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Stefan's Florilegium


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Love-in-th-MA-art - 7/23/01


"A Little Bit of Love in the Midde Ages" by Lady Eden Blacksmith.


NOTE: See also the files: p-customs-msg, p-marriage-msg, courtly-love-bib, courtly-love-msg, roses-art, romance-today-msg, p-favors-art, favors-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set

of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at:



Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be

reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first

or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


                               Thank you,

                                    Mark S. Harris

                                    AKA:  Stefan li Rous

                                         stefan at florilegium.org



Previously published in the Renaissance Web Magazine (www.rencentral.com)

A Little Bit of Love in the Middle Ages

By Lady Eden Blacksmith


Sweet lover come, renew our lovemaking

Within the garden where the light birds sing,

Until the watcher sound the severing.

Ah God, ah God, the dawn! It comes how soon.


The Middle Ages Volume I


Love: the intangible element  was a factor in the middle ages, however its  definition by society was defined by the time period.  Our forefathers and  fore mothers loved well and long..and much poetry and literature is given to  the many aspects of loving. Indeed, for many centuries - from the time of the  Greeks through the seventeenth century - physicians regularly offered  treatment for love-sickness, "the lovers maladye of heroes," which they regarded as both a physical and a mental affliction.


To better understand the supposed relationship between the sexes it is  important that you know prior to 1174 women were "You are the devil's  gateway...you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who  persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed  so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert- that is, death- even  the Son of God had to die."  Typical themes in medieval writings are: women  have unbridled passions, inability to keep secrets, weakness for flattery,  greed, extravagant dress, pride, duplicity, and shrewishness. Sex even  within marriage is a sin, women are the source of sin and mortality due to  Eve. Woman should be punished throughout her life for the failings of Eve.  Only slightly tempered by the concept of courtly love.


In 1174, Andreas Capellanus, chaplain to Marie de France, gave the world;  "The Art of Courtly Love".  It is now believed that he was not trying to  write a serious code of conduct; instead  he was trying to have a bit of  fun.  Courtly love required adherence to rules elaborated in the songs of  the troubadours between the 11th and the 13th centuries. A nobleman in love  with a married woman of equally high or higher birth had to prove his  devotion by heroic deeds and amorous writings. Once the lovers had exchanged  pledges and consummated their passion, complete secrecy had to be maintained. Because most noble marriages of the time were little more than business contracts, courtly love was a form of sanctioned adultery.  Capellanus said: ". . . a certain inborn suffering derived from the sight of  and excessive meditation upon the beauty of the opposite sex, which causes  each one to wish above all things the embraces of the other and by common  desire to carry out all of love's precepts in the other's embrace."  The  concept of "pure love" which included strongly self-deprecating behavior and servitude by a man for a distant, unattainable woman was a driving force throughout the high period of medieval love literature. From 1100 to 1300  (most intensely in the quarter-centuries before and after 1200), the  language of lady love prevailed in the courts of England and Europe.  The  concept that woman should be admired was vastly different from the  misogynist writings that flourished at that time.  The sin, guilt and  impurities of women were being preached from every pulpit.  This new  position that a woman was to be worshiped and idolized gave women a new  power and a new  verison of enslavement.  For if in this "game" of love the  truth was learned then it was the women that was punished.  Her virtue was a  great conquest and her value would only last as long as she was prey.  If  she were to yield and their tryst discovered than she was seen as the weak,  wanton creature that the Church said, and the man was viewed with the admiration that any victor would receive.


The Art of Courtly Love had very clear, but conflicting rules: A man who is  vexed by too much passion usually does not love, yet A true lover is  constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved.  And Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice (jealousy), yet Jealousy, and therefore love, are increased when one suspects his beloved. There are 31 rules listed in this game of love.  It was devised in such a  way that almost no man could win if called in to a "Court of Love".   However, what was to be a game soon became a societal viewpoint.  The role of women and the conceptions of love have been altered ever since.


Another publication can lay some claim to modifying the aspects of love:  "Romance of the Rose" (Le Roman de la Rose), a long thirteenth-century French  poem, extremely popular and influential in the Middle Ages, was written by  two authors. The first part, 4,058 lines by Guillaume de Lorris, is a  dream-vision allegory in which an aristocratic young man falls in love with  a rosebud symbolizing a lady or her sexual favors. The Lover is aided by a  personification called "Fair Welcome" but opposed by other personifications  that symbolize the personal and social restraints standing against his  advances Fear, Shame, Gossip ("Malebouche" in French; "Wikked Tongue" in a  Middle English translation), and "Daunger," our word danger, which, personified as a churl wielding a club, here stands for instinctive female resistance to male sexual desire. The first part was never finished; it  breaks off with the rose imprisoned in the castle of Jealousy with the Lover disconsolate on the outside. The poem was taken up by Jean de Meun, an academic at the University of Paris, who continued it for another 17,724 lines, which cover religion, philosophy, history, science, sex, love, marriage, and women. From its teachings women were told: There is also a proper way to weep, but every woman has the skill to weep properly wherever she may be. Even when no one has caused them any trouble or shame or annoyance, they still have tears at the ready: they all weep in whatever  they like, and make a habit of it.  And we learn that; In short, [men] are  all deceitful traitors, ready to indulge their lusts with everyone, and we  should deceive them in our turn and not set our hearts upon just one of  them. It is a foolish woman who gives her heart in this way: she ought to  have several lovers and arrange, if she can, to be so pleasing that she  brings great suffering upon all of them. If she has no graces, let her  acquire them and always behave more cruelly towards those who will strive  all the harder to serve her in order to win her love, while exerting herself to welcome those who do not care about it.


Our ancestors loved a good love story as much as we do. And, no another  love story satisfies the quota than that of Abelard and Heloise it contains;  passion, forbidden love, forbidden sex, unwed-pregnancy, torture,  imprisonment, longing, unrequited love,of resentment and castration. This  is a summary of their story; Pierre Abelard (1079-1142) was by all accounts  a brilliant scholar and theologian  met Heloise (1101-1164) 22 years his  junior and soon was smitten with her (Take thou this rose, O rose, Since love's own flower it is, And by that rose Thy lover captive is.. Abelard )  and convinced her uncle Fulbert, a canon of the Cathedral to become her private teacher.


(We were united first in the dwelling that sheltered our love, and then in  the hearts that burned with it. Under the pretext of study we spent our hours in the happiness of love, and  learning held out to us the secret opportunities that our passion craved.  Our speech was more of love than of the books which lay open before us; our  kisses far outnumbered our reasoned words. The very sundering of our bodies served but to link our souls closer together; the plentitude of the love which was denied to us inflamed us more than ever.   Abelard) Well the uncle found out, than Heloise found out she was pregnant, than  Abelard married her, than the uncle found them and brought her back, than  she had a boy named Astrolabe, than Abeland and Heloise wanted to have the  marriage kept secret, than Abeland and Heloise ran off . Heloise was hid as  a nun, the uncle showed up thought she was forced to take the veil and had  Abelard castrated. (... for they cut off those parts of my body with which I  had done that which was the cause of their sorrow.. Abelard)  Than Abelard and Heloise both took holy orders. Their love, far from fading, intensified. Abelard founded a convent. He called it "Consoling Spirit." Later, Heloise  became the Abbess. Than Heloise wrote him long love letters and love poems  and they were published  in the Historia Calamitatum so that all could read  them.. These missive of love and longing  lasted for years with him saying  stop we must not and her writing more , and him writing her to say sweet words and her writing more, than him saying no we must not. (Peace, O my stricken lute! Thy strings are sleeping.., would that my heart could still, Its bitter  weeping!   Abelard)  Upon his death Heloise had Abelard's body brought to  the Paraclete, where she was later buried beside him. They lie together still.  This medieval soap opera kept upper nobility on the edge of their seats for years. Love in the medieval world was as complex as it is today. Yet, perhaps it  was even more so because in a short span of time love was defined by a new set of rules in a game we are still playing.



Copyright 2000 by Eden Blacksmith, 1730 Gates, Kingman, AZ 86401.

Edenblacksmith  at hotmail.com. Permission is granted for republication in

SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a



If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<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