There are 71 images of 14th century musicians in stone and wood in Beverley Minster, a church in the East Riding of Yorkshire, more than in any other medieval site. This is the third in a series of eight articles about the Minster’s medieval minstrels, surveying the musical life of 14th century England. This article explores the carved musicians of the west, north and south walls, who are depicted playing medieval fiddles (vielles or viellas), gitterns, timbrel (tambourine), bagpipes, portative organs, citoles, harps, pipes and tabors, horns, cymbals, simfony, psaltery, nakers, and trumpets. Each instrument is described, with a photograph and a link to a video of the instrument being played.
In this article, the carvings on the walls teach us about: the meaning of minstrel; fashions of the 14th century; a medieval menagerie of captive animals from overseas; a transition in the form of the portative organ; the fog of confusion in differentiating between the citole and gittern, only recently lifted; evidence of medieval fiddle tunings; and the difficult art of restoration and repair in both medieval art and medieval music.
This is followed in the fourth article with photographs and commentary on the minstrels in the tombs, altar screen, Saint Katherine’s chapel and south transept; and in the fifth article by a gathering of evidence to answer the question: why are there so many medieval minstrels in the Minster? The sixth article describes the 14th century allegorical carvings of real and mythical beasts; and the seventh article explores musical aspects of the 16th century misericords and 19th–20th century neo-Gothic organ screen. The final article puzzles over the paucity of print publications about the magnificent medieval minstrels, and Beverley Minster’s declared lack of interest in accurate information about their uniquely important iconography.
Above we see a map of Beverley Minster with locations marked. In this article, we will describe the minstrels of the west, north and south walls, badly damaged by Puritan vandals in the 16th–17th century, and repaired by mason John Percy Baker between 1895 and 1912. The letters on the map, A to R, each represent a bay on the wall. For a complete list of all the 14th century minstrels in the Minster, go to the foot of the article under the heading, Beverley Minster floor plan and instrument inventory.
My intention in this series of articles is to briefly describe every medieval representation of a musical instrument in the Minster, giving more focus where there are particularly indicative, interesting, or unusual details on the carvings. Blue text is a link to a more detailed article about the instrument or other significant topic.
The west wall: bay A
In the photograph on the right we stand with the altar screen behind us, looking down the nave with its arcades on either side, each column decorated with a 14th century minstrel (described in the second article). Since church altars always face east, at the far end of the photograph we see the west wall, with its Victorian/Edwardian stained glass window.
To the right of the door on the west wall is bay A, shown in the photograph below with its four figures: a woman with a dog; a man killing a dragon; a fiddler sitting on the shoulders of a tumbler (acrobat); and a gittern player. In architecture, such figures are known as label stops, ornamental figures added to the terminus of the label mould (also called the hood mould, drip mould or dripstone). On the outside of a building, the purpose of these moulded projections is to divert rain water away from the structure.
The meanings of the allegorical figures in the Minster, such as the woman with the dog and the man with the dragon, are examined in the sixth article. Here they will be mentioned only briefly as we focus on the minstrels.
medieval fiddle (vielle or viella) and tumbler
Having been high in the arcades in the previous article, we are now a little higher than eye level, viewing the figures on the west wall, made between 1330 and 1340. The figures were found in broken pieces by John Baker in the late 19th century, and repaired with visible white filler, some of it filling gaps where the stone had crumbled when attacked in the 16th and/or 17th century. (For this history and John Baker’s task, see the first article.) On this west wall, the woman holding a dog, the dragon being killed by a man, the vielle (medieval fiddle) player and the gittern player all show clear signs of this remedial work. The heads of the dog-petting woman, the dragon-killing man, the fiddler and the gittern player are all John Baker replacements.
The main body of the square fiddle, shown below left and top right, is also a Baker replacement, modelled on the original 14th century fiddle outside the Minster’s altar screen or reredos, below bottom right (explored in detail in the fourth article).
To hear a medieval fiddle, click here.
The figure of the fiddle player is particularly noteworthy for its humour, the player carried on the shoulders of a struggling boy, head between the player’s legs, shoulders under the fiddler’s backside and both hands trying to steady the weight by holding the player’s feet. This pose is similar to some depictions in the drolleries, humorous and often fantastical figures often found in the margins of medieval manuscripts, three examples of which are below right from the contemporaneous Luttrell Psalter (British Library Add MS 42130), England, c. 1325–40.
The act of carrying a fiddler on shoulders may be meant to be taken literally as the physical feat of a tumbler, the medieval word for a professional acrobat. In medieval nomenclature, both tumbler and fiddler were minstrels.
The Latin root of the word minstrel is ministrellus, meaning little servant or minister of the king, i.e. a minor court official, with the related meaning of someone who practised a mestier or craft. Its first appearance in relation to being an entertainer is in an Old French poem by Chrétien de Troyes, c. 1164, and this use of minstrel had crossed to England by 1266, used interchangeably with other words for entertainers – mimus, histrio and joculator. The word transferred naturally to England, as French was one of the three languages of the English middle ages, used at court and in the households of the nobility, along with Latin for learning and official documents. English was spoken by the majority but virtually extinct as a written language after the Norman conquest of 1066 until it was revived in the 13th century for sermons, devotional books and romance storytelling.
Minstrel, then, started as a word for an administrator of affairs for royalty and nobility, and in England from 1266 it came to mean the equivalent of gleeman in Old English and jongleur in French: a professional performer, regardless of whether the person was involved in music (instrumentalist, singer, composer), oratory entertainment (a performing poet or storyteller, which often included music), or physical feats (professional fool, juggler, acrobat, dancer, actor, mime, mimic, conjuror, puppeteer or exhibitor of performing animals). The use of the word minstrel to mean only a musician is later, originating in the 16th century.
The figure on the right of the group of four on the west wall is playing a gittern. Gitterns and lutes were related but distinct. We know from Johannes Tinctoris, De inventione et usu musicae, 1481-83, that the gittern was the same “tortoise-like shape” as the lute, “though it [the gittern] is much smaller”, and that the gittern had “the same tuning and method of contact with the strings” as the lute, i.e. it was played with a plectrum. The Berkeley Theory Manuscript, probably written by Johannes Vaillant, a 14th century Parisian music teacher who died in 1361, states that the tuning of the gittern (and therefore the lute) was four courses in fourths at the time of this carving.
We have previously seen a gittern in the arcades, described in the second article. The gittern here has sustained less damage than the one in the arcade, has not undergone John Baker’s skilled but inaccurate remedial work in 1895-1912, and is therefore a more original and accurate representation.
On the right, we see or can infer the gittern’s distinctive features:
• The whole body – the bowl and the neck – was carved from a solid piece of wood (whereas the backs of lutes were constructed from several ribs of bent wood and the neck added separately).
• In the 14th century, gitterns had 3 or 4 courses of strings, a course being a unit of single, double or occasionally treble strings played as one.
• The gut strings passed across the bridge and were attached to hitch pins on the edge of the instrument. A few gitterns were without hitch pins, the strings tied to the bridge, as on lutes, but such gitterns were the exception.
• The peg box was a curved sickle shape decorated with the carved head of a real or mythological animal or a person.
• The instrument was played with a plectrum.
Some of these details are obscured by either the age of the carving or the damage done by Puritan iconoclasts, but they are still observable with close scrutiny, as we see in the photographs below. Below left we see the damaged plucking hand which still shows the main part of a long plectrum. Iconography generally suggests that gittern plectrums were quills. Here the apparently quill plectrum is held between the thumb and forefinger. This is shown in other some other iconography, an alternative to the usual holding position between the first two fingers, held in position by the thumb, as we see above in the detail of a gittern from Simone Martini’s wall painting, Saint Martin is knighted, 1312-18. Below right, we see that the player is tuning the instrument. We see what appears to be three very thick single strings, though a close look at the first course between the plucking hand and the hitch pins (viewable by clicking on the picture below to enlarge it; click in the new window to further enlarge) suggests double courses. The end of the curved peg box, where we would once have seen a decorative carved figure, has either broken off through age or been smashed off during Puritan vandalism.
To see and hear a gittern, click here.
The gittern player is portrayed with the pointed ends of two shoes in typical mid-14th century style just poking out from underneath his tunic. As the century progressed, the points of shoes grew so long, up to 2 feet (60 cm) in length, that measures had to be taken to enable the wearers to walk: the ends were stuffed with moss to retain their shape, or stiffened with whalebone, or the points were attached to the knees with a cord or chain so the wearer could safely walk. They were thought to have originated in Kraków, then the capital of Poland, so were known as crakows, the points called poulaines, as in souliers a la poulaine, shoes in the Polish style. They remained high fashion for much of the 15th century, even in the military: the armoured version of the shoes were called sabatons. When the armies of the Swiss Confederation and Austria fought at the Battle of Sempach in 1386, the Swiss were wearing sabatons. Realising they were a hindrance – why didn’t they already know?! – the soldiers cut off the long pointed ends, leaving a huge pile of metal shoe-tips behind.
The north wall: bay B
The north wall includes bays B to J as shown on the Beverley Minster floor plan near the top of this article. We will proceed one bay at a time, with a photograph of the bay followed by an examination of the minstrels in that section. Bay B is above with (left to right) a timbrel player, bagpiper, a woman with a dog, a man with a snake, a portative organist, and a citole player. We will examine these minstrels, then move to bay C, and so on across the north wall.
Above we see that the Puritans smashed off this figure’s head, right arm and left hand, all of which are now John Baker replacements. The head is quite similar to the replacement head of the gittern player above, and may have been modelled on the same person. Since the right arm, left hand and the timbrel are replacements, we cannot be sure what instrument this figure was originally playing, or indeed if an instrument was being played at all, so this label stop cannot be securely counted among the number of original minstrels.
The timbrel player echoes the position of the fiddler on the shoulders of the boy on the west wall, but this time the man is carried by an exhausted lion, its paws clasped around the player’s ankles. There were captive wild animals in late medieval England. In an age of performing bears, horses, dogs and snakes, were there also performing lions, or should this be taken as a fantasy, a carved drollery?
The Tower of London’s royal menagerie was founded by King John (reigned 1199–1216) to house animals presented as gifts from foreign monarchs. Among its captive residents were three leopards, sent in 1235 by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II as a gift to King Henry III. In 1255, Henry had an elephant house built for his live gift from King Louis IX of France. The earliest evidence of a lion in the Tower appears in the records for 1240 and, in 1277, King Edward I had a semi-circular structure built that was later called Lion Tower. In 2008, these medieval written records were backed by DNA evidence from lion skulls in the Tower, dated to 1280-1385. Unfortunately, captive animals continued to be kept in the Tower until the 19th century. So certainly there were lions in England at the time of the Minster carving, and some minstrels did use performing animals in their act, but there is no evidence for captive lions used in performance with minstrels.
For the many sounds a skilled timbrel player can produce, see the video here. Those playing methods that are attested by medieval iconography are shown from 1.42 to 2.30.
Next we see a bagpipe without a drone pipe, a type seen in the arcade in the second article and described there. The chanter is a Baker replacement, so we cannot know if the original chanter had a round or a flat playing surface (also discussed in the second article). From the three angles above and the details below, we see how carefully and exquisitely the folds in the clothing and the stitching of the bagpipe bag were carved, and where John Baker made new parts and repaired with white filler.
I have been unable to find a video of someone playing a droneless medieval bagpipe: it appears that modern early music has bypassed this type of instrument. This video demonstrates the type of bagpipe shown in the second article, which has no drone pipe and a chanter with two rows of finger holes, one for the melody and another for the moveable drone.
Above we see John Baker’s finely-made replacement portative organ (an instrument also seen in the arcade and described in the second article). Unlike the timbrel player, in this case we can be sure of the identity of the missing instrument due to the remaining organ bellows. This is also the case for smashed organs we will see later, where the bellows are all that is left after iconoclasts’ attacks. This organ, and another to follow in the next bay, are testament to the skill of John Baker in matching the style of the original carving with his own. There is a largely intact portative organ remaining on the Percy tomb (shown in the fourth article), but of a different design, so the precise model Baker used for his replacement is unknown.
To see and hear a portative organ, click here.
Above is one of the very few surviving medieval instruments, a citole dated c. 1280-1330, which in the 16th century was converted into a violin on the order of Robert Dudley to give as a gift to Queen Elizabeth. Under the incongruous violin soundboard and bridge, we see the distinctive wedge shape of the citole, carved from solid wood, with its trefoil on the tail and thumb hole behind the fingerboard to allow the fretting hand access to the neck. This instrument is now in the British Museum. X-rays and iconography show that, before conversion to a violin, the citole’s tuning pegs were anterior rather than side-mounted, it had its original soundboard, very likely with a rose rather than f-holes, and a bridge suitable for plucking rather than bowing. This would have looked like the citole below, made by luthier Paul Baker. To see and hear this citole made after the design of the British Museum citole, click here.
Above we see the same features as on the British Museum instrument on the badly-damaged citole in Beverley Minster’s bay B of the north wall: the distinctive wedge shape; the trefoil on the tail, now broken off; and the thumb hole in the wedge behind the fingerboard. Medieval iconography shows that citole pegs were typically front-facing on a slope from the front to the back of the instrument (as seen above on the Paul Baker instrument). Above, we see that John Baker mistakenly repaired the damaged citole with a flat front to the peg box, adding rudimentary pegs on the side, similar to their position on the 16th century violin conversion of the 13th–14th century British Museum citole. In some cases, citole pegs did face forward on a circular peg disc, as we see below on the citole in the angel choir of Lincoln Cathedral, completed in 1280. The Lincoln instrument illustrates some of the variations in the form of the citole: a bridge some distance from the string-holder rather than immediately next to it; a point rather than a trefoil on the tail; and a circular peg disc.
Citoles typically had either 6 strings arranged in 3 double courses, or 4 single strings. The citole in the Beverley Minster arcades (described in the second article) has six strings in three double courses. The citole in bay B has four single strings, and would therefore have been tuned as indicated in the Berkeley Theory Manuscript (Berkeley MS 744), probably written by French priest, Jean (Johannes) Vaillant, before 1361: c’’–g’–d’–c.
Viewed from the front, there was a variety of citole body outlines. The bay B citole outline is commonly known as the holly leaf shape. It is evidenced widely and internationally at the time of the Beverley carvings, such as the near contemporaneous example below in Cologne Cathedral, Germany, c. 1280–1300. Below we see again the distinctive carved thumb hole at the back of the neck, unique to the design of the citole.
On the bay B citole, the female figure’s head, plucking hand and peg box are John Baker replacements. We will see a citole of a different design in bay E, similarly damaged by religious fanatics and repaired by John Baker.
The north wall: bay C
As we see above, the label stops on bay C are, left to right: a portative organ player; a harper; a man with a dragon and bird (described in the sixth article about the Minster’s allegorical carvings); a pair of singers; a giant goat standing over two nuns (also described in the sixth article); and Reynard the fox (likewise described in the sixth article).
From bay C onward we continue to see signs of restoration and replacement parts, but we no longer see the white filler visible in the work on bays A and B.
We have seen a portative organ in the arcades and one with most parts newly-made by John Baker in bay B above. Both the bay B portative organ and this one in bay C are Baker replacements. In bay B, the original 14th century bellows remained, giving John Baker the clue he needed to make a replacement instrument. Here in bay C, the portative organ is a Baker replacement in its entirety, as we see from the different coloured stone. The player’s head is also by John Baker, as we see from the stone colour, the clear line where the new head begins, and the obviously Victorian/Edwardian style of the face. I am, however, counting this among the original 14th century portative organs on the basis that the position of the hands strongly indicate this instrument. As with other replacements, this organ is a testament to the skill of John Baker.
As we have seen with the fiddle, John Baker used exemplars from the Minster for his work creating replacement parts; and, where this was not possible, he looked for contemporaneous examples in other places. In the case of this replacement portative organ, Baker’s model was an organ with keys, which came later than this carving from 1330-40. In the renaissance period there was a transition from buttons to keys on the portative organ, as we see comparing the image below left, a detail from Saint Mary Magdalen holding a crucifix by Spinello Aretino (Spinello di Luca Spinelli), c. 1395–1400, showing buttons, with the image below right, showing keys, a detail from The Assumption of the Virgin by Matteo di Giovanni, 1474.
As with all the harpists in the Minster, the player above has the harp bag rolled down to the base of the instrument. The bag performs the function of creating stability on the player’s leg. (Harp bags and their function in medieval iconography are discussed in the second article). The slightly damaged harp and the main body of the player are original; the right forearm/hand and the player’s head are Baker replacements.
To see and hear a medieval harp, click here.
Above we see the singers’ heads, hands and scroll are all Baker replacements. Since all the elements which identify the couple as singers are Baker replacements, it cannot be stated with certainty that the couple were originally singing. Again, John Baker used his best knowledge of historical models for his work, and the representation here is in the style of medieval images of singers with scrolls of music, such as we see below from the contemporaneous Luttrell Psalter (British Library Add MS 42130), England, c. 1325–40.
To hear the medieval song, Sumer is icumen in, c. 1250, as written for 6 voices, click here.
The north wall: bay D
The label stops on bay D are, left to right: a pipe and tabor player; a gittern player; a woman with a dog (described in the sixth article about the Minster’s allegorical carvings); a woodwose or wild man with a dragon (also described in the sixth article); Canon Nolloth who, in the late 19th and early 20th century, did so much to restore and promote Beverley Minster (discussed in the first article); and a player of hunting horn.
pipe and tabor
The pipe and tabor player (taborer) in bay D is a patchwork of original parts and John Baker replacements using, as usual, 14th century models from other parts of the Minster. We can be sure John Baker’s identification of a taborer was correct because, even without the physical presence of the instrument destroyed by Puritans, the physical pose made it clear. The taborer in the arcade (described in the second article and shown on the right) was clearly Mr. Baker’s model and, like that taborer, this player has the drum balanced on his left forearm, held in place by a cord around the neck (not visible on this sculpture). As we see above and in the details below, the right hand, drum stick, two fingers of the left hand, the double pipe, the player’s head, and the tabor with snare are all Baker replacements.
To see and hear a pipe and tabor, click here.
In the second article we saw a gittern in the arcade on which the missing tail end was replaced by John Baker with a pointed citole tail, as we see again above left. The same incorrect tail was added to the broken gittern in bay D in the current sequence, above right.
The incorrect tail is based on the nearly contemporaneous citole in Lincoln Cathedral (below left). That the 14th century instrument, vandalised by Puritans in the 16th-17th century, was completed incorrectly by John Baker in the late 19th or early 20th century, is no criticism of Mr. Baker, whose skill, sympathetic work and dedication are unquestionable. In 1895, when he started his restoration and replacement work, there was no scholar, historian or musicologist who could have given him any guidance, as our modern understanding of medieval musical instrument organology was barely in its infancy. When the one surviving citole, from the late 13th or early 14th century, re-emerged in 1769, it found its way to Warwick Castle by 1806 and was thereafter referred to as a “violin” or “fiddle”, which it had been converted to in the 16th century before being gifted to Queen Elizabeth I, or known erroneously as “the Warwick Castle gittern”. The citole was acquired by the British Museum in 1963, still referred to as a gittern. As recently as 1971, Professor Gwynn McPeek and Mary McPeek’s short paper, A Guide to the Carvings of Medieval Minstrels in Beverley Minster, states that the citole “was also referred to as a cittern, cithern, gittern, or githern”, which we now know to be false, as the cittern or cithern was a wire-strung renaissance instrument and the gut-strung medieval gittern or githern was a different instrument to both cittern and citole. The fog was lifted in 1977, with Laurence Wright’s seminal article to remedy the confusion, The Medieval Gittern and Citole: A Case of Mistaken Identity, 82 years after Mr. Baker started his work.
John Baker’s replacement tail on the gittern in the arcade and here in bay D both have a curious second rose on the tail, copied from the neo-Gothic instrument carved on one of Lincoln Cathedral’s late 19th century choir stalls, a mixture of real medieval elements and 19th century artistic license, shown above right.
What is correct on the gittern in bay D is what is original: if we deduct the pointed citole tail with an extra rose, we see an instrument with a bowl back, overall half-pear shape, four courses of strings, a rose under the strings, and a sickle-shaped peg box with a decorative carved animal head.
First, on the underside of the peg box are four pegs, which would lead us to believe this is a four course instrument, each string usually paired, so we would expect to see four tuning pegs on the top side of the peg box, as no doubt it originally had. Instead, what we now see on the top side of the peg box is only the other end of the bottom pegs. This results from 16th-17th century damage and the 19th-20th century repair, carried out with a lack of adequate information about the organology of gitterns.
Second, the playing position is curious, reminiscent of the painting on the right by Jan Mytens in 1648, whose model was obviously not a lutenist and unused to handling the instrument which, for a beginner, is difficult to hold due to it being round and slippery. Similarly, the gittern player in bay D has a left hand high on the neck and slightly over the rose in an awkward way that looks like he’s holding rather than playing it, and the right hand is coming over the strings from above, rather than in parallel with the strings, making fluid playing impossible. The overall impression is of a non-player as a model, not knowing how to hold it. The gittern player’s hands appear to be original, so it is difficult to arrive at a satisfactory explanation except to make the observation that medieval and renaissance iconography gives us many valuable insights into instruments and playing styles, but artists are fallible and make mistakes, or represent their subjects in stylised ways, so iconography can be fallible, too, and is not always intended to replicate life. Below is another example of a sculpted gittern player, this one French, made c. 1450–1500 (The Met Fifth Avenue, New York). We see the same impractical fretting hand position as in Beverley, and the plucking hand comes from below, a stylistic representation common in medieval images to reveal more of the instrument to the viewer which, if taken literally, makes playing impossible.
To see a gittern and citole being played together, click here.
The man above, sitting on a man’s head, is another patchwork of original and new. He is holding a broken hunting spear and blowing a hunting horn. Since the arms, head and horn are all Baker replacements, without evidence of their original features, this cannot be counted among the 14th century instruments. The making of new parts by John Baker was almost certainly based on a carving on the tomb of the two sisters, seen below and described in the fourth article, in which there will be a discussion of the history and use of such blowing horns or winding horns, putting all the horns in the Minster in context.
The north wall: bay E
The label stops on bay E are, left to right: a man with a walking staff; a man with a flambeau; a player of cup cymbals; a citole player; a timbrel player; and a horn player.
Moving eastwards along the north wall, the next minstrel has a head and right arm that are Baker replacements. Below left we have a closer view of the original 14th century left hand and sleeve of the lower arm; below right is Mr. Baker’s work to replicate this on the right hand, with his signature in stone, dated 1895.
Under each hand are hemispherical cymbals, which we see below played with other instruments on folio 107r of the Canterbury Psalter (also called the Great Canterbury Psalter or the Anglo-Catalan Psalter, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 8846), made in two stages, 1176–1200 and 1285–1348. The decoration of the pages was completed in Catalonia in the first half of the 14th century. In the centre is King David playing a psaltery, accompanied left to right by bagpipe, vielle (fiddle), lute, gittern, portative organ, and cup cymbals. All of these instruments except the lute are represented in the 14th century carvings of Beverley Minster.
We are more used to seeing cymbals as flat metal plates with a raised central dome, such as the pair of bronze cymbals from the Chinese Jin Dynasty, 1115–1234, below left. Cymbals of this shape are seen in European medieval iconography, such as the Breviary of Marie de Saint Pol (Cambridge University Library MS Dd.5.5, folio 349r), c. 1304-77, below right.
Cymbals of the hemispherical type as in the Minster have a long history. Below left is a Greek bronze cymbal dated 500-480 BCE (National Archaeological Museum of Athens). The shape of the cymbals in the hands of the woman in the next image is strikingly similar to those in the hands of the Beverley man. This dancing woman is shown above a musically noted “Alleluia” in a tropaire, an illustrated devotional music manuscript, dated 1027-28 or before, from the Abbey of Saint-Martial de Limoges, France (Tropaire de Saint-Martial, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 1118, folio 114r). In general, we see that domed or cup cymbals were played with surfaces meeting horizontally, as we see with the cymbal-playing hare in the English Rutland Psalter (British Library Add MS 62925, folio 54r), c. 1260, below right …
… while flatter cymbals, those with a large contact area, were usually played with surfaces meeting vertically, as we see below left from the Iberian Cantigas de Santa Maria (Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, Códice de los músicos, RBME Cat b-I-2, folio 176v), 1257–83, and below right from a Parisian Book of Hours (The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, MS M.1004, folio 160r), c. 1420-25.
Hand cymbals of various shapes and sizes are still played around the world using a variety of techniques, as this video demonstrates.
The next instrument is played by a man wearing a chaperon, a hood worn in a new style from c. 1300, on the head instead of over the head (as described in the second article, there worn by a singing fiddle player). To the modern eye, this instrument could easily be mistaken for a guitar (and indeed Beverley Minster erroneously call it a guitar, among many other errors, in their CD of photographs in the gift shop), but the first evidence for the existence of the guitar does not appear until two near-contemporaneous late 15th century sources, a Spanish Book of Hours decorated by Juan de Carrión, 1475-99 (British Library Add 50004, folio 70v, below left), and a German book of woodcuts on the theme of the dance of death, the Heidelberger Totentanz (below centre and right), first printed in 1488, around 150 years later than the Beverley carving. One reason the Beverley instrument looks so much like a guitar is the figure of 8 outline, which is original 14th century; another is that John Baker’s erroneous replacement neck and peg box add to the guitar-like impression.
Correctly identified, this is the third citole in the Minster. The citole in bay B, discussed above, has the holly leaf outline; the citole in the arcade (described in the second article) and this one in bay E have the figure of 8 outline, as shown on folio 77r of the exactly contemporaneous Macclesfield Psalter of East Anglia (Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 1-2005), c. 1330 (below), on which we also see the trefoil and string-holder often seen on citoles.
The Minster citole player has a Baker replacement left foot, as we see in the photographs above. Below left we see the replacement right forearm, with the original hand still attached to the body of the instrument, plectrum between the first two fingers; and below right the replacement right hand and erroneous neck and peg box of the instrument. John Baker’s error was based on the universal lack of accurate information about citoles when he worked in the late 19th and early 20th century, discussed above in relation to the confusion between gitterns and citoles.
Next we see another timbrel player, a new John Baker creation to fill a space on the wall. We will return to this figure and other Baker creations below.
lost wind instrument
The instrument above is a Baker replacement. It may, at first sight, appear to represent a truncated form of serpent, and has been identified as such by some commentators. The serpent was a deep-pitched conical wooden tube with 6 finger holes, 8 feet in length, folded in serpentine fashion to make it manageable and portable. The wood was either hollowed from one piece or made in sections and bound together with strong paper, then covered in leather to make it air-tight. It was played with a cup-shape mouthpiece, such as brass players use today, at the end of a brass crook.
The serpent was created to improve upon a large and unsatisfactory form of the cornett, similarly made of wood, covered with leather and with a cup-shape mouthpiece. The various names for this instrument – cornet, cornett, cornetto, or zink – all mean little horn. (This cornett is now always spelt with two ‘t’s to distinguish it from the altogether different brass valved cornet of the early 19th century). The zink or cornett came in a family or consort of sizes, either curved or straight, the straight variety known as the mute cornett.
The Beverley instrument cannot be a serpent, since this is a 14th century representation. The creation of the serpent by French canon, Edmé Guillaume of Auxerre, to improve upon the bass cornett, did not take place until c. 1590. Neither can it be any kind of cornett in the sense described above, since the wooden, leather-covered cornett had its heyday in c. 1500–1650, well after the Beverley representation.
The original face of the Beverley figure (right) indicates a wind instrument played on the side of the lips rather than the centre, and this gives a vital clue about the identity of the original instrument: in the renaissance and baroque periods, much iconography shows a preference among some cornettists for positioning the mouthpiece on the side of the mouth.
Above left is a detail from Christof Angermair’s coin cabinet, carved in ivory 1618-24 for Elisabeth of Lorraine, Duchess and Electress consort of Bavaria, showing a cornett played to the side (and also a rackett, an early bass bassoon with its tubing folded to make it compact). Centre is a detail from the salone (lounge) of the Palazzo Ducale, Sassuolo, Italy, painted in 1646-47 by Michelangelo Colonna and Agostino Mitelli, showing another cornettist playing on the side of his mouth. On the right, and most instructive for identifying the original instrument of the Beverley musician, is a small detail from Israhel van Meckenem the Younger’s engraving, Dance at the Court of Herod, Germany, c. 1500. It shows a player of a curved horn with six fingers over holes, played on the side of the mouth, indicating the same functionality and style of playing as the cornett, but the dimensions and shape indicate that this is an animal horn.
Before the appearance of the leather-covered cornett, the word cornet appears in French sources from the 13th century onwards, indicating any little horn, including animal horns and short metal trumpets, and the same usage appears in English from c. 1400. In the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, French sources also refer to cor à doigts, literally fingered horns. Indeed, it is highly likely that the curve of the wooden cornett from c. 1450 was in imitation of its animal horn forebears.
We have seen above some of John Baker’s remedial stone-work that was both skilled and erroneous, but based on the best knowledge of 1895-1912. In this case, we see that both hands and the instrument are Baker replacements, based on his accurate detective work: the evidence of the Beverley player’s embouchure, coupled with contemporaneous writings about fingered horns, together indicate that this figure was originally playing a curved animal horn. For his model, he used an instrument in the reredos (altar screen). The reredos horn, and all the horns of the Minster, are further explained and explored in the next article.
The north wall: bay F
The label stops on bay F are, left to right: a wind player (now playing an oliphant, not original); simfony player; fiddler; psaltery player; female figure; and bagpiper.
lost wind instrument (replacement oliphant)
Above is another Baker replacement horn, played by a figure which has an entire replacement right arm, a replacement left arm from halfway up the forearm, and a replacement foot. As with the previous horn, John Baker was given the tell-tale clue about the instrument’s identity from the embouchure of the lips, which can only indicate a blown instrument. (As explained in the fourth article, John Baker filled the gap with a wind instrument called an oliphant, modelled on an instrument in the Minster’s reredos.)
The positioning of the replacement arms must be identical to that of the 14th century, since the right hand resting on the left leg is original, indicating an instrument played with one hand, and the left arm to halfway up the forearm is original, indicating a holding position near the top of the instrument, i.e. near the mouth.
Certainty is impossible, but comparison with iconography indicates this is likely to have been a metal or wooden trumpet. Requiring only the embouchure of the mouth to produce notes, it could be played with only one hand to support it, as we see below in a detail from folio 201r of The Queen Mary Psalter (British Library Royal 2 B VII), England, 1310-20, showing two trumpeters playing for four dancers.
We see the same one-hand playing posture by trumpeters below in Gloucester Cathedral. In the choir vault above the high altar there are 17 musicians carved between 1331 and 1357, among whom are 4 trumpeters, 2 holding their instruments and 2 playing. Below we see 3 of them: on the left, a player of a short trumpet held with one hand; on the right at the back is another one-handed trumpeter, and one of the non-players in the foreground.
simfony or organistrum
The simfony (also spelt symphony, simfony, symfony, simfonie, sinfonie, symphonie) was also known as the simfonia (symphonia), chifonie, or organistrum. This carving is entirely the work of John Baker: above right we see his signature and date on the side, “JB 08”. The original 14th century simfony he replicated from the arcades is shown below. It is described in the second article, in which unusual aspects of the depiction are described: a simfony usually has the crank and the wheel on the same side, not on opposite ends of the instrument, as here; it is usually shown with the crank turned by the player’s right hand, with keys played by the left hand, whereas on the Beverley Minster simfony this is reversed – not unknown in other depictions, but atypical; and the key hand is universally (with this one exception) shown over the top of the instrument when the keys are on the bottom, rather than played from underneath. In the usual position, with the right hand turning the crank and the left hand over the top, the lowest note of the left hand is on the little finger and the highest note is played with the thumb, as on a keyboard. On the Beverley simfony, the left hand turns the crank and the upturned right hand is underneath. On a keyboard, the lowest note of the right hand is on the thumb and the highest note is played with the little finger. Given the unusual position of both the wheel and the hand in this depiction, that relationship of right hand digits to pitch is reversed. This is much more awkward and practically unlikely but not impossible. If real, it would require the instrument to be secured by a strap to give the playing hand freedom to move without having to hold the instrument.
These unusual details and others make this a problematic depiction of a simfony. We will take one aspect at a time, seeking solutions.
In common with all medieval iconography, the Minster simfonies have keys of equal size and spacing. Equal size keys are impossible if we assume the key stems on the inside are all straight, since the natural harmonic series of a string – shortening its vibrating length to make higher-pitched notes – dictates that gaps between notes are progressively smaller the shorter the vibrating length. But if we believe the universal iconographical evidence of equally spaced keys – and there is no compelling reason not to – then the key stems inside must have been angled so that the tangent, a piece of wood on the key stem that makes contact with the string and shortens its vibrating length, meets the string in the correct harmonic position, as shown in the photograph below. This is a simfony made by Paul Baker with top-mounted keys, which a significant number of simfonies had, an example of which is shown on the right from the choir vault of Gloucester Cathedral, made between 1331 and 1357. The Paul Baker simfony is shown upside-down so that the keys are on the bottom and the crank is on the right, for easy comparison with the Beverley simfony.
There are two other pieces of evidence that lead to the confirmation of equal size keys and angled key stems. The first is that the clavichord, a keyboard of the early 14th century on, had equal size keys and used precisely this angled key-stem method. The second is that Opusculum de monochordo, c. 1470s, a treatise by German music theorist Conrad von Zabern, explained the construction and use of a keyed monochord (single-string keyboard) with equal size keys, just as all simfony iconography shows, using just such angled key-stems to meet the string in the correct place.
On a simfony, the crank turns the wheel which acts as a circular bow to continuously play the strings. As we see above, the strings travel from the right across the bridge to secure them in place, then across the wheel, then the strings are attached on the left to tuning pegs on a semicircular peg plate. The lid of the instrument is hinged to allow the player access to the wheel, maintained with the application of rosin, the same substance used on fiddle bows, to create friction between the bow or wheel and the strings. Cotton is added to each string where it sits on the wheel to increase the point of contact and create a smooth sound. The tangents on the key stems make contact with the chanterelle(s) – the melody string(s) – at points to shorten the vibrating string length and thus make different pitches of note.
On the Beverley simfony, four horizontal lines represent the strings and two vertical lines running under the strings centre left presumably represent the bridge and the wheel. We would expect to see the crank and the wheel on the same side of the instrument, so that the length of the metal rod from the crank to the wheel is short. Here the crank and wheel are on opposite sides of the instrument. It would not be impossible to make a longer rod, but it is difficult to fathom why the instrument would be made this way. Even on a simfony with angled key-stems, all of the keys would have to be to the right of the wheel in the picture above, so the keys which run past it towards our left are definitely in error.
The shape on the left, like a sideways arched church window, appears to be a rectangular string holder, found on medieval fiddles, often on citoles, and on some modern stringed instruments such as violins, cellos, and mandolins. The fact that on both the 14th century original and on the John Baker copy this is sitting on top of the instrument confirms the impression of a string holder, as does the fact that the four strings are on top of the box rather than inside it. This is incongruous, as the six circular holes are clearly sound-holes on a lid which would cover the strings. Taken literally, this would require the strings and the wheel to protrude through the apparent rectangular opening in the lid, above the height of the lid when closed. The strings do not visibly reach the tuning pegs, which are on the front rather than on the usual trefoil or peg plate on the end of the instrument, which means the strings would come down at an angle back inside the lid to be attached on the inside to the tuning pegs. On this interpretation, the design is clearly impossible: to enable the strings to re-enter the box, the wheel would have to be at an obtuse angle for it to make proper contact with the strings. Clearly, the depiction is confused. Either the exposed strings and string-holder mean there is no lid, in which case we would expect to see exposed wooden key stems running up from the keys at the bottom and under the strings, or there is a lid, as shown with sound-holes, in which case we would not see the strings, wheel or bridge.
But rather than dismissing the image entirely, let’s assume the 14th century carver had a real model in mind, but got some details wrong. There is an existing and credible image of a simfony which probably explains what the medieval Beverley mason was trying to depict and John Baker copied. On the right we see one of the instruments on the Monasterio de Piedra triptych in Spain, dated c. 1390, nearly contemporaneous with the Beverley carving. Like the Beverley simfony, it has a string-holder and exposed strings. On the Spanish instrument, the strings run behind a neck, which has keys to play the strings. It is possible, then, that there was indeed a box-shaped simfony with a string-holder and exposed strings, in that respect like the Spanish one. The sonic effect of not having a lid would have been to make the instrument louder and a little raspier, without the calming effect on the sound that box enclosure has. To make the Beverley simfony into a depiction of a playable instrument, the modifications would be to: have the keys finish before the bridge and wheel; show the key stems behind the strings, i.e. show that it has no lid, and therefore remove the six sound-holes; and have the strings reach the tuning pegs, to show that the string-holder, strings and pegs are all on the same plane. This would make a playable instrument, and it may or may not be the correct solution to a clearly confused carving.
To see and hear a simfony, click here.
medieval fiddle (vielle or viella)
The vielle or medieval fiddle, like the a psaltery and bagpipe that follow in bay F, shows both original features and significant work by John Baker. As we see above, the fiddler has a new bowing forearm, hand and bow, playing an original fiddle with the same overall shape and design as both fiddles in the arcades (described in the second article).
The vielles or viellas on columns 9 and 13 of the arcade and the present one in bay F all have five strings. On the original 14th century fiddle on column 13 (shown on the right), all five strings are on the fingerboard, and they would therefore have been tuned g’– d’– g – G – d, as described by Dominican friar and music theorist Jerome of Moravia in his Tractatus de Musica, c. 1280. Jerome doesn’t mention whether this was five individual strings or whether some strings were paired, but it seems likely that this was a tuning in four courses, g’– d’– g/G – d (as suggested by Christopher Page, 1987).
Jerome gives two other tunings for five string fiddles, both with a bourdon, a string off the fingerboard that can therefore only play one note, used for plucking with the thumb or bowing. The present fiddle in bay F of the north wall has a bourdon and so, according to Jerome’s treatise, it could have been tuned in one of two ways. The first is d’– d’– g – G – d, which probably meant two stopped courses and a bourdon, d’/d’– g/G – d bourdon. The second is c’ – c’ – d – G – G, which very likely means a tuning very close to the crwth: c’/c’ – d – G – G bourdon (as I explain here under the heading, The implications of crwth technique and tuning).
The psaltery in bay F (above) is of the same design as the psaltery in the arcade (right). On the bay F instrument it is probable that, if it was compete, without the front of the instrument and the player’s arms smashed off, we would count ten double-strung courses of wire (brass) strings as in the arcade, giving it a range of just over an octave. John Baker clearly used the arcade psaltery as a model for his replacement arms, as the hands are playing in the same position, the only difference being that the arcade player has slim typically female hands and Baker’s new arms have larger typically male hands.
To hear a psaltery played, click here.
The bagpiper at the end of bay F has a replacement right forearm and hand, chanter, left hand, and drone pipe, and the rest is original, including the detail of the seam on the bag, observed on previous bagpipes in the Minster.
The variety of medieval bagpipes was explored in the second article, where we saw a bagpipe without a drone stock – the drone being on the wide rectangular chanter – and a bagpipe with a single drone stock. Above we see a single drone bagpipe with a replacement circular chanter.
To hear a single drone bagpipe, click here.
The north wall: bay G
Moving to bay G, we see it decorated with label stops which are: a double horn player; a player of nakers; a portative organist; a female figure; a bishop; and a hermit beard-tugger (the latter described in the sixth article, about the Minster’s allegorical carvings).
lost wind instrument (replacement double oliphant)
Still moving east along the north wall, we see a double horn player, with arms and horns that are Baker replacements. As with some previous figures, the embouchure gives away that this was a wind player, but the precise instrument could only have been a guess or approximation by Mr. Baker.
The double horns are not the last of this instrument type. Since there are more to come, of various shapes and sizes, and they are best described together, I will reserve examination until we see the Minster’s final horns in the reredos (altar screen) in the fourth article, at which point all horns will be compared and categorised.
The player of nakers in bay G is wearing a chaperon in the same style as Jan van Eyck in his probable self-portrait of 1433 (seen above right), when this style was still in fashion. (The fiddle player and citole player above are also wearing chaperons.) The player’s left beater and most of his left hand (on the viewer’s right) are original, and the Baker replacements are the upper part of the left hand, the whole of the left arm, and the right arm, hand and beater. Due to what remains of the original, we can be sure that Baker’s work is a very close match to the lost parts.
Nakers are small kettledrums made of metal, wood or clay. In Arabic, they were naqqāra, part of the loud outdoor ceremonial band of Arabia. The shawm, trumpet and nakers were new to Europe in the 11th–12th century, and the Arabian ceremonial band was itself adopted in Europe, reaching France by the 13th century and England by the 14th century, by which time naqqāra had been transformed linguistically to nakers. Generally played in pairs suspended from a belt at waist or thigh height, it is easy to see how a pair of nakers could become a colloquial term for a part of male anatomy (though I have failed to find this in any etymological dictionary). The animal skin heads of nakers measured between 6 and 12 inches, or 15 to 30 centimetres, always played with a pair of beaters, and one or both heads often had a snare, a string on the surface of the drum. Nakers were always of the same size. Evidence is lacking for whether the skins were equally tensioned and thus played the same note, or unequally tensioned, playing different notes. The latter seems more likely, as there is no musical advantage in having two drums at the same pitch. When they are shown in ensemble, rather than a single player, they are illustrated in various contexts: in the military, with trumpets; in sacred processional ensembles; or in a secular group.
Below we see three depictions: a dancing player of nakers with a simfony player in the English Luttrell Psalter (British Library Add MS 42130), 1325-40; …
… among the king’s musicians in the first complete Czech Bible, the Olomouc or Olomouck Bible or Bible olomoucká (Vedecká knihovna v Olomouci, M III 1/I), 1417; and played solo by a herald of death in the illustrated German catechism, Heidelberger Bilderkatechismus (Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 438), 1455-58.
Above we see the remains of another portative organ, the fourth so far of seven in the Minster, and the third on the north wall. There are no Baker replacement parts here except the left foot, which itself has been damaged or eroded.
The north wall: bay H
We are nearly at the end of the north wall, and also of our tour of label stop minstrels, since the majority of the minstrels are in bays A to H.
Here in bay H we see, left to right: a harper; a Baker creation playing a gittern(?); a bearded man; a pilgrim ensnared by an amphisbaena (described in the sixth article about the Minster’s allegorical carvings); a lion; and two fighting demons (also described in the sixth article). In addition, on the decorated wall to the right of the Baker creation is an original trumpeter.
Above we see a harp which, like the others in the Minster, is shown with the harp bag wrapped around the base. A view from the side (above right) shows that the harper is playing one-handed while the other arm holds the harp, with the end of the harp bag over the left arm. (The iconography, material and practical use of harp bags is discussed in the article about the Minster’s arcade minstrels.)
Here we see that the right forearm, hand and left foot are Baker replacements, with all other parts original.
The carving on the right was made in the late 19th or early 20th century, entirely the creation of John Percy Baker, who did so much to bring the medieval minstrel carvings back to life under the leadership of Canon Henry Nolloth, then vicar of Beverley Minster (as described in the first article).
Here the skill and character of John Baker’s artistry is on full display and, if you have an eye for faces, this musician may be familiar from elsewhere in the Minster. The depiction of the person will be discussed in the short commentary at the end of this article, as will the nature of this instrument, which may have been intended to be a gittern.
On the wall behind John Baker’s new label stop is an original 14th century carving with the top half of a woman and the bottom half of a fish – a mermaid – playing a trumpet. Valves appeared on trumpets in the early 19th century, since when the earlier and more long-lived valveless instrument has been known as the natural trumpet to differentiate the two.
With the use of valves to change the vibrating length of tubing, a trumpet can play all chromatic notes within an octave and, by the tightening or loosening of the embouchure (the shape and tension of the lips), those same notes within the chromatic scale can be played at higher or lower octaves. Without valves, a trumpeter has only the embouchure to make notes, which means that not only is the chromatic scale unavailable, not all notes of the diatonic scale are available, either. The natural trumpet, as it’s now called, gained its name because it plays the notes of the natural harmonic series, i.e. those notes available by changing the shape of the embouchure without valves.
For further explanation and demonstration by Alison Balsom, click here. Note that the natural trumpet she plays is a ‘baroque trumpet’, a term from the mid-20th century to mean a natural trumpet with added finger holes to help with intonation.
The north wall: bay I
The label stops in bay I do not include musicians. From left to right we see: an original 14th century man with a Baker replacement arm; a Baker dragon; an original onocentaur (mythical man-ass hybrid) with a new Baker head; a new Baker man with a devotional book; an original upside-down man with a new Baker head; and an original male figure with a new Baker head. Some of these figures are discussed in the sixth article.
There is, however, one musician in bay I, as we now see.
Above left is a new John Baker figure, fourth from the left in bay I. He is in a posture of prayer, his right arm pressing a devotional book to his chest. As we see, to the left on the spandrel (the space on a wall next to an arch) is a 14th century carving of a man playing a trumpet, this detail shown above right.
The north wall: bay J
Bay J has only one label stop – an onocentaur, shown above. This is discussed along with the other onocentaurs of the Minster and their allegorical meaning in the sixth article.
The south wall: bay K
We have crossed the nave from bay J on the north wall and are now viewing the first bay of the south wall, moving back east to west. From hereon the commentary will be brief, as all instrument types have already been described. We see fewer minstrels on the south wall, and those present did not receive attention from John Baker, so they remain in the same state as when Puritan iconoclasts rained down their clubs and axes in the 16th–17th century.
In bay K we see: three gaps in the sequence; a badly damaged female figure with an animal – is she wrestling a lion? – shown on the right; a damaged figure – shown below; and a beautiful intact bagpiper.
The beheaded figure above carries an object in the right hand that appears to be a scroll, as halfway along its length it has a protusion that could be interpreted as unfurling along its top edge. In its current state, certainty is impossible, but this appears to be the figure of a scholar.
The beautifully-carved bagpiper above has sustained some injury to the left side (from the player’s vantage point), but the instrument itself is untouched, and it is indeed one of the best-preserved instruments in the Minster. Building on the discussion of previous bagpipes in the second article, here we see a bagpipe with a flat-faced chanter, without a drone pipe but with a moveable drone, as there are two rows of finger-holes on the chanter. The seam and stitching of the bag are carved in detail.
The south wall: bay L
On the left of bay L there is a carrier of wool, significant because in the 14th century Beverley’s commercial wool trade boomed due to it being a place of pilgrimage. This figure is examined in the sixth article. The remaining label stops are a lion, a badly mutilated figure, two female heads and a male head. There are no minstrels in this bay.
The south wall: bay M
The significant figures in bay M are the third, playing portative organ; the fifth, a possible singer; and the seventh, the merman and Greek god Triton, the latter described in the sixth article.
Portative organs were the only instruments to be played with a strap in this position. The position of the arms and the shape of what remains confirms that this badly damaged figure is a portative organ player, with only the shoulder strap and a fraction of the organ remaining.
In medieval iconography, an open mouth was a visual representation of singing, as we saw with the singing fiddler in bay F (seen again below left), and as we see with the singing positive organist in the contemporaneous Luttrell Psalter (British Library Add MS 42130, f. 55r), 1325-40 (below right).
As well as an open mouth, an additional signifier for sacred singers was the appearance of music. In iconography, music appeared in one of three forms: a book; a scroll, on which the music is in columns at a right angle to the rod; or a rotulus/rotula, on which the music runs parallel to the rod, as we see above in the Gorleston Psalter (British Library Add MS 49622, folio 126r), 1310–24. The figure in bay M has an open mouth and appears to be holding a book, and on this basis can be identified as a possible singer.
The south wall: bay N
In bay N, the significant figures for our purpose are the first, a harper; and the fourth, a person carrying an ass, the latter to be examined in the sixth article.
Here we see a harp with 7 remaining strings and the evidence of tuners showing it originally had 9 strings. The number of strings on medieval harps varied. Contemporaneous French composer and poet Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-77), for example, described the harp as having 25 strings in his poem, Dit de la Harpe (This of the harp), and French theologian and music theorist Jean de Gerson (1363–1429) stated in his Tractatus de Canticis (Study of Song) that the harp has 20 strings. As late as 1523, well into the renaissance, Giovanni Maria Lanfranco gives a shorter range of 15 strings in his music treatise, Scintille di musica. The Beverley representation with only 9 strings is not to be taken literally. Due to the nature of the medium, it was common in art for large numbers of strings on an instrument to be reduced in representation. The reasons were practical: the need for features in stone not to crumble, and the small space given an image on the page of a manuscript.
The saddening sight of this vandalised harper serves only to underline the importance of the work carried out by John Baker under the leadership of Canon Henry Nolloth, without whom all the minstrels and allegorical carvings would have remained only silent witnesses to fundamentalist demolition.
The south wall: bay O
The label stops of interest in bay O are the first, a pipe and tabor player carrying an ass; the third, another ass carrier; and the fourth, an indeterminate possible musician.
pipe and tabor
The symbolic meaning of the three ass-carriers on the south wall will be explored in the sixth article. One of them, as we see above, is performing the incredible feat of carrying an ass while playing pipe and tabor! Clearly visible is the fipple of the pipe in the player’s mouth, the end of the double pipe in his left hand, and the remains of a tabor with a snare on the skin on his left shoulder.
musician with lost instrument
The position of the incomplete arms, together with the shape of the broken stone on the left shoulder, leads me to believe this was originally a vielle (medieval fiddle) or portative organ player.
Bays P, Q and R do not include minstrels and so are not represented here. This therefore concludes our tour of the minstrels represented on the walls on three sides of Beverley Minster’s nave.
The difficult questions of restoration and repair
The badly damaged figures on the south wall illustrate well the value of John Baker’s work, and help us to understand what he was faced with in 1895: beautifully crafted and historically important 14th century carvings vandalised, fragmented and smashed into partial or complete non-existence by 16th-17th century extremists.
I therefore have nothing but respect and admiration for the skilful work of John Baker in repairing, restoring and making replacement parts for the Minster’s minstrels and allegorical carvings. Where medieval exemplars were available in the Minster he used them faithfully. Where there were no exemplars in the Minster, the evidence suggests he looked to Lincoln Cathedral. We can now see the gaps in his knowledge, that his work was not always accurate, that he mistook one instrument for another, as we have seen with the gittern/citole confusion, but in this respect he was as informed as anyone else in 1895-1912.
Above are all the original 14th century gitterns of the Minster together, to illustrate the difficult art of restoration, making replacement parts and new sympathetic creations. On the left is the gittern in bay A, missing the end of its sickle-shape peg box but otherwise intact. In the centre and on the right are the gitterns on column 5 of the arcade and bay D of the north wall, both with the same Baker replacement tails, making them gittern/citole hybrids due to the poor state of knowledge at the time. By comparison, below are two Baker originals, from column 10 of the arcade on the left, from bay H on the right. Though John Baker usually used exemplars, these instruments don’t look like anything else in the Minster, or indeed like anything in medieval iconography. They were probably both intended to be gitterns, but at the time gitterns were not properly understood. Instead, below left we have an instrument with a citole string-holder that otherwise looks like a modified mandolin; and below right is an instrument like a gittern but with a straightened peg box.
When faced with a lack of information and choices to make, we all fall back on what we know. The ‘gittern’ above right has strings over the bridge, tied to hitch pins on the end of the instrument, as we would expect to see, but it has a peg box like a guitar and the right hand is positioned for classical guitar playing rather than for a medieval plectrum. But I re-emphasise my point: the historical inaccuracy of the representations reflect the state of everyone’s medieval instrument knowledge in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the skill of the carving and the dedication of the carver are unquestionable.
The Puritan iconoclasts aimed for heads, arms and instruments. The removal of heads in particular has the effect of depersonalising the carvings. We saw in the second article, for example, that all but two of the minstrels high in the arcades are standing on a downward-looking head and underneath another head above them. Being so elevated, they must have been difficult for the vandals to reach. Some of the heads that escaped damage are humorous or symbolically appropriate, as we saw with the ear-stopping figure above the shawm and the bishop above the portative organ. Two heads in the arcade that did not escape destruction are those under the gittern-like Baker instrument on column 10 (below left), and under the bagpiper on column 11 (below right). Below we see only the trace remnants of those underside faces.
Observation of the character of the carved faces in Beverley Minster raises a key point. The Minster minstrels’ faces are, in character, quite unlike representations such as the minstrels’ pillar in Saint Mary’s Church, half a mile away on the other side of the town. The minstrels’ pillar, funded in 1520 by the “Order of the Ancient Company or Fraternity of Minstralls in Beverley”, has anonymous, all-purpose faces, as we see below.
By contrast, we see from the remaining original heads and the overall attention to detail by the 14th century Beverley Minster masons that each carving represents an individual character. Did the medieval masons of the Minster have living models? Do we have the likeness of 14th century musicians preserved in stone? The likelihood of ever being able to answer this question definitively or pinpoint specific identities is remote in the extreme, but the possibility is intriguing.
John Baker certainly depicted individuals. Three of his new minstrels bear a striking resemblance to each other, seen above: the timbrel player in bay E; the simfony player in bay F; and the gittern-ish player in bay H. Reputedly, this moustachioed man is John Henry Norrison Camidge, 1853-1939, whose image would therefore have been carved when he was 55, going by the date of 1908 on the side of the simfony. John Camidge had been a chorister at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and was appointed organist at Beverley Minster in 1876 while also being conductor of the Beverley Choral Society and music master at Beverley High School. He came from a musical family: his father was Thomas Simpson Camidge, 1828–1913, organist at Hexham, Swindon and Swansea; Thomas was the son of John Camidge, 1790-1859, organist at York Minster; John was the son of Matthew Camidge, 1764-1844, organist at York Minster; and Matthew was the son of John Camidge, 1734-1803, the first of three successive generations of organists at York Minster, and five successive generations of church organists.
It is likely that other replacement heads by John Baker were likewise based on living persons. One other figure certainly was. Above right we see the replacement head and hands of the cleric in bay D with his Bible and bell, made in the image of Revd. Canon Henry Edward Nolloth, vicar of Beverley Minster from 1880 until 1921, whose personal wealth and dedication to the Minster did so much to restore its heritage and add to its features.
Anyone who researches and plays medieval music knows that every performance is a negotiation between what we know from evidence and the artistic endeavour of the individual performer based on historical principles. Historical music is always the creation of something new in an attempt to reach the old. As we learn more, we do things differently, so the creation of the old changes over time. Exactly the same can be said of John Baker’s replacement parts and new creations in Beverley Minster. He had to negotiate between what he knew from evidence, his best guesses based on the state of knowledge at the time, and his own artistic endeavour. His work, though not always accurate by today’s standards, was entirely sympathetic within the bounds of his awareness. For the visitor, the value of seeing medieval musicians reconstituted is far greater than the alternative of viewing only vandalised remains on the wall and undifferentiated pieces of stone stored in boxes. His skilful work allows us to see complete figures, all the better to imagine what they may originally have been.
Grateful thanks to luthier Alice Margerum for permission to use her photographs of citoles in Cologne Cathedral, taken from her PhD thesis, Situating the Citole, c. 1200-1400 (see bibliography);
Beverley Minster floor plan and instrument inventory
The floor plan above shows the various stages of building of Beverley Minster. Modern sources do not always agree on precise construction dates, so I have used the widest suggested timescales. The arcade columns are numbered 1 to 18 for convenience, and descriptions of minstrels in the arcades follow this scheme in the second article. Likewise, the letters A to R on the inside of the west, north and south walls indicate bays, and this lettering system is used to indicate the location of minstrels in the current article.
The 14th century minstrels are listed below by location in a table cataloguing instruments by type, from the most to the least numerous.
© Ian Pittaway. Not to be reproduced in any form without permission. All rights reserved.
The eighth and final article is a survey of and commentary on the literature to date about the medieval minstrels of Beverley Minster.
Bennett, Carol (2021) A Guide to Lincoln Cathedral. London: Pitkin Publishing.
Dyer, Joseph (1978) Singing with proper refinement, from De Modo bene cantandi (1474) by Conrad von Zabern. Early Music. vol. 6, no. 2 (April 1978). pp.207–227.
Fischer, Stefan (2013) Jhieronymus Bosch: The Complete Works. Köln: Taschen.
Fulton, Cheryl Ann (2017) Basic Practical Advice on Playing the Medieval Harp (Abridged). Available online by clicking here.
Highfield, Roger (2008) Barbary lions were part of medieval Tower of London zoo. The Telegraph. 25th Mar 2008. Available online by clicking here.
Imbler, Sabrina (2019) Why Were Medieval Europeans So Obsessed With Long, Pointy Shoes? Available online by clicking here.
James-Maddocks, Holly (2014) A Royal Beast and the Menagerie in the Tower. Medieval Manuscripts Blog, British Library. 18th November 2014. Available online by clicking here.
Margerum, Alice C. (2010) Situating the Citole, c. 1200-1400. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of London Metropolitan University for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. August 2010. Available online by clicking here.
Maund, Peter (2000) Percussion. In: Duffin, Ross W. (ed.), A Performer’s Guide to Medieval Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
McPeek, Gwynn and Mary (1971) Guide to the Carvings of Medieval Minstrels in Beverley Minster. No publisher given. Available from Hull History Centre by clicking here.
Myers, Herbert W. (2000) Reeds & Brass In: Duffin, Ross W. (ed.), A Performer’s Guide to Medieval Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Page, Christopher (1978) Early 15th century instruments in Jean de Gerson’s ‘Tractatus de Canticis’. Early Music, Vol. 6, No. 3, July 1978, pp. 339-349. Available online by clicking here.
Page, Christopher (1979) Jerome of Moravia on the Rubeba and Viella. The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 32, May 1979, pp. 77-98. Available online by clicking here.
Page, Christopher (1980) Fourteenth-Century Instruments and Tunings: A Treatise by Jean Vaillant? (Berkeley, MS744). The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 33, March 1980, pp. 17-35. Available online by clicking here.
Page, Christopher (1987) Voices & Instruments of the Middle Ages. Instrumental practice and songs in France 1100-1330. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.
Page, Christopher (1991) Summa Musice. A thirteenth-century manual for singers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pittaway, Ian (2015) The gittern: a short history. Available online by clicking here.
Pittaway, Ian (2015) The mysteries of the medieval fiddle: lifting the veil on the vielle. Available online by clicking here.
Pittaway, Ian (2018) The medieval portative organ: an interview with Cristina Alís Raurich. Available online by clicking here.
Southworth, John (1989) The English Medieval Minstrel. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.
Tinctoris, Johannes (1481-1483) De inventione et usu musicae. Available online by clicking here.
Wright, Laurence (1977) The Medieval Gittern and Citole: A Case of Mistaken Identity. The Galpin Society Journal. Volume 30. May 1977. Available online by clicking here.