Heretics’ Technology

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Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters!

What exactly did a 13thC roadside inn look like in the midst of the Corbières hills?

Santa Pau restored floor and walls

Santa Pau restored floor and walls

To describe things previously unknown to me, I need a good image. Although the Internets are full of castles of various ages, ordinary building are harder to locate. And searching on anything “13th century” related to the Languedoc usually requires browsing untranslated Catalan, Spanish, or French sites.

A boy appeared to carry their meager baggage up to the loft, where woven stick-and-reed walls separated a trio of tiny cells. As squire, Isabella had sole possession of the hauberks and other armor, which she wrestled up the ladder-like stairs alone.

My best pictures come from visits to historical sites, where the archivists and preservationists have focused on methods and materials from the time. For the inn on the road to Fontfroide, I think of this barn, built 100 years after Tomás and Isabella passed through, and now under preservation at Santa Pau in Garrotxa, Catalunya.

Notice how the beams supporting the floor are suspended from the rafters.

Santa Pau restored roof and walls

Santa Pau restored roof and walls

My best search efforts often come from properties for rent or sale in the region—though these usually sport only the relic of a barn or mill. Typically, pictures to attract tenants don’t show the historical 13thC floor in the barn. If one appears, I have to save it locally, because (as you know) links rot on the web. And then I can’t share it here, without disrespecting others’ rights.

No one expected privacy, except the rich who could buy it. Therefore, like everyone else, Isabella had often listened to others’ ardors, because there was no choice. At the inn, the woven-reed wall between their two hired closets gave merely the illusion of privacy.

Here’s another view of the Santa Pau barn, from my own camera.

Text from the chapters “Pilgrims, Perfected” and “Eu Vos Amor” in PART FIVE: Nemesis in Leather of Bone-mend and Salt.

Toasted Lead and Iron Gall Ink

British Library Microscopic view of Lindisfarne Gospel
The British Library blog has an amazing post: Under the Microscope with the Lindisfarne Gospels, with breathtaking photos. Do those guys have the best job in the world? Yes!

No cards in Europe until ~1400?

My patient editor, a medieval history major, bugged me about the card game in Bone-mend and Salt:

“Your friend Chrétien — he’s teaching my men that Egyptian card game.”

“An anachronism?” Patient Editor queried.
No cards in Europe until almost 1400.

My editor is seldom wrong, but I argue the possibility:

Tomás and Chrètian studied in Cairo.
Fragments of cards are preserved in Egypt, possibly dating from the 12th and 13th Centuries. It appears that cards were invited in China, and likely introduced in Arabic lands through the Mamluks in Egypt.

History Of Playing CardsSo, yes, it took much longer for cards to be common enough in Europe to scandalize Dante. And Europe also needed papermaking for either card playing or vernacular texts to become common.

Learn more:
A History of Playing Cards and a Bibliography of Cards and Gaming by Catherine Perry Hargave, Dover Publications, 2012.

Credits: The Cardsharps by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, from Wikimedia Commons.

Codex versus Scroll: Form-factor Détente

Bone-mend and SaltI’ve avowed that I read faster and with greater concentration when thumbing instead of turning pages. I believe that my Kindle has kept me from being crushed to death when I’m reading a big fat adventure book in bed at 3 a.m.

However, some prefer the codex form-factor. If that’s you, Bone-mend and Salt is available in print.