by THL Isabelle de Foix


Some of these dates are approximate; time and dates meant little or nothing to most people in the Middle Ages. Erasmus, the great Renaissance humanist, didnít know the year of his birth, and he was hardly alone. Of course, I canít promise that I havenít made any mistakes.

828: Venetian merchants steal alleged relics of St. Mark (his bones) from a church in Alexandria and bring them back to Venice. St. Mark, or San Marco, as the Venetians called him, was declared the patron saint of Venice, and in 830 work was begun on the first San Marco church to house the relics. This burned down in 976, and the relics were lost in the fire. Byzantine architects and artisans were brought in for the construction of a new and larger edifice. When the new church was consecrated in 1095, the worshipers were asked to pray that the relics might be found undamaged. According to legend, a pillar fell to the groups and the bones, completely intact, were revealed. The church is a fine example of Byzantine architecture; the Byzantine passion for decoration ran riot with statues, a screen made in Constantinople out of enamel and gold ans set with 2,400 gems, mosaics, floors inlaid with jasper, agates, and other costly stones, frescoes and colored columns.

963: First record of the existence of a London bridge

996: Venetian merchants first import cane sugar from Alexandria

1000: First dikes built in the Netherlands by the Frisians

1015: In a monastery in the town of Pomposa, near Ravenna, Italy, sight-singing is introduced.

1040: According to legend, Earl Leofric of Mercia (now Englandís "West Country"), who lived in Coventry, agrees to abolish a burdensome tax if his lady, Godgifa (Godiva) agrees to ride through town unclad......

1113: Founding of St. Nicholas, in Novgorod, one of the earliest onion-domed Russian Orthodox churches

1120: Pierre Abelard, a scholar from Brittany, publishes his explosive "Sic et Non" ("Yes and No"). He took 156 topics, all dealing with articles of the Christian faith, and subjected them to a form of reasoning called dialectics, which had been invented by Aristotle. Using this form of reasoning, one takes a thesis--an argument in favor of a philosophical concept. Then one states the antithesis--an argument against the thesis. Finally, the dispute is solved in a synthesis. Only Abelard didn't use syntheses, unlike most of his contemporaries--and Aristotle. Abelard never admitted writing the controversial treatise, which he clandestinely circulated among his students. Prior to the twelfth century, Christian theologians distrusted reason and deemed it incompatible with faith. The use of logic to explain faith fueled the growth of Scholastic philosophy, and made it possible for St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of the Scholastic philosophers, to combine Aristotelian logic and Christian faith in his masterpiece, the "Summa Theologica"

1150: Christina "the Astonishing" born at Brusthem, near Liege, in what is now Belgium. She was orphaned at the age of three and had an epileptic seizure when she was about twenty-one. After this, several incredible things supposedly happened to her. After she had apparently died, one of these incredible things happened at the funeral Mass. She suddenly left the coffin and soared to the roof of the church. The priest told her to come down; she did, and told the priest that she had been to hell, purgatory, and heaven. She said that she had been allowed to return to earth to pray for the souls that were in purgatory. She could not tolerate the odor of other human beings and did extraordinary things to escape contact with other people, such as climbing trees, soaring to the roof of churches, and even hiding in ovens. Some thought her insane, but others venerated her as a saint. She died in 1224-- this time without leaving her coffin.

1156: Moscow founded by George Dolgoruki, who built a wall, most likely of wood, around his estate between two branches of the Muskva River. The town that grew around the wooden fortress took its name from the Muskva River; the fortress itself was known as the Kreml, the Russian word for "citadel". The French, and then other Europeans, started to call the fortress the "Kremlin". The word Kreml is of Tatar (Asiatic), not Slavic (Eastern European branch of the Indo-European languages, of which English is a member) origin.

1173: First documented influenza epidemic in Europe. For centuries, this illness was believed to have been caused by unfavorable "influences" of the Zodiac; thus its name.

1174: First mention of horse races in England. The races were "without the gates of London at Smithfield", says the source, William Fitzstephen, who described the city of London at length in his biography of St. Thomas Becket. There were also horse fairs, "usually attended", continues William, "by earls, barons, and knights". These nobles inspected and bought well-bred horses, as curious multitudes watched. In these races, the horses were ridden by professional jockeys, who used whips, spurs, and cries to urge them forward. An open field was cleared for the races; it served as the course.

1176: The first Eisteddfod held in Cardigan Castle, Wales. The word "eisteddfod" is Welsh for "sitting" or "session", and referred to a henceforth annual bardic competition with two main categories, one for poets and one for musicians.

1178--1185: Famous (or infamous) bridge at Avignon built. The power of the Rhone River is so great here that even the Romans--master builders--were never able to build a bridge leading out of the town they called Avenio. The medieval bridge was forever breaking down, forever being repaired, forever being avoided like the plague, and completely abandoned in 1680. Only four of the original nineteen arches remain.

1216: King John of England has an accident crossing the Wellstream when some of his packhorses and some members of his entourage get sucked into quicksand. Ralph, abbot of a Cistercian house in Essex, wrote that the courtiers had been too impatient to wait until the tide receded. The King lost his "treasures, precious vessels and the other things which he cherished with special care", according to Roger Wendover. The Wellstream flows into the Wash, a shallow bay of the North Sea. Later on a popular joke claimed that "King John lost his crown in the Wash". This joke was a reference to this disaster.

1218: Danneborg, the oldest national flag in the world, adopted by Denmark.

1225: Guillaum de Lorris (William of the Loire Valley), a scholar from Orleans, died after writing the first 4,666 lines of "Roman de la Rose", an allegorical courtly love poem, leaving the work unfinished. (When Jean Clopinel de Meung finished it 40 years later, it was 22.000 lines long). When they say "tradition dies hard", well, thatís true! In modern French, "un roman" means a novel; "un roman a líeau de rose" is an idiomatic expression meaning a romantic novel, and is a direct derivation from the name of the famous medieval poem.

1249: Roger Bacon records the existence of explosives.

1278: Invention of the glass mirror; prior to this all mirrors had been made out of metal.

1296: Edward I of England removes the "Stone of Destiny" from Scone Palace, near Perth (then the capital of Scotland) on which the Kings of Scotland had been crowned, and had it placed in Westminster Abbey by the tomb of William the Confessor. Edward was convinced he could conquer Scotland and become its King, but a few early victories against the Scots made him overconfident. He never conquered Scotland. According to legend, this stone had been brought to Scotland by Scota, daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh. Moses had prophesied, according to the legend, what whoever had the stone with him would becomme a very powerful ruler, ruling many nations. It was also believed that Scota had given Scotland its name.

1329: Philippe de Vitry coins the name "Ars Nova" (Latin, "new art") for the new contrapunctual style of music.

1341: Francesco Petrarca crowned with a laurel wreath on the steps of the Capitol in Rome in honor of the high quality of his poetry; this was a revival of an ancient Roman tradition so honoring great poets. This is the origin of our term "poet laureate"í it is also, as you might have suspected, why, in the SCA, the Order of the Peerage honoring those Gentles who excel in the arts and sciences is called the Order of the Laurel.

1360: Use of the word "bancherii" for money-lenders in Rome comes into use.This word is derived from the word "banco", which meant bench. This is a reference to the benches these men sat on before their tables of exchange. The word "bank" is derived from this word. Thus started the great banking houses of Italy, like that of the Medici.

1364: The heir to the French throne acquires the title of Dauphin. This title started out as a personal surname in the family of the counts of Albon, who ruled in sourtheastern France. This family maintained several unusual customs. One was the giving of two names for each of their children at birth, a Christian name and a personal surname. In the twelfth century these counts also became the counts of the Viennois. A Count Guigue of he Viennois named his heir Guigue Dauphin. This personal surname meant "dolphin" and probably had religious signigicance, since the dolphin was a symbol of immortality. The name Dauphin, or Delfinus in Latin, was first mentioned in writing in 1110. Guige Dauphinís heirswere thereafter given this surname. By the thirteenth century many began to assume that this surname was a title, since all of its bearers were rulers of the Viennois. The count took advantage of this confusion to make Dauphin part of his title, styling himself "Count and Dauphin of Viennois". Around this time the area he ruled became known as Dauphine. In 1349 Coun Humboldt sold the Dauphine to Charles of Valois, who acquired the title as well as the property. In 1364 Charles became King of France He bestowed the title and county on his heir, and thereafter the eldest son of the King of France held the title of Dauphin of Viennois. Sometimes he was called the "king Dauphin" (le roy Dauphin) to distinguish him from the dauphin of Auvergne, who was called the "prince dauphin" when the dauphins of Auvergne became royalty. The dauphinate of Auvergne dates from 1155 when Guillaum VII, Countof Auvergne, was deposed by his uncle, Count Guillaum VIII. The deposed Guillaum was married to a daughter or Guigue Dauphin of the Viennois. They named their son after her father and this branch of the family, although deprived of the county of Auvergne, started the use of the title of "Dauphin of Auvergne" in 1281. Hence, the dauphins of Auvergne were never the counts of Auvergne. In 1428 these dauphins became royalty as a result of a marriage.

1393: A pelican arrives at the court of Richard I. On Epiphany Day the citizens of London gave King Richard II a dromedary. Their gift to the Queen, Anne of Bohemia, was described by the Westminster Chronicle as a "large and remarkable bird with an enormously wide gullet". No one in London had ever seen a pelican.

1431: Jeanne díArc (Joan of Arc) burned at the stake as a heretic. Jeanne came from the town of Domremy on the Meuse River in northeastern France. Her parents were Jacques díArc, a prosperous farmer, and Isabelle Rommee In her part of the country, it was custonary to call daughters by the surname of their mothers; thus the locals called her Jeanne Rommee. When she left Domrey for the battlefields, she adopted the surname of her father, as people in Orleans and Paris and other places were used to using the fatherís surname for all of their children.

1433: Marsilio Ficino born near Florence. He became a very learned man, a scholar patronized by Lorenzo de Medici. It was he who coined the term "Platonic Love".

1453: Henry VI of England suffers a seventeen-month mental collapse; clearly His Majesty was afflicted with a nasty psychological disorder. He was unable to recognize his Queen, Margaret of Anjou, or the son she bore him in January, 1454. When the Duke of Buckingham brought the infant, Edward, to the King to be blessed by him, the King did not respond to anything the Duke said. Thereupon the Queen entered the room and repeated the Dukeís request to bless the child. "But all their labor was in vain", according to the Paston letters, "for they departed hence without any answer or countenance, saving onlly that once he looked on the Prince and cast down his eyes again, without any more". During the Kingís illness the government was run by Richard, Duke of York, whom the King disliked. Government improved under the Dukeís management. Although there was much rejoicing when the King recovered in December of 1454 and re-assumed control of the government, historians agree that this was a disaster to England, since the King loved religion and books, despised politics, and was very unfit to be King. His weakness allowed the central government to fall apart and the warring Yorks and Lancastrians continued to fight over the Crown. And in the end, the royal family itself had a disastrous ending, as Henry was overthrown and murdered in 1471 and Margaret died in poverty in a convent in France in 1482.

1457: Scottish Parliament bans "futeball" (the precursor of both soccer and American football) and golf on the grounds that these sports were distracting men from practicing the archery needed in the countryís many wars with England. Parliament felt compelled to issue another ban in 1471, and in 1491 King James IV issued another decree with pains and penalties annexed: "Futeball and Golfe forbidden. Item, it is statut and ordainit that in na place of the realme there be usit futeball, golfe, or other sik unprofitabill sportis"....This didnít keep records of money spent on the royal golf balls off the Lord High Treasurerís rolls! So old is hypocrisy.

1467: First story about William Tell, Switzerlandís national hero, told in the form of a ballad. According to legend, this marksman from the canton of Uri shot an arrow at an apple placed on top of of his sonís head when ordered to by a tyrannical Austrian bailiff named Gessler. These bailiffs were in the service of the counts of Babsburg, who had acquired these lands in 1173. These counts demanded feudal dues in full severity, instead of merely settling for the payment of of basic feudal taxes, which their predecessors had done. The villages in the mountains around Lake Lucerne held democratic assemblies to elect their own officials and formed the cantons of Uri, Unterwalden, and Schwyz, for mutual protection. These people did not want to be ruled by the heavy-handed Habsburgs, who sent bailiffs to enforce hated tolls for passage through the pass of St. Gotthard. Bitter disputes broke out between the local residents and these bailiffs, and this is the basis of the story of William Tell, who was a completely mythological character. Someone later forged his name on the parish register of the village of Altdorf to try to prove his existence. Tell was said to have led the rest of Uri in an uprising against the Habsburg counts. In 1315 the Habsburgs sent two armies into the cantons to enforce the hated feaudal dues. In the pass of Morgarten the pikemen of Schwyz and Uri defeated the Hapsburg cavalry. The Austrians withdrew, and the three cantons renewed an oath of mutual support which they had originally made in 1291. Thus was formed the Swiss Confederation, which took its name from Schwyz, which--the Tell story notwithstanding--had led the fight against the Habsburgs.

1470: First French printing press set up at the Sorbonne in Paris.

1489: The symbols + (plus) and - (minus) come into use in mathematics.

1520: Henry VIII builds bowling lanes in his Whitehall residence. In Europe, this sport had its origins in early medieval Germany, where it was part of a religious ritual. Medieval Germans carried clubs (Old German "kegel"), even to church. The priests of the Catholic Church, when giving them their religious instructtion, told the peasants that the clubs represented evil, and possibly even Satan. In the ritual, the club was placed in a corner, and the peasant rolled a large stone at it. If he knocked the bluc down, he was praised; if he missed, he was told to improve his faith and morals.

Soon the priests themselves developed an interest in trying to knock down the clubsn and took turns trying. When others began to imitate them, a new sport was born. Village gatherings and celebrations in Germany always featured bowling. The sport spread to other countires, It was so popular in England that in 1366 it was banned because King Edward III feared that the sport was a distraction from the practice of archery; he was then fighting the Hundred Yearsí War. Nonetheless, the sport became more, not less, popular in England.

1561: Tulips from the Near East first come to Western Europe.

1575:Population estimates: Paris, c. 300,000; London, c. 180,000; Cologne c. 3.500.








A.F. Scott, Every one A Witness: The Plantagenet Age, Thomas Crowel Company, 1976

Longford, Elizabeth, editor, The Oxford Book of Royal Chronicles, Oxford University Press, 1989


Tierney, Brian, editor, Readings in Medieval History, McGraw-Hill, 1992

Grun, Bernard, The Timetables of History, Simon and Schuster, 1979

Encyclopedia Brittanica, Fifteenth Edition, 1990

Durant, Will, Age of Faith, Simon and Schuster, 1944

Delaney, Gohn, Dictionary of Saints, Abridged edition, Image Books, 1983