A MEDIEVAL WOMAN'S LIFE - AT HOME
- BIRTHS - WEDDINGS - DIVORCE - DEATHS - MANNERS - EDUCATION - EMPLOYMENT
CLOTHES - ITEMS OF CLOTHING - DRESS ACCESSORIES FABRICS & SEWING BEAUTY, HEALTH & HYGIENE MY TALKS MY SEWING MY ARTIFACTS BIBLIOGRAPHY LINKS
MATERIALS - MARRIAGE BROOCHES - RING BROOCHES - CLOAK CLASPS - PILGRIM BADGES
of the most constantly depicted pieces of jewellery over the entire
of the middle ages is the brooch. Brooches were used as wedding gifts,
to close cloaks, at the shoulders of mantles, to pin paternosters to
clothing and as markers of visits to holy places in the form of pilgrim
badges. Artifacts have also been found over a wide expanse of time periods
and countries- from the viking and dark ages to the late renaissance.
Many were simple in their design,
although many of immense beauty and excellent workmanship have been
Materializing Resistant Identities among the Medieval Peasantry is an article from 2009 which looks at archaeological finds from rural villages throughout England, such as Wharram Percy and Bolton. The author, Sally V. Smith, looks at the dress accessories found at these sites and burial places. It includes brooches, buckles and pins.
Her research finds that few of these items were made of poor quality metal. Surprisingly, most were copper or iron, with one made from gold. She concludes that peasants were not choosing items made using the cheapest metals available. Over half were decorated or purely decorative providing an interesting contrast to the common perception of peasants in ragged clothing laboring in the fields.
It is possible that these items were not worn daily and saved for best or special occasions the same way that special jewellery is reserved for special occasions today. One would hardly wear a diamond tiara to work or shopping these days and it is possible that the same attitude was prelevant then also. What is interesting to note is that they possessed these items at all. It is possible that these items were acquired for a life milestone such as a marriage, but without documented evidence, it is difficult to say for certain. Pictured at right is a beautiful ring brooch with gemstones set into it from the middle Rhine region of Germany which dates between 1340 and 1349.
The brooch shown at left is made in Burgundy or Germany and is dated at 1430. It is constructed from gold and is enameled and set with precious stones- pearls, a diamond above and a ruby below. It shows a man and a woman together both wearing blue robes, the colour associated with consistency, and a woven fence around them. The clear white of the diamond represented the durability of love while the ruby represented love's fiery force. This brooch could have been worn by either a man or a woman.
Johannes de Hauville wrote of a marriage brooch when he wrote:
The first style was a largish ornate single brooch which held the cloak closed at the centre of the throat. An example of the single-clasp style can be seen in the detail of the image at right Virgin and Child from Prague in 1345-1350. It shows a very large and elaborate gold brooch with gemstones set in a pattern radiating from the centre.
The second style of cloak clasps, which were also usually very ornate, were a jewelled pair of brooches and were used by the wealthy to fasten their mantles. These were worn roughly at collarbone height and fastened with a cord which was often shown in artworks and sculptures as being tasseled.
The sculpture from the Namburg Cathedral in Germany at left is from the pair Count Eckkhard II and Uta is dated from 1250 and shows a large, jewel set brooch which is joined to a band which runs across the wearer's chest and to another identical brooch on the other side.
The ring brooch shown at right is from the Museum of London's collection and is dated at the 13th Century. It is defined as a Lovers Brooch and is made from gold and set with alternating rubies and sapphires. It is believed to be either English or French manufacture. The message on the back translates to I am here in place of the friend I love.
The double ring brooch shown above is made from gold as has green stones and a large sapphire set into it. It is from England from approximately 1300 and it would have been worn across the front of a cloak- each ring brooch fastening one side of the mantle and the rigid setting across the chest would be instead of the usual cord fastening.
Most pilgrim badges were made of an alloy of lead and tin or pewter. Badges favoured by women usually featured St Katherine, patron saint of learning for young women, or of the Virgin Mary.
The badge at left depicts the head of John the Baptist, patron saint of Perth in Amiens, France. It is completely intact, with four rings which enabled the badge to be sewn onto the pilgrim's hat or cloak. The back is decorated with a crucifix design and the inscription on the front identifies it as the sign of John the Baptist.
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