources as to exactly when it was built. It was probably founded by Alan Rufus in around 1070. He was related to the Conquerer and he’d commanded the Bretons at the Battle of Hastings. Count Alan had the earliest surviving parts of the castle built, including long stretches of the stone curtain wall, the great gateway in the ground floor of the keep and Scolland’s hall.

Scoland's hallsIMG_1147IMG_1137You can see Scolland’s Hall, the entrance to the keep at the bottom of the great tower and some of the curtain wall in the above photos.

Scolland’s Hall is itself a fascinating part of the castle. It is named after one of the constables of the castle who died between 1146 and 1150. The hall itself dates to the late 11th century making it, apart from the great tower of Chepstow Castle, perhaps the earliest surviving domestic interior in England. It is two stories and the great hall and solar would have been raised up on the first floor above the undercroft. You can see the sockets in the walls where the beams supporting these rooms would have been. IMG_1168 IMG_1167

After Count Alan died in 1089 Richmond castle passed to his two younger brothers in turn and then eventually to his nephew, who was also called Alan. He was the first to style himself as Earl of Richmond. He also married the daughter of the Duke of Brittany, harking back to the first Alan’s origins. Unfortunately Earl Alan died before he could inherit the Duchy of Brittany.  His son Conan however managed to claim it and it was Conan who probably built the great tower of Richmond Castle.

tower richmond

The Great Tower of Richmond Castle.

Unfortunately for Conan he was eventually forced to turn his Duchy over to Henry II and he betrothed his daughter Constance to Henry’s third son Geoffrey. Their marriage was a perfect example of the complexity or heiresses and marriage which I have discussed at length in an earlier postGeoffrey himself is probably my favourite of Henry II’s sons and if he hadn’t died tragically in a tournament in 1186 the 12th and 13th centuries could have been very different because John may never have been king.

The honour of Richmond was a bone of contention between Henry and Geoffrey with Henry continuing to with-hold it even after he allowed Geoffrey to marry Constance and become Duke of Brittany. Henry was never adept at sharing power and this is what largely cost him his relationship with his sons and his wife.

henry close

Henry II

The castle itself didn’t play any more major roles until 1207 when the constable Roald was at odds with King John. Roald refused to state the value of the castle’s contents for taxation purposes so King John stripped him of his office and forced him to buy it back with 200 marks and four palfreys. The castle was also caught up in the conflict when the north of England rose up against King John in 1215. There isn’t any record of a siege at Richmond when King John retaliated, but Roald was captured and kept imprisoned in the castle until 1216.

The honour and castle remained the possession of the Dukes of Brittany throughout the 12th and 13th centuries but it was repeatedly confiscated by the King and there was actually some work done on it by Henry III and Edward I. In fact it is likely that Edward I finished the so called Robin Hood Tower which stands over the St Nicholas Chapel. You can see the remains of the tower on the right.IMG_1155

By 1538 Richmond was declared derelict. It became an object of fashionable tourism in later years and was painted by many artists including Turner. It was repaired in the early 19th century to stop it actually falling down. It was leased to the army from 1854 and Baden-Powell commanded there in 1910. The castle passed to the Ministry of Works around 1931 and eventually became the property of English Heritage in 1984.

Richmond castle has a long hisory. It is a beautiful castle with some of the most interesting and early surviving castle structures in England, especially the St. Nicholas Chapel. But, if tiny scraps of possibly 11th century paint and barrel vaulting aren’t your thing then the view from the top of the great tower alone is well worth the visit.

IMG_view from the top 21132 view from the top

The information from this post comes largely from the signs at Richmond Castle and the English Heritage Guide Book. The photos are all my own.

Icons

Religious icons are something that I have come across over the years and have always liked, but they’ve never been something I’ve known much about. This changed when I saw the truly outstanding exhibit of a selection of orthodox Christian icons at the Ballarat Art Gallery.

Icon larger mother of god

 Mother of God Tikhvinskaya.  circa 1560.

Icons were never intended to be accurate representations of the people they are depicting, nor were they ever designed to be venerated in and of themselves. They were intended to be a point of communication. Icons were windows to heaven.

They developed over centuries as  Christianity evolved.  Geographically icons usually originate primarily in Byzantium, Russia, Greece and surrounding areas. These are the centres of orthodox christianity. They became the provence of orthodox Christianity when it split with western Christianity following the Great Schism of 1054. This was the parting of the ways of east and west when a representative of the pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated each other. Icons also survived, in one form or another, several iconoclastic regimes.

I’m going to briefly consider a handful of the icons that are on display at the Ballarat Art Gallery. Essentially I’ve chosen the ones I liked the most and which I think are most interesting.

Icon Mother of God of the passion

Mother of the God of the Passion c. 1300

This is one of the earliest icons in the exhibit and you can really see the difference in the styles when compared with later icons. The images are more stylised and less realistic. It is known as the God of the Passion because Jesus can be seen gazing backwards at what would have been a jar containing the unguents used at Jesus’ burial, the nails from the cross and an image of the cross itself, the outline can still be seen. So Jesus is literally gazing at the instruments of His Passion.  This icon is an early example of this particular type. A later and better known example is the Lady of Perpetual Succour.

Icon St George

Saint George and the Dragon c. 1700

This is a slightly naive version of the St George and the Dragon, but all the elements are there. The princess can be seem standing off to the right and her parents watch her rescue from the balcony. This is not a work intended for great palaces, it was created in a workshop that makes no pretence of particular finesse. However I think it is actually one of the most dynamic of the icons, it was certainly one of the ones that drew me in immediately and it has an almost undefinable presence.

Icon image not made by human hands

The Image not made by Human Hands: also known as the Mandylion or the Holy Face of Edessa.

This icon is a much later version of what can be considered the icon of icons. It is the impression of the facial features of Christ which He is said to have made in His last days. The original Mandylion had been in Muslim hands since 638 but the Byzantines recovered it when they besieged Edessa in 944. It stayed in Constantinople until the western christians took the city during the fourth crusade of 1204. By then however it had been copied and disseminated all over the orthodox world.

Icon Mother of God

Mother of God c. 1600

This is a work of high quality and the fact that she is alone and looking down suggests that it might be one of a triptych. The sorrow on her face is truly compelling and you can see how much more detailed and realistic it is than the earlier Mother of the God of the Passion.

Icon St Nic

 Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker 16th century

This is a depiction of Saint Nicholas who was one of Russia’s most beloved saints. He was bishop of Myra in Asia and was known for being the friend of the common people and showing generosity and compassion towards the poor. He was the patron of many cities and trades in Russia and is the orgin of our modern Santa Claus.

icon book

The Gospel book of Theophanes c. 1125-1150

As you can see this is not an icon, but I am passionate about illuminated manuscripts and it is part of the exhibit so I thought it was worth including. It is one of the more significant works from its time and the illumination is typical of Byzantium of this period when it was enjoying a cultural  and political revival. The page that is open is beginning of the gospel of Mathew.

I wanted to conclude with a brief discussion of how these icons were made. The majority in the exhibit are wooden panels with egg tempura and linen.

It was a specific process.

1. Have a prepared wooden panel, good quality timber of reasonable hardness. Olive or cyprus for example.

2. Apply a coat of egg tempura, which was egg yolk mixed with powered mineral and plant derived pigments which might have been thinned with some kind of alcoholic spirit.

3. Sand down the panel.

4. Apply gesso, a mixture of powered calcium carbonate and animal skin glue. Each layer of gesso was sanded back.

5. In some cases a layer of linen was then applied and covered in gesso. This created a stronger panel.

6. In some cases the panel was then braced along the back

7. In many cases gold leaf was then applied. However the surface needed to be totally smooth so a fine grained clay called bole had to be applied first. The bole influences how we see the colour of the gold leaf, but we are not aware of it.

8. Apply the pigments themselves. These were created from things like malachite, lapis lazuli and cinnabar which create vivid colours. The preparation process could be toxic and when semi precious stones, such as lapis lazuli, were used they would be very expensive.

This was the process that produced many of the icons in the exhibit. In the photo below you can see some of the layers, and you can actually see the linen. It is the bottom of the Mother of God Tikhvinskaya from the beginning of the post.

Icon see the linin

All the information for this post came from the Art Gallery of Ballarat exhibition. If you are in Australia it is well worth visiting. It’s open until the 26th of January and more details can be found here at http://artgalleryofballarat.com.au/exhibitions-and-events/exhibitions/eikon-icons-of-the-orthodox-christian-world.aspx

There is also full text of the information regarding the icons at

http://artgalleryofballarat.com.au/media/254590/eikon_labels_and_didactics.pdf.

Christmas

I just wanted to say Happy Christmas to everyone and to share this fascinating article about the history of christmas traditions. http://www.medievalists.net/2010/12/25/christmas-in-the-middle-ages/

which includes this video from Warwick University about medieval christmas.

Also to share this recipe for boar’s head if you feel like going fully medieval. You really needed to start about two weeks ago, but you could always have a second more medieval christmas later in the year. This isn’t a medieval recipe, this is a workable modern recipe which replicates the medieval product as much as possible.

Boar’s head:

Stage One: Boning and Pickling. 2 to 3 weeks before required.

1 pig’s head, about 5.5-6.5 kg

1.5 kg pork shoulder with skin

225g large crystal sea salt

350g dark brown sugar

350g salt

25g saltpetre

Boil a kettle of water, and pour a little boiling water over each part of the head in turn, scraping it with the edge of a knife to remove all dirt and hair. Do not immerse the head, for this will raise the temperature of the meat. Today, a disposable razor may effectively remove the bristles. Finally pour boiling water into the ears and nostrils and use a stiff paintbrush to remove every trace of dirt.

Rinse the head in cold water , dry with a cloth, and lay facedown on a board. Using a sharp knife make a deep cut from beneath the tip of the chin back to the neck, then cut the gums from the lower jaw, to leave it completely exposed. Now remove the tongue.

Turn the head face upwards, probe for the top of the skull with the point of the knife, then gradually cut the flesh free the forehead and cheek, linking it up with the cuts made along the gums so that it may be peeled back. Be careful not to pierce the skin.

Continue working down to the snout, finally cutting through its tough inner sinews to remove the face completely.

Cut the rind from the pork shoulder and cut the meat into long strips some 2.5 cm square, along the grain of the meat.

Place the rind, strips and face in a shallow ceramic container.

Mix the salts, sugars and spices, tip into the meat, and rub them into all the pieces for a total of 10 minutes.

place the container in a cool but frost free place, and rub the meats in their own brine for 5-10 minutes each day until required.

Stage 2: Boiling the day before serving. 

Drain and rinse the meat, dry with a cloth, and using a strong trussing needle and strong twine, sew up the eyes and mouth. Cut the cured rind to fit the open back of the head, and sew the bottom half in place.

Prepare a forcemeat by finely mincing and grinding the following:

1.5kg pork shoulder meat

1.5 kg rindless streaky bacon

meat of 4 rabbits

225g English Onions.

50g salt

2tsp mixed spice

half a nutmeg, grated

2tsp ground black pepper.

Cut a further 450g streaky bacon into long strips about 2cm square.

Line the bottom of the head with some of the forcemeat, lay a few strips of the cured pork shoulder alternating with those of streaky bacon, covering these with the forcemeat, continuing this process until the head is completely stuffed.

Sew up the loose flap of rind to completely enclose the stuffing. Lay the head face upwards on a board, fold the ears down across the forehead, and bind in place with a broad strip of muslin. This prevents the ears from dissolving during boiling.

Lay the head facedown on a 60 cm square of muslin, and tie diagonal corners tightly together to cover the head.

Using some 6m by 8cm strips of muslin, tightly bind the head, to give it the required shape.

Place the head either on a trivet or on a bed of carrot, parsnip and onions in a large pan, cover with water, bring slowly to the boil, skim and simmer gently with the lid on for 5 hours.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When tepid, drain, turn onto a large dish, remove the binding and carefully unfold the ears to their erect position, holding them in place with skewers stuck in the ear holes. Leave in a cool place over night to set.

Stage 3: Garnishing the day of serving.

225g lard

1 pair boar tusks (or celery to represent them)

black food-colouring paste (replacing chimney soot)

1 glace cherry (formerly, artificial glass eyes were uses)

Sprays of fresh bay leaves and rosemary.

Chill half the lard. The remainder is beaten or warmed a little until soft and beaten with the black food colouring to form a black paste. Rub this over the head to give it the colour of a black wild boar.

Set the head on a bed of bay and rosemary on its serving dish and replace the skewers in the ears with sprigs of rosemary. Cut open a little of each side of the mouth and insert the tusks.

Cut out a flat shield shape from the chilled lard, decorate with an appropriate coat of arms or badge and set in the centre of the forehead.

Cut the eye shapes from thin slices of chilled lard, place over the eyes securing a half round glace cherry over each one with a clove.

Having been brought in with the appropriate cerimonial flourish the head may be sliced across, working from the neck end, and trimming off the skin around the area to be sliced. It has a very good flavour, resembling that of a very superior pork pie.

From Cooking and Dining in Medieval England by Peter Brears. 167-171.

ISBN: 9781903018873

I’ll be back in the new year with new posts, the first will be on Fontevraud Abbey.

Marriage Alliances 1180-1250: Part 4 Isabel de Clare.

One of the most interesting heiresses of the period, not in the least because she was married to William Marshal, was Isabel de Clare. Isabel’s marriage to Marshal typified the incredibly important political role that the marriage of these heiresses played. These marriages were not only used as rewards, they were used to elevate men to real positions of power. In some occasions these men could help to change the face of a country, I would argue that Marshal was one of these and his marriage to Isabel was what gave him the status to have a real political affect.

Isabel herself is a little hard to pin down. In essentials she was the perfect medieval wife possessing of great fortune and very fecund, they had ten children, but she makes her own mark in a variety of interesting ways. While the History of William Marshal can not be taken entirely at face value the sentiment that is expressed throughout the work is that Isabel was actively involved in the rule of domains that were essentially hers.

marriage of aoife and storngbow

The marriage of Marshal and Isabel de Clare as depicted in the modern  Ros tapestry in New Ross in Ireland.

Marshal’s marriage to Isabel de Clare was the most significant elevation in his life. The lands that he gained, the children that he had from the marriage and the qualities of Isabel herself were the building blocks on which Marshal’s status was established. Marriage to Isabel gave Marshal substantial and geographically diverse lands as well as titles and wealth. In comparison, materially, Marshal brought little to the marriage because he was a virtually landless knight who only had one small estate in England and probably the rents of some lands in France. He had amassed considerable wealth however from his prowess on tourney field and he was known and respected by King Richard. Isabel gave Marshal lands in England, Ireland, Wales and what is now France and these lands gave Marshal both wealth and authority.[1]  Marshal’s marriage to Isabel mean that he made an indelible mark on her lands, not the least in Ireland. The affect Marshal had on these Irish lands illustrates just how much political change the marriage of an heiress could generate.

medieval irelandjpeg

 

Ireland under the Normans. You can see Leinster, Marshal’s lands, on the right.

David Carpenter, The Struggle for Mastery: Britain 1066-1284, London: Penguin Books, 2004, p. xx.

 Isabel’s Irish lands came to her from her father Earl Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, who had gained them by force, and through her mother Aoife, the daughter and heiress of King Dermot MacMurchada of Leinster who was deposed as king in 1166.[1] Strongbow was a leader in a force spearheaded by English lords who won Leinster back for King Dermot. They were given permission to do so by their king Henry II in a letter recorded by Giraldus Cambrensis c. 1166. This was the beginning of the English occupation in Ireland.[2] The rewards Dermot gave Strongbow in return for his services were recorded in the relatively contemporary poem The Song of Dermot and the Earl: his daughter Aoife in marriage and his kingdom after his death. Dermot died in 1171.[3]

 

Diarmut grave

 

Dermot’s grave in Ferns, Ireland.

Strongbow died in 1176 leaving a son and daughter too young to inherit and so Leinster was in the hands of the Crown until Strongbow’s son came of age. The son, Gilbert, died as a minor in 1185 and thus Isabel de Clare inherited everything. Marshal on marrying Isabel gained lordship of her entire estate.[4] Trouble could be expected from the local Irish population who were not likely to welcome a new overlord. These peoples included the English lords who had been settled there for more than a decade and the original Irish lords. Marshal faced an uphill challenge in controlling and developing Leinster and it was one at which he certainly succeeded

On taking possession of Leinster Marshal sent deputies but did not go himself until c. 1201, and then only for a brief visit. The Irish Annals found in The Chartularies of St Mary’s Abbey in Dublin recorded that Marshal was in Ireland c. 1201.

st mary's dublin

All that remains of St Mary’s Abbey in Dublin.

They said that he came in a storm and, in thanks to God for his survival on the unforgiving Irish Sea, he founded the abbey of Tintern Parva.[5]

tintern parva

Tintern Parva on the Hook Head Peninsula in Ireland.

ship on the way to ireland

Depiction of the near disaster on the Irish Sea from the Ros Tapestry.

Marshal returned to Ireland in c. 1207 and faced rebellion, mainly from Meyler Fitz Henry. Fitz Henry was one of the original settlers, a bastard grandson of Henry I and had been appointed Justiciar of Ireland, ruler in the king’s absence, by King John. He was tenant in chief of some small fiefs, most of which he held from Marshal. Fitz Henry and Marshal were in repeated conflict and King John involved himself in Fitz Henry’s favour. Fitz Henry led many battles against Marshal’s lands both when Marshal was in Ireland and when he was not.[6] As can be seen in two charters from King John in 1216 Marshal ultimately managed to prevail and found his way back to John’s favour with Fitz Henry disgraced. The first granted Marshal Fitz Henry’s fees, a form of rent or tax, in Marshal’s own lands. The second said that if Fitz Henry should die or take the habit Marshal was to receive Fitz Henry’s fees in the Justicary’s jurisdiction, which effectively disinherited Fitz Henry’s son.[7]

As well as exercising control Marshal was responsible for developments such as the port town of New Ross. Marshal began New Ross, which still exists today, in c. 1207.[8] Once it was established, Marshal set about making it a viable port town. When he was back in favour with King John, c. 1212, Marshal negotiated to ensure that shipping could continue through Waterford and onto New Ross. Waterford was the main port and the Crown had controlled it since 1171.[9] Marshal needed his own port and New Ross suited well because of its deep harbour, river access to the heart of Leinster and links with nearby lordships.[10]

river new ross

 The Barrow river in New Ross.

New Ross is only one of the building and consolidation projects that Marshal undertook in his Irish lands during his lordship. He established other towns and also built a number of castles. He made settlements on the edges of nearby counties, retook land that had been previously lost and established monastic foundations and built a lighthouse which still stands today.

lighthouse

 Marshal’s lighthouse on the Hook Head Peninsula.

ferns castle irland

Ferns Castle which Marshal also built.

Marshal also took over lands that had lacked any kind of central authority because the Crown had run them for many years from a distance.[11] Marshal managed to establish a strong and stable lordship, despite the fact that he was so caught up in English affairs. This administrative skill ensured that he maintained his position as Lord of Leinster, as well as his other lands, and that he was sufficiently influential and experienced to become first the Earl of Pembroke, a title which he came to through right of Isabel, under King John in 1199 and then Regent in 1216.

IMG_5435

Pembroke Castle in Wales.

When Marshal married Isabel de Clare he became one of the most influential barons of his time because the marriage laws meant he became ruler of everything that was hers. When it came to marriage, a woman’s lineage, her family and connections, were as important as her lands. In Marshal’s case through Isabel he gained the physical lands themselves but also the eminence of her background as the daughter of an earl and the granddaughter of a King of Ireland.

Lineage and land were not all that Marshal gained from his marriage because the couple also had ten children, five sons and five daughters, all of who survived to adulthood.[12] All five daughters married influential and high ranking noblemen and only the youngest, Joan Marshal, was unmarried when her father died.[13] This gave Marshal alliances in a variety of noble families, another use for heiresses, and helped to give him the support he needed to stay in power even when he was out of favour with King John. It is due to his eldest son William that his memory survives today in such detail because it was he who commissioned the History. Marshal achieved what eluded many prominent landholders of his time because he had five sons thus having multiple heirs. When Marshal died his authority and legacy seemed safe and his position solidified, which must have made reaching the top of his society seem worthwhile because he had been able to protect all his family and to pass on what he created secure in the knowledge of its survival. Success in this time was intended to be dynastic rather than just personal. Unfortunately this was not to come to pass because, although Marshal never knew it, his sons all died childless and his lands were dispersed.[14]

 

Chepstow Castle Wales

Chepstow Castle which Marshal gained from marriage to Isabel. He also built significant proportions of it.

Children, lineage and land aside, Isabel as a person and the role she played in the marriage and thus in Marshal’s ascent is much harder to define but just as vital and fortuitous. Isabel came to the marriage probably in her late teens while Marshal was in his early forties. Despite the age difference by all accounts she was an active participant in the marriage and in the governing of the lands. If she had not been it is unlikely that Marshal would have succeeded so well in holding together his disparate domains. She was not only his entrée into the high aristocracy, but her support was important to the retention of his authority. There may have been no legal repercussions if Isabel had not supported Marshal, but the people he ruled were her vassals and would have been more likely to rebel against their new untried lord without Isabel’s support.

Marshal trusted Isabel and her abilities enough to leave her in an administrative position in Ireland c.1207 during the fragile military and political situation, when King John forced him back to England. Before returning to England in c. 1207 the History reports that he said to his men.

My Lords, here you see the countess whom I have brought here by the hand into your presence. She is your lady by birth, the daughter of the earl who graciously, in his generosity, enfieffed you all, once he had conquered the land. She stays behind here with you as a pregnant woman. Until such time as God brings me back here, I ask you all to give her unreservedly the protection she deserves by birthright, for she is your lady, as we well know; I have no claim to anything here save through her.[15]

While it is very unlikely that he spoke these exact words the sentiment is clear. Isabel was Marshal’s key to ruling.

Isabel was a potent symbol to Leinster. She was the daughter of the Princess of Leinster and the granddaughter of its last king, which would have pleased the Irish lords. She was the daughter of Richard Strongbow who had been responsible for establishing many of current English lords, or at the least their fathers, in their lands in Leinster and because she was pregnant she represented the future of the lordship. By leaving her behind Marshal had a reasonable chance that many of his lords would cleave to her and thus his cause, which would leave him free to deal with King John.

Isabel proved a very able defender of Marshal and their lands in Ireland. Almost as soon as Marshal left, she found herself embroiled in war and by 1208 she was besieged in Kilkenny castle and “she had a man let down over the battlements to go and tell John of Earley that it was the very truth that she was besieged in Kilkenny.”[16] John of Earley came and Isabel’s men were victorious. It was also Isabel with whom Meyler Fitz Henry first made peace and it was recorded in History that “he [Fitz Henry] had made peace first with the countess and then with the earl’s men, and … he had given his son Henry as a hostage for his inheritance.”[17] Isabel was very much in command of the defence of her lands even if she could not physically lead men. Isabel was a unifying figure because of her lineage and without her presence in Ireland and her willing participation Marshal could have easily lost Ireland while he was trapped at John’s court.

kilkenny

 Kilkenny Castle as it is today.

Defending her lands was not Isabel’s only involvement because she was also engaged in their creation and improvement. Marshal took the fact that his only claim to the lands was through Isabel very seriously because he made many developments in Leinster with charters that had Isabel’s ‘counsel and consent’ recorded on them.[18] According to Cóilín Ó Drisceoil there is a tradition that Isabel had been heavily involved with making the decision to locate the foundation of the town of New Ross on the Wexford bank of the Barrow River. This was not necessarily the most practical bank on which to build a town, as it was steep and required the building of one of the longest bridges in medieval Ireland. It was perfect however from a political point of view because Wexford was the centre of the former Kingdom of Leinster.[19] The earliest written mention of the tradition of Isabel’s involvement in New Ross’s foundation was in the 1607 work Britannia by William Camden.[20] Isabel understood the political imperatives in building a new city and made sure that they were carried out correctly. She also helped to ensure that Marshal remained lord of all their other lands as well because unlike other noble wives she commonly travelled with him throughout their domains and was involved in their governance. She was the symbol by which Marshal governed as well as an active participant.

st mary's New ross

 St Mary’s Abbey which Marshal and Isabel built in New Ross.

Marshal and Isabel’s match seems to have become one of love. This was exemplified by the way Isabel behaved during and after Marshal’s prolonged death. Marshal first began to fall ill around the end of January 1219 and it took him until midday on May 14th 1219 to actually die.[21] A very moving picture of Isabel just after his death was painted in History “whilst mass was being sung it was observed that the countess could not walk without danger of coming to grief, for her heart, body, her head and limbs had suffered from her exertions, her weeping and her vigils.”[22] This was a final testament to a woman who had stood strongly by Marshal throughout much of his life and his protracted death and had continued to love him. Isabel died only a year later and was buried at Tintern Abbey in Wales.

temple churchIMG_3419

The Temple Church in London where Marshal was burried and his effergy.

tinturn abbey

Tintern Abbey in Wales where Isabel was burried, no trace of her burial remains.

Marshal was given Isabel as a reward and as a way of binding a skilled warrior and an admired man to the new King Richard I in 1189. The authority bestowed on him by this land and the wealth he acquired through marriage meant that he had the ability to make an indelible mark on England. When King John died in 1216 he left a country in turmoil with many of the country’s barons in rebellion. The then approximately 70 year old Marshal was made Regent for the nine year old Henry III and under his direction the country was brought back from the brink and Henry III’s kingship saved. The situation was dire enough to prompt Marshal to declare, according to the History, when he assumed the Regency that “if all the world deserted the young boy, except me, do you know what I would do? I would carry him on my shoulders and walk with him thus,” “ and never let him down from island to island, from land to land.” [23] Marshal was the head of the government who defeated the rebellious barons and the French Prince Louis, later Louis VIII, who was the barons’ candidate for the throne of England.[24] Marrying wards to loyal followers as rewards was a long held practice and one that continued. Much of the time it had little overall effect, however on occasion it elevated a man such as Marshal to a prominent position in society which enabled them to have a far-reaching consequences on the political situation, often in multiple countries.

This will for the moment be the end of my series of noble marriages. I may come back to it at a later date.

All the photos, obviously baring the map at the beginning, are mine.

 

[1] Catherine A. Armstrong, William Marshal Earl of Pembroke, Kenneshaw: Seneschal Press, 2006, pp. 60-61.

[2] Giraldus Cambrensis, The Conquest of Ireland, (trans.) Thomas Forster, Cambridge: Parenthesis Publications, 2001, p. 13.

[3] Anonymous, The Song of Dermot and the Earl, (ed.) & (trans.) Goddard Henry Orpen, Oxford: the Clarendon Press, 1892, pp. 19-27.

[4] Armstrong, Earl of Pembroke, p. 77.

[5] John T. Gilbert, (ed.) Chartularies of St Mary’s Abbey Dublin with The Register of its House at Dunbrody and Annals of Ireland, Volume II, London: Longman and Co, 1884, pp. 307-308.

[6] Sidney Painter, William Marshal: Knight Errant, Baron and Regent of England, Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1933 pp. 145-146.

[7] H.S Sweetman, (ed.) Calendar of Documents, Relating to Ireland, 1171-1251, London: Longman and Co, 1875, p. 106.

[8] Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, “Pons Novus, villa Willielmi Marescalli: New Ross, a town of William Marshal” in John Bradley & Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, Dublin: Four Courts Press, pp. 8-9. A note about this particular text. I am unsure what is happening with the publication of this text. I was very kindly sent advanced chapters and given clear permission to use them for reference in my thesis. I feel that as the sections of this post in which I am using this information are almost verbatim from my thesis that this permission should extend to this post. I am endeavouring to discover what has happened to the publication of this book, but it seems as if it may have actually fallen through, I’m not sure. I still think the information is worth including though.

[9] Sweetman, (ed.) Ireland, p. 99.

[10] Ó Drisceoil, “New Ross” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp. 10-11.

[11] Adrian Empy, “The Evolution of the Demesne in the Lordship of Leinster: the Fortunes of War or Forward Planning?” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp. 36-38.

[12] T.L Jarman, William Marshal: First Earl of Pembroke, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1930, p. 99.

[13] Anonymous, History of William Marshal, (ed.) AJ. Holden, (trans.) S. Gregory & (notes.) David Crouch, Volume II, London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 2002. pp. 410-411.

[14] Matthew of Westminster, The Flowers of History: Especially as they Relate to the Affairs of Britain from the Beginning of the World to the year 1307, (ed.) & (trans.) C.A. Yonge, Volume II, London: AMS Press, 1968 , pp. 257-258.

[15] History, Volume II, pp. 177-179.

[16] History, Volume II, p. 193.

[17] History, Volume II, p. 195.

[18] Ó Drisceoil, “New Ross” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp.11-12.

[19] Ó Drisceoil, “New Ross” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp. 9-11.

[20] William Camden, Britannia, (trans.) Phillemon Holland, at http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/cambrit/irelandeng1.html#ireland1, accessed 05/12/14.

[21] David Crouch, William Marshal, Knighthood, War and Chivalry, 2nd ed, London: Pearson Education, 2002, pp. 138-140.

[22] History, Volume II, p. 453.

[23] History, Volume II, p. 287.

[24]D.A Carpenter, The Minority of Henry III, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990, pp. 17-64.

Marriage Alliances of Noble Women 1180- 1250: Part 2 Eleanor of Aquitaine

Due to the fact that the majority of interest seems to have been in Eleanor of Aquitaine from part one of this series I am going to begin my investigation of individual women with her. There has been so much written about Eleanor of Aquitaine and I am the first to admit that there isn’t that much new to say, but she is one of my favourites from this time period so I’m always happy to write about her. eofa

Eleanor of Aquitaine’s effigy at Fontevraud Abbey.

Royal marriages changed the political face of the country and ensured the transmission of states between families. They also formed alliances that helped to stop wars, start wars and disseminate culture between different countries. The royal bride who had the most profound effect on England during this time period was Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor of Aquitaine was married to Henry II from 1152-1189. [1] Her marriage was made for political reasons, on her side as well as Henry’s, but it did later come to involve affection and it appears there was some form of initial attraction on both sides. Her marriage to Henry II also changed English politics. She brought the Duchy of Aquitaine to the English Crown and thus was instrumental in the creation of the Plantagenet Empire on the continent. The Plantagenets ruled substantially more of what we would now consider France than did the French. Eleanor was also the mother of the three kings: Henry the Young King ,who was crowned during his father’s lifetime but died in 1183, Richard I and John I. Richard and John were both kings who made strong marks, good and bad, on the political landscape. Medieval English queens did have authority, but it was largely ceremonial and dependant on their husbands. They had their own unique status, as they were the only ones beside the king who were officially anointed and appointed by God as part of the royal authority.[2] Medieval queens also had their own land in the shape of their dower lands, which were given to them by the king on their marriage. However, how much say the queen had in the running of these lands was dependant on the queen herself and the amount of authority the king allowed her. [3] The queen was also often at the cultural centre of the court.  Even contemporaries who were not otherwise remarkably complimentary of Eleanor of Aquitaine acknowledged the immense cultural downturn the court took in her absence.[4] Patronage was another area in which queens could have great influence.  An example of such patronage is Eleanor of Aquitaine’s 1185 charter to the abbey of Fontevraud. In this charter she gives the abbey and the “nuns serving God there” the “rent of one hundred pounds, in perpetual alms, from the provosture of Poitiers and the vineyard of Benon, particularly what is received from Marcilly.” [5] Fontevraud

Fontevraud Abbey.

It was primarily because of her background that Eleanor of Aquitaine was able to wield a little more real authority than some other queens of England, though she was still subject to the power of her husband. She was born in c 1124 and was a great heiress in her own right. [6] Her father was Duke William X of Aquitaine and when he died on pilgrimage in c 1137 he left Eleanor as the ruler of one of the biggest and most powerful duchies in Christendom. Contemporary writer William of Newburgh described the duchy as “very extensive” and stretching “from the borders of Anjou and Brittany to the Pyrenees.”[7] In dying William X left Eleanor very vulnerable, because she became a desirable marriage prize.[8]  A little over a month after her father’s death, probably to ensure her own protection, she married Prince Louis the heir to the French throne and the future Louis VII. However for the next fifteen years of her marriage, despite her title as Queen of France, she would have little control over Aquitaine, as Louis took it for himself and installed French administrators.[9] Her marriage was annulled in 1152 and she found herself once again a vulnerable heiress. She married Henry the young Duke of Normandy and the future Henry II of England only eight weeks after the annulment of her previous marriage. This marriage would eventually begin her time as Queen of England, and help to establish her as a woman of authority and power as well as a duchess in her own right.[10] St Denis St denis

 St Denis Cathedral where Louis VII is buried with the majority of the Kings of France. Eleanor would have been very familiar with it.

In the first twenty or so years of her reign as Queen of England Eleanor did have power and involvement, but it was not that dissimilar to the traditional power of a queen. She did originally have some say in the running of Aquitaine, but it was more a position of advising Henry II rather than having a free reign to run the Duchy she had inherited.[11] She also acted as a regent both in England and in various parts of the continental domains. Additionally Eleanor and Henry II seem to have acted in some sort of partnership for the first decade or so of their marriage. This is illustrated with Henry II’s campaign to try to enforce Eleanor’s rights in Toulouse in 1170. This was not a campaign that was particularly advantageous to Henry and it was one that Eleanor had also persuaded her previous husband to undertake.[12] Eleanor also had eight children, including five sons, with Henry II and this helped to increase her standing because she was fulfilling the main role of a queen. Eleanor was not a queen who was just left at home to bear children while the king was out fighting wars. She was present with Henry and without Henry all over their disparate empire and seems to have been very involved in the culture as well as the political side. [13]

henry close

 Effigy of Henry II at Fontevruad Abbey.

However it is also important to note that Eleanor was not necessarily well liked in her new kingdom. Gerald of Wales, a contemporary writer, describes her as having a reputation of “sufficient notoriety,” citing her apparent “carnal knowledge” of Henry’s father Geoffrey of Anjou as evidence.  While it is unlikely this particular accusation was true it does show that Eleanor was very much at the mercy of a masculine world where she was subject to ridicule by male chroniclers. This was a world in which independent authority by a woman, however powerful, was very difficult.[14]

Also her role during the reign of Henry II was curtailed by her fifteen years of imprisonment for her part in her sons’ rebellion. Henry forgave his sons due to their relative youth and the fact that he needed them, but he never forgave Eleanor. The imprisonment was relatively comfortable and it began in the 1174. She was not released until Henry II’s death and Richard I’s ascension to the throne in 1189. In this period she had little influence.  She lost her dower lands and most of her revenues, losing even the traditional trappings of power for a queen. What she did receive she could not dispose of as she wished.[15] Despite the appearance of some autonomy, any power Eleanor did have during the reign of Henry II, like other queens, came courtesy of her husband. She was able to work in partnership as long he allowed her to. So most of her authority came from any influence she might have had over Henry II and his actions. Her acting as regent, while it was a position of significant power, was not independent power.[16] This changed abruptly when Henry II died in 1189.  Eleanor’s certainly shaped the political situation in England with her involvement in the reigns of her sons. It can be seen specifically in her actions in the governance of the kingdom while Richard was on crusade. It was her backing that gave legitimacy to Walter de Coutances, Archbishop of Rouen, when he was appointed as the joint authority with Chancellor Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, who had been left nominally in charge. de Coutances was primarily appointed to check Longchamp’s excesses.[17] Eleanor also mediated in any arguments between the justiciars who were sharing authority in Richard’s absence. Eleanor was also one of the few people who had some influence on Prince John who, as Richard’s most likely heir, caused significant trouble when Richard was out of the country. Eleanor was also not in England all the time that Richard was absent because she traveled across the Plantagenet Empire, helping to hold it together and to bring Richard his new wife Berengaria of Navarre.[18]  In 1191, despite the fact that she was in her late 60’s, she traveled to Navarre, in the modern day Spanish and French borderlands, to bring Berengaria back to marry Richard in Limassol in Cyprus.[19]

Richard I

Richard’s effigy in Fontevraud Abbey. The effigy beside him is that of Isabel of Angouleme. She was the wife of his brother John and another heiress who will be discussed in a later post.

Eleanor’s influence was most apparent when Richard was captured and held for ransom in 1193 on the way back from crusade.[20]   Richard had been taken by Duke Leopold of Austria and the ransom set was the exorbitant 100, 000 silver marks, plus 200 hostages from his vassals’ families.[21] Richard’s lands had already been heavily taxed to help pay for his crusade and now they were squeezed even harder to raise a ransom that was twice England’s annual revenue.[22] One of the ways Eleanor raised the ransom was to approve, with Walter of Coutances,  a levy of one quarter of all moveable goods, a percentage of all knights’ fees and significant contributions of gold and silver from the churches. The only churches that were exempt were the Cistercians and Gilbertines, who were too austere to have gold and silver. From these she demanded a percentage of their wool clip. Her integral involvement in these levies is illustrated by the fact that the treasure was stored with her seal on it as well as Walter of Coutances’.[23] riv2 riveaux

Cistercian abbeys like Riveaux were exempt from providing gold for the ransom.

Richard I also placed great importance on his mother’s role in keeping his kingdom together. This is very well illustrated in the letter that he wrote to her in 1193, requesting her assistance in ensuring that Hubert Bishop of Salisbury would be made Archbishop of Canterbury. Firstly in this letter he describes Eleanor as by the grace of God “Queen of England.” Which clearly shows that he considers her authority paramount. Additionally he thanks her for the “faithful care and diligence [she gave] to [his] lands for peace and defense so devotedly and effectively.” He goes on to say that her “prudence and discretion” is the “greatest cause of [his] land remaining in a peaceful state until [his] arrival.”[24] This independence of action is further illustrated in another letter of Richard’s, regarding the appointment of Hubert.  He appeals to “his dearest mother Eleanor, by that same grace Queen of England, greetings and the inviolable sincerity of filial love”. He appeals to her to ensure that the justiciars the bishops of Canterbury Church, and anyone else she believes needs to be involved, instate Hubert of Salisbury as Archbishop of Canterbury. The fact that Richard I assumes that Eleanor will have the influence and power to achieve his request, indicates the power and independent authority that she wielded during his reign.[25] Henry II married Eleanor as a royal bride mainly for political reasons, they barely knew each other when they were married, but she made an indelible mark on England primarily in holding the country together. The next post in this series will be about Joanna Princess of Wales. She was the wife of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, know as Llywelyn the Great, and the illegitimate daughter of King John.

[1] Marie Hivergneaux, “Queen Eleanor and Aquitaine 1137-1189”, in Bonnie Wheeler & John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Aquitaine Lord and Lady, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, p 55.

[2] Lisa Hamilton, Queens Consort, London, 2008, pp. 1-3.

[3] Anne Crawford, The Letters of the Queens of England, Stroud, 1997, pp. 8-9.

[4] Lisa Hamilton, Queens Consort, London, 2008, pp. 8-9.

[5] Eleanor of Aquitaine Charter to Fontevrault, 1185 at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/885.html.

[6] Desmond Seward, Eleanor of Aquitaine, London, 1978, pp. 13-14.

[7] William of Newburgh, The History of English Affairs, trans. PG, Walsh and M.J Kennedy, (eds), William of Newburgh History of English Affairs, Warminster, 1988 pp.129-131.

[8] Melrich V Rosenberg, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Massachusetts, 1937, pp. 4-5.

[9] Desmond Seward, Eleanor of Aquitaine, London, 1978, pp. 21-23.

[10] Ibid., pp. 63-69.

[12] Ralph V Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Padstow, 2009, p. XVIII.

[12] Ibid., pp. 123-125.

[13] Ibid., pp. 139-141.

[14] Gerald of Wales, The Death of Henry II and Comments on the Angevin Family, at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/geraldwales-dip1.html.

[15] Ralph V Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Padstow, 2009, pp. 233-237.

[16] Richard Barber, Henry Plantagenet, Ipswich, 1964, pp.182-183.

[17] Ralph V Turner, “The Role of Eleanor in the Government of Her Sons,” in Wheeler and Carmi Parsons, (eds) Eleanor of Aquitaine, pp. 79-83.

[18] Crawford, Queens of England, pp. 32-34.

[19]. Anne Crawford, “Berengaria of Navarre,” in Anne Crawford, The Letters of the Queens of England, Stroud, 1997, pp. 43-45.

[20] Ibid., pp. 299-301.

[21] Andrea Hopkins, “Eleanor of Aquitaine,” in Andrea Hopkins, Six Medieval Women, London, 1997, pp. 56-57.

[22] Alison Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine By the Wrath of God, Queen of England, London, 1999, pp. 229-230.

[23] Ralph V Turner, “The Role of Eleanor in the Government of Her Sons,” in Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons (eds) Eleanor of Aquitaine, Lord and Lady, New York, 2003, pp. 83-85.

[24] Richard I Letter to Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1193, at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/148.html.

[25] Richard I Letter to Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1193, at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/149.html.