Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Medieval Childbirth

That childbirth was hazardous for both mother and baby in the medieval centuries, and indeed until relatively recently in historical terms, is a well attested fact. Spiritual assistance and intervention was sought and girdles ( or perhaps fragments or fibres from them ) of female saints, above all of the Virgin Mary, were held by many churches and offered as intercessory aids.

A new piece of research from Cambridge into a surviving fifteenth century parchment birthing girdle has demonstrated that it was worn during not only in pregnancy but also during labour. It includes invocations of the Virgin Mary and other saints including not only the Apostles but also Saints specifically associated with childbirth. Prominent amongst these was St Margaret - herself safely delivered whilst imprisoned from a dragon which had swallowed her - as is alluded to as a dragon slaying saint, but not named, in the beginning of the article below.

The research is outlined and the girdle placed in historical context in an illustrated article on the MailOnline website which can be seen at Honey, milk, egg and cereals found on a 15th century birthing girdle

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