Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Afternoon In The Past

The castle's barbican viewed from the kitchen door on a rainy afternoon

When we went to Dordogne three months ago, we visited Château de Beynac-Cazenac. While visiting the castle, there was a heavy downpour, forcing us to stay longer inside the castle. But it was worth it for I have experienced how the medieval inhabitants must have felt during a hard rain. We were in one of the oldest part of the castle (around nine centuries old) --- the old mess hall-cum-kitchen.

(big oil lamps in metal cages suspended from the ceiling)

The kitchen, like other parts of the castle open to visitors, neither has modern lighting nor heating --- hence the room was quite nippy and dank. And it must be worse during winter for the people in the middle ages --- most probably, they were chilled to the bone. The lord, his family and their retainers were likely not to have this problem for they wore clothes of fine wool. But those in the lower echelons of the system like scullery maids, stable boys and the likes, life must be really difficult during winter/rainy season. I don’t think they were able to wear warm enough clothes to ward off the chill and dampness. Or if they wore wool, it would be of the coarsest kind. There are always big fireplaces in kitchens but I believe it’s not enough to warm them, let alone the entire room. Besides, I think they have a limited supply of wood for their own use. Just imagine having to do one's daily tasks on a wintry day!

(the village houses seen from one of the narrow latticed windows of the kitchen)

Life during the middle ages might sound exciting and colorful for us living in modern times based on the chivalric stories we read and hear. This may be so, but I believe it was also hard and full of insecurities --- life is always threatened by wars, famine, plague. That’s why I couldn’t help admiring the marvelous works of art and engineering they left behind. Despite the hardships, the lack of modern amenities and the intermittent hostilities between baronies and kingdoms, they were still able to build admirable metalwork and stone structure, create inspiring works of literature, and lead, if not a full life, at least a semblance of a “normal” life at that time.

(Château de Beynac-Cazenac part I)


Davidlind said...

Life was mercifully short back then. It must have been nice at times and very painful at others.

lareine said...

david, you're right... at least those who were unfortunate didn't have to suffer long... i would love to live during that time, but as a nobility *wishful thinking*...

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