The figure of a knight on horseback is the emblem of medieval chivalry. Much has been written on the ideology and practicalities of knighthood as portrayed in medieval romance, especially Arthurian romance, and it is surprising that so little attention was hitherto granted to the knight’s closest companion, the horse. This study examines the horse as a social indicator, as the knight’s animal alter ego in his spiritual peregrinations and earthly adventures, the ups and downs of chivalric adventure, as well as the relations between the lady and her palfrey in romance. Both medieval authors and their audiences knew more about the symbolism and practice of horsemanship than most readers do today. By providing the background to the descriptions of horses and horsemanship in Arthurian romance, this study deepens the readers’ appreciation of these texts. At the same time, critical reading of romance supplies information about the ideology and daily practice of horsemanship in the Middle Ages that is otherwise impossible to obtain from other sources, be it archaeology, chronicles or administrative documentation.
Why would you want to insert penworked letters, gold-leaf and illuminations on your legal document: company statues, a contract, a grant of land or even an indulgence? This may seem like a waste of time in the modern business context, but in the medieval culture visuals carried their own significance. The messages could be multiple. Look, it’s important, because whoever ordered or produced this document put extra time and materials into it! This document won’t get thrown away, because it’s so beautiful! It’s so rich, it must be authentic. Not to mention the visual shorthand the illuminations would generate for the document’s content. All of which, of course, could be highly misleading, because a forgery can get illuminated just as easily as an original, which I learned through my study of medieval Livonian charters.
The Art and Architecture of the Cistercians in Northern England, c.1300-1540
Author: Michael Carter
2019, c. 328 pages
Retail price: EUR 100,00 excl. tax
The Cistercian abbeys of northern England provide some of the finest monastic remains in all of Europe, and much has been written on their twelfth- and thirteenth-century architecture. The present study is the first in-depth analysis of the art and architecture of these northern houses and nunneries in the late Middle Ages, and questions many long-held opinions about the Order’s perceived decline during the period c.1300–1540. Extensive building works were conducted between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries at well-known abbeys such as Byland, Fountains, Kirkstall, and Rievaulx, and also at lesser-known houses including Calder and Holm Cultram, and at many convents of Cistercian nuns. This study examines the motives of Cistercian patrons and the extent to which the Order continued to enjoy the benefaction of lay society.
Featuring over a hundred illustrations and eight colour plates, this book demonstrates that the Cistercians remained at the forefront of late medieval artistic developments, and also shows how the Order expressed its identity in its visual and material cultures until the end of the Middle Ages.
Jessica Barker, Lecturer in Medieval History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, will lead a seminar entitled Inscribing Colonialism in Fifteenth-Century Portugal. The session will consider inscriptions, readability and visibility in funerary monuments, and their intersections with early Portuguese explorations in West Africa.
Maius is a friendly platform for informal dialogue and collaborative research. Our sessions are open to all, and research in early stages of development is especially welcome. We look forward to seeing you at this event, and please feel free to email us with ideas and suggestions for future meetings.
Image: Detail of inscription on the north side of the monument to João I and Philippa of Lancaster, 1426–34. Founder’s Chapel, monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, Batalha. Photo: Jessica Barker.