The Arms & Armour of the Guilds in the Leugemeete Chapel: A Case of Individual Taste?

Brugsepoortsraat (roughly translating to “Bruges Gate Street”) was a major thoroughfare in medieval Ghent, running through most of the western sections of the city outside of the walls proper. In the early fourteenth century, alongside considerable interest in re-fortifying much of the city itself, the existing gates that enclosed the extramural sections were heavily fortified and new ones were built; this effectively enclosed previously opened sections of the city and brought them into the corpus urbanum proper.[1] One such property that was effectively absorbed into the city itself was the Chapel of Saint John and Saint Paul; later known as the “Leugemeete” or “liar” due to a broken a clock on its façade.[2] Demolished in 1912, the chapel housed a suite of monumental wall paintings, which are now preserved in a series of watercolour paintings and wax calques.[3] The chapel was founded in 1316 as a charity for women, and then patronised by the guilds circa 1334.[4] The visual programme included patron portraits of its titular saints, a donor portrait in the form of a prayerful Count Louis I of Flanders (c. 1304 – Aug. 25, 1346), his son Louis II (1330 – 1384), and his wife, Margaret I, Countess of Artois (1310 – May 9, 1382), and a depiction of Christ in Resurrection on the eastern wall—perhaps suggesting the presence of an Easter chapel. Most importantly for scholars of late medieval guilds, however, were the series of monumental guildsmen painted in procession along the upper sections of the chapel, accompanied by pennants and trumpeters and marching towards the altar (Fig.1).[5]

Fig.1: Water colour rendering of the Leugemeete murals by Felix DeVigne, circa 1846. Archive, UGhent 446419BE

            The degree to which autonomous towns and cities such as Ghent took their defence seriously can be inferred by how much money and effort they spent on organising their civic defenders.[6] However, cultural artefacts such as the wall paintings in the Leugemeete are also indicative of the degree to which certain guilds and confraternities asserted their influence throughout their respective urban communities. Just as importantly, liminal visual representations of the guilds—scarce though they may be—provide insight into facets of their organisation and armament that are otherwise lost within armoury inventories and expenditure reports. The relationship between civic defenders and their local arsenals has recently gathered renewed interest among historians of the period, though most of the information at hand is reserved to the early modern period.[7] There are eight distinct, extant groups depicted in procession: the city watch (known as the Witte Kaproenen or “white caps” for their unique head coverings),[8] the Brotherhood of St George (as indicated by a standard bearing a singularly large cross), two unidentified cohorts, the butcher’s guild, the fishmonger’s guild (or poissoniers), and finally for the south wall the baker’s guild. The only extant guild iconography on the north wall is the textile cutter’s guild.[9] All of these attributions are predicated upon the renderings of De Vigne and Bethune, which will prove more than adequate for the purposes of this essay.[10]

Fig.2: Calque reproduction by Jean-Baptiste Bethune and company, circa 1860.
STAM, Ghent, 09555.6-6

            Starting with the city watch, a number of weapons appear alongside the defenders (Fig.2).[11] The mounted man atop the front-facing horse holds a spurred crossbow aloft, while the crowded assemblage of men next to him wield a mix of bows, spears, goedendags (the infamous Flemish spiked club), and small swords at their sides. The diverse nature of their weaponry seems conducive to the aims of a permanent military force, and the specific emphasis being placed on the presence of skilled weaponry such as the bow would appear to corroborate this. Next we have the Brotherhood of St George, who uniformly exhibit their weapon of choice—the crossbow. After them come the first of the two unidentified groups of soldiers, their standard emblazoned with two shields and five crosses. This group carry shields, as well as a variety of spears and goedendags. The second group, similarly unidentified, is of particular interest. They carry shields, like the group just before and dissimilar to the city watch and the Brotherhood of St George, but contain a plurality of weapon varieties that are not present elsewhere in the visual programme (Fig.3 and Fig.4).[12] Lead by a helmeted soldier with his visor upraised, the group contains spears, goedendags, falchions, and axes. The latter two stand out, as aside from a single curved blade seen amongst the ranks of the fishmongers; this group is the only extant cohort of soldiers wielding these specific weapons. The first inclination here is to fixate upon the presence of the axe—single bladed and attached to a long wooden haft—to potentially identify this particular assemblage. Save the unidentified confraternity marching in front of them, this group appears between the civic associations of the city watch and Brotherhood of Saint George, and the beginning of the gathered craft guilds. Using said context, the presence of the axe could indicate a particular craft guild with which said implement would be associated; woodworkers (scrinewerkers, coopers, etc.) of some fashion. However, the prominence with which the falchion is displayed in conjunction with the axe seems to indicate that these weapons function less as indicators of occupation and more as signifiers of prestige. This is most apparent in the last soldier in the party, his massive falchion ostentatiously set against his shoulder for all to see. These members of the militia are defined as being both skilled and wealthy enough to afford particularly notable weapons, and though the contribution of burghers to town militias became much more prominent in the early modern period, could indicate that these specific militiamen were separate from both holy confraternity and craft guild—or at the very least are attempting to indicate as much.[13] The presence of a group of artisans who were not necessarily affiliated with the craft guilds is not without precedent in medieval guild procession, as demonstrated by the participation of the cloth-sellers guild in Leuven and Mechelen.[14] Contemporary documents list the constituent parts of the corpus urbanum as “the mayors, the aldermen, the council, the headmen of the burghers, the deans and sworn men of all the craft guilds, and all the collective commons”, and this descending hierarchical list is reflected in the order by the groups are marching in the Leugemeete.[15]

Fig.3(A): Calque reproduction by Jean-Baptiste Bethune and company, circa 1860.
STAM, Ghent, 09555.4-6
Fig.4(B): Calque reproduction by Jean-Baptiste Bethune and company, circa 1860.
STAM, Ghent, 09555.5-6

            The presence of a group of burghers wielding a personalised assortment of weaponry is notable, as it disrupts the traditional narrative that town militias were dominated by the craft guilds and indicates a broader level of civic participation in their collective defence that is usually relegated to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It also suggests that these weapons were provided—and prized—by the individuals wielding them; a luxury that may have been unattainable for many craft guilds but demonstrably possible for other civic associations. Above all else, I hope this essay has demonstrated the inherent value in utilizing guild iconography to further understand the functions of a considerable substrata of urban life in the later medieval period.

Acknowledgements: The author would like to thank Dr Kelly DeVries for the exchange from which this essay stems.

[1] For a breakdown of the urban development of fourteenth-century Ghent, see Dumolyn et al: Jan Dumolyn, Marc Ryckaert, Heidi Deneweth, Luc Devliegher, Guy Dupont, Medieval Bruges c.850-1550, ed. by Andrew Brown, Jan Dumolyn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), p. 152-195

[2] Jeannine Baldewijns, Lieve Watteeuw , ‘Calques van de muurschilderingen uit de Leugemeete met vourstelling van de stedelijk milities (1861-2004)’, Handelingen der Maatschappij voor Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde te Gent, LX, (2006), 337-367 (p.340).

[3] The water colours were done by Felix De Vigne, an antiquarian who initially discovered the paintings under whitewash in 1946 and published his illustrations the following year: Félix De Vigne, Recherches Historiques sur Les Costumes Civils et Militaires des Gidles et des Corporations de Métiers, leurs Drapeaux, leurs Armes, leurs Brasons, etc. (Rue des Peignes: Gyselynck, 1847). The calques were undertaken by Baron Jean Baptiste Bethune and a team of historians and architects circa 1860 and are now housed in the STAM museum in Ghent.

[4] J.-B.C.F. Béthune de Villers, Alfons van Werveke, Het godshuis van Sint-Jan & Sint-Pauwel te Gent, bijgenaamd de Leugemeete, 2 edn (Gent: Annoot-Braeckman, 1902, p.IX

[5] Appendix, Fig. 1, Archive, UGhent 446419BE

[6] Jean Henri Chandler, ‘A brief examination of warfare by medieval urban militias in Central and Northern Europe ‘, Acta Periodica Duellatorum, 1, (2013), 106-150 (p. 109).

[7] For an overview of state armouries during the early modern period, see: Kelly DeVries, ‘State Armies in Theory and Practice during the Renaissance’, Krieg in der Geschichte, 111, (2019), 43-69.

[8] Carina Fryklund, Late Gothic Wall Painting in the Southern Netherlands (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepolis, 2011), p. 53

[9] As identified by Felix De Vigne.

[10] There is some evidence of artistic invention in the antiquarian renderings of the wall paintings; I unpack this in my thesis, which is still forthcoming.

[11] Appendix. Fig. 2, STAM, Ghent, 09555.6-6

[12] Appendix, Fig. 3, A / STAM, Ghent, 09555.4-6, B / STAM, Ghent, 09555.5-6.

[13] Chandler, p. 112

[14] Jelle Haemers, Artisans and craft guilds in the medieval city, in V. Lambert & P. Stabel, Golden times. Wealth and Status in the Middle Ages in the Southern Low Countries, Tielt, Lannoo, (2016) 209-239, p.213

[15] Jan Dumolyn, ‘Guild Politics and Political Guilds in Fourteenth-Century Flanders’, The Voices of the People in Late Medieval Europe, Communication and Popular Politics, ed. By Jan Dumolyn, Jelle Haemers, Hipolito Rafael Oliva Herrer, Vincent Challet, Turnhout 2014 (Studies in European Urban History, 33), p.15-48, p. 15

Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 2

The second instalment this six-part essay identifies the most likely owner of the silver sallet. It explains why he, his kinsmen, and many of his compatriots were to be found in France’s urban centres at a critical juncture in the Hundred Years War.

A Desperate Dauphin

To say that Charles’s fortunes were at a low ebb by the start of the siege of Orléans in October of 1428 would be far too generous. A fairer oceanic metaphor would be that his fortunes were stranded in mudflats facing a rushing incoming tide. But the tide was to turn. Thanks to the Auld Alliance of 1295 French monarchs had secured the aid of the Scots. Such scholars as Michael Brown have demonstrated that the large forces of fighting men (and boys) commanded by Scottish magnates were raised from their own private retinues bound by ties of landholding and kinship.[1] There are, therefore, no detailed records of the nature of those of England such as muster rolls and service indentures. It is likely that up to 15,000 Scots were involved, many of them skilled archers.[2] This is a staggering number given the small size of this northern realm. For the crucial role played by the Scots one need only refer to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entries for such war leaders as Archibald, earl of Douglas, John Stewart, earl of Buchan, and Sir John Stewart of Darnley.

Desperately-needed aid was soon to arrive at Orléans in the form of a cyclops, his brother, and some hard fighting men.

Fig.1: John Hassall, Bannockburn, 1914-15, Glasgow Museums, ID No. 1386.

Billy the Kid Brother to the Connétable

Two Stewarts appear as characters in a play about the siege of Orléans, probably written not long after the conflict itself. One is ‘Le Connétable d’Écosse Lord John Stuart de Darnley’ the other is ‘Messire Guillaume Estuart’.[3] Sir John had been appointed to one of the highest military ranks. There are royal lettres patentes of 1423 granting ‘la ville, leur chastel et Chastelline d’Aubigny […] à Jean Stuart, seigneur de Darnelle et Concressault, conestable de l’armee d’Ecosse, [… et] à ses hoirs [sic] males descendants de son corps’.[4] In a payment to his Connétable, Charles refers to ‘his ancient enemies and adversaries of England’ (‘ses anciens ennemis et adversaires d’Angleterre’).[5] This is somewhat of an understatement. Sir John lost his half-brother, great grandfather (and his two brothers), and great great grandfather in battle against them – he even lost an eye before his capture at Cravant (31 July 1423). Such epic clashes with the ‘Auld Innemie’ have proved themselves an enduring inspiration to many artists across the centuries (Figure 1, Figure 2, and Figure 3).

Fig.2: Sir John Maxwell, Battle of Otterburn-Death of Douglas and Capture of Sir Ralph Percy, 19th century, Glasgow Museums, ID No. NR.89.
Fig.3: Sir William Alan, Heroism and Humanity, 1802-50, Glasgow Museums, ID No. 1233.

The coat of arms of ‘Le s[eigneu]r de dernele’ is recorded in Berry Herald’s beautiful armorial produced in the middle of the fifteenth century (Figure 4).[6] On the following folio is ‘Le s[eigneu]r de chastelmont’ (Figure 5).[7] The blazon on each features a gold field with a distinctive central, horizontal, band checkered with blue and silver – or, a fess chequy azure and argent. This proclaims their kinship with the royal Stewart dynasty. The second has a diagonal red band (bendlet gules) that passes under the fess chequy as a mark of difference. These are the arms of Sir William Stewart of Castlemilk, Sir John’s younger brother, and the most likely candidate for the owner of the silver sallet.

Fig.4: Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Français 4985, fol. 158r.

Sir William’s lactose-like title comes from the lands of Castlemilk in Lanarkshire. The name’s origin lies with an ancestor’s castle on the Water of Milk, a tributary of the River Annan in the far south-west of the country.

Fig.5: Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Français 4985, fol. 159r.

So, how did Sir William come into the possession of such a fine piece of armour as the sallet? One possibility is that it was made in, or imported into, his own realm. Unfortunately, due to the paucity of sources, it is incredibly difficult to construct a picture of armour production in Scotland.[8]

In the next three installments I examine three possible explanations: gift, purchase, and plunder.

[1] Michael Brown, The Black Douglases: War and Lordship in Late Medieval Scotland, 1300-1455 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1998), p. 153 and pp. 216-23. See also M. H. Brown, ‘“Men, Brave and Strong”: Bannockburn, the Auld Alliance and Scottish Martial Identity in the Later Middle Ages’, in Scotland and the First World War: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Bannockburn, ed. by Gill Plain (Lanham, MD: Bucknell University Press, 2017), pp. 49-64 (esp. pp. 55-57).

[2] R. Moffat, ‘Armour’, in A Companion to Chivalry, ed. by Robert W. Jones and Peter Coss (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2019), pp. 159-85 (at p. 164).

[3] Le Mistère du siège d’Orléans, ed. by F. Guessard and E. De Certain (Paris: Imprimerie Impériale, 1862), p. xlviii and p. 255.

[4] Paris, Archives nationales, K 168, no. 91.

[5] Jules Loiseleur, ‘Compte des dépenses faites par Charles VII pour secourir Orléans pendant le siège de 1428’, Mémoires de la Société Archéologique de l’Orléanais, 11 (1868), 1-209 (p. 184). The account published by Loiseleur is a seventeenth-century copy of a lost original.

[6] Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 4985, fol. 158r.

[7] Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 4985, fol. 159r.

[8] A detailed study drawing on surviving royal records is David H. Caldwell, ‘Royal Patronage of Arms and Armour Making in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Scotland’, in Scottish Weapons and Fortifications, 1100-1800, ed. by David H. Caldwell (Edinburgh: Donald, 1981), pp. 73-93.

Norse Towns in Middle Irish Historical Literature

The modern Irish cities of Dublin, Limerick, and Waterford were founded around the year 800CE by Old Norse-speaking Vikings. These and other smaller Hiberno-Norse towns became important players in Gaelic Irish dynastic struggles of the ninth to eleventh centuries. Archaeology provides valuable information about the footprint of these towns, but their actual appearance from century to century is difficult to ascertain. Additional textual evidence comes from sources, which narrate the history of the Norse in Ireland for a patron.

Fig.1: © National Museum of Ireland. Three axes dating to the 11th or early 12th century from Lough Corrib, Co. Galway, Ireland. These axes are associated with the Norse, but the date and place of their discovery indicates a Gaelic Irish adoption of the weapon.

The most famous of these sources is Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib, written about Brian Bóru for his great-grandson Muirchertach Ua Briain around 1100.[1] Two others are Cathréim Cellacháin Caisil written for Cormac Mac Cárthaig around 1130,[2] and the Cerball of Osraige saga written for the Mac Giolla Phádraig dynasty around 1030 and preserved in the Fragmentary Annals.[3] These sources describe war with the Norse in the ninth and tenth century, as well as the 1014 Battle of Clontarf in Dublin within Cogad. Where the Viking settlements in these narratives have features such as walls and battlements, the description likely matches the Hiberno-Norse towns of the author’s awareness.


Dublin is described in Cogadh as two settlements: Dubhlinn (‘Dark-pool’) which became Dyflin in Old Norse, and Atha Cliath (‘Ford of Reed Hurdles’), which survives in modern Irish as Baile Átha Cliath. At one point the Norse town is described as ‘Dublin of Áth Cliath’[4], which suggests that, Dubhlinn may be the specific name for the Norse region, while Áth Cliath is the general settlement on the River Liffey. There is a town (baile) and a market (margad, a Norse loan word) where Brian sets up camp, as well as a fortress (dún).[5]

This fortress is associated with Hiberno-Norse ruler Amlaibh, who submits to Brian and as part of their agreement gets back ‘his fortress’ (a dhún).[6] The plain of Clontarf is visible from this fortress, as Amlaibh’s son Sitriuc watches the famous battle of 1014 from his personal quarters (grianan féin)[7] on the battlement. There is also an open space or green (faci) to the west, in the area of modern Kilmainham.[8]


Limerick is Luimneach in Middle Irish and transposed into Old Norse as Hlymrekr. Cogadh describes a fort and a ‘good town’ (degbali)[9] there. It is unclear if there are also residences within the fort, as Brian’s men enter the fort and then slaughter the Norse ‘on the streets and in the houses’ (ar na srathaib 7 isna taigib).[10] The Norse who escape regroup in the ‘western harbour of Limerick’ (iartharach Lumnig),[11] the seaward side of the River Shannon.

A similar scene in Cellacháin sees the titular character’s forces go into Limerick, where the Norse cannot ‘close the gates’ (na doirsi na dunad) of the fort and are slaughtered ‘in the houses and in the towers’ (isna tignibh 7 isna toraibh). There are civilians present in Limerick, as the Norse give up ‘their wives and children [lit. dear sons] and households’ (mna 7 a maccaemha 7 a muintera) to Cellachán and his men.[12] 


Waterford is Port Láirge (‘Lárag’s Port’) in Middle Irish and Veðrafjörður (‘Wether [i.e. Ram] Fjord’) in Old Norse. In the saga of Cerball, the Norse are driven ‘into a small town with stone fortification around it’ (i mbaile beg 7 cloch dhaingean ime) and one of their leaders goes ‘up onto the rampart’ (ar an chaisiol).[13] The Norse are besieged and a few of them escape, with wealthy spoils and ‘beautiful women left behind’ (ban caomh ro fagbhaid ann sin),[14] indicating the presence of noncombatants.

Waterford also hosts civilians in Cellacháin, and may have been the designated place for the families of Norse across Munster. Cellachán’s men capture Limerick, Cork, and Cashel within the narrative and then go to Waterford. After winning a battle outside the town they go ‘where the women and families of the Norse were’ (a rabhatar mna 7 muinntera na Lochlannach) then burn the ‘town’ (baili). Cellachán’s forces then go onto the ‘green’ (faigthi) of Waterford, when a fleet of Norse ships arrives. The Norse already in Waterford close ‘the gates’ (doirsi) and attempt to defend themselves; nonetheless they are defeated once more by Cellachán and his men.[15]

Fig.2: © National Museum of Ireland. The magnificent sword from Lough Derg near Curraghmore, Co. Tipperary, dates from the 11th century and is decorated with silver niello and copper alloy.


Norse towns in these three Middle Irish texts are described with nearby greens (faichi), a town (baile), and a fort (dún) or other enclosure that can be closed with a gate (doirse). In Dublin, the fort seems to have been separate from the living quarters of the town, although both Amlaibh and Sitriuc have a personal connection to the fort. Noncombatants reside within the gates in Limerick and Waterford. Little is said about the harbours, which must have been vital for these towns, nor the mechanisms by which they collected tribute and supplies from their hinterlands. These ninth and tenth century Viking towns of the Irish imagination give us a snapshot of the eleventh and twelfth century Hiberno-Norse reality they encountered, which is hidden from us today by centuries of development.

[1] Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh: The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, or, The Invasions of Ireland by the Danes and Other Norsemen, ed. and trans. by J. H. Todd (London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1867).

[2] Caithréim Cellacháin Caisil: The Victorious Career of Cellachan of Cashel, or, The Wars Between the Irishmen and the Norsemen in the Middle of the 10th Century, ed. and trans. by A. Bugge, Det Norske Historiske Kildeskriftfond (Christiana: J. Chr. Gundersens Bogtrykkeri, 1905).

[3] Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, ed. and trans. by J. N. Radner, (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1978). Also available online through Corpus of Electronic Texts (CELT): <>

[4] Cogadh ed. Todd, p. 35.

[5] Ibid., p. 113.

[6] Ibid., p. 119.

[7] Ibid., p. 191.

[8] Ibid., p. 151, 155.

[9] Ibid., p. 81.

[10] Ibid., p. 79.

[11] Ibid., p. 85.

[12] Cellacháin ed. Bugge, p. 66.

[13] Fragmentary Annals ed. Radner, p. 109.

[14] Ibid., p. 125.

[15] Cellacháin, p. 70-1.

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