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Chapter XXIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1 page 2


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Their furniture was most probably heavy, rude, and ill-fashioned. Whatever invention of this kind they possessed was gained from the clergy, whose communication with Rome gave them the means of introducing many of the mechanical arts.

Games and exercises of strength and agility were common among the Anglo-Saxons. St. Cuthbert is stated by Bede to have excelled in running, wrestling, and other athletic sports. Feats of juggling were performed by the gleemen, who were the most important characters in the festivals and other popular gatherings. Some of the glee-men seem to have performed tricks, gambols, and feats of all kinds, while others were harpers, or bards, and ballad-singers.

The in-door sports were various, and suitable to different ranks. The games of chess and backgammon were both known, or at least games very similar to them. Backgammon is said to have been invented in the tenth century.

Hangings for rooms, to supply the defects of their coarse carpentry, were among the first of their articles of furniture. Benches and stools, with coverings, are mentioned as their seats. These appear to have been much ornamented with devices of animals and flowers. Their tables were occasionally very costly, being sometimes of silver and gold, but generally of wood; they were sometimes inlaid with gold, silver, and gems. Candlesticks of various sorts were used, as also bells, both large and small; mirrors of silver; beds and bed-hangings, and coverlets of bear and other skins.

Their naval architecture was of the simplest kind, their vessels being of small size, propelled with a single sail, assisted by oars.

The Saxons erected temples for the worship of their gods, but of what form or materials is not now known. The introduction of Christianity led immediately to the erection of churches, which at that period seem to have been built of timber. Some centuries later, under the reign of Edgar the Peaceable, architecture, as an art, received a powerful impulse from the riches which had accumulated in monastic establishments, and which found employment in the erection of many monasteries, cathedrals, and other edifices.

Gold and silver, of which our ancestors seem to have possessed a great deal, were used for cups and bowls, and other utensils, and also to adorn their sword-hilts, saddles, bridles, and banners. Their gold rings contained gems; and even their garments, saddles, and bridles were sometimes jewelled.

Spices were a great luxury, and came from India through Italy. Four ounces of cinnamon were sent from one church dignitary to another as a rare present.

The progress of the Anglo-Saxons in the art of painting appears to have been very limited; but few specimens of their illuminated books, however, remain. In one of these there is a representation of the building of the Tower of Babel, out of all rule of perspective; the workmen being represented in the costume of the time in which the design was executed.

Of their jewel work we have scarcely any specimens of consequence. One found in the island of Athelney, supposed to have belonged to Alfred the Great, proves, however, that the art of engraving on metals had been carried to a certain degree of excellence amongst them.

Their arms consisted chiefly of the helmet, sword, spear, shield, and battle-axe - some of them singularly well designed.

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Pictures for Chapter XXIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1 page 2

January in Saxons Calendar
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February in Saxons Calendar
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March in Saxons Calendar
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April in Saxons Calendar
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May in Saxons Calendar
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June in Saxons Calendar
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July in Saxons Calendar
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August in Saxons Calendar
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September in Saxons Calendar
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October in Saxons Calendar
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A Saxon Blacksmith
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Saxon Bell
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A Saxon Calendar
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Saxon Game at Bowls
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Anglo-Saxon Vessel
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