Byzantine Riding Boots

This is a reconstruction of a pair of tall riding boots from the 5-7th century found in the ruins of the Byzantine city of Antinopolis in modern day Egypt. Because of the favorable climate there, the city is a treasure trove of historical artifacts most of which have survived in great condition. This allows us to better understand how shoes and garments were made, and what they looked like. This pair of Byzantine riding boots were made in the classical “turnshoe” construction method, which means that they were sewn inside out, and then flipped. This is a very popular way of making shoes, that remained in use for centuries. Because of the inherent flaws in this method, however, the reconstruction we’re presenting here is much different when it comes to soles and sole attachment. 

Byzantine ivory casket from 10-11th century. Similar boot model.

As you can see, this is not a “turnshoe” construction. The method used here is called “clump-shoe” which is a fancy way of saying that the sole is outside. The shoe is sewn inside-out with a thin leather sole, and a narrow strip of leather protruding between the upper and the inside sole. This thin leather strip is where the sole is attached to. This construction method became popular in 14-15th century Europe, and is very good for our modern reconstruction needs. It allows the reenactor to replace the sole of his riding boots when they get worn out, without having to compromise the structural integrity of the boot. 

In this case, the customer wanted them reinforced with additional layers of leather and hobnails for better traction during combat. We don’t usually deal with hobnails, and don’t have the practice of nailing the sole, but we did our best, and are pretty happy with the results. 

The upper leather is 2mm calf leather, the sole is 7mm cow hide, with additional nailed strips of another 7mm. As far as Byzantine riding boots go, these won’t be very comfortable to wear on horseback, because the sole reinforcement will make the use of the stirrups very difficult. However, if you are a swordsman who plans on doing a lot of fencing and fighting on foot, these boots are the best thing you can get.

Enjoy.

The Ultimate Medieval Handsewn Gambeson

We are proud to present to you – the best gambeson we’ve made so far!

This is a completely handsewn gambeson, based on late medieval depictions and written sources. It’s composed of six layers of thick coarse linen fabric, lined with soft linen on the inside, and fine green linen on the outside. The project took a long time to complete, but we are proud to say that every stitch on that medieval gambeson is sewn by hand. The garment is meant to be worn underneath a maille armor, covered with a second – padded gambeson on top. It’s very flexible and comfortable while at the same time providing adequate protection for the arms, legs and torso of the wearer. The sleeves have a long slit with several sets of holes that allow variations in fastening. The collar buttons up on the side, so it can be taken down in warmer weather. Overall, this medieval gambeson is the golden standard of what you need to wear under any type of armor if you’re reconstructing European soldiers from the 13-14th centuries. 

Enjoy 🙂

Early Medieval Russian Kaftan

We are proud to present to you our latest work. This is an early medieval Russian kaftan. It’s an overcoat made of thick hand-made wool with linen lining and some wonderful decorations.

This type of fashion was widely spread from Byzantium, through the Balkans and north to the Russian kingdoms and even some parts of the Scandinavian kingdoms. So, if you are into reenacting a nobleman from any of these kingdoms during the early middle ages, this type of garment is your best option. This kaftan in particular is decorated with expensive damask silks similar to those woven and sold on the markets in Constantinople. The textiles we used for decoration are comprised of two types of medallions – with lions and with birds.The torso is decorated with rows of small alternating medallions, while the sleeves and lower rims of the Russian kaftan are adorned with gorgeous big medallions. Almost the entire garment is hand sewn and you can see most of the stitch work on the close-up photos. It was a lot of work, but the results are well worth the trouble. This is an excellent example of how an early medieval Russian kaftan should be made and should look like.

Enjoy! ^_^

 

Standard Medieval Tall boots

For years I’ve been having requests for standard issue soldier’s tall boots. I say tall boots, because they are taller than the viking age ankle boots, but not as tall as the riding boots popular through western Europe in the 15th century.

This particular model is based on depictions and archaeological finds from all over Europe from the 12th to the end of the 14th century. As far as medieval tall boots go, these are a pretty strong pair. They are made of 1,5mm upper leather, with a 7mm thick sole. They are constructed in the clump-shoe method. Meaning, that they have a thin inner sole that holds the shoe together, and a thick outer sole that is easy to replace when worn out.

These boots are different from other pairs I’ve made by the stitching that connects the two pieces of the upper leather – the front (from toe to ankle) and the upper (from ankle to mid-calf). I used thinner but stronger threads to make the stitches more subtle and concealed. Which is how the medieval examples usually are. However, since we are making shoes for reenactors, sometimes their requirements differ from the historical methods. In this case, the customer wanted a pair of really strong and durable medieval boots. That’s why I decided to make a comparison between the two boots before i finish them and send them to the happy customer.


                                                             Inside VS Outside stitches
a comparison between the stitching methods for medieval boots

Inside stitches are made under the vamp (face) of the leather and when done right, should remain concealed. However, when dealing with turnshoes, this can be harder due to the pressure and force that needs to be applied when flipping them inside out. So even if they look perfect while making them, they can still turn out defective when flipped inside out. This is due to the leather’s elasticity, and can be prevented only by using thicker leather and tighter stitching. This is also the universal medieval way of making shoes or at least – making the upper parts for shoes.

Overall inside stitches are the most authentic way to connect the different pieces of the shoe’s upper part, and can be pretty strong and durable when done right. When executed poorly, they can leave gaps between the different parts of the shoe, and look badly.

The outside stitch is not common for medieval boots or any type of historical shoes from that age. Or at least, i’ve never seen any archaeological examples with outside connecting stitches. Although it’s easy to make and it looks medievalish, it’s not really strong and durable due to the fact that the threads are exposed to the elements. Which makes them susceptible to wear and tear. Worst case scenario, your medieval boots get wet, then the sun dries the threads out making them brittle. That’s why this type of stitch is good for leather products that don’t get exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Overall the outside stitch is not recommended but it can add a level of sturdiness to your medieval boots when combined with the inside stitch. It’s double the work, but also twice the strength.

This is why I wanted to make this comparison. Although the inside stitch looks better, cleaner, and is more authentic, ultimately it’s up to the reenactor and his standards to decide how he wants his kit done. If you want to be strict about your medieval boots, i recommend the authentic method. If you want a sturdy pair of boots suitable for trekking through rough terrain or arena fighting like bohurt, then i suggest you check out the re-enforced boots. In the end, it’s up to you.

PS: You can find us in Pinterest here, and contact us in Facebook here.

Enjoy ^_^

Viking Age Kaftan

Disclaimer: I have to be honest about this project – I don’t feel like I’ve covered all the basis for this reconstruction. I found very insufficient info on viking age kaftans, and although there are some extant originals, they are all very different and specific to the region they come from. 

Kaftans come in various lengths. They can be made with both rich and simple materials. They can be symmetrical and button up on the center of the torso, or they can overlap and button up on the sides. They can have additional decorations or be completely unadorned. One thing is universal – the buttons on all examples are decorated with laces or strips of fabric stitched on to the face of the garment. For references – check out the Moschevaya balka kaftan.

Looking through people’s reconstructions, I found a lot of online shops reconstructing the Birka and Gnezdovo kaftan finds. Sadly, I couldn’t find any photos of the actual archaeological finds.

So, what we have here is not an Exact replica, more an approximation of what an average kaftan from the 10th century might look like. This model is adequate for reenacting 8-10th century middle class persona from the European north, east and south. That includes the Scandinavian kingdoms, Kievan rus, Byzantium and the Balkan kingdoms up until the 11th century. It’s made of gorgeous dark red wool, with linen lining, and fancy chest decorations. Most of the work on the kaftan is done by machine with the exception of the chest decorations. The applications, laces and buttons are all sewn by hand.

As a point of national pride, I added the images of the Bulgarian Khan Omurtag from the Madrid version of John Skylitzes’ chronicle. The manuscript is from the 12th century but it depicts events from the 9-11th century. He is depicted wearing a similar type of viking age kaftan with chest, neck and bicep decorations. My reconstruction is not the same as the Khan’s, it’s just a reference to show that similar clothes were worn on the Balkans as well.
Enjoy! 🙂

How to Dress Like a Medieval Serbian Nobleman

Hi guys,
I am proud to present to you my latest garment. It’s a reconstruction of a medieval nobleman’s tunic from 14th century Serbia. The outfit is based on the clothes of the young king Urosh – an image from St. Demetrius church in the Patriarchy of Pec -(1345).

We didn’t recreate the outfit exactly, we just used the general model to extrapolate a different version of the garment. We made it a little shorter, and with less decorations. After all, we wanted a nobleman and not the king himself. So, I think it’s a good interpretation of what a lesser class noble would have looked like.

For the outer layer we used high-quality royal blue textile with woven lilies. The inside layer is fine light blue cotton. I’m particularly proud of how the buttons and the neckline turned out, they are very comfortable and clean in terms of stitching. Another thing I love about this tunic are the sleeves. Those vents on the front make the garment look a lot more impressive, and they make it comfortable to wear in both warm and cold weather. So, it’s definitely something that one should have if they want to reenact 14th century Balkan royalty.

Enjoy!

Medieval Tall Riding Boots

Hi guys, I recently finished a second pair of medieval tall boots, so I decided that it’s finally time for a short article about it. There’s not a lot to say really. Those type of boots appeared at the end of 14th century and remained in style well over the 15th century. Initially they were used for hunting and travelling. With the passing of time however, they became a symbol of wealth and royalty, which made them popular among the general population in all of Europe. By the mid 15th century they had become a part of the nobleman’s outfit which lead to better models and more decorations. Here you can see two models that I made – a practical brown pair for hunting and travelling, and a fashionable red one for riding, hunting and impressing ladies.

Enjoy!

The Pernik Museum Reconstructions

A year ago the local archaeological museum of Pernik, Bulgaria commissioned 3 full outfits for their exposition. As a member of “Chigot – medieval reenactments” I was given the task to make the clothing, footwear, and padded armors for the mannequins.


The 3 outfits included: a classical roman legionnaire, a late roman legionnaire (5-6th century), and a 10-11th century Bulgarian soldier. The romans were pretty easy to reconstruct when it comes to clothing and footwear. The Bulgarian, however, took me some more time. That’s why I have decided to dedicate more attention to him in this article.

Bulgarians slaying Byzantines – Menologion of Basil II

He is wearing a thick fur-lined kaftan,typical for the 10th century. The reconstruction is based on depictions from the “Menologion of Basil II” and the Skylitzes Chronicle – “Codex Græcus Matritensis Ioannis Skyllitzes”. The lamellar armor is based on find from Provadia, Pliska, and other places, and the helmet is based on 2 finds – 1 from Dobrich, and 1 from Asenovgrad.

Sorry for the bad quality of the reconstruction photos but we weren’t able to make a proper photo-shoot of the projects. Enjoy!

 

 

 

12th Century Decorated Byzantine Shoes

A year ago I was asked to make a pair of royal medieval female shoes with plenty of decorations. The period I was asked to reconstruct was 13-14th century. I did a lot of research on medieval female shoes on the Balkans but could not find enough evidence and images of a good model to recreate. The only thing that I found good enough to recreate was based on a wall-painting from the 12th century monastery of St. Pantaleon in Gorno Nerezi, Macedonia. The monastery was built in 1164 at the time of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos, needless to say – the area was owned by the Byzantines at the time. The Byzantine shoes on the wall-painting seem to be low, with a string around the ankle or a decoration. Also, the face/top of the shoes seems to be decorated with floral motives that can either be gilded gold, or embroidery. However, since the customer wanted decorated shoes with embroidery, I had to make them like that.

12th century Byzantine decorated shoes from St.Pantaleon, Gorno Nerezi, Macedonia

12th century Byzantine decorated shoes from St.Pantaleon, Gorno Nerezi, Macedonia

The goal of the reconstruction was to make a nice pair of medieval female shoes for a time period that is after the 12th century, but since I could not find anything else with decorations, I decided to use this model. Even though there are later depictions of royalties, the shoes they wear are either not visible (due to time and damage,or painter’s decisions), or they are just too difficult to decipher and can’t be reconstructed with precision.

My first pair of decorated shoes were covered with silk and embroidered over, but since this pair doesn’t seem to have textile covering it, I decided to do the embroidery over the leather. I used a pair of threads made of all natural linen which I bought from a medieval merchant in Grunwald, Poland, and had been dying to try out. As the work moved along, I realized that the threads are not really strong enough to last. They started exhibiting signs of deterioration, so I continued with great care, and this is the result:

Medieval decorated shoes Medieval decorated shoesMedieval decorated shoesMedieval decorated shoes

Overall, this was a good experiment in making embroidered shoes. It’s not my best work, and I wish i had better threads, but considering the difficulty of the project i think they turned out good.

PS: Keep in mind that these shoes are more or less speculative!!! – They are based on only one depiction. Also, they are not strictly for women. The depiction doesn’t show what kind of person is wearing them, so it’s safer to conclude that it’s a man. However, my customer was a girl, so I made them smaller.

Medieval Folklore – The Wawel Dragon


What’s a Wawel Dragon?

 

Last summer we participated in the Battle of Grunwald, and on our way there stopped by Krakow where we heard an amazing story – The Legend of the Wawel Dragon.

Long story short – under Wawel hill lived an evil dragon who tormented the people, until one day he was slain by a poor but cunning tailor who fed the dragon with a poisoned sheep carcass. The tailor’s name was Krakus, so after he married the king’s daughter, the town was named Krakow after him.

Inside the castle on top of Wawel hill – the Royal palace and the Cathedral of St Wenceslaus


A Story With Many Faces…

As a Balkan child, I’ve heard this story in thousands of variations and it contains pretty much the same elements regardless of where you heard it. Furthermore, I did some research on mythology on the Balkans from the 16th to the 18th centuries and there are many songs and tales that tell the same story – the greedy evil dragon, the deep dark cave of treasures, the countless failed attempts to slay it, the clever but poor hero, and the grateful king who gives him his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Until that moment I had never wondered about the origins of that story because it’s so popular, but once you connect the dots, an interesting image emerges.


Dragonbones!

The one thing that makes this story fascinating are the remains of the dragon. On top of Wawel hill, where the medieval part of Krakow was built, stands the Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus where you can see the bones of the dragon. High above the entrance of the cathedral hang several monstrous massive bones on display. So every time you go there you are reminded of that heroic and legendary deed. They were put there in the 14th century – which is also one of the most prosperous periods in the city’s history. Now the bones themselves are probably from a whale or a mammoth, but they are still very impressive. And on top of that, there is actually a real cave under the hill – from the top of the hill (within the citadel) there is a tower with a staircase that goes down about 100 meters into the depths of the earth and into a magnificent underground cave that leads to the river just outside the castle.

The “dragon bones” hanging at the entrance of the Cathedral

How the Wawel Smok Legend Influenced Europe

 Now, I don’t want to go very deep into the subject because it’s really vast, but thanks to my research in post-middle-ages folklore on the Balkans, and my research on trade routes in the 14th century, I have reached a hypothesis which can be quite interesting and entertaining.

For starters, I want to explain why the legend is so powerful and influential. The first appearance of this legend comes from the Chronicle of Master Vincent from the end of the 13th century. The cathedral was built and destroyed in the 11th century, it was rebuilt in the 12th and destroyed again in the 14th century (1305). By the end of the 14th century it was rebuilt and it’s still standing. Now we don’t know where the bones came from or if they were hung in front of the earlier cathedrals, but according to research the cave under the hill has been inhabited in prehistoric times (50 000 BC.), so it’s very likely that they found the fossilized bones there or somewhere in the area.

So, when you have a strong story and evidence to support it – (like the bones, the tunnels, and the cave), this makes a pretty strong prerequisite for a medieval blockbuster legend. There are at least two written sources of the legend remaining to this day, so it has obviously been popular in the middle ages.

The 14th century is known as one of the most successful periods of the history of Krakow – trade relations improved, culture soared, and not surprisingly the legend spread through Europe. Now, the 14th century was a good time for many kingdoms including those on the Balkans where local rulers invested a great deal in education and learning, and since the oldest legends on the Balkans date from roughly that time period – it is not very surprising to see some of them resembling the Wawel dragon story.

The Dragon’s Den or “Smocza Jama” (Смоча яма)


What I’m trying to say is
, that with the growth in culture and trade in eastern and central Europe, this fascinating and compelling story, might have been the source of inspiration for hundreds of similar stories on the Balkans. This assumption is also supported by the fact that most kingdoms south of Krakow speak very similar languages on the foundation of the Cyrilic alphabet.

The Wawel dragon depiction from Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographie Universalis from 1544


So, what does it matter if the story has had such a great influence? What difference does it make?

Well, as a medievalist I feel a little joy knowing that the European kingdoms in the middle ages have had more in common then we might have expected. It’s the common ideas and stories that help bring people from different nations together and that’s very important for me. We know a great deal about western Europe and its history in details, whereas the Balkans and the eastern parts of Europe are still a bit obscured, un-researched and veiled in myths. So, every light we shed on our common history, is a step toward understanding our ancestors, and that’s worth the effort.

I hope you like this article, and if you ever have a chance – you should definitely visit Krakow! It’s magical!

Krakow in the 16th century