Making a Heraldric bishop mitres helmet.

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Making a Heraldric bishop mitres helmet.

Post by Brother Ranulf »

A note of caution when dealing with manuscript illuminations: they must be approached with a certain amount of scepticism, knowledge of contemporary ideas and thorough understanding of the time the picture was produced and the symbolism used at the time. In this case the artist wanted to show a bishop armed and prepared for battle, so for him the obvious way of indicating the status of the man was to perch a real mitre on top of his head irrespective of what was actually worn. This would be just like modern cartoonists attaching a label, caption or speech bubble to a figure to help identify him.

While the picture may represent events of the First Crusade, it obviously dates from much later (13th century), when nobody alive would have known how the bishop looked at that time - it's a medieval fantasy picture. The mitre shown is a style that only developed during the second half of the 12th century, so it is simply impossible for bishop Adhemar to have worn it.

For the illuminator, swords could slice through helmets and maille as easily as through a loaf of bread - this was simply shorthand for the horrors of battle, not an accurate reflection of the real capabilities of type x or type xi swords (Ewart Oakeshott's sword typology). So be very cautious about taking things literally - concentrate more on the mind of the artist.
Last edited by Brother Ranulf on Wed Dec 09, 2009 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
Brother Ranulf

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Making a Heraldric bishop mitres helmet.

Post by Brother Ranulf »

This may be helpful:

Image

The first two mitres are very early, 10th to 11th centuries. Three and four date to the 11th to mid-12th centuries (the kind worn by bishop Adhemar). Five is a mitre from the second half of the 12th century, and so it goes on up to the present. All of them are of linen and/or silk, with two long ribbons ("infulae") hanging at the rear, each ending in a fringe.
Brother Ranulf

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Colin Middleton
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Re: Making a Heraldric bishop mitres helmet.

Post by Colin Middleton »

Brother Ranulf wrote:A note of caution when dealing with manuscript illuminations: they must be approached with a certain amount of scepticism, knowledge of contemporary ideas and thorough understanding of the time the picture was produced and the symbolism used at the time. In this case the artist wanted to show a bishop armed and prepared for battle, so for him the obvious way of indicating the status of the man was to perch a real mitre on top of his head irrespective of what was actually worn. This would be just like modern cartoonists attaching a label, caption or speech bubble to a figure to help identify him.
Well said Brother, but equally do we have any evidence for bishops in battle NOT wearing a mitre? If we've no evidence that they didn't would it not be more sensible to work from this peice of evidence that they did, even if it is of very limited reliability.

Naturally, you should then admit it's conjectural nature to anyone with whom you're discussing such an artifact.
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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Making a Heraldric bishop mitres helmet.

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There's the Bayeux Tapestry and its depiction of Bishop Odo, who wears a standard Norman helmet - nothing at all to mark him out as a dignitary apart from the baculum or wooden club he carries. Bishops in 1066 normally looked just as impressive as bishops in 1366, although their mitres were a different shape, so I believe it is significant that he is shown dressed in the standard battle kit of the time (although some people see him as adding a padded outer garment, this is not liturgical but military).
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Colin Middleton
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Re: Making a Heraldric bishop mitres helmet.

Post by Colin Middleton »

Thank you.
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Re: Making a Heraldric bishop mitres helmet.

Post by Redders »

Even tho we are separated by a few hundred years.

When Military Grenadier & Musicians Mitres in the C18th became 'Stiffened' (The earlier ones were floppy fatigue style).
Buckram or leather was used.

The Military Mitre design originated from the church headwear so there may well be a common link here?????
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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Making a Heraldric bishop mitres helmet.

Post by Brother Ranulf »

It hadn't really occurred to me that grenadier mitres and bishops' mitres were linked but they obviously are, however remotely. Naturally the military version would be made to be more robust and hard-wearing, so a stiffening of buckram or leather is logical.

For the ecclesiastical version, there were very strict rules about materials, as there were with all liturgical garments and the objects used by priests generally. Early mitres appear to have been entirely of linen - none of the early-shaped mitres survive, but there are records of the materials used. Linen was made in a variety of qualities and thickness (canvas was originally of hemp or a very thick linen), but it could also be lined with a slightly stiffer lining material - but probably not leather. Much of the stiffness came from the bands of embroidered decoration (aurifrisia) around the lower edge and up the front and back; some medieval mitres had embroidery all over, or bore illustrations such as the martyrdom of Becket or some other Saint. This embroidery, and its inner backing, would give the linen less flexibility.

From the 13th century silk was used more frequently for mitres, again with a stiff lining of linen or some other material, often very heavily decorated: "Besides several hundred large and small pearls, a mitre of the late Middle Ages in St. Peter's at Salsburg is also ornamented with about five hundred more or less costly precious stones; it weighs over five and a half pounds. Similar mitres are also mentioned in the inventory of 1295 of Boniface VIII." [Catholic Encyclopedia].
Brother Ranulf

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

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