Z is for Zweihänder

Zweihänder swords, photo from blackfencer.com.

What shall we choose for the Renaissance “Z”? Zacco, the King of Cyprus (James II) who controlled the sugar industry until the Venetians took it? Bartelomeo Zorzi, a Venetian alum merchant, who negotiated with the pope over the mines discovered at Tolfa? (Alum was a key ingredient in textile dying.) Both of those are economic stories, about controlling resources, which was an underlying motivation for many of the skirmishes of the age.

But there were wars for control of territory, belief systems, and ruling classes. So how about ending a month of Renaissance history by looking forward to the next wave. The Reformation and the rise of the Hapsburg dynasty. We go to Germany.

The Landsknechte warriors, etched by Daniel Hofer 1530. Photo from wikipedia
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Y is for York

Queen Elizabeth of York, painter unknown, which is typical. Photo from wikimedia.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious by this summer sun of York…

Opening of Shakespeare’s Richard III

Meanwhile in the north… not all of the Renaissance happened in Italy.

Elizabeth of York was glorious summer, indeed. She was the daughter, sister, niece, wife, and mother to kings–and queens. As Alison Weir says, in her fabulous biography of this fascinating linchpin of history:

Elizabeth of York’s role in history was crucial, although in a less chauvinistic age, it would, by right, have been more so.

Alison Weir, Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World

In other words, if she’d been more of Penthesilea type, a bit more Eleanor of the Aquitaine and a bit less Jane Bennett, then maybe she’d have been Queen Elizabeth I. Or, maybe she’d have been thrown in the tower with her brothers. Hard to say.

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X is for X-Chair

It really was called an X-chair. It was also called the Dante or Dantesca chair, the Luther chair, and the Savonarola chair. The last name is the craziest; there really was a Savonarola, who played a pivotal part in the history of one city. But he had nothing to do with the chair. Imagine, if you will, the Rasputin spatula!

We’re nearing the end of the alphabet. Dots will be connected.

The Dante chair, photo from grandvoyageitaly.com.

Simple, But Unbending Design

The simple design of the folding camp chair had been discovered early on in civilization terms. The Egyptians had them, and the Romans used them extensively, especially in military campaigns. A simple-X design that folded in the middle, sometimes also called faldstools. Perfect for those Charlemagne-era banquets, where you have to feed all the thanes and earls after they pledge fealty and argue about how to fend off the thanes and earls of the ruler across the border. Also handy at Red Weddings.

Medieval faldstool, like your folding campstool only centuries old. Photo from wikipedia.

The Renaissance twist was to build the chairs from sturdier pieces of wood. However, these did not bend and instead sported elaborate carvings on the back, arms, and legs. The seat would be a sturdy piece of leather covered by a cushion. The place where the legs intersect was called a “boss.”

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