Shopping Cart
Your Cart is Empty
There was an error with PayPalClick here to try again
CelebrateThank you for your business!You should be receiving an order confirmation from Paypal shortly.Exit Shopping Cart


My Weekend as a 15th century cripple

Posted on September 8, 2015 at 4:46 PM
Major surgery of any kind requires a good bit of adjustment in your day-to-day life. It is especially complicated when you are involved in any form of reenactment where you not only have to consider how your modern life is impacted, but you then have to consider how it impacts your "medieval" life.

I had major surgery on my left foot two weeks ago, and it never occurred to me to consider how I would accommodate this in my 15th century life.  The obvious answer would be to "take some time off to heal;" however, as a co-chancellor for the current King and Queen of An Tir in the SCA (think Sr. Program Manager) I can't just decide not to show up. It occurred to me one evening right after surgery that I had not considered this, queue post to Facebook

"I just had a harrowing will I get hose/chauses over my dressing!!?!!?? Crown tourney clothing meltdown in 3....2.....1...... Liftoff! ‪#‎poorplanningonmypart‬"

Of course, being an artist myself and highly plugged in to the creative minds in the SCA, the suggestions came pouring in, and to summarize them: "What would they have done in period?"

The period thing...indeed. Mission accepted!

I only had a week to pull this together, so in order to make this happen the research net was going to have to be cast wide and not deep. By that, I mean relying solely on the visual record, or pictures in period of people with leg/foot injuries. To go deep would mean delving in to the written records of the time period, which is a little bit more laborious and time consuming. The resources came pouring in from friends especially from fellow 15th century researchers Charlotte Mathilde Johnson and Allison Hoang.

I limited my search to 15th century Europe and pulled a bunch of these images to baseline commonalities. These are some examples of 15th century images that we found:

After examining all of the images,  I opted to use the image of St. Martin sharing his cloak from the Catherine of Cleves book of hours, which is estimated to be from the mid 15th century. 

Once I settled on this image as the main point of inspiration, I posted another query to my equally geeky group of friends. "Hey, anyone out there able to make a crutch and a strap on leg based on this picture in a week?"

Surprisingly, two of my friends from the SCA jumped on this. My friend Holland Cooley who is a woodworker decided to fabricate the crutch and leg, and my friend Maddy Dumont, an upholsterer by profession,  volunteered to pad them out for me for comfort.

Three days later,  Holland sent the  images  over to review, and I was completely gobsmacked. They were far better than I had hoped for, and I was totally stoked to try them out.

So the weekend arrived, and I had in the interim gathered linen scraps to bind by leg mainly to cover the ultra modern walking boot. It allowed me to carry on the aesthetic that is found in many of the pictures that we were using for research.
Once Holland delivered the crutch and leg to site, Maddy padded them out using a heavy-weight wool and padding.

Here is my first step outside after strapping everything on and ditching my modern crutch. I decided I was going to play a beggar this weekend, so I only got dressed as far as my underwear. The intent was to spread a blanket and sit with a wooden bowl and harass people that walked by for "crusts of bread" and "alms for the poor." However, that never materialized. Maneuvering around on this configuration was much more complicated than anticipated.

The strap on leg, while built based on period images was not very sturdy with just one strap. Obviously you see the one strap configuration in several images in the visual record that we were using  as a reference, so I don't think there was a flaw in the construction. It was very clear that this leg was not intended for walking, or even assisted walking; it's just too shaky sliding around on your knee. This makes sense why you see consistent use of crutches in addition to the prosthetic leg in many pictures. It cannot on function as a replacement for a leg.

I learned this the hard way when I first tried to take a step on it: I fell over.

Where it did become infinitely useful was standing. Once you got the hang of how it moved on your knee, you could use it as a support when you are standing to more evenly distribute weight from your good leg/hip. It was incredibly useful when standing in one place. When one examines pictures, you see some form of prosthetic in about 50% of the pictures and a crutch in 100%. After using this configuration, it is clear why not everyone used it: 1. resources, your poorest of the poor may not have been able to afford one or have the means to make one 2. It has limited usefulness for movement, but becomes very valuable when standing in one place. I expect that that if I were to dig in deeper, we would find different variations of this in attempt to better stabilize this  configuration. Also, with practice I would expect that I would become much more adept at using and navigating with the strap-on leg afixed, but for the weekend the lessons learned about being crippled in the 15th century with a wooden strap on leg was enlightening and pretty invaluable.

Eventually on Saturday I ended up taking off the leg and relying solely on the crutch. It also was quickly becoming cold and rainy, so I donned my wool cote, hat and coif. It was not exactly beggarly, but in several representations there are middle class people dressed moderately well on crutches. Therefor using a crutch was not something unheard of in the well dressed middle class.

Using the crutch was interesting, especially coming off of using modern crutches. Most of the crutches found in the visual record I examined did not have any form of hand grip or handle unlike their modern counterparts. It creates a very different experience. Rather than using an overhand grip on a cross bar handle like a modern crutch, you have to grip the shaft of the crutch overhand much like an inverted sword. When you are moving your crutch, you engage much more of you hand, forearm and bicep where modern crutches engage more of your shoulder, biceps and triceps which is a much more efficient way to navigate. Period crutches also require more coordination as you not only have to remember to move them as you walk, but to keep a very tight grip on them. If you don't you'll drop your crutch mid-stride and fall over...I learned this from experience, as I took a couple of spills trying to figure out how to navigate on this new style of crutch.

I didn't spend much time looking at pre/post 15th century images; however, using this image from the late 13th century. and this image from Bruegel in the late mid 16th century, you can see that the configuration has not changed much for hundreds of years in medieval Europe. My experience with these implements was likely very consistent with what someone from the 12th through 16th centuries would have experienced with similar prosthetic configurations.

This was a fun learning experience, and exemplifies the type of experiential research and experimental archaeology that I like to pursue in many of my endeavors. This does not exemplify what deep academic research would look like. I would, as I mentioned earlier in the blog have to cast my net much deeper.

However, to get a taste of what something would have been like, an experience, this type of approach can be invaluable.

You can find more of the images we used at the following links:

Thanks for reading!


Categories: 14th century, 15th century, 16th century, burgundian, clothing, Elizabethan, French, SCA

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.


Reply Sharon Rose
9:08 PM on September 8, 2015 
Thanks for sharing! There's nothing like living history. :)
Reply write my paper for me
4:35 PM on May 29, 2018 
We all should stand together for humanity.No matter either it is palestine or any other country.I appreciate this post.Its a good job.Thank you for sharing.
Reply B3 Fur Jacket
11:05 AM on June 1, 2018 
Excellent read, Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work
Reply best assignment help
9:16 AM on June 25, 2018 
Clearly this was the best assignment help i could get but i have to say that the house is beautiful and it comes with its own everything so who ever bought this must be a lucky guy, or a girl, who knows. Anyways i will be keeping an eye here to see what else has been getting posted here, trust me i get very interested in such things !
Reply Lentils
5:51 PM on July 1, 2018 
I enjoy it for creating the details, keep up the truly amazing perform continuing
Reply Benefits of Zucchini
5:35 AM on July 2, 2018 
Very informative post ! There is a lot of information here that can help any business get started with a successful social networking campaign !
Reply Benefits of Watermelon
5:39 AM on July 2, 2018 
This was incredibly an exquisite implementation of your ideas
Reply Benefits of Broccoli
5:42 AM on July 2, 2018 
You re in point of fact a just right webmaster. The website loading speed is amazing. It kind of feels that you're doing any distinctive trick. Moreover, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a fantastic activity on this subject!
Reply Benefits of Spirulina
5:45 AM on July 2, 2018 
I am genuinely thankful to the holder of this web page who has shared this wonderful paragraph at at this place
Reply how to get robux for free
4:53 AM on July 28, 2018 
Hey guys if you want to know that how to get free robux then must check out my link.
Reply Regenerative Medicine Markham
11:12 AM on February 16, 2019 
I found the content very informative! before this, I was aware about the types of stem cells that existed so this was something new to read about.
Reply Cancer Pain Management Frankfort
7:44 AM on July 10, 2019 
Pretty cool post. It’s really very nice and useful post.Thanks for sharing this with us!it’s my first visit.
Reply swdhu
11:36 AM on December 30, 2019 
I have starting late earned myself a drawing in degree of money by interfacing with the Yank TV. Snap TV empowers me to watch a couple unites while messing around simultaneously which close to the end would benefit me financially.
Reply webstagram
4:24 AM on December 31, 2019 
Very informative information on your site here. I like this post because we can get some useful information from your blog.
Reply udacity nanodegree promo code
7:41 AM on January 14, 2020 
I am sure it is one of the great blog ever I read and you discussed about everything on this and very informative for the people.
Reply Useless Websites
8:05 AM on February 13, 2020 
My Weekend as a 15th century cripple Useless Websites
Reply small tattoos
10:07 AM on April 4, 2020 
small tattoos small tattoos
Reply top microwave convection oven
12:40 PM on May 18, 2020 
modern microwaves not only have a grill, but also a convector. Let's see what is convection in a microwave and how to use it.
3:25 PM on May 28, 2020 
It helps in securing Audit certificates issued by the auditor on the accounts, which proves that there are no irregularities in the company business.
Reply SockShare Alternatives
4:36 PM on June 3, 2020 
If you own a little to mid-size business, you will be questioning if you would like to rent an accountancy service supplier for maintaining your books of accounts.