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forks-msg - 1/29/08


Period forks. Their history and use in Europe.


NOTE: See also the files: utensils-msg, p-tableware-msg, spoons-msg, iron-pot-care-msg, aquamaniles-msg, mazers-msg, trenchers-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: ddfr at quads.uchicago.edu (david director friedman)

Date: 22 Oct 91 03:47:28 GMT

Organization: University of Chicago


Everyone knows that the fork was introduced at the end of our period.

In fact, the earliest known picture of people eating with forks is

about 12th or 13th century (I can check--it is shown in a V&A

pamphlet on cutlery that I have). There are two Anglo-Saxon forks in

the British museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art has a Byzantine

fork that is quite early (10th century? I don't remember). The fork

does not seem to become a standard utensil until c. 1600, but it

exists much earlier.







Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: ddfr at quads.uchicago.edu (david director friedman)

Subject: Re: Period tableware and dishes

Organization: The University of Chicago

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 1995 04:30:17 GMT


With regard to forks, there is a pamphlet from

the Victoria and Albert Museum on tableware that has a discussion of

their history. I believe a short summary is that forks exist through

most or all of our period (the Cleveland Museum of Art has a

Byzantine fork on display, I think c. 8th century, and the British

Museum owns two Anglo-Saxon fork and spoon sets, one unfinished), but

do not become part of the standard set of utensils everyone uses (as

they are now) until the seventeenth century, at least in England.

Think of them in most of our period in most places as analogous to

fondue forks today--they exist, but are used only for specialized






From: sniderm at mcmail2.cis.McMaster.CA (Mike Snider)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period tableware and dishes

Date: 22 Mar 1995 00:25:50 -0500

Organization: McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.




Forks are a tricky subject. Those references I have come across in

period descriptions of feasts etc.. the fork is used to spear food from

comunal dishes, rather than to convey food to the mouth. Several items

from the fourteenth century, originally thought to be hair accessories,

are now being recatalogued as forks. These impliments are just pointed

tools with decrative finials at the end, but some have been found which

clearly match spoons. They look much like skewers. I hope this helps.


Elizabeth Cadfan



From: rorice at bronze.ucs.indiana.edu (rosalyn rice)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period tableware and dishes

Date: 24 Mar 1995 11:30:07 GMT

Organization: Indiana University, Bloomington


      Greetings from Lothar,


      Ah, the joy of the recurring thread, "When did they introduce the

fork?" This is a favorite Mynydd Seren conversation changer, rapidly gaining

popularity against "Pity about that Marie Antoinette woman...." or "Look,

a pterodactyl!" in the fight against dull or suddenly embarrassing



      P. 184-189 of (Feast and Fast; food in medieval society, Brigit

Anne Henisch; Pennsylvania University Press:1976. ISBN 0-271-00424-X) has

the fork being introduced in the 4th c. in Byzantium as a table instrument,

although it was known from antiquity as kitchen implement. It was known

in Western and Southern Europe as a rarity from then on, though its use

was remarkable. It seems to have only really caught on late in Period,

in the 16th and 17th centuries. Even then they were rare.


      Feast and Fast is a good book for other things concerned with medieval

food and cooking. I recommend it to anyone interested in such things.





From: rmine at iinet.net.au (Russell Miners)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Forks?

Date: Sun, 12 Jan 1997 13:40:33 GMT


BlackCat <blackcat at blueneptune.com> wrote:

>Does anyone know where in Europe forks were popular as individual dining

>implements in the late 1500's?


Many books show only two-tined forks from the 17th century, but an

interesting collection of forks can be seen in material raised from

the Spanish Armada ship Girona. The picture that I am looking at is

from the book "Treasures of the Armada" by Robert Stenuit and shows

several three, four and five tined fork heads. (A total of forty-five

forks is stated.) This at least puts their use back to 1588..



From: dickeney at access2.digex.net (Dick Eney)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Forks?

Date: 14 Jan 1997 20:36:36 -0500

Organization: Express Access Online Communications, Greenbelt, MD USA


BlackCat <blackcat at blueneptune.com> wrote:

>Does anyone know where in Europe forks were popular as individual dining

>implements in the late 1500's?


Italy, especially Venice.  Englishmen who went to visit and brought one of

these decadent things home -- as if fingers weren't good enough for Queen

Bess! -- were one of the "types" denounced under the general heading of an

Englishman Italianate/ is a devil incarnate.


|---------Master Vuong Manh, C.P., Storvik, Atlantia---------|

|Now, let's stop and think: how would Bugs Bunny handle this?|

|----------------(dickeney at access.digex.net)-----------------|



Date: Mon, 14 Sep 1998 8:03:15 -0500

From: "I. Marc Carlson" <LIB_IMC at centum.utulsa.edu>

Subject: Forks

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca


Ok, this is not based on any serious research, just playing around

with what other people have written.  The numbers below refer to the

notes following.




     Italy   Germany   France   England   Spain   Byzantium  Other


???            ?(1)                                  26        8

900-                                                 24



1000- 1,32 (see B)                                    1



1100- 30       29



1200-                            ?(2)                         10,11



1300- 6+,36 (See C)       7       2

1400  9


1400-                    31



1500- 17                        3,4,5     14



1600- 15      27,28    7,37,40  16,18,33  21

1700                            35,38,39






?(1) Someone asserted that the fork was used among the Germans, but

     that their use died out by the end of the Dark Ages, only to

     be re-introduced later (undocumented assertion).


?(2) Another assertion is that Edward I of England owned no less

     than 7 forks (undocumented assertion).


1.   A Byzantine princess married to a Venetian noble (prob.

     Domenico Selvo (or Silvio), heir to the Doge of Venice) and

     introduced the 2 tined table fork to Europe in the eleventh

     century.  Forks seem to have been novelties in Byzantium, but

     not unknown. Many examples can be found in Byzantine art,

     according to Boger and Henisch.  Her use of the fork was

     considered outrageous.(Giblin) Her death was attributed to her

     "excessive delicacy"(Henisch, citing Peter Damian, Institutio

     Monialis, chap.11 in Patrologiae cursus completeus, series

     latina, ed. J.P. Migne.  Paris: Migne, 1853. Vol.145 col.744.)


2.   The Will of John Baret of Bury St. Edmunds, 1463: "Itm J. yeve

     and beqwethe to Davn John Kertelynge my silvir forke for grene

     gyngor" linking forks to eating fruit or sweetmeats

     (Bailey)(Henisch, citing ME dictionary).


3.   The Jewelhouse inventory of Henry VIII: "Item one spone wt

     suckett fork at the end of silver and gilt"(Bailey)


4.   Inventory of property left by HenryVII: "Item, one Case

     wherein are xxi knives and a fork, the hafts being crystal and

     chalcedony, the ends garnished with gold" (Hayward) (see 19)


5.   " "Item, one Case of knives furnished with divers knives and

     one fork, whereof two be great hafts of silver parcel-gilt,

     the case covered with crimson velvet" (Hayward).


6.   Inventory of silverware in Florence, taken in 1361 (Giblin).

     This may be the mid-14th C. inventory of Francesco Di Marco

     Datini, who had 12 forks locked away in his room (Henisch,

     citing I. Origo, The Merchant of Prato. New York: Knopf, 1957.

     p. 254).  It may also be the list of plate owned by the

     Florentine Commune referred to in (Visser).


7.   inventories of Charles V and Charles VI of France (Bailey)


8.   Table forks were known and used before the year 1000 in the

     middle east (Boger, Giblin).


9.   Italian cookbooks of the late 1400's (Giblin)


10.  Mid-13th century. A letter from William of Rubruck, a

     Franciscan monk, to Louis IX of France describing the eating

     habits of the Tartars refers to using forks for eating.

     (Henisch, citing The Journal of William of Rubruck, in C.

     Dawson, ed. Mission to Asia. New York: Harper Torchbooks,

     1966. p.98.


11.  This fragment of a letter (#10) and listings in inventories

     and wills link the fork with fruits and sweetmeats.


12.  The practice of using the fork to eat dishes that included a

     sticky sauce or that might stain the fingers (Boger, Bailey)

     was primarily that of courtesans, prompting the Church to ban

     the fork as an immoral influence (Gruber).


13.  The early forks were small, with short straight tines, and

     therefore probably used only for spearing and holding food,

     rather than scooping. The curve with which we are familiar in

     the modern fork was introduced in France in the seventeenth

     century (Boger.)


14.  Forks were known and used in Spain by 1588's shipwreck of the

     La Girona (45 forks, some with 3, 4, and 5 straight



15.  _Coryat's Curdities Hastily gobbled up in Five Months Travels

     in France, Savoy, Italy, &c._ London, 1611.  Thomas Coryat of

     Odcombe, near Yeovil, claims to be one of the first Englishmen

     to use a fork.  However, even HE thinks they are not for

     eating with, but for carving meat from a joint and serving it

     (Visser).  he claims that they were common in Italy and not

     unusual in other parts of Europe.


16.  Ben Jonson also used forks as the basis of humor in two of his

     plays: "Volpone" (1606)(Act IV Scene I), and "The Devil is an

     Ass" (1616)


17.  A letter by Montaigne in the late 16th cent. refers to

     Italians using forks (Henisch, citing Montaigne. On

     Experience.  In Essays, trans. JM Cohen,  Harmandsworth:

     Penguin, 1958, p.367).


18.  "The earliest fork known to have been made in England" is in

     the Victoria and Albert Museum. It bears the crests of John

     Manners, 8th Earl of Rutland and his wife Frances, daughter of

     Edward Lord Montagu of Boughton (Bailey). It is two-tined and

     squarish, made of silver, and bears the London hallmark for

     1632-3 (Hayward).


19.  In other parts of Europe, it became customary to make knives

     and forks in sets. Better quality knives of the sixteenth

     century came in sets of a dozen or more contained in a leather

     case, and included a fork to be used for serving (Hayward). As

     forks became more common, sets of knife and fork, often with

     a sheath or case for the pair, came into use.


20.  It was much more common for people to carry their own cutlery

     with them (Hayward, Bailey). Even the inns were not equipped

     with tableware, expecting the traveller to provide their own

     (Bailey). Some travelers had a collapsible or folding set of

     knife, fork, and spoon (Giblin)


21.  A 17th century Spanish ship sank off the Bahamas (Peterson)


22.  Victoria and Albert pamphlet on cutlery/tableware has "the

     earliest known picture of people eating with forks is about

     12th or 13th century". (DDFr)  Where?


23.  British Museum has two Anglo-saxon fork and spoon sets. (DDFr)

     These may be the Anglo Saxon forks referred to in (Henisch,

     citing D.M. Wilson. Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metal Work, 700-

     1100. London: British Museum, Catalogue of antiquities of the

     Later Saxon Period. 1964. 1:168 and pl. 29).  Henisch does

     comment that the actual use of these is not know.


24.  Cleveland Museum of Art has a Byzantine fork (10th century?

     1st Millenium). (DDFr)  8th Century (Angharad)


25.  "Several items from the fourteenth century, originally thought

     to be hair accessories, are now being recatalogued as



26.  Dunbarton Oaks Collection has a 4th century silver Byzantine

     table fork (Henisch, citing T. Talbot Rice, Everyday life in

     Byzantium, 1970. p.170)


27   1614. A plate from Visscher illustrates a selection of

     household and personal cutlery, including three forks



28   1658. A plate from Johannes Comenius' "Orbis Sensualium

     Pictus" in Germany mentions forks.


29.  12th Century German Manscript, influenced by Byzantine

     examples, shows a fork on a table in a Last Supper scene

     (Henisch, citing Horrade von Landsberg. Hortus Deliciarum. ed.

     J. Walter (Strasbourg, 1852), pl.30.


30.  12th Century examples are found in Venice on the High Altar of

     St. Marks, in an Last Supper (Hennisch, citing O. Demus. The

     Church of San Marco in Venice. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks

     Research Library and Collection, 1960. p.23).


31.  1409.  An inventory of Valentina d'Orleans referst to a gold

     fork, with one prong broken (Henisch, citing E. McLeod.

     Charles of Orleans. London: Chatto and Windus, 1969. p.51-2).


32.  1022-23.  Italian manuscript shows two men eating with forks.

     Rabanus Maurus, De Universo. Montecassino.  Montecassino,

     Biblioteca dell Abbazico, codex 132, bk.XXII, chap.I De mensis

     et escis (Henisch).


33.  c.1630   Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts owned a fork



34.  1721.  First mention of a fork in a Pymouth Colony Probate

     Record (Deetz)


35.  By mid-1600s, England and North America.  The eating knife

     began to have a rounded end, suggesting that the knife was no

     longer being used to stab meat to convey it to the mouth

     (Hume, Deetz).


36.  By 14th century, forks were being used in Italy, even in

     taverns for eating pasta (Redon).


37.  1605, in France, Henri III (1551-89) and his favorites were

     satirized in _L'Isle des Hermaphrodites_ by Thomas Artus for

     preferring to use forks (Redon, Visser).


38.  1650. English two prong fork, with a matching knife and a four

     prong fork and matching knife (Riaz, p.14).


39.  17th C. English two prong fork, with a matching knife (Riaz,



40.  Antoine de Courtin, in the late 1600s, advised the use of

     forks only for fatty, sauce laden or syrupy food.  Otherwise

     hands would do (Visser).


A    1260.  A reference to "vessels" in the early regulations of

     the College de Sorbonne from around 1260. Napkins are also

     mentioned, but forks are not. (Hefner)


B.   A 15th century German edition of Rabanus Maurus, De Universo

     (see #33) shows the same picture, but no forks (Henisch).


C.   19th Century paintings and photographs of spagetti eaters show

     them eating with their hands (Visser).



Some sources:


Bailey, C.T.P. Knives and Forks. London: The Medici Society, 1927.

Boger, Ann. Consuming Passions: The Art of Food and Drink.

     Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1983.

Cadfan, Elizabeth email correspondence - found in Stefan's


DDFr - Email correspondence from David Friedman/Cariadoc, found on

     Rialto and in Stefan's Florilegium

Deetz, James. In Small Things Forgotten, An Archaeology of Early

     American Life.  New York: Doubleday, 1996.

Flanagan, Laurence. Ireland's Armada Legacy. Dublin: Gill and

     Macmillan, 1988.

Giblin, James Cross. From Hand to Mouth. New York: Thomas Y.

     Crowell, 1987.

Gruber, Alain. Silverware. New York: Rizzoli International

     Publications, Inc., 1982.

Harrison, Molly. The Kitchen in History. New York: Charles

     Scribner's Sons, 1972.

Hayward, J.F. English Cutlery, sixteenth to eighteenth century.

     London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1956.

Hefner, Patricia.  Found in Stefan's Florilegium

Henisch, Brigit Anne. Feast and Fast; food in medieval society.

     University Press, PA: Pennsylvania University Press, 1976.

Hume, Ivor Noel.  A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. New

     York: Random House, 1969.

Master Robyyan N'Tor D'Elandris. "The History Of The Table Fork"

     The Citadel (1/96).

Millikin, William M. "Early Christian Fork and Spoon", The Bulletin

     of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 44(Oct. 1957), 185+.

Peterson, Mendel.  "Reach for the New World" National Geographic

      (Dec 1977)

Redon, Odile, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi.  The Medieval

     Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy. Chicago: The

     University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Riaz, Yvan de. Le Livre des Couteaux.  Edita Lazarus, 1978.

Singman, Jeffrey.  The Tudor-Stuart Sourcebook.

Stenuit, Robert. Treasures of the Armanda. 1972

Visser, Margaret.  The Rituals of Dinner.  New York: Penguin, 1991.


There is purportedly an article by Catherina Sforza d'Agro in an

old _TI_ which I have no further information on.



Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 17:51:58 -0600

From: Wajdi <a14h at zebra.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Tablewear


See the following url for history of the table fork.






Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2000 16:46:03 +0200

From: "Cindy M. Renfrow" <cindy at thousandeggs.com>

Subject: Re: SC - medieval times?


In case you're interested, I've posted some pics of late-period 2-pronged

forks at http://members.aol.com/renfrowcm/photos.html





Date: Tue, 09 Jan 2001 18:54:35 -0500

From: Elaine Koogler <ekoogler at chesapeake.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Holidays, Lurking, Gifts, Etc.


Then there's that Anglo-Saxon "spork" that I have.  The gentle who made it

documented it to the 9th century in Britain...I have the reference somewhere as

we discussed this sometime ago on this list.  Basically, it is brass with a spoon on one end a 3-tined for on the other.




Jenne Heise wrote:

> > A question for the group:  While in Europe, in discussing medieval history

> > with a very well educated historian, he questioned me as to what utensils I

> > eat with during feast.  I explained them; a two prong fork, a spoon and

> > knife.  He was quick to chastise me in saying that forks were not used in

> > the middle ages; but rather only a knife and a spoon.  One side of the

> > knife was used to scrape the food from the plate onto a spoon, or it was

> > eaten directly off the knife.  I was under the impression that a two prong

> > fork was introduced in early middle ages.  Can anyone verify this

> > information with sources?


> According to Henisch and Dembinska, eating forks were used in the

> Byzantine Empire during period, but in Western and Northern Europe they

> were relatively rare in period, though not completely unknown. They are an

> example of something that is very common in the SCA but was relatively

> uncommon in period.


> I wonder what he meant by 'one side of the knife was used to scrape the

> food from the plate onto a spoon' as I eat my feasts with spoon and knife

> only generally and have not experienced this. Directions in the manners

> manuals seem to indicate that some things were also eaten with the hands,

> I believe.


> The Encyclopedia Britannica says that two prong forks were invented by the

> Romans and that two pronged SERVING forks were used in the middle ages.

> They say that the knife and fork replaced the traditional 'pair of pointed

> table knives', whatever that means.

> --

> Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise        jenne at tulgey.browser.net



Date: Tue, 09 Jan 2001 20:49:08 -0500

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Holidays, Lurking, Gifts, Etc.


Elaine Koogler wrote:

> Then there's that Anglo-Saxon "spork" that I have.  The gentle who made it

> documented it to the 9th century in Britain...I have the reference somewhere

> as we discussed this sometime ago on this list.  Basically, it is brass with a

> spoon on one end a 3-tined for on the other.


This may or may not be inspired by the Roman concept of the spoon with a

nut/shellfish/tooth - pick at the handle end. A single prong, of course,

but functionally similar to your spork.





Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2001 10:16:41 -0500

From: Elaine Koogler <ekoogler at chesapeake.net>

Subject: Re: SC - spork


Christina van Tets wrote:

> Ack!  I knew I should have looked at the name of the sender before I deleted

> the digest.  A gentle of the List, therefore, wrote about a spork.  I have a

> vague but currently unsubstantiated (no relevant books anywya near me)

> feeling that runcible spoons (named for Roncevalles) came in two varieties,

> one of which was a splayd-like thing, and I think the other may have

> corresponded to your eating toy.


> Does it work well?  I recoil at the thought of using one end when the other

> is dirty...


> Cairistiona


We've been using ours for over a year now, and they seem to work very well.  I

usually wipe the used end off with a napkin before using the other end, so that

isn't really a problem.  I also keep spare spoons in case I want to eat

something really messy with a spoon.





Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 13:19:54 -0700 (PDT)

From: Huette von Ahrens <ahrenshav at yahoo.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Forks for you?

To: Sudden Service #5 <sudnserv5 at netway.com>,  Cooks within the SCA

      <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


--- Sudden Service #5 sudnserv5 at netway.com wrote:

>     Just to throw this into the discussion:

> http://www.levantia.com.au/dailylife/tware.hml

> Half way down the page is a discussion on forks

> being period as far back as the fourth century.


> Olaf


Well, there are forks and there are forks ...


By the way, the ceramics shown as being made by

Alex de Vos, are period, as Master Ale the

Potter is a Laurel from Lochac, and a friend of






From: "the.gemster" <the.gemster at ntlworld.com>

Date: Thu Aug 7, 2003  10:19:46 AM US/Central

To: stefan at florilegium.org

Subject: Roman/Anglo Saxon table forks.


Having just come across your website, I was interested to read the various comments on Table forks.


At the moment I am in the process of building a data base re: Roman and anglo Saxon forks.

Roman forks found in the U.k I am up to my ankles in, Anglo Saxon forks I am up to my knees in.

All forks that I am cataloguing are from dated stratas only with a known provenance.

Both roman and a/s forks can be either two or three tined, any metal except gold plain or fancy.

Roman forks tend to be smaller and plainer than anglo saxon forks. All my information is being gathered from archeological records and current digs. The British Museum's oldest example of saxon fork is 5/6th.C iron, with bone handle.

If you require any further information on this subject, then please fell free to contact me at this address.



Edwina Allen.



Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 02:25:31 -0600

From: "otsisto" <otsisto at socket.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] forks

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Something I ran across while browsing.

4th century Byzantium







Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 04:31:12 +0000

From: "Caius Fabius" <caius_fabius at hotmail.com>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Period forks and Roman cooking stuff

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org


There is a CD ROM at "Roman Army Tour 2002" at


with 650+ photos of Roman helmets, tools and cooking stuffs,

which includes pottery, pans, hearths, forks, and spoons,

from Roman museums in France, Germany and Britain.

The forks are similar to modern snail forks used in France

today, and probably had a similar purpose.



Date: Sat, 23 Jun 2007 22:26:56 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] fork

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


The sources of all this are probably, Giblin, James Cross. From Hand to

Mouth. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1987, and Henisch, Brigit Anne. Feast

and Fast; food in medieval society. University Press, PA: Pennsylvania

University Press, 1976.


The information as it usually appears on the web is something like this:


"A Byzantine princess introduced the table fork to Europe in the eleventh

century. The story varies slightly depending on the source, but the essence

is that a nobleman, probably Domenico Selvo (or Silvio), heir to the Doge of

Venice, married a princess from Byzantium. This Byzantine princess brought a

case of two- tined table forks to Venice as part of her luggage. Forks seem

to have been novelties in Byzantium, but not unknown. Many examples can be

found in Byzantine art, according to Boger and Henisch.


The princess outraged the populace and the clergy by refusing to eat with

her hands:



   "Instead of eating with her fingers like other people, the princess cuts

up her food into small pieces and eats them by means of little golden forks

with two prongs."[Giblin]

   "God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks - his fingers.

Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metallic forks for

them when eating."[Giblin]



The princess apparently died before very long, of some wasting disease,

prompting Peter Damian, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia to write,


   "Of the Venetian Doge's wife, whose body, after her excessive delicacy,

entirely rotted away"[Henisch] "

The problems with all this are (1) Domenico Selvo, then Doge of Florence,

married Teodora Doukaina (AKA Ducas) in 1075, (2)  Saint Peter Damian,

Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, died in 1072, and (3) the quotes do not appear to

be attributable to any 11th Century source.  I have also been unable to

locate any Biblical prohibition against forks or locate any Medieval

reference to a prohibition against forks.


My current opinion is that many of these "facts" are apocryphal and that

they may be an artifact of Victorian imagination, but I haven't been able to

chase sources far enough as yet.




> As new members pointed out I too am getting a complex about being one of

> them. I ask a question which in the end rightfully is not published for

> in 2000 you raked the issue to death and Stefan, I later find, published

> it in his files and one of you wrote a very complete article which after

> reading them today,  I have few problems left. The first is a reference

> with a source I cannot locate is that in the 11th Century at least it

> was thought that the Bible prohibited the use of the fork.  I understand

> that at that time it was thought that only the devil used forks (a pitch

> fork for hay mind you) but I'd like to know what passage in the Bible

> made the Church think that metal could not be used to transmit organic

> food to the mouth while a fruit fork was ok because it does not come

> from an animal. Why can't eggplants be eaten with a fork as other

> vegetables in the Christian world? Also in my search I came across a

> statement that 'this prohibition lasted 70 years' so we are talking like

> 1180? Do we have documentation to this effect? Further, the fruit fork

> was perfectly admissible as Villena says but after that in 1430 in Spain

> Suero Quinones offered them at a banquet at his tournament in Leon but

> that was a revolutionary item! Don't understand. Too if the transmission

> of food to the mouth with metal was a problem for the Church why was the

> knife used?  Why weren't wooden utensils used? When did the metal spoon

> come in? Why did it come in long before the fork as per my gut feeling?


> Suey



Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2007 01:55:54 -0400

From: Suey <lordhunt at gmail.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] fork

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org


This is not working out Alonso Luego says at the beginning of the 15th

Century Pietro de Oreseolo married his son to the Byzantine princess who

brought the gold fork(s) for her wedding banquet with his son. Pietro II

de Oreseolo was Dogge of Venice from 991-1009. It seems to be pretty

well established that the wedding took place in 1004 in some reports.

Now Henrisch states and I believe one of our SCA colleagues too the

marriage was between the princess and Domenice Selvo's son. Selvo was

dogge between 1071-1081. It seems to me that Alonso Luengo had a

grammatical mishap as his subject here was that the fruit fork served to

guests during Suero Quinones tournament in the 1430's. Alonso's point

here is that using metal to transmit food from animals to the mouth was

prohibited by the Church while fruit was permitted, therefore we have

the fruit fork in Spain cause they said OK but not as far as meat is



     Henrisch at the same time perhaps has some kind of a mishap cause

perhaps the fork was pardoned during Selvo's service as doge for food

not originating from animals but the general rule as I understand it was

that God gave us fingers, natural forks, somewhere along the way as per

the Church rulings. I don't know I don't have my RC cannon laws here -

another failure trying to live in two different continents with split

libraries. The Canon Laws are under my spouse's desk in Madrid and I am

in Chile right now! But there should be a Cannon Law on this no?


     Further, the wedding could have been during Pietro I's  (976-978)

term as doge or while Otto Oreseolo was in office (1009-1026) as far as

I can see.


     Now I have another problem Alonso goes on to state that this "15th C

wedding" was not with our Byzantine princess but with the sister of

Ramon Agricola, a rich Venetian business man. I can no trace of Ramano

but that Agricola is the name of a Greek princess and the bride in

question is supposed to have married in 955 as opposed to the Byzantine

bride of 1004. The father of the groom then would have been Pietro III

Candie's son if it is true she married the doge's son.


     Whatever - a bride of a Venetian seems to have introduced the fork

to Italy to eat all morsels meat or whatever but now we get into a messy

affair cause it seems to have something do with the schism between the

RC and the Orthodox Church in 1054 cause the RC's identified the fork

with the devil's pitch fork as DA points out. Now I have a complete

blank there. I can't remember what I was told by my profs in college as

far as the reasons for the schism  is concerned but I certainly don't

remember that forks caused the fork in the road. (Interesting side light

as the Pope right now is trying to negotiate to reunite the two Churches

when I can't remember why the cause for the split in the first place.)


     In short the more I read the more I don't know. Can someone

straighten me out???





Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 00:23:28 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] fork mythology

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


>    This is not working out Alonso Luengo says at the beginning of the

> 15th Century Pietro de Oreseolo married his son to Romano Agrilio's

> sister. He was a rich Venetian businessman. She brought gold forks to

> the wedding banquet for all the guests who followed her example of

> eating all morsels with this new fangled instrument. Now I have no

> knowledge of the existence of this man but of a woman called Agrilio

> which I shall explain below.


I'm a little confused by this.  Are you referencing the modern author, Luis

Alonso Luengo, or are you referencing a 15th Century source, say the Don

Alonso Luengo that was the patron of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen and

Ildefonso?  If it is the former, then it would be interesting to know if he

provides a source for the reference.


>    Pietro II de Oreseolo was Doge of Venice from 991-1009. It seems to

> be pretty well established that the wedding in question took place in

> 1004 in some sources between his son and a Byzantine princess.


Giovanni Oreseolo, eldest son of Pietro II, married Maria Argyra, niece of

Emperor Basil II, in Constantinople in 1004.  Giovanni died in 1006.

Otto, the third son, married a daughter of Stephen I of Hungary and

succeeded Pietro as Doge.  Orso and Vitale were churchmen.


>    On the other hand Henrisch states and I believe one of our SCA

> colleagues too that the marriage was between a Byzantine princess and

> Domenice Selvo's son. Selvo was dogge between 1071-1081.


Doge Domenico Selvo married the Byzantine Princess, Teodora Doukaina,

daughter of Constantine X and sister of then Emperor Michael VII, in 1075.

Selvo was deposed in 1084 and died in 1087.


Interestingly, I've found references for both of these stories that have

Peter Damian speaking harshly about the conduct of the bride at the time.

Damian was born in 1007 (or possibly as early as 995) and died in 1072.

Thus he was probably not born when Giovanni Oreseolo married Maria Argyra

and was dead before Domenico Selvo married Teodora Doukaina, which make any

commentary upon the actions of the brides suspect until it can be  

confirmed from a contemporary source.


>    It seems to me that Alonso Luengo has a grammatical mishap as his

> subject here is that a fruit fork was served as a novelty to guests

> during Suero Quinones' tournament in Leon, Spain in the 1434 and that

> Henrisch has a mishap perhaps because the fork was supposedly pardoned

> (to an extent obviously) during Selvo's service as doge, i.e. some 70

> years after the marriage took place.

>    Now for the Agrilio problem, there is a story that she was a Greek

> princess very much influenced by the Byzantines who used the fork at her

> wedding banquet with the son of the doge in 955 - that would mean Pietro

> III Candiano (942-959).


I'm wondering if Agrilio may not be an interpretation of Argyra and that

this story is that of the marriage of Giovanni Oreseolo attributed to the

wrong date.


While I don't have much on Pietro III Candiano, his eldest son, Pietro IV

Candiano, who was also Doge, set aside his first wife, Joan, for political

reasons and in 966 married Waldrada, daughter of Hubert, Duke of Spoleto.


> It could be possible as far as I know but then

> we get into a messy affair of the Church. Somehow beyond my knowledge it

> seems this had something do with the schism between the RC and the

> Orthodox Church in 1054 cause, I presume, the clergy of the RC Church

> identified the fork with the devil as DA indicates - you know the

> devil's pitchfork verses the natural gift of God that we have fingers as

> forks and using the devil's instrument, therefore, to transmit food from

> the plate to the mouth is an offense to God. - Here were get into Old

> Testament teaching that for any act against God, He strikes the Pharaoh

> or whoever down so therefore our heroine, whoever she is, dies some

> eight days after the wedding and in some stories the groom as well for

> trespassing the will of God.


As far as I can ascertain, the Great Schism was primarily due to language

and cultural differences and justified by differences in ritual and dogma.

Without documentable evidence that the RC Church in or around 1054

considered forks tools of the devil and/or prohibited or regulated their

use, presuming that they did so is fallacious reasoning.


>    But Alonso points out fruit forks are permitted to carry out that

> function as long as the food transmitted to the mouth does not come from

> an animal (ok so we can eat hay with a fork, no?). Obviously that means

> fruit is ok. Don't know why eggplants and other plants consumed are not

> included. Why don't we have vegetable and legume forks except that

> generally those were included in pottages, perhaps?

>    On the other hand the knife prior to the fruit fork was permitted to

> carry morsels of meat to the mouth. The blade of the knife is metallic no?

>    Finally if metal is the question why was cutlery not all wooden? Why

> does the silver or pewter spoon come in centuries before the fork?

>    The more I read the less I believe! Can anyone sort me out?

> Suey


The stories are good, but the facts don't fit.  That screams apocrypha to

me.  It's like George Washington and the cherry tree; great story, but the

invention of Parson Weems.  In the matter of the fork, I'm of the opinion

it's time to go back to square one and look for primary sources.




<the end>

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