Sunday, 11 December 2011

Food fit for a Teutonic Knight: Medieval Soups from Battle Castle

A couple of weeks ago the lovely people over at Battle Castle held a medieval soup challenge! Writer Nicole Tomlinson was inspired to begin the challenge after a visit to Poland's Malbork Castle where she saw the above picture of Cherry Soup in the book The Cuisine of the Teutonic Grand Masters in Malbork Castle written by the chef there Bodgan Galzaka. You can read more about this at the blog here.  

The challenge was to create the recipes using ingredients available to you but would also likely have been available to the Teutonic Order. Whilst it is too late to join in Battle Castle's soup challenge (apologies for my lateness in writing this!) you could still have a go at creating some of the delicious looking medieval soups that were inspired by the Teutonic Knights. Battle Castle have released three recipes for you to try out for yourself:

Mushroom Soup

Lentil Soup

Cherry Soup
I think the Cherry Soup looks delicious! Here's the recipe:

“ZUPA WISNIOWA” - Cherry Soup
Described as “a warm winter sangria”, this enchanting recipe captures Chef Galazka’s colourful vision and enahnces sweet fruit flavours to balance the delicious dryness of the #1 ingredient - red wine.
2 398 mL cans Bing cherries, 500 mL water, 100 mL wildberry honey, 1 L dry red wine, 250 mL Greek yogurt, 1 peach, 3 leaves of fresh mint, 1 lemon, ground cinnamon. Makes 6 meal-sized servings or 10 appetizer-sized servings.
Drain cherries. Pour water and honey into a pot. Add half the cherries and cook for 15 minutes at medium heat. Cut peach into thin slices, grate lemon zest and chop mint. Add wine to the pot and cook until alcohol has evaporated (approx. 3 minutes). Add cinnamon bit by bit, tasting until a desirable level of warm spiciness is achieved. Portion other half of cherries into bowls and then ladle hot soup over them. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt to each bowl. Finish with peach slices, mint, and lemon zest. Serve promptly.
Recipe inspired by “The Cuisine of the Teutonic Grand Masters in Malbork Castle” by Bogdan Galazka, Head Chef at the Gothic Cafe, located at the castle. Malbork is one of six castles featured in the Battle Castle action documentary series, airing in Canada in early 2012 on History Television and on Discovery UK.

For the other two recipes visit the blog here, and to find out more about the show which is hosted by Dan Snow click here

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Liebster Blog Award!

I've just been given a Liebster Blog award by The Early Modern World! Thank you very much!
The word Liebster is German & means ‘dearest’ or ‘beloved’ but it can also mean ‘favorite’. The award is given to bloggers with around 200 followers or less in the spirit of fostering new connections, and is a nice way to show appreciation for their work.

The Rules are:
  1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  2. Reveal your top five picks for the award and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Post the award on your blog.
  4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the blogsphere – other bloggers.
  5. And, best of all – have fun and spread the karma!
So, in no particular order, here are my 5 picks:

Pure Medievalry ~ This is a fairly new blog written by a lovely person I discovered on Twitter (@sirthopas). He writes about a variety of topics within the medieval period aimed towards newcomers, enthusiasts, and academics alike.

Esmeralda's Cumbrian History and Folklore ~ I love this blog! It's written by @mabhmac, and is definitely worth checking out!

Seeing Symbols ~ This is another blog that I discovered through Twitter. It's written by MrsSymbols. Her posts on symbols and the symbolic are always a fascinating read.

The String of Bede's ~ The focus of this blog is Christianity and culture in Britain and Ireland, and roughly covers the period 500-1100AD. It's written by @Bede_String from Twitter, and is updated regularly with interesting posts!

Vitrearum's Church Art ~ A great blog about church art, with a focus on the medieval. There are some beautiful images on here!

Even though I don't think I'm supposed to nominate The Early Modern World back, I'd just like to make a special mention to this blog. It's written by my good friend @EMhistblog. Despite it venturing far from my comfort zone of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the posts on there always interest me and are well written. So if you haven't read it already, head on over to The Early Modern World. It's rather good there!

Thursday, 17 November 2011


I love a good hell-mouth picture, so thought I'd post a few up here:

From a late 14C Book of Hours. This scene shows the Last Judgement. On the left border, souls climb a ladder up towards Heaven. At the bottom the dead awaken from their graves and move either towards paradise, or the gaping jaws of Hell.

 Part of a cycle of wall paintings at the church of Saint Mary in Pickering, North Yorkshire. They were completed in the late 15C, and restoration work was carried out in the 19C. This one shows Christ rescuing souls from the jaws of Hell.

 15C alabaster depicting the Harrowing of Hell. A small devil holding a key and blowing a horn is sitting on top of the hell-mouth, representing the doorkeeper of Hell.

 A page that illustrates the Office of the Dead from the Bedford Hours (15C). The centrepiece is an image of the Last Judgement. Christ welcomes worthy souls into Heaven, whilst the damned are beaten and dragged into Hell's mouth.

 Early 14C manuscript showing scenes of the life of Christ. The image at the top left depicts the Harrowing of Hell.

 An image from the Winchester Psalter (c.1225). The damned are being swallowed into a hell-mouth, with an angel to the left about to lock the jaws behind them. Inside Hell are lots of tortured souls, including kings and queens - nobody is above judgement.

 13C manuscript. this images shows the battle of the beast during the Last Judgement.

13C manuscript with this page depicting the fall of the angels. Christ sits above in his circle of Heaven surrounded by ranks of angels. In the lower part of the circle rebel angels can be seen falling downwards into the jaws of Hell, transforming into devils along the way.

Sources Used

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Heroes in Literature, Part One: William of Orange

William of Orange (or Guillaume d'Orange in Old French) is the central hero in a number of chansons de geste, including: Chanson de Guillaume, Enfances Guillaume, Couronnement de Louis, and Aliscans, amongst others. These poems along with others about William's family make up the 'cycle' of chansons known as the Cycle of William of Orange (the other two cycles are known as: The Cycle of the King, and The Cycle of Barons in Revolt).

Perhaps the most well known epic that has William as the hero is the Chanson de Guillaume (The Song of William). It is one of the oldest chansons and was the founding poem of the entire William of Orange cycle. It is likely that it was the popularity of the central hero William that inspired further song-tales of him and his family.

Figure 1. Abbey of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert
 The fictional character William of Orange has been identified with the historical Count William of Toulouse, a cousin of Charlemagne who was known for his defence of Christian land against Spanish pagans. After the death of his wife William befriended a monk, and later became one himself in Aniane. He founded an abbey in Gellone, which eventually became known as Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert after him. William of Toulouse died on 28 May 812, and was canonised in 1066.

Figure 2. William of Orange?
This image is within the Abbey of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert (currently housed at The Metrapolitan Museum in new York). It was once believed to depict Daniel in the lions' den, however it has been suggested that it could instead be William of Orange with the lion from his coat of arms (described in various works, including Couronnement de Louis).

I'll end this post with a small extract from the Chanson de Guillaume, which in my opinion is one of the finest of the Old French epics. This extract has Count William bravely arriving to the battlefield with back-up; persevering with the fight against the odds (a key theme throughout the poem): 

     The Count set off with Sir Girart and leading
     Knights fully armed and thirty thousand liegemen
     To Archamp field and Desramed the Heathen;
     They journeyed through the cold night air, unspeaking
     Till break of dawn and light of day appearing;
     When they arrived at Archamp on the seaboard,
     The Moor had won; the French were fled or beaten;
     (. . .)
     A league or more they'd ridden from the beaches,
     When William the Count rode up to meet them
     With well-armed knights and thirty thousand liegemen,
     One half of whom were very keen to greet them
     With blows of iron to show their strength of feeling!
     They cried: "Mountjoy!" and moved to strike them fiercely;
     Those Pagan lords were helpless to receive them:
     They had no arms to counter blows or deal them;
     They turned in flight towards the shore, retreating
     Inside their ships and sundry other sea-craft;
     They seized their arms and roused themselves to wield them.

Sources Used
  • Figure 2 is from William P. Gerritsen and Anthony G. van Melle (eds.), trans. by Tanis Guest, A Dictionary of Medieval Heroes: Characters in medieval Narrative Traditions and Their Afterlife in Literature, Theatre and the Visual Arts (The Boydell Press: Woodbridge, 2008), p. 134; see also pp. 132-6.
  • The extract of Chanson de Guillaume is from Michael Newth (trans.), Heroes of the French Epic:Translations from the Chansons de Geste (The Boydell Press: Woodbridge, 2005), p. 77; see also pp. 31-142.
  • ‘The Coronation of Louis’, in Joan M. Ferrante (trans.), Guillaume d’Orange: Four Twelfth-Century Epics (Columbia University Press: Chichester, 2001), pp. 63-139.
  • ‘The Song of William’, trans. by Muir, Lynette, in Glanville Price (ed.), William, Count of Orange: Four Old French Epics (J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd.: 1975), pp. 131-203.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Bearded Lady - The Legend of Saint Wilgefortis

Wilgefortis was a young Christian noblewoman, the daughter of a pagan king (sometimes the King of Portugal). Her father had arranged a marriage for her to another pagan. Reluctant to enter into the marriage because of the vow of chastity she had taken, she prayed for God to make her repulsive to her future husband. Miraculously, when she awoke she discovered she'd sprouted a beard! The newly grown beard had the effect Wilgefortis had hoped for, and as a result the engagement was broken. Her father was rather less pleased with his daughter's actions, and the consequences of her new beard. He became enraged, and ultimately had her crucified.

This legend is connected to a story that when a destitute fiddler played before her crucified body (or a statue of her) she gave him one of her golden boots. The fiddler was sentenced to death for the theft of her boot, but was granted his request to play before her for a second time. He did so, and in the presence of an audience she kicked off her other boot, thereby proving his innocence. Images of Wilgefortis often show her on the crucifix with one shoe off, and a fiddler playing at her feet.

The legend of Saint Wilgefortis became quite popular during the medieval period, and her cult spread from around 1350. She was often invoked by women having marital problems with their troublesome husbands. There are different versions of the story from various places, and the saint is known by many names. In England she was known as Uncumber. In the Austrian version she was known as Kümmernis, which came from 'Kummer' meaning 'sorrow' or 'sadness'. Whilst in Italy and France she was known as Liberata, meaning 'liberator'.  

Further Reading:

  • Elizabeth Nightlinger 'The Female Imitatio Christi and Medieval Popular Religion: The Case of St Wilgerfortis', in Bonnie Wheeler (ed.), Representations of the Feminine in the Middle Ages (Academia Press: Texas, 1993).
  • Isle E. Friesen, The Female Crucifix: Images of St. Wilgefortis Sine the Middle Ages (Wilfrid Laurier University Press: Ontario, 2001).

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Crusades and Those Left Behind

I've been reading through a lot of medieval poems/songs recently as part of research for my dissertation. I came across one called Giammi Non Mi Conforto (Never Again that Comfort for Me). It is from the mid-thirteenth century, and was written by an Italian nobleman named Rinaldo d'Aquino. I found it interesting because although it was written by a man, it is from the perspective of a woman who has been left behind by her crusader lover. It is really quite insightful into what the people who were left behind went through; and actually rather sad. 

Never Again that Comfort for Me

Never again that comfort, 
Never that joyous heart.
The ships down in the harbor
Are straining to depart.
Away all the people run
To lands across the sea.
But me - poor weeping thing -
What shall become of me?

Away, away he'll run, 
Fade quietly out of sight, 
Leaving me here alone.
All day, all the night
Many will be the sighs
That assail me constantly
Not in heaven, nor on earth
Will life exist for me.

O holy, holy Savior 
Who from Mary came our way!
Watch, protect that lover, 
Since you're taking him away.
O reverenced and feared
Power from above!
In your hands I place
My tender love.

O cross that saves mankind, 
You plummet me to error,
Twisting my grievous mind
Beyond all hope of prayer.
Why, O pilgrim cross,
Why this bitter turn?
Bowed beneath my loss,
I kindle; O I burn.

The Emperor who rules the world
In his peaceful sway
Ravages poor little me
By taking my hope away.
O reverenced and feared
Power from above!
In your hands I place
My tender love.

When he took up the cross,
I didn't know the end was this:
Whatever love he gave me
I repaid him kiss for kiss.
Now I'm thrust aside -
Yes, condemned to prison -
Now I'm forced to hide
In lifelong derision.

The ships are in their moorings.
Soon they'll depart.
With them and that rabble
Sails my heart.
O Father, O Creator,
Guide them to holy haven, 
By your sacred cross
They're all enslaven.
And O darling, I beg you:

Take pity on my hysteria.
Write me a little sonnet.
Send it to me from Syria!
Night and day I'll know
Only this bitter strife.
In lands beyond the ocean
Lies my whole life.1

1  Translation from S.J. Allen and Emilie Amt (eds.), The Crusades: A Reader (Broadview Press: Peterborough, 2003), pp.215-17.