This is my last chance to experience something I’ve craved since reading Ronald Welch’s Sun of Yorkback when I was twelve. I love my plate armor, but I’m now in my forties, a dad, and my days of hitting the road with my armor are numbered. (“Write what you know”, they said. So I had set out to know what I wanted to write about.)
“Let me go first!”
I take my place at the front of the knot of my friends in armor from different periods. Everybody jostles around and, without the benefit of NCOs, forms a rough triangle with me at the point.
Ahead, the Viking ranks stiffen, dress their shields. Locals mostly, and many of them students, so there’s a lot of quilted armor and even some linen shirts.
I grin into my visor. We’re older, heavier in build. One-to-one we outweigh them and we’ve concentrated our weight into a human battering ram…
…and yes, it’s a small multi-period medieval faire at St Andrews, Scotland. The weapons aren’t sharp. It’s not real.
But read on, because the experience was illuminating…
King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are shrouded in myth. While stories of their deeds have been popular since the Middle Ages, there’s no hard evidence that they actually existed…
…except that the Round Table hangs in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle!
Well, not really. For centuries it was reputed to have been the genuine article, until archaeologists took it down in 1976 and using radiocarbon and tree ring dating found that it had been made in the 13th or early 14th century, long after King Arthur and his merry knights were supposed to have lived.
The dates vindicate historians’ long-held belief that the table was made by King Edward I (reigned 1272-1307) around the year 1290 to celebrate the betrothal of one of his daughters. Generally a tournament would be held on such an occasion, and since the chivalry of the day loved to hear stories of Arthurian romance and derring-do, a Round Table would be a fitting decoration. Places around the table are set with the names of Arthur and 24 of his famous knights such as Lancelot and Galahad. One wonders if Edward and his knights actually sat around the table for a feast, and which real-life knights were honored with which places.
Vienna is home to many great treasures, such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum with its fine art collection and the Hapsburg armor and armor collection at the Neue Berg. One little museum that’s often overlooked is the Church and Treasury of the Teutonic Order.
Tucked away near Stefansdom, the city’s cathedral, it’s easy to miss with its small steeple, smaller sign, and simple front gate. Go inside, however, and you’ll be in for a treat.