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Eating with medieval dining Spoons

As the cold depths of winter rolls around, thick soups and rich stews of all kinds are on the menu. Spoons, bowls and crusty bread are on the table just as they were in Medieval times, but did you know that how we eat today is not the same as medieval families?

Soups and stews were generally drunk not ‘spooned’ from small bowls with taller sides. The spoon was used similar to a spatula – to scrape up any missed tasty solid and semi-solid morsels at the bottom of the bowl. This is part of why the shape of a medieval dining spoon bowl is so flat compared to our modern spoons. Spoons weren’t about ferrying the liquid or cutting smaller portions – that after all, was the knife’s purpose – they were about capturing the remnants.

Why not try this next time you have a stew – it’s not really that different to a cup-a-soup and it really brings a different dimension to the taste of a soup or stew

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Saint of the month; St Dunstan May 19th

Feast Day: May 19

St Dunstan is the Patron Saint of goldsmiths, bell founders, jewellers, metalworkers, engravers and students. He was reputed to have caught the Devil and held him by the nose with a pair of red hot tongs. On the continent he is known as Saint Elegius.

This replica pewter badge of St Dunstan is dated to the 15th century. It was found at the Glastonbury Catherdral in London. The original is in a private collection. Buy a replica version here

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Saint of the month; April St George

Feast Day: 23rd April

This month we’re taking a look at one of the more famous English Saints, St George:

Famous for slaying the dragon and saving the princess, the legend dates back to the 12th century and is symbolic of the victory of Good over evil.

This badge depicts the popular legend in which the soldier – Saint George, slays the dragon and saves the princess. The legend dates from around the 12th Century and is symbolic of the victory of Good over Evil. The original is dated to the 14th century and is currently in a private collection in London.

Buy your St George badge here

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The organic jewels

What are ‘organic’ jewels? This a category of ‘jewels’ created from or by living things. Today fine jewelery tends to recognise only four; that of Amber, Pearls, Coral and Jet. During the renaissance and medieval periods there were many more including a few that may seem rather bizarre by our standards.

They include bone, bezoar stones, feathers, timber and seeds, insect and insect parts such as butterfly wings, and fish scales – anything in fact, which was considered beautiful and or useful by attributed virtues. They were treated with the same craftsmanship and reverence that more familiar precious stones do today, as can be seen by the setting of these organic jewels alongside or as focal points in jewels made for every part of the body and clothes.

While inherently fragile by nature, organic jewels with the correct care can last a very long time. A Scottish freshwater pearl, currently a part of the British crown jewels, was brought into the British royal treasury by Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry the 8th. With care it has survived many re-settings into different jewels and holds its beauty now as then.

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Saint of the month; March The Annunciation

This month in the medieval world we celebrate not a saint – but the principle Marian (Cult of Mary) event; Solemnity of the Annunciation or ‘Festum incarnationis’ (feast of the incarnation). It is held on the 25th of March and documentation across the medieval and renaissance world show that it has been celebrated on this date from the 4th Century.

The celebration commemorates the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary to announce that she had been chosen to be the mother of Christ, Son of God. Mary was invoked as the compassionate intercessor and protector of humanity and for her courage, humility and gentleness. 

The Cult of Mary grew in strength in the 12 and 13th Centuries and flourished from the 14th Centuries onwards. It is believed that the veneration of Mary and her status as the mediator to God and a source of refuge for man is one of the a major Tenant and driving force behind the Age of Chivalry with its concept of the honour of a lady. Where women had often been viewed as a source of evil, the growth of the age of chivalry and the flourishing of the cult of Mary helped to change this attitude.

For Mary there is no single shrine, rather there are literally thousands of Marian shrines across the medieval world. They celebrate an apparition or other miracle ascribed to her, and most are part of or the reason for pilgrimage routes. 

There are a host of pilgrims badges associated with Mary and of the Annunciation, some of which are associated with a particular shrine (eg Our Lady Undercroft at Canterbury), and others which were universal symbols and could be bought at any shrine. We carry a number of the most popular badges – listed below.

Fleur de Lys

The Annunciation

the letter ‘M’

Madonna and Child

Our Lady of Walsingham

Our of Lady Undercroft

The Annunciation

Virgin and Child

Walsingham – a fleur de lys set with a garnet

Winged Heart

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Pilgrim badge series; Souvenirs and belief

As with any tourist, mediaeval pilgrims needed to bring home evidence of a successful journey. Unfortunately that need created a serious problem for every holy site. Pilgrims would chip, scrape, gouge and smuggle ‘relics’ from the holy sites despite the obvious damage they created or threat of excommunication; a severe punishment to mediaeval people. The custodians of the sites had to find a way to manage this problem.

The answer was ingenious; devise, manufacture and sell cheap souvenirs that pilgrims could purchase only at the holy sites. The sites would not only be saved from the quarrying but also create a revenue strand and a way to boost the local economy. A clear win for everyone and from the mid 12th century onwards practically every holy site across Europe and England was actively making and selling.

Quite a number of different types of souvenirs were created including  ampula of blessed water, mirrors and bells, but the most common and popular were the pilgrim’s badges. Mostly single sided and easily attached to clothes, hats and bags, the designs were specific to a site’s Saint, their martyrdom and their attributes and were changed often. Ownership of a badge not only provided proof of pilgrimage, but when worn was also believed to make available the virtues and power of the Saint to the wearer. 

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Happy New Year!

We’re now back from holidays and looking forward to a new exciting year of medieval events.

Check out the calendar of exciting events happening in 2024 and we looking forward to hearing from you about all your Mainly Medieval needs.

Paul, Loreena, Elden and Roxy

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January; Mary, Mother of God

Feast Day: 1st January

To celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, we’re highlighting the Fleur de Lys badge.

The Fleur de Lys (also known as The Flower of Innocence) was the symbol of the Virgin Mary, so this badge may be from the shrine at Walsingham. Alternatively there is some suggestion that this particular badge design may be associated with the shrine to Our Lady of Undercroft at Canterbury. Badges for the virgin Mary were sold at many shrines as she is the patron saint for all humans, especially young children.

Buy a pewter badge of the Fleur de Lys here