Monks Garb in Wales 12th century

Moderator: Moderators

cadwal
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:53 am

Monks Garb in Wales 12th century

Postby cadwal » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:04 pm

Hello, my first enquiry. Does anyone have any idea what garb monks in St Davids and other associated native monastic institutions in the first half of the 12th century would have worn before the Cistercians came along.
Cadawal



User avatar
Brother Ranulf
Post Centurion
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:46 pm
Location: Canterbury

Re: Monks Garb in Wales 12th century

Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue Nov 06, 2012 8:47 am

Please don't use the word "garb" - it gives me a headache. The precise date that black was adopted as the colour for Benedictine habits, scapulars and cowls is not recorded but it seems to have been some time around 1080 and it extended to all Benedictine monasteries throughout western Europe. I have a copy of James G Clark's recent work "The Benedictines in the Middle Ages" which is a very scholarly, dry and detailed study of the Order, with some specifics on Welsh monastic houses but very little on the clothing. The term "Black monks" is mentioned, along with an emphasis on simplicity and utility.

Intense and reliable black is a very difficult colour to achieve using natural dyes, so think of it as a very dark brow/grey, not jet black (think Cadfael from the tv series and you will be looking at a reasonable depiction of medieval "black" in the early 12th century).

Monasteries had considerable say in their own interpretation of the Rule of St Benedict, which generously allows for regional variations to cope with extreme climates (in frigidus regionibus). Some northern monasteries permitted breeches, sheepskins and cheap fur garments under the habits (formalibus pelliciisque), whereas the Rule sets out a general ban on breeches except for journeys away from the monastery. The result is that two neighbouring Welsh monasteries could have different rules on what was worn and this would have been even more variable because the clothing was either made by the monks themselves or made by a local layman.

In general, a thigh-length natural linen shirt was worn under the habit, which normally had very overlong, baggy sleeves that completely hid the hands when worn at full length - the sleeves were either turned back or bunched up the arm. The habit was worn with a leather, cloth or cord belt tied at the front, from which the knife was carried in its leather sheath. Turnshoes of black or tan leather on the feet, perhaps with woollen undershoes (think socks). A scapular was worn for manual work to keep the habit clean - this was a long rectangle of black wool with a hole in the middle for the head; it was worn hanging to about the shins front and back and over the belt.

In the early 12th century some monks wore a separate shoulder-length cowl over the habit, particularly for attending services, processions and at other times. There was also a full-length cowl like a closed cloak fitted with a hood and sleeves which was generally worn in Church.

The identifying feature of all members of the Church from doorkeeper to pope was the Roman tonsure, leaving just a ring of hair around the head.

Definitely no pendant cross (unless you happen to be the abbot), no cap or skullcap, no ornamentation of any kind.

I am not aware of any images of Welsh monks from that early part of the century - and very few from Anglo-Norman England. This is an early 12th century portrayal of St Benedict himself giving his Rule to his monks. Blue here stands for black:

St._Benedict.jpg


Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

User avatar
Colin Middleton
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 2037
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 12:31 pm
Location: Sheffield
Contact:

Re: Monks Garb in Wales 12th century

Postby Colin Middleton » Tue Nov 06, 2012 1:32 pm

Brother Ranulf wrote:a very dark brow/grey, not jet black

I take it that a dark blue was too costly?


Colin

"May 'Blood, blood, blood' be your motto!"

Image

User avatar
Brother Ranulf
Post Centurion
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:46 pm
Location: Canterbury

Re: Monks Garb in Wales 12th century

Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue Nov 06, 2012 2:15 pm

Colin - the blue colour was definitely used as an artistic convention to represent black in the first half of the 12th century. Bestiaries from the same period show ravens, crows and blackbirds coloured blue. The white lines used around the ends of the sleeves and hems are also an artistic convention of the time because the usual black outlines did not show up too well - some people have misinterpreted these as evidence for a white lining inside the habit but there is clearly no such lining within the sleeves.

In the second half of the 12th century pure black is used to represent Benedictine habits, possibly reflecting better dyes.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

User avatar
Colin Middleton
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 2037
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 12:31 pm
Location: Sheffield
Contact:

Re: Monks Garb in Wales 12th century

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Nov 09, 2012 1:50 pm

Sorry Brother Ranulf, I've not been very clear. One of the ways to create black is to dye a deep wode, then overdye with red, such as madder or grain (if you can aford it). That should give a good black that fades to blue (as the reds are more fugitive than the blue, I think), rather than fading to grey/brown from the iron-black.

Colin


Colin

"May 'Blood, blood, blood' be your motto!"

Image

User avatar
Brother Ranulf
Post Centurion
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:46 pm
Location: Canterbury

Re: Monks Garb in Wales 12th century

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:48 pm

Sorry Colin, I was on a different wavelength. It seems likely that iron gall was the early dye and the woad base for black came in during the latter part of the 12th century, since that is when pure blue/black is used for monastic habits in artwork (and white outlines on sleeves, hems and other details really needed to be used routinely as a result). Cost would not have been an issue (even though the Rule specifies "whatever cloth can be obtained most cheaply") the Church by the late 12th century was second only to the king in terms of wealth and property and was importing gold, lapis lazuli and frankincense in huge quantities and was using high-quality bleached linens for altar cloths, priestly vestments and other things.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

Normannis
Posts: 21
Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:08 am

Re: Monks Garb in Wales 12th century

Postby Normannis » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:23 am

I did speak to the Mulberry dyer about black in the 12th century, and he had a few samples to look at- one that had been overdyed in multiple colours until it had reached almost the modern standard of 'true' black, a deep brown wool from Welsh Black sheep that had then been dyed with (I think he said) Oak Galls and iron water, and another one that was just iron-dye on woolen cloth.
The three were different on close inspection- the first being 'true black' pretty much, the second being very black but with a hint of browny-greyness, and the third being very, very deep grey. Given that in period black seems to have been a cheap colour for monastic use, and at the same time part of the expensive garb belonging to the Holy Roman Emperor. Obviously one consideration is what is being dyed; dyeing linen or silk is significantly more difficult than wool, so black silk would have required a truly huge amount of dye. I have a book about period dyestuff *somewhere* that mentioned iris roots, woad and kermes as producing black in period- but I'd have to chase that up- but it would be an expensive method, requiring a large growth of indigenous dye-plants, and then foreign imported dyes.
I think there's a case for 'which black is which'- IE- monastic men and Hospitaller wearing a black achieved by iron water, and nobles wearing black achieved by expensive dyes which gave a deeper colour that did not fade as easily over time. In this case it would explain it being a 'plain' colour for monastries whilst also being an expensive choice for noblemen.




Return to “1100-1500”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 14 guests