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The Four Crowned Martyrs

Posted on 5 November 2013

Dr Laura Crombie receives Santander International Connections award towards a project on the craft guilds of late medieval Ghent

In the summer of 2013 Dr Laura Crombie of the Department of History received a generous award from the Santander International Connections awards to begin a project studying the craft guilds of late medieval Ghent. The Santander grants are funded to allow York staff and students to undertake international visits or projects which are both ambitions and creative for the individual, and will bring a benefit to the York community. Receiving this award allowed Laura to build on her previous research, into archery and crossbow guilds in Flanders, and to begin a new project to investigate craft guilds’ dramatic, devotional and communal activities, looking at plays, processions or other events staged by guilds, analysing guilds’ feasts and commensality and guild devotion, as evidenced through charity and through the guild-chapels.

Dr Crombie's initial focus has been dramatic performances written and staged by the craft guilds, in particular two unedited plays of the masons’ guild written in the 1430s. In Flanders urban groups known as chambers of rhetoric (rederijkers) developed in the early fifteenth century, these were confraternities who met to write and perform plays and staged regional competitions, have been well studied and many of their texts edited. Despite, or perhaps because, of this analysis of the chambers of rhetoric, the drama staged by other urban groups is poorly studied. From a literary perspective, the plays and poems are not as sophisticated as those performed by the rederijkers, but from a cultural point of view they are fascinating, providing an insight into guild and civic identity and the values of late medieval craftsmen. The guild dramas are very poorly studied, a handful of texts have been published in their original Flemish, and to the best of Laura's knowledge none are available in English translation.

In making a short poem, The Four Crowned Martyrs, available in English, Laura's Santander award will allow greater access to guild culture and guild drama in fifteenth century Ghent. This play is based on Latin Sources, particularly the Golden Legend and the Spiegel Historical, but was written in verse in Flemish by the priest of the masons guild, Lievin Kindekin, in 1427.  Dr Crombie said 'I am very grateful to the Santander foundation for making this research possible, and I hope that this poem will be of interest to many within York'.

The Four Crowned Martyrs (PDF , 213kb)