A Trivial Pursuit

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A Trivial Pursuit

For the young Geoffrey, studying under the tutelage of Brother Luke has always been a pleasure: unlike the friar who tutored him when he began his studies, Brother Luke seldom strikes him and has never threatened him with diabolical tortures when he has given a mistaken answer to a question. Instead, Brother Luke can often be diverted from the proposed lesson to some entertaining anecdote. And yet, at the end of the day, Geoffrey finds he has still gained a better understanding of whichever subject he was supposed to have been studying, whether numbers, Greek, or Latin. In his thirteenth year, his parents are already talking about arranging a profitable marriage for the boy, an idea which is not as distasteful to him as it was a few years ago. And when he greets Brother Luke in the courtyard of Castle Walden he is already looking forward to challenging his tutor with questions about the movement of the stars – since the last visit he has been burning to ask why should it be that some stars reverse their course periodically? Brother Stephen who predated Brother Luke would usually reply to a seemingly difficult question with the glib “It is the will of God who directs all things according to his pleasure.”
But as soon as Brother Stephen has greeted him making the sign of the cross he begins “Perhaps you have heard your father making arrangements for you to further your studies at the school at Oxford?”
Mildly surprised, Geoffrey nods.
“It is important that you should receive the education that befits the man who will one day be duke, today I will begin teaching you about the trivium.”
“The threefold foundation of knowledge?”
“Indeed.” And before even leaving the courtyard, Brother Luke retrieves the slate and piece of chalk from his satchel making a hasty drawing.
Geoffrey looks at the clover leaf shape as Brother Luke adds annotations to each lobe:
“This is Grammar, this Rhetoric, and this Dialectic – Rhetoric, Veritas non est, et Dialectic, Veritas non est, sed Rhetoric, et Dialectic cum Grammar, Veritas est?”, he looks to Geoffrey to confirm that the lad understands.
“And this shape!” the boy remarks, “It is like the windows in the chapel! Truly Brother Luke, you are a cunning tutor!”

Tarte Of Strawberyes 1557 A.D.

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Tarte Of Strawberyes 1557 A.D.

From Margaret Parker’s own cook book “A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye” 1557
To make a tarte of strawberyes take and strayne theym wyth the yolkes of foure egges, and a lyttle whyte breade grated, then season it up wyth suger and swete butter and so bake it.

Short paest for tarte: take fyne floure and a cursey of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolckes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye. “the coffyn must be fyrste hardened in the oven”

1557 Strawberry Tart For The Modern Kitchen
For the fruit filling use 500g strawberries, 4 egg yolks, 2 slices of bread, grated to make breadcrumbs 150g brown sugar (demerara), 100g unsalted butter (melted)
For the pastry: 300g plain flour, 150g whole meal flour, 200g butter, softened, 2 egg yolks, 2 tbsp water (warm), 2 strands of saffron.

Preserved by Onthetudortrail.com

Illustration on the Left: “The Banquet in the Pine Forest”by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510).
Source: Tudor-History.com

Fantastical Medieval Bestiary

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Illustration: The Beast of the Apocalypse, in ‘The Royal Books of Virtues and Vices’ – Often known as ‘Le Somme le Roy’, the homilies in this manuscript were compiled at the request of King Philip III (‘the Bold’) of France by a Dominican friar, Lorens d’Orleans, in 1279. Lorens assembled pre-existing writings from a number of manuscripts on subjects such as the ten commandments, articles of faith, Book of Revelations, Creed, seven deadly sins, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and seven cardinal virtues. It is interesting that this copy of it belonged to the cloister of St Augustine in Canterbury because an English translation of it called ‘The Ayenbite of Inwyt’ (‘The Again-Biting of Inner Wit’, meaning remorse of conscience) which the monk Dan Michel of Northgate, Kent, started was finished there in 1340.
Source: British Library

Video: Tempus est iocundum “Codex Buranus, 179” by Artefactum

Fantastical Medieval Bestiary

“Totus enim mundus diversis creaturis plenus est; quasi liber scriptus variis litteris et sententiis plenus in quo legere possumus quicquid imitari vel fugere debeamus.” (For the whole world is full of different creatures, like a book written with various words and full of sentences in which we can read what we should imitate and avoid.) – Thomas of Chobham (d. c. 1236), Summa de Arte Praedicandi 7.2

Society has long been interested in the unknown or misunderstood. Bestiary included. Last week, as seen in Beowulf, we were introduced to the monster Grendel and a dragon. The theme of a mythical monster such as the dragon was one of many animals that graced the pages of many medieval manuscripts. The medieval fascination of bestiary, derives its meaning from the medieval interest in animals. Animals held both mystical and sacred elements with in Medieval culture and lore. Though the illustrations were at times not realistic, they were a common text of the period. For example, Book of Beasts, which was an expansion of Physiologus. The book portrays elements of a beast and uses its named description as means for an allegorical teaching. Included are other texts from several of other sources that describe this relationship further. The Book of Beasts by no means is a zoology book, but it is a combination of religious text and descriptions of the medieval world.
These fantastical animals also found there way to illustrated, and also very luxurious Latin manuscripts such as the Harley Bestiary and the Aberdeen Bestiary. In these manuscripts the images served as ‘visual language’ for those who could not read but who were familiar with the stories they represented. Morality stories and sermons were taught using these images. Famous and popular images of unicorns, griffins, and dragons, illustrators based off previous imagery, though to the medieval man, their existence remained questionable. Add the imagery to a religious text such as the Bible, made the origins of these animals even more complicated. These manuscripts were largely written in Latin, and others in vernacular languages, mainly French. Latin Bestiary’s were primary of English origin with some being written in vernacular languages mainly in French. Bestiary written in Latin was primarily from England, with some made also in France. Many were authorless, but belonged to particular groupings of manuscripts or families. Some of the French manuscripts give the author’s name such as Gervaise, who wrote Bestiaire, his own work in a Norman and French dialect in the beginning of the thirteenth century. Other manuscripts can be dated as far back as the twelfth century by their respective authors.
Though the period of their production was short, primarily in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the portrayal of animals and their imagery, within these manuscripts influenced inspiration for many literary works centuries after. They created a world both natural and imaginative that seduced various readers to explore and read and still do today.

Winter Is Coming

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Illustration: Medieval Winter scene in ‘The Golf Book’ by Simon Bening, c.1540, British Library.

Video:Mirie it is” by Krless

Winter Is Coming

Quand je lou tans refroidier voi et geleir
et les arbres despoillier et iverneir
adonc me voil aaizier et sejorneir
a boen feu leiz lou brazier, et a vin cleir
en chade mason par lou tans fellon;
ja n’ait il perdon ki n’amet sa garison.
Je ne voil pas chivachier et feu bouteir
et si haz mout garroier et cris leveir
et grans proies acoillier et gent robeir;
asseis i a fol mestier a tot gasteir;
a poc d’acheson se prannent baron
par consoil bricon muevent guerres et tansons.
Kant je seus leiz lo brasier et j’oz venteir
et je voi plain lou hastier a feu torneir,
et lou boen vin dou sillier amont porteir,
adonc voil boivre et mangier
et repozeir a feu de charbons…
When I see the weather turning cold and starting to freeze and the trees going bare and winter coming,
then I want to ease up and spend time
with a good fire beside the brazier, and a glass of claret
in a warm house during foul weather;
may he have no pardon, who won’t take care of himself.
I don’t want to ride out and burn places down,
and so I really hate going to war and the battle cries
and piling up great pillage and robbing people;
it’s a crazy enough business to waste everything;
for little gain the masters in charge
counseled with lies start wars and disputes.
When I’m home by the fire and I hear the wind outside
and I see the loaded spit turning on the grill,
and good wine from the cellar being brought up,
then I want to drink and eat and rest, by the wood fire…

Singing As We Go

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Illustration: Alfonso X “el Sabio” (1221 – 1284) – King of Castile & León

Video:Cantiga 350: “Santa María, Sennor” by Gilles Binchois Ensemble

Singing As We Go

Though we are wearied by the road, our spirits are renewed by the songs of the miracles that have been granted to those who worship the blessed virgin. And may God be ever merciful to the wise king Alfonso through whose lands we pass.
In the course of our journey there has been much discussion of the benefits each of us hopes for in our pilgrimage and when for the first time since crossing into Castile, Knecht Marlein speaks it is to advise us that he has read the words of king Alfonso in advice to knights, that the perfect knight should be clean in body and in soul.
“A Moorish physician told me that a wound heals more quickly when it is tended closely and kept clean. Is it true, as I have heard, that King Alfonso reigns over one of the most learned courts in Christendom?”
“Aye! For I tell you the truth, I travelled to the city of Toledo as a youth with my father, a merchant. He had contracted to buy arms made by the smiths of Toledo and as you can see by the fur-trimmed cloak I bought with my share of the goods we sold, they make some of the best weapons in Europe.
Upon hearing of our arrival within the bounds of Castile, King Alfonso sent his herald to summon my father to his court. For more than three hours, we were interviewed by his ministers, keen to determine in what fields the craftsmen and indeed the scholars of Metz might exceed those of Castile and Leon. And before we departed we were granted a brief audience with his majesty’s person. The king himself wished my father God speed and a prosperous journey, excusing himself to return to his discussion of the constellations with his astrologers. Come, who knows another song in praise of the tender virgin?”

On this Day 1399: King Richard II of England Abdicates

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Illustration: Richard II King of England (1367-1400) resigns his crown – 30th September 1399.

Abdication of Richard II, from the Froissart Chronicles

By the exile of Norfolk and Hereford in September 1398 he seemed to have removed the last persons he need fear. He was so confident that in May 1399 he paid a second visit to Ireland, taking with him all his most trusted adherents. Thus when Henry landed at Ravenspur in July he found only half-hearted opposition, and when Richard himself returned it was too late. Ultimately Richard surrendered to Henry at Flint on the 19th of August, promising to abdicate if his life was spared. He was taken to London riding behind his rival with indignity.

On the 30th of September he signed in the Tower a deed of abdication, wherein he owned himself insufficient and useless, reading it first aloud with a cheerful mien and ending with a request that his cousin would be good lord to him. The parliament ordered that Richard should be kept close prisoner, and he was sent secretly to Pontefract. There in February 1400 he died: no doubt of the rigour of his winter imprisonment, rather than by actual murder as alleged in the story adopted by Shakespeare. The mystery of Richard’s death led to rumours that he had escaped, and an impostor pretending to be Richard lived during many years under the protection of the Scottish government. But no doubt it was the real Richard who was buried without state in 1400 at King’s Langley, and honourably reinterred by Henry V at Westminster in 1413.

Taken from: Luminarium – Anthology of English literature

Pie with Chicken, Pork, Cheese, Herbs and Spices

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Illustration: Banquet Given By Charles V In Honour Of His Uncle Emperor Charles IV In 1378.

From Tourte parmesane, Modus (1380-1390)

Alchemy: Make the shortcrust pastry dough. Finely chop the pork and pork belly. Chop the chicken breasts into small cubes. Mix the chopped pork belly with spices, then herbs, eggs, salt, and finally cheese. Add the chopped pork and the chicken. Mix well. Roll out the dough and fill a pie mold with a portion of the shortcrust dough (1/2cm thick). Add the stuffing. Spread the stuffing then seal the pie crust. Score the top of the pie crust 2-3 times. Roll a small strip of parchment paper to obtain a cylinder of 2-3 mm in diameter and 1-2 cm high. Stick the “chimney” in the dough to let steam escape during cooking (ensure the hole does not close). Cook for about 1hr as such: 20min in a hot oven, 30-40min in a medium oven (according to the size of the pie dish), leave for 5min in the oven after turning off the heat. Let cool and unmold. Cut into slices just before serving.
Ingredients: 400 g chicken breasts, 400 g pork, 500 g pork belly (or jowl), 100 g grated Gruyère cheese, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/8 teaspoon cloves, 20 g parsley, 10 g mint, 10 g fresh marjoram and 15 g salt.
Cooking Time: c. 1 hour

Preserved
by Oldcook.com – “Gastronomie médiévale & Histoire de la cuisine”

The Epic Poem of Beowulf

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Illustration: The Book of Kellsilluminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, VI – IXc.

Video: BEOWULF: Hurdy-Gurdy & Theremin by Alden and Cali Hackmann & Peter Pringle.

The Epic Poem of Beowulf

Beowulf is famed as the world’s longest epic poem in Old English of the Anglo-Saxons. Composed before the Norman Conquest of 1066, it is estimated, it was written between 975 and 1025 by anonymous poet. The poem over 30,000 lines long, tells of a hero named Beowulf, and his adventures with a monster named Grendel, and a treasure hording dragon. The story is classified like many early lyrical poems that emphasize the triumph of good over evil.

Set in Denmark, the monster Grendel is troubling the kingdom. The kingdom of its setting, over the years historians have attempted to associate it with the kingdom and court of King Cnut The Great or King Alfred the Great. Nonetheless the poem is of Scandinavian origin. Beowulf seeks out the monster Grendel from hearing the troubles of his neighbouring kingdom. Along with a band of warriors he sails to give assistance. He encounters Grendel in combat and takes his arm, ending the life of the monster. With the death of Grendel the kingdom of the Danes rejoiced, meanwhile Grendel’s mother seeks revenge over her son’s death. She wages an attack on the Dane king’s hall. Beowulf too, later seeks her out. Beowulf travels to her lair that is in an underwater grotto, and subsequently slays her.

Fifty years later, the story continues while Beowulf is now king of the Geats, another group of ancient peoples. But now a dragon is reaping the lands in terror. The dragon is also guarding a much-desired treasure. The encounter with the fierce dragon is unfortunately Beowulf’s last battle, as he is mortally wounded before he slays the dragon. The conclusion of the poem is the funeral for the great Beowulf.

The poem of ‘Beowulf’ is just one of works in its manuscript. Along with the poem, is a homily on St. Christopher, ‘Marvels of the East’, with illustrations, the ‘Letter of Alexander to Aristotle’, and a copy of ‘Judith’, an Old English poem. It is believed two Anglo-Saxon scribes, whom worked together, compiled the whole collection. Unfortunately, the manuscript was damaged by fire in 1731 where the manuscript was housed in Ashburnham House at Westminster. Over time handling too has damaged the manuscript. It is now preserved today by digitalisation by the British Library. The original is stored away to prevent further damage.

Owned by various individuals over time, Laurence Nowell (d. 1570) a scholar of the Old English language, to later Sir Robert Cotton (d. 1631). It has been translated to date by many, including J.R.R. Tolkien (d. 1973), and written in over eleven different languages. It remains one of the most famous lyrical poems of the literary world.

Source: British Library Online

Extra Virgin

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Illustration: St Mary Magdalene from Sforza Book of Hours by Giovanni Pietro Birago, c. 1520

Video: Cuando el Rey Nimrod by Musica Ficta & Ensemble Fontegara

Extra Virgin

The story is told, that before God made woman, in the garden of Eden Adam complained of the heat. And God caused the olive tree to spring from the ground, shading him. Today, I would rather stand in the pale wintry sun than shiver in the shade on this muddy slope!
But there are olives laying on the ground all around me, the most diligent members of the family are even turning over every fallen leaf to be sure they do not miss a single fallen fruit. And many of these will be pickled in brine as soon as they have been cleaned, to help sustain the family through the fruitless winter months. Even old grandfather Perez and grandmothers Julia and Luisa the widow as she is known down in the village are bent double, tossing the fruit into their baskets.
With the help of their father and uncle Cesar, young Bernardo and Jorge are clambering into the branches of the first of the trees which will be shaken to dislodge the olives that are ripe on the trees while the women spread great lengths of netting on the ground to catch the harvest as it falls.
The family Lopéz have been farming olives and sheep on the hills of Andalucia since the days of the Roman empire. The family property dwindled under the caliphate of Cordoba, but since the days of the reconquista, some of their holding has been restored.
“Magdalena! Sing for us while we labor!” her mother calls across to the six-year-old who seems to have become distracted by something in the fallen leaves and the piping voice of the little girl begins a familiar sephardic song, from the days before the grandparents became, at least nominally, converts to the catholic faith.

A Teuton in the Netherlands

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Video: Cantiga 166 (CSM 166) by Vox Vulgaris

A Teuton in the Netherlands

Dieterich wiped the sweat from his forehead. It was unusually warm fort he time of the year: fall had just begun, yet the sun stood high in the sky, raining its beams on the commandery. The grapes in the garden were ripe and swollen, as if they would burst and make wine flow over the fields. The bees would soon retreat fort he cold of winter, but today, they were buzzing like a thousand hurdy-gurdies. As Dieterich walked trough the village, he thought to himself that the villagers were as numerous as the bees, just not as busy. It was too warm fort hem to work, especially fort he smith and the baker, with their fires; Instead, you would find them close to the river, catching fishes or swimming. Dieterich smiled. What a difference with the past years, which he had spent up in the North: no wine flowing over the fields, but pagan blood. No bees, but ravens and crows. Instead of walking full of sweat, he would be clad in layers of wool and steel, to fend off stinging cold and arrows. And the villagers there would run in fear as he came by, instead of enjoying themselves. No bees, but swarms of flies attracted by rotten meat, and…

But what did it matter? He was home, back in Saint-Pietersvoeren, amongst his comrades. And as Dieterich walked trough the gates of his commandery, he whistled a happy tune and thanked god fort he sun and peace.