There are many inexpensive and simple crafts that can be completed to illustrate the craft guilds of the Renaissance time period.
This was an essential and valued skill. Look into carving a bar of soap from a three dimensional point of view. Look at the soap from all sides/angles; the top, bottom, length and width. Students will then have to design a sculpture while keeping each of those sides in mind.
slow cuts and scoop out small amounts at a time or else the bar of soap will crack. Work over a newspaper in a well-ventilated room.
You will need paraffin wax, candlewick, two large juice cans, saucepan, scissors, newspapers, and a source of heat. Procedure begins by filling 1/3 can full of water and placing into saucepan to create a double boiler. Fill the saucepan half full with hot water and place on the stove or hot plate. Second, fill 2/3 of the other can with cool water and set it aside. Cover the entire work area with newspaper. Break the wax into chunks and put into the can of hot water. As the wax melts it will float on top of the water. When the wax has melted, turn off the heat source. Cut a piece of wick about 10 inches long and hold the wick in the center and dip the ends into the melted wax. The hot wax will stick to the wick as you pull it back up. Both ends of the wick will make a candle. Pull the wick out of the hot wax and dip it into the can of cold water to cool it. Repeat this and straighten the wick when needed. Keep dipping and cooling until the candle has reached the desired thickness.
Hints: Old pieces of crayon can be used to color the paraffin wax. Scent can be added by obtaining scent oils. One pound of paraffin wax will make about eight pairs of four-inch candles.
Students can create detailed costumes to set the mood of the Renaissance period. There are many outstanding books available with illustrations and photographs to aide in designing authentic costumes.
You will need metal wire and pretend it is gold or silver. Simply twist, shape, cut and bend the wire into interesting necklaces, rings, arm cuffs, and bracelets. Make sure to watch out for sharp ends!
Girls may enjoy wearing a flower garland in their hair. These are easily made with silk flowers and ribbon. Girls with long hair may want to research the elaborate “up-do” hairstyles of the day and tuck little flowers within these braids.
A henin is a type of hat that royal ladies wore. It is actually a cone cut (from a 12” by 23” triangle). Tape into a cone and add streamers.
Boys can make and wear jester caps. They can be constructed from stuffed
tube socks pinned or sewn to a beanie type hat. Remember
that during this time period in history only royalty were permitted to wear clothing with points or bells. It was against the law for anyone else.
Men sometimes also wore twisted scarves tied around their heads and girls can lay a sheer cloth on their head and then place a twisted scarf over that. Hoods were popular, too.
To dress properly you must recall the type of fabric that was available at the time. While it might be difficult to recreate the rough homespun woolens of the time, color choice is significant. An interesting discussion on dyeing cloth with natural items is a good history/science lesson. Renaissance children simply did not have the array of bright colors that we now own. Royalty wore colors of blue, purple and shades of red. Most everyone else wore brown, gray and black – dull, muted colors. Everyone wore layers of clothing.
Girls, find a long sleeve “fancy” blouse and layer it over the skirt. Then tie ribbons around the sleeves at the wrist, slightly above the elbow and slightly below the elbows to create ‘leg o’ mutton sleeves. Long skirts were a must! Again, a layered look applies here. Wear a long skirt and then a jumper or shorter skirt over that. Layer a blouse over that, and then tie as described above. If you wish to be very creative, glue or sew ribbons to the borders. Ladies’ shoes were slipper types.
Leggings were very popular for boys, layered with tunics (a long t-shirt) and tied at the waist in a low fashion with a scarf or thick leather belt. Pouches can easily be made from fabric or preferably, a piece of suede or leather.
Customs and manners in King Henry VIII’s time were dictated by fashion, flirtation, survival, and superstition. Listed below are some examples of the customs and manners of the time.
Men Greeting Men:
When men would meet one another, they would not shake hands as they would today. Rather, they would grasp each other’s right wrist and give a firm shake. Then they would pat each other on the back with their left hands. There was a very practical reason for this: they were checking sleeves and backs for hidden weapons. Men shook right wrists for two reasons: one was to prove that the men held no weapon in that hand. The other was the belief that left-handedness was a sign of the devil. A left-handed man would hide this fact. The modern day practice of shaking hands probably evolved from this custom.
Women Greeting Women:
Women greeted other women with the latest craze: the “French kiss.” Women would face each other and lightly grasp each other by the shoulders. Then they would kiss the air on either side of the other woman’s cheeks, three times. One would never actually touch the cheeks, for reasons of courtesy as well as fear of contracting the plague. This type of greeting is still commonly practiced in France.
Men Greeting Women and Women Greeting Men:
When a gentleman met a lady, it was very important to make a good impression. Therefore, he would bow to her, in Renaissance style. He would present his left leg forward and put his right leg behind. Then he would bend his back leg, and bend at the hips, keeping head raised, and maintaining eye contact with the lady. The proper response to this bow would be for the lady to curtsey. First she would place her right leg slightly behind her. The she would lightly grab her skirts and bend at the knees, keeping her body straight. She would raise her skirts only high enough to keep them off the ground. It was not considered proper for a lady to show her ankles or legs. She too would maintain eye contact with the gentleman. An especially dashing or romantically inclined man might then proceed to kiss the lady’s hand. He would offer his hand, palm facing down; if the lady so desired, she would place her fingers lightly on top of his hand. Then the gentleman would ever so lightly kiss the lady’s middle finger, between the first and second knuckle, making sure to maintain eye contact.
Making a Leg:
The calf of a man’s leg was a very important focal point in Renaissance fashion. Men took every opportunity to show off this physical attribute. Men wore stockings and short pants. They would often stand and “present” their leg forward, turning the foot outward so as to show off their calf. This practice was called “making a leg.” If a man was especially proud of his calves, he might stand with a foot on a chair, table, or rock, so his calf would be more prominent.
Gentlemen escorted Ladies whenever they were out walking in public. As with everything, there was a proper way for this to be done. Men and women would never hold hands in public, palm to palm as they do today; this was considered quite scandalous.
First of all, they believed the germs spread by rubbing palms with someone could prove fatal. Secondly, such a bold and public display of affection was not respectful of another’s reputation. The proper way for a woman to be escorted would be either to place just a finger on the man’s hand, or to rest her entire hand on his. It was very important for the lady to be on the right side because men carried their swords on their left and needed to be able to draw their sword easily when necessary.
Food and Drink
People of this day knew nothing about sanitation (they’d never heard of germs). The water was dangerously polluted, so most people drank a very low alcohol brew called “small beer”. Much milk was consumed, especially skim and buttermilk – cream was needed for other things. Ale was consumed on special occasions; and only royalty and the very wealthy drank wine.
In this time, people thought that the proper foods for humans were meat, bread, dairy, eggs and a few varieties of fruit. Meats were preserved with salt, sugar or spices; but meat, which we would consider spoiled, would be gratefully eaten. Usually, meat came from elderly animals and was tough, so no one expected the best cuts. In spite of these drawbacks, Elizabethans are still famous for their skillful use of herbs, spices and their slow stewing methods. But only the very rich could afford meat regularly in their diets and they considered vegetables, which grown from earth, to be beneath them.
Many were even suspected of producing ill humors. Peasants couldn’t afford to be picky. Their diets consisted MAINLY of vegetables, plus lots of eggs and cheese, which they referred to as “white meat.”
In spite of economic differences, peasants were the better nourished of the two classes.
Another new trend from France was the use of the fork as an eating utensil. The fork was fairly common among the nobility but was not very widespread among the peasant class. Peasants continued to eat with their fingers, as they feared the fork’s tines were some sign from the devil (perhaps they were afraid to put the devil’s pitchfork in their mouths).
Common people of this time were usually illiterate, so there was a need for someone who could read and assist in matters of business. The church was about the only non –noble group who routinely educated their people so most villages were provided with a clerk (or Clark) to fulfill the function.
Renaissance Men & Women
Both men and women provided functions in the society of the day. While the culture was essentially male-dominated, a woman carried the clout of a “dowry”, or the goods, lands, and money she brought to the marriage. These she controlled herself, to benefit the household. The dowry was also an insurance policy against ill treatment, for if she were mistreated, she could leave and take the property with her and leave her husband poor! Besides managing the household, one of the woman’s duties was to provide as many free farm laborers, in the form of children, as possible. Between a high infant mortality rate and unreliable birth control, she usually managed to oblige. Boys were always easier because girls had to be provided with dowries and that could get expensive!
Evil Spirits/Good Luck Charms
Both peasants and nobles alike firmly believed in evil spirits and the power of good luck charms to ward them off. People often sewed tiny bells or coin-like metal disks (known as bezants) to their clothing in the belief that the noise would scare away evil spirits. People also wore crosses or carried Bibles to ward off evil.
People readily believed in witches and possession by evil spirits. There were various symbols that one could use to ward off the evil that emanated from such evil persons. One sign was to make the sign of the cross when passing by an evil person. Another was to cross your fingers (making a small cross) and point them at the person as they passed. This is most likely where the custom of crossing one’s fingers for good luck comes from.
Music & Instruments
The court of King Henry VIII was alive with music. King Henry VIII was a trained musician, with a large collection of musical instruments. The King played the lute and composed music. Music was used at the King’s Court for both ceremonial occasions and court entertainment.
Recorders and flutes were both pleasing to Renaissance ears. They were made in sets, with various sizes from the large great bass to tiny soprano and played together “in consort.” There were also “consorts” of viols, which look like modern cellos, but differ from them in many respects. Ancestors of modern violins were present too, having been brought over from the continent. One instrument that did not evolve into another instrument was the krummhorn. This “L” shaped reed instrument, with a cap covering the reed, produced a strange muted sound, and had a very limited range. The krummhorn dies out at the end of the Renaissance period, but its cousin the bagpipe lives on.
Below are some common words and phrases to help you understand the language and speak to the various people at the Festival.
Social standing and proper etiquette were very important during the Renaissance era. You could tell a lot about people’s social standing by how they addressed one another. The following are appropriate titles for addressing our villagers.
Your Majesty or Your Highness (King or Queen)
Your Grace (Members of the Royal Court)
M’lord or M’lady (respectful)
Sir or Mada, Gentleman or Gentlewoman, Cousin (Equal birth or social standing)
Master or Mistress Artisian (Craftsperson)
Wench (Common or lower-class woman)
Knave (Common or lower-class man)
Hellos’ and Good-bye’s
Renaissance language was very specific. People did not use the all-purpose greeting of “hello” or “hi”. There were different greetings depending on the time of day. Also, etiquette might call for one to ask permission before leaving. One could also express one’s feelings or regards for another by leaving them with a blessing or good wishes.
Good Marrow (Good morning)
Good day (Afternoon greeting or parting)
Good eve or eventide (Good evening)
God ye good den (God grant you a good day)
I bid you adieu (Good-bye)
By your leave (With your permission)
Fare thee well (Good-bye – wishing them well)
God save thee ( A blessing)
Thou are most beauteous this day (You look pretty today)
Thy voice is sweeter than that of an angel ( Your voice is beautiful)
By my troth, mine eyes are blessed by our very visage ( In, truth, the sight of your face is a blessing)
Thy beauty eclipses the sun (You’re dazzling beautiful)
Thou are lily-livered (Calling someone a coward)
Thou slop-jar of ineptitude (A slop jar is similar to a chamber pot. People also spit or threw garbage in it.)
Dost thou knowest the time? (Do you know the time?)
Let us go thither. (Let’s go there)
Come hither. (Come here)
’Tis most splendid! (Alright! Cool!)
Yea, methinks so (Yes, I think so)
How fare thee? (How are you?)
Other Helpful Words
Zounds (Exclamation of astonishment)
Knotty-pated (Thick headed, stupid)
By my troth (Exclamation of truth)
Grammarcy (Thank you)
Words like “pomp, pageantry and chivalry” serve to evoke the romantic aspects of jousting. When you get close to see the dull glow of chain mail next to bright armor, you begin to grasp how tightly woven the joust is with its history. An understanding of today’s combats is impossible without the tracing of their ancient roots.
The origins of jousting are believed to be in classical Rome, but the “sport” rose to its greatest popularity in Europe by the 1400’s. It all evolved from mock battles in which knights on horseback, assisted by foot soldiers, formed into teams and charged at each other in some wide meadow. The result was a “melee” (the word hasn’t changed in a millennium) of shattered lances, clanging swords, flailing arms and legs – astride and afoot – that went on all day and into the night. The earliest recorded melee was in 1066 A.D., though mock combat had probably been around for at least a century by then.
At first, the battles served more to hone fighting skills than to provide popular diversion. But in peaceful times, a knight needed a way retain their skills. The Jousts were great moneymakers for the victors; instead of claiming mere points, the winning team held the losers for ransom, often accepting their horses and armor as payment.
By the mid 1200’s, the Joust emerged as the favored way to prove which of two(or more) knights were better. Most contests were a “Joust a Plaisir”, (for pleasure) in which a winner was declared on the basis of points scored; though some were sill conducted a ;”Outrance” (to death). In the sporting version, the knights’ swords were dulled and their lances tipped with “coronals” (little crowns) to prevent their penetrating a joint in the armor. Some authorities believe that the lances were deliberately weakened, a precaution still in effect today.
The training of a knight included spearing small rings, some on stanchions and some tossed in the air, and Quintain jousting. In Quintain jousting, the knight titled with a mock opponent which sat on a revolving pedestal.
The way people eat describes an entire culture. Here are a few sample activities, but before you begin, remember these few things:
• The climate of Renaissance Europe was much different than we experience today.
• The diet in the winter months was very different than in other times of the year.
• Food was stored much differently so people ate the foods that were in season.
Plates as we know them were not yet in existence. The wealthy ate their meals off of a slab of bread called a trencher. Meat or stew was served on the trencher and when that was finished the trencher was often eaten, too. The wealthy did not eat their trenchers, but rather gave them to the poor to eat. There are number of ways to make a trencher, including using pita, prepackaged pizza crusts, or frozen bread rolled out and cut. What other ways can you think of?
The idea behind this activity is to churn butter. It may sound too simple but it really works. Start with small jars and a tight fitting lid and whipping cream. A pint of whipping cream will provide enough for six baby food jars or two larger (mayonnaise) size jars. Screw the lid on tightly and begin shaking the jar. The jar must be shaken back and forth (not round and round) for about 10 minutes. The cream will thicken and then turn solid into a light yellow ball. The liquid that separates from it is called “thin milk,” or buttermilk. The butter you just made is ready to eat on a cracker or piece of bread. Store in the refrigerator.
Curds and Whey
You will need: two cups of milk, 1 Tablespoon white vinegar, salt, and 1 Tablespoon cream (optional), Small pot and a hot plate, cooking spoon, strainer/colander. Heat the milk until it begins to bubble. Remove the pot from the heat source and stir in the vinegar. Let it sit until the milk begins to curdle like cottage cheese. Pour the milk into the strainer and drain off the liquid (the whey). The remaining curds can be chilled, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper and eaten. For a creamier consistency add cream.
You will need: 2 quarts water, approx. 1 cup honey, one lemon or orange, nutmeg, and
ice. (You can also substitute hot spice cider for this recipe). Simply mix all the ingredients and serve. In Renaissance era this was left to rest before serving (fermentation). Serve chilled in a tankard and enjoy. Makes about 2 quarts.
Some store bought food that works for a Renaissance feast includes: pot pies, oatmeal (porridge), gingerbread, dark bread (rye), and meats on a bone
Festival Location Map The Kansas City Renaissance Festival is located 15 minutes and 500 years west of downtown Kansas City. Below are some driving directions, but if you need further assistance please call (913) 721-2110!
Festival Address: 633 N. 130th St.
Bonner Springs, KS 66012
Corporate Office Mailing Address: 628 N. 126th Street
Bonner Springs, KS 66012
From Downtown Kansas City: Take I-70 to K-7 (the Bonner Springs exit 224). Turn North for just a minute. Banners and signs will lead you to the Festival Gates!
From the North: Follow I-29 or I-435 to I-70 and head west to exit 224. Turn north to the Festival
From the East: Take Shawnee Mission parkway to K-7, then north to the Festival. OR take Parallel Parkway to K-7, then south to the Festival