Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Knightly Tournament - Royal Castle of Łęczyca

 last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the XV Knightly Tournament at the Łęczyca Royal Castle -  Wikipedia has a gallery. I was a spectator and enjoyed it quite a bit, along with my family. Łęczyca is a very ancient and rich in history town in  Central Poland, on the banks of Bzura River.

A reconstruction of a early gród/gord/ - stronghold of X - XI century, from the museum in the Royal Castle.

Some horse related items from the castle museum found nearby by various archaeological excavations, including some from Lutomiersk (the saddle in the drawing).

Tournament took place inside the castle, within its courtyard, a rather limited space for the spectators' but it was fun nevertheless. The banners show Polish coat of arms, Sulima on the right is the coat of arms of Zawisza Czarny of Garbow (today Stary Garbow), the most famous Polish XV century knigh, and actually the most famous Polish knight ever. 

Hussites , their war wagon, and XV century infantry

Knights - the knight in yellow and black reenacts Zawisza Czarny of Garbow

Archers, one archer had the Master bowyer Adam Karpowicz's Turkish bow - a beauty


More images of the tournament etc - here 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Moryson's bits and pieces on travel in XVII century part II

today is the great  national holiday for all Poles around the globe - anniversary of the battle of Warsaw 1920


Returning to the stories of travel told by our master Fynes Moryson here we have one about traveling in Turkey, note cantering horses, no ambling and trotting etc :

Turkey. * [edited some of the spelling a wee little bit] -

In the Turkish Empire [Ottoman Empire] they travel not, as we do, sometimes one man alone, sometimes two, three, or more consorts, at pleasure ; but as thieves there go in troops to spoil, so Merchants for their security, join together till they have some two or three hundred Cammels, loaded with goods, and a convenient number of men to attend them. And this Company is called vulgarly a Carravane. to which passengers join themselves, for their better safety. This Company, to avoid the heat of the Sun, useth to begin their journey in the evening, and to continue the same till two hours after Sun-rise, resting all the day in Tents : And every man carries his own meat, or provides it by the way. ''Malem'' signifies one, that leades Merchants goods ; and ''Muccaro'' signifies him that looks to the beasts, and to the loading of them, and these Men let Cammels, Horses, and Mules, to passengers, for the whole journey, at reasonable rates, and do wait upon the passengers to feed the beasts, and to load them, as also to buy and dress meate for the Men. Myself and my Brother Henry, in our journey from Tripoli in Syria to Haleppo [Aleppo], paid nine Pyastri for two Asses to ride upon, and for their meat [foodstuffs and fodder] and for some tributes (vulgarly Cafars [infidels]) of twenty Meidines or there-abouts, due by the way. And in our journey from Haleppo to Constantinople, we paid to our Muccaro bearing the charge of the beasts meat, seventy and one Pyastri, for a Horse and a Mule to ride upon, and for a Cammel to carry our provisions, of Bisket, Wine, Damaske Prunes, and some such comfortable things : For we pitched our Tents near Villages or Cities, from whence we bought Egges, Hennes [pultry], and Ryce, as wee needed them, and sometimes had opportunity to supply that which we had consumed, of those provisions which we carried with us. One Cammel will bear a passenger, and good store of necessary provisions with him, but the pace thereof is very harde, and shaketh the body of the Ryder, the hinder parts of the Cammel being higher then the fore parts. The Horses either go a foot-pace, or gallop, but are not taught the paces of ambling or trotting : yet in regard that in these journies the passenger goes slowly, following loaded Cammels, their Horses are easy enough to ride upon. The Mules naturally have easy and slow paces, and are most commodious, especially for sick men. 

Besides these Caravans, a passenger may light upon other commodities of taking his journey, namely, when Bashaes or Turkish Governours are recalled from their Governements, and return with their families to Constantinople. For these Magistrates are often changed in Turkey, and so these commodities of passage are frequent. Only the passenger must bee commended to the protection of this Basha or Governour, which upon a small present or gift he will easily undertake, and swear by his head, touching it (as their manner is to swear), that he will bring him safely to his journyes end. And the passenger who together with this caution, hath a Janizare to protect and guide him, shall need to fear no danger, so as he receive this Janizare from an Ambassadour, Consull, or Christian Merchant, who will ask account of the passengers safety from the Janizare at his return. 

They have a third commodious way for journeys, in the company of a Troop of Horse,

vulgarly called ''Cassenda''), which often carries the Turkes Treasure up to Constantinople. And not only the chief of this Troop, upon a small gift, will protect any passenger, but also this course of all others is most commodious for journies, because they ride a good pace, being not troubled with loaded Cammels, and so come speedily unto their journies end.

* images from Wikipedia  Orientalist painters page and by Josef Brandt. In my previous post on Ottoman Turks I included various period images, including images of travelers etc, so do explore.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Antoine Fortuné de Brack - cavalry saddle and its importance


Antoine Fortuné de Brack, Napoleonic   cavalryman, officer - hussar (  7e régiment de hussards ) and later  uhlan/lancer of  Le 2e régiment de chevau-légers lanciers de la Garde impériale   , chasseur a cheval and hussar again, finally the commander of l'ecole de cavalerie at Saumur, France, wrote the famous book on the light cavalry tactics based on his military experiences -  Avant-postes de cavalerie légère (Cavalry Outpost Duties),  and luckily to us he begins his book by writing about the cavalry saddle and its importance for the cavalry service:

Q. Why does it often happen that a non-commissioned officer or soldier does 
not receive the promotion, the cross, which he might have obtained? 
  A. Because, instead of continuing with the war squadrons to which 
he belonged,he remained in rear, at one of the small depots. 
Q. Why?
A. Because his horse was injured and unfit for service. 
Q. What injured him ? 
A. The saddle. 
Q. Why did the saddle injure him?
A. Because the chief of squadron in assigning it, and the soldier in 
receiving it,failed to study carefully the proper bearing of the saddle
on the horse's back. 
 The first thing to be done when a saddle is received is to place the naked 
tree on the horse's back to see that the bars fit properly; that they are 
parallel to the surface on which they are placed; to judge beforehand the 
changes of position which will be effected in these surfaces by the movements 
of the horse, so that the weightof the saddle may be, as nearly as possible,
distributed over the whole, and not bear upon a portion of the bars only.
The slightly convex form of the bars is given to them for the sole purpose 
of preserving a perfect equilibrium in all possible positions of
the horse and his rider. 
To see that the arch of the pommel does not constrain the withers, either by 
pinching them laterally or compressing them in their upper portion; that the 
arch of the cantle is high enough and the fork sufficiently elevated to 
prevent the valise resting on the loins when it is attached; that the bars
are smooth, so that there may be no rough spots to produce abrasions of the 
skin; that the pegs, made of green wood, and afterward dried,
do not project from their holes in a way to produce injury; 
that the saddle seat is not so low as to throw the rider on the backbone of
the horse, instead of keeping him away from it, thus producing pressure and 
dangerous chafing; that the saddle seat is not raised too high before or behind,
which, by throwing the rider too much to the front or rear, will make
the saddle tilt up, derange the equilibrium, establish a constant, uneven
pressure upon the same place, constrain the horse and rider in their movements, 
and will surely injure both; that the holsters do not close too tightly on 
the shoulders, which will constrain their movements and surely wound them. 
The only way of judging perfectly of the fit of a saddle is, as I have already 
said, to place the bare tree upon the horse's back, then to mount the man upon 
the tree and see how the pressure acts. 
 If, in every movement, the bars are not parallel to the horse's sides, the 
pressure will be irregular; for either the tree is too wide, and the bars, 
pressing only from the inside, will injure the backbone of the horse; or the 
tree will be too narrow, and the bars, pressing only diagonally,will soon 
produce sores upon those parts of the sides which they must bear upon 
with all the weight of the rider and his load. 
That having been done, the leather parts belonging to the saddle will be 
attached to it, and it will then be placed carefully upon the folded blanket.
The crupper, breast-strap, and girth will be so arranged that by their united 
action they will hold the saddle securely in the place it should occupy and 
thus prevent, instead of causing, injuries to the horse. 
When a saddle fits a horse properly there is no need of fastening it, in peace,
with either a crupper or breaststrap; which shows plainly that these two pieces
of harness should not be tightly drawn — as this would simply result in 
constraining the movements of the horse,and chafing his skin unnecessarily. 
On the contrary, the girth should be tightened rather more, because by holding 
the blanket in position it prevents its becoming displaced, to the injury of 
the horse, and also keeps the saddle in place. 
 The captain who adjusts a saddle to the back of a horse of his squadron ought 
to see not only the immediate effect it will produce on the back, rounded by rest
in the garrison, but also that which it must produce upon the same back, thinned
and wasted by the fatigues of war, or of a long march. He should be guided then,
not by the fleshy form but by the bony frame of the horse, in forming his opinion. 

When the saddle has been tried as I have just directed, it should then be packed 
and mounted; and, in the alterations which will be suggested by these operations, 
a large margin must be allowed for the changes which will be rendered necessary 
by the thinness of the horse, as mentioned above. 
                                             * * *
In this  series on general de Brack next will be the information on the bridling, curb-bit and cinch...
By the way great reconstructions of 1st lancer regiment uniforms, weapons, and horse tack.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Moryson's bits and pieces on travel in XVII century part I


 English gentleman Fynes Moryson (died AD 1630) wrote the following opus magnum:
''An itinerary vvritten by Fynes Moryson gent. first in the Latine tongue, and then translated by him into English: containing his ten yeeres travell throvgh the tvvelve domjnions of Germany, Bohmerland, Sweitzerland, Netherland, Denmarke, Poland, Jtaly, Turky, France, England, Scotland, and Ireland. Divided into III parts'' (1908 edition), 
In the chapter of book III - Of the fit meanes to travell, and to hire Coaches and Horses. - he  wrote about traveling in Europe during the 
early 1600s (1605-17), talking about peculiarities of each region, horses, lodging, costs, dangers and, 
many other interesting aspects

I will start with Poland :), eventually add German Countries, Italy, Turkey, France, and England, Scotland and Ireland.:

  Poland for the most part (or almost all) is a plaine Countrie, fit for the passing of coches, which may be hired in Cities, and are like to those of Germany.  From Dantzke[Gdańsk] to Crakaw[Cracow, Kraków] (being ten dales journey) a coach may be hired for some 44 German guldens. My selfe paid there for my part six guldens, leaving the Coach after foure dales journey, because the horses were tired. And for my diet two of those dayes upon our guides reckoning, my part came to two guldens, but I am sure he deceived us. In one Citie by the way, five of us paid 2 dollers for one supper, but my selfe after passing alone, commonly dined in villages for 2 or 3 grosh, and supped for 4 or 6 grosh. They use to carry a bed in the Coach, and to sit upon it in the day time, for otherwise no beds are to be found, but onely in great Cities, which are very rare. And they who will have wine, must also carry it with them, for it is not to be had but onlie in great Cities. Our Horses (as I said) being tired, we left our Coach, and by the Kings letter or warrant granted to one of our company, we tooke up horses, and that for small prices, namely, one or two Grosh for a Polish or Dutch mile [ Polish mile was about 7,18 kilometers in XVII century].

  But the Polonians for the most part ride on horsebacke, and the most convenient and frugall course for passengers, is to buy horses and sell them in Italy after their journey, neither shall they want horsemen to beare them company from City to City : but he that is a horse-man, cannot carrie his bed, & so must have patience to rest upon a bench, til he shall find beds upon the confines of Germany. In the meane time his long horsmans coat (which the Polonians & Hungarians generally use) may (with straw) make his lodging more convenient, especially if it be lined with Woolves skinnes, or like furres, for the Winter time. Neither shall he neede to feare any cold, since the Polonians use hot stoves (as the Germans have), and do also lodge all the family therein at night upon straw and benches. Horsemeate will cost some two or three grosh at noone, and some foure or five grosh at night.

original spelling of early 1600s English
Paintings by Józef Brandt and Jan Brueghel