p-tents-art - 11/10/98
Survey article on period tent styles by Julia A. Adams.
NOTE: Please see the files: tent-making-msg, tent-sources-msg, pavilions-msg, tents-weather-msg, tent-painting-msg, p-tents-msg, tent-care-msg, tent-fabrics-msg, tent-interior-msg, yurts-msg, tent-painting-msg.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: savaskan <savaskan at electriciti.com>
Subject: Tents: Military Styles 14th-16th c., Europe (Long)
Date: Mon, 22 Apr 1996 22:51:01 -0700
Organization: ElectriCiti, Inc.
This information was gleaned from personal library. I don't
have that much information on Military Tents prior to the
14th century or from areas outside central Europe, though I
did see some examples which are noted. Noticeable absent in
my library was an example of a simple single-peaked square
The following styles were found in various single-leaf
woodcuts, illuminations, and paintings of warfare in the
Middle Ages and Renaissance. The most comprehensive
selection was found in "Medieval Warfare", (MW) by HW Koch,
1995, Barnes and Noble Publishers and "Artists and Warfare in
the Renaissance" (A&W) by J.R. Hale, 1990, Yale University
Press. Unless otherwise indicated, examples of this tent
style were found in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries in
Most roofed styles were found with and without tension ropes.
When there are ropes, each one staked to the ground comes out
of the roof at 2 to 3 points usually looking like a "Y".
* = Very common
Conical-Roofed Round Tents - These are the most common tents
shown in all periods and have one center pole. The tension
is either created via ropes going from the edge of the roof
to the ground or via and internal or external stiff structure
going around the edge of the roof. The sides are sometimes
sewn to the roof, but sometimes they are clearly separate
pieces, as shown in "An Army Breaking Camp", Giovanni
Bettini, A&W, page 79.
- with taught sloping sides * (also 13th cent. & seen in
- with taught straight sides * - Commercially available
- with draped sloping sides (lots of gathered fabric)
- with draped straight sides (lots of gathered fabric)
(also 13th cent.)
(The tops for any of these can be purchased separately from
Conical non-roofed Tents - These tents also have one pole.
They are kept taut from the tension of the sides staked to
the ground. Some of these tents are short and wide and look
like the roof of the one of the tents described above staked
directly on the ground. Some are tall and narrow and have a
similar profile to American Indian teepees, but they do not
have the smoke hole/flaps common to that style of tent. It
might be pretty cheap to get a commercial manufacturer of
Teepees to modify one into this style.
Oval Tents - (Commercially available, but commercial ones
require many side poles.)
Rectangular Tents -
- Straight sided Wall tents - (Commercially available in the
low roofed model, but requires many side poles. This style
has a roof with two sloping sides and two flat sides.
- Sloping sided Wall tent *- This tent has two sides where
the roof and the walls slope out and two sides which are flat.
-Trapezoid *- This style has a very long ridge, but all
sides slope out.
Other Marquee styles -
- Rectangular center section with rounded ends *
- Rectangular center section 5 sided ends
- Rectangular center section 3 sided ends
A-Frame Tents -
- A-Frame with short wall - (Commercially available)
- A-Frame to ground * - shown with walls straight from beam
to ground and with an internal structure pushing the sides out
about 2' from the ground. (Commercially available)
- French Officer's Bell - (shown in MW pg. 170 late 15th
cent.) (Commercially available.)
- Baker Tent - (shown in A&W pg. 20, from "The encampment of
Charles the IV at Ingolstadt" Hans Meilich, 1549)
- Lean-to - Basically a tarp hung or draped over a stick.
Some Styles which would be really hard to engineer -
- Onion Dome Roofed Round
- Dome Roofed Round
- Layer-cake Rectangular or Round - This style looks almost
like two tents on top of each other from the side. The roof
section is in 3 "layers". They would be complex to
Not Seen - Square tents with a single pointed peak (but are
Cloth sunshades are shown on boat decks in "Battle of
Lepanto" 1571, MW, pg. 214/215 with lovely scalloped and
upside-down minaret dags on the sloped sides. These sunshades
have a center beam and two side beams which give an internal
structure. There are also is one rounded one in this picture
and some rounded ones which look to have an internal
structure something like the top of a covered wagon in
another woodcuts I have in my library.
None of my examples show any indication of using upright
poles around the roof edge which is commonly seen in
commercial "period" tent manufacturer and SCA designs. The
most common tent shown is the round tent using one center
pole. Most of the tent styles were depicted with both sloped
sides and vertical sides. The slope ranged from almost
vertical to an angle steeper than the roof slope. Because many parts
of mainland Europe have pine trees available, it is possible
that armies may not have carried all the poles needed for the
whole camp with them. Other weather protection shown are
many A Frame and lean-to structures made of pole or plank
From the color pictures I have, the most common color for a
tent is a white or natural (undyed) color. Semi-common are
red, pink, light blue and cobalt blue. Less common are
green, dark blue, brown, black, gray, maroon/rust, and
multicolored. Many are painted with elaborate designs,
usually at least running along the seams, but often with
ornate scrollwork around the top and bottom edges of the roof
and sides. The most common edging on the roof was a straight
strip of cloth, often ornately decorated or painted. The
second most common was no edging on the roof (where sides and
roof was attached), but this was often elaborately painted.
The next most common was rounded dags or scallops. These
ranged from very wide scallops (about 2' wide) to very narrow
(about 4" wide). These ranged from about 4" to 1' deep. No
examples of the undulating scallops available from most
commercial manufacturers was seen. Fringe, tassels and
filigree woodwork or metalwork was also shown extensively
around the roof edge and sometimes along the ridge.
There are finials shown on the peaks of round style tents and
at the ends of the ridge beams. Finials are most often cone
shaped with a round tip, but are also shown in more complex
designs. Often a decorative filigree runs along the top of
the ridge beam.
Copyright (c) Julia A. Adams, 1996 All Rights Reserved
This document may be distributed in entirety or in part as
long as reference to the author is retained and the copies
are distributed for no more than reproduction costs.
From: foulkj <foulkj at mc.lcs.mit.edu>
Subject: Re: Tents: Military Styles 14th-16th c., Europe (Long) Pt 2
Date: 25 Apr 1996 02:53:52 GMT
Organization: FLORIDA ONLINE, Florida's Premier Internet Provider
Greetings Unto Julianna
I've done some research into period tents and their shapes and supports.
Some books that might be of intrest are "King Rene's Book of Love" by F.
Unterkircher ISBN 0-8076-0989-7. This provides docs. for windows in
walls and floors. The best book that I have found for tent descriptions
is "Henry VIII and the Invasion of France" By C. Cruickshank ISBN
0-86299-768-2. As for square tents being in the manuscripts, I have
documented 2 or 3, you are right that they are tough to find.
One of the suggested ways that a circle tent without rope was supported
is as follows. The center pole holds the tent and a "hoop" between the
walls and roof holds it out, to give it the shape. The walls have to
have a slope on them for this to work, they become in tension.
The domed roofed tents would be easy to make, the onion dome would be