Christmas at Winchester, 1234

“The whole court was beginning to hum and shine with Christmas hilarity, for Henry loved Christmas, loved to celebrate it as a day of high jollity with, of course, religious undertones.

The Christmas matins had been sung just before dawn with all the proper ceremonial. The bishop himself, wearing his dalmatic, had chanted St. Matthew’s Genealogy, after being escorted by the acolytes to the rood loft, where candlesticks were elevated above him. It had been a solemn occasion. The King had spent it on his knees, thrilling to the deep gloom of the edifice, the drone of the bishop’s voice and the the rich chorus of the monkish voices in the Te Deum which followed. He loved ritual. It uplifted him, made him feel more than an earthly king, gave him, perhaps, a sense of participation in heavenly rule.

Now the festivities of the day were starting and everything would be done with the refinement and magnificence which the Normans had introduced into such celebrations. The yule log had been dragged in already while gleemen sang the popular carol of the day, To English Ale and Gascon Wine, the refrain of which ran:

May joys flow from God above,
To all those whom Christmas love.

The wassail bowls were ready with the fragrant hot spiced ale and the roasted apples. The meats were making on the spits, pig and boar and goose, and the kitchens were still busy preparing such holiday delicacies as dilligrout and karum pie.” ~From The Magnificent Century by Thomas B. Costain.

What, pray tell, is a dalmatic? And what are dilligrout and karum pie? The aforementioned Henry is Henry III, aka Henry of Winchester, son of John I (Magna Carta) and father to Edward I, Longshanks.

1 thought on “Christmas at Winchester, 1234

  1. Oooh, oooh, I know what a dalmatic is–it’s a liturgical vestment! You sometimes see very old ornate ones in museums. (There’s a picture on Wikipedia–I just checked but am too lazy to do a link.)

    Did I ever tell you I really enjoyed Prince of Foxes by Costain? Did you like this one as well?



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