Another of the tantalising aspects of visiting wonderful museums in search of medieval inspiration is that so often only moments of those ancient lives have been preserved. A cup here, a coffer there, some jewellery, some glass. Little pieces of the jigsaw puzzle only, and never enough. But the pieces we do have are magnificent, and it is a miracle that so many have survived the centuries. Here are some for your perusal …
A noble knight’s tomb in Christ’s Church, Oxford
A set of surgeon’s knives
St Frideswide’s tomb in Christ’s Church, Oxford. The figures around the base are her children. Amazingly, though the tomb was damaged during the Reformation, it survived Henry VIII’s wanton destruction.
The royal seal of York
Platters. The last one details the reason for much passionate sermonising from the pulpits of Europe: this style of clothing, with such a short doublet, made sure to display young men’s tight butts and (hidden) codpieces, leaving little to the imagination. Priests weren’t at all happy about these sartorial adventures, since they were almost guaranteed to excite women in unseemly ways. And also some men. Which only goes to show, the more things change …
Here’s a close-up of another platter. What I find fascinating is that it seems all the warriors are women! Even the horses look girlie! Adds a whole new spin to My Little Pony …
These wooden medieval shoes, called pattens, were strapped onto the feet, over fabric slippers, as protection. And they say stilletos are uncomfortable!
This is the right-hand detail of a roof beam, displayed in the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris. There’s a matching wolf’s head facing this one, on the other end of the huge oak beam.
Detail along the wall of the great hall in Christ’s College, Oxford. This was the hall that inspired Hogwarts’ great hall, in the Harry Potter films.
Possibly 4 of my favourite things, ever. Part of the Lewis Chess set, dated from the 12th century.
A headstone in Winchester
Two drinking horns, one of ivory, the over of actual cow horn.
These are draft pieces, for playing board games, and they were carved from horse molars.
Before there were banks, there were coffers. Strong boxes for safeguarding money, jewels and important documents. Imagine a safety deposit box this lovely!
Anything that could be made beautiful was made beautiful. These are 2 stall ends in the choir stalls of Christ Church, Oxford.
A chest, for storage
A pewter bowl
The river Maine, in Angers, as seen from the castle battlements. Not only did the vantage point mean you could see your enemy coming, it was a way of getting in supplies that didn’t rely on unreliable roads and poor weather.
Thirteenth century tiles on the floor of Winchester Cathedral. It never ceases to boggle me, that I walked on the same floor as so many names out of history.
Three exquisite medieval French tapestries. What an invaluable historical record! And incidentally, I want what the woman above is wearing!
Stained glass. So breathtakingly beautiful.
Three enamelled seals.
A wall tile
A page of illuminated manuscript
An automated salt cellar that also announced the start of a feast. Lots of gold!
A stained glass portrait in the Great Hall of Christ’s College. I think this was the Earl of Surrey, but I couldn’t get close to be sure and none of the official college people could tell me! Whoever he was, though, what a fashion plate!
Medieval life was often short and cruel. So Death was often depicted, a reminder of mortality and a nudge to tend the immortal soul.
Enamel work, France. Perhaps life’s darkness was one of the reasons so much emphasis was placed on beauty.