Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

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.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: savaskan <savaskan at electriciti.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

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

central Europe.


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

Ottoman Turks)

   - 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

some manufacturers.)

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.

    (13th Cent.)

  -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)

     (Commercially available)

  - 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

commercially available.)


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>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

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



Geoffrey Maynard


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org