måndag 18 januari 2016

Par vestimentorum – a set of clothes

When working on my dissertation, where I examined clothing in Norwegian and Swedish wills and other documents from the Middle Ages, I found several examples of sets of clothes of matching materials and colours, intended to be worn together. Two of the terms that were used were par vestimentorum/par vestium and robam integram.

The most common of these is par vestimentorum or par vestium. Exactly which garments these contained is seldom mentioned. It is only one will where it is explicitly stated which garments made up the set: Ragnild Hinzadotter's will from 1350 (it can be read here). In this par vestimentorum a lined cloak, a cotte (tunica) and a colobium with arm clasps. A colobium is an over garment, but apart from that we do not know much about it (there is also an early medieval liturgical garment with this name, but it is unlikely that this garment would be that, since it's as late as 1350 and owned by a woman). Since this one had clasps to close the sleeves it at least appears to have had sleeves that were tight at the wrists.

Robam, or robam integram are less common terms in the Scandinavian material, but appear to have similar meaning. Roba could of course refer to a singular garment, the long garment worn by men in religious orders and by academics from the 13th century onwards. In a Norwegian will from 1381 the roba, is however described as consisting of a brown cotehardie lined with buckram, a cloak with blue lining and a hood (the will can be read here). The term robam integram of course shows that there were more than one garment involved – for example the blue robam integram lined with vair which the canon Germund willed to his servant Haquin, together with a cloak and hood in the same colour. Form the way it is written we understand that the cloak and hood were not part of what was meant with robam integram in this case, but added to it. My guess is therefore that this set of clothes consisted of a cotte and surcoat (text here).

Here you see st. Damian in a red cotte with a matching red over tunic, a set which might have been described as a roba integra or par vestimentorum. From a manuscript of Legenda Aurea from 1348, now in the Bibliothéque Nationale Français.

In this late 14th century illumination from the Grandes chroniques de France, Bibliothèque Nationale, Fr.73, f°163, it is the king Louis II who wears a matching cotte and surcoat.

 At other times not all garments that made up a par vestimentorum or a robam integram are mentioned, but there is enough variation to see that it was not a fixed set, but could vary; for exampel sometimes hoods were included, other times not. However, what is clear is that when colour and materials are given that these were the same for all the garments included.

 Another source to what a set of clothes could mean is the list of what Isabella de Bruce brought to Norway in 1293 where she was to marry the king Erik Magnussön. This inventory is what inspired me to make my own roba from murrey wool, consisting of a cotte, two surcoats, one with sleeves and one without, a cloak and a hood. You can see a very informal photo taken in my kitchen yesterday showing the cotte, sleeveless surcoat and cloak below. Isabella's inventory can be found online here, and I will get back to it in a later post too – for those of you who aren't crazy about reading documents in Latin.

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