by Charles Francisk von Rafenstain
Since the beginning of our activities in the group, there has always been a great demand of knowing more
about how life in a castle in South Tyrol took place.
First of all because our concept is strongly connected to this, and second of all the general knowledge of life in Danish medieval castles is quite inadequate.
Never the less South Tyrol - which by area is equivalent to Lolland, Falster and South Seeland - houses more than 100 medieval castles.
Every castle was built in a way, that it was possible to communicate from one castle to another by means of bonfires or other signals. This way knowledge of invasions by enemies could be communicated very fast.
This topic, and the architecture and building techniques is more related building research, rather than daily life on the castle. Therefore it obvious to start with a record from Schloss Tirol at Meran from 1298.
The record is a list of how many people living on the castle, and what their occupations were.
- Castle Schlandersberg, Südtirol
Eventhough the castle belonged to the Duke of Tyrol, it is remarkable that there were 118 employed. The castle is be area no bigger than Scloss Rafenstain! Of the 118 employees, 27 were hired to guard and protect the castle. 12 persons were hired by the castle chancellery, and led by a protonotary (main responsible). 2 jesters, 1 harp player, the singer Gisilbert and probably more mountebanks responsible for entertainment 24 hours a day. Pastoral duties were carried out by the castle priest with help by a temporary priest. Apart from them, there were approx. 50 person directly or indirectly responsible for catering food and beverages.
Another reliable source that gives a more intimate look on the life on a castle are the so-called account books of the family von Schlandersberg. These books contain accurate figures of income and spending, and an explanation of who the individual castle inhabitants were. Here we take a closer look on Peter von Schlandersberg's life; Peter was not directly related to the family, and was in the beginning living in his father's castle - Kastelberg. Later he moved to the original Castle of the family - Schlandersberg, that was in a miserable condition, and hopelessly unfashionable - in the view of 1360'ies lifestyle. Peter's secretary - the grocer Heinrich Umbrasser - carefully registers every farm situated on the land belonging to his master. He notes which farms that are leased, and how much they should pay in tax, in the form of farming products.
One day Peter got a visit from his cousin Hans von Schlandersberg, who was directly in the family line. Hans took Peter's invitation in the middle of the hunting season.
Hans arrives with 14 servants in his company apart from his wife Dimut. She herself came in company with 13 servants, escorting her from church day in Schlanders parish, all the way to the dinner table. Peter had only one servant himself. For the occasion Peter had to claim all wine barrels from his farms, and the neighbor castle, and nor even that was enough to all the guests. The guests consumed a lot of wine for an medieval tradition called "schlaftrinken" ("sleep drinking"). Also Peter was according to the account books a man with a joy for drinking. In the year 1367 it happened that Peter had to cater for himself for a whole week. The first thing he did, was to claim the key to the wine cellar from his servants wife, and in that way make him "master of his own wine consumption"
Another note describes a feud, where Knight Peter had to "Bring sacks of food, as different sorts of flesh, fish, grains, fat, cheese - and not least; many "Putrichen" (barrels) of wine to the castle guards".
Through the famous hunting dinner, we have also been able to see for how much money the guests have been eating for; 5 Pounds Berne and 4 Grochen (coin currencies) of pork, wheal and sheep flesh.
Apart from that there was eaten chicken, 2 piglets and smoked meat. 1 Mut (measuring unit) of rye, 1 Schot (shape) cheese, fat, eggs, pepper and saffron. In total excluding grain and cheese, for a value of 10½ PB. Furthermore 6 PB was spend on wine alone.
For Peter's wedding a number of little goats, a lamb, a calf, and apart from that four fourth of fresh weal, one "metzen" pork, chickens, game, 3 Star (measuring unit) wheat, saffron and fat - all in all for a value of 34 PB, which in those days equaled a quarter of an ordinary farm. Umbrasser's accounting shows us also other aspects of Peter's life:
For "Fasnacht" (Carnival), he orders a piper (musician) to entertain him, and furthermore all sorts of other musicians and entertainers were richly attended to. If life gets too dull for our friend Peter, he rides to his cousin's castle Kasten, or to the bailiff of Matsch, or to the court in the city Meran, wherer he once stayed for 5 weeks. Twice he visits his dying sister in Bozen, and finally he goes to her funeral. For all these travels, he will have sewed a large amount of new clothes, such as trousers, "Schoppen" (Battle jackets), cloaks and jackets for riding. also a strude hoot (a wooly hat with a long tail) in an abundance of colors.
To sum up, you can say that daily life on a castle in has been simple. When the knight got too bores, he travel or visited acquaintances on other castles. Parties with lots of good music and food served on silver plates, and the best wine served in wooden mugs. A little note; Many people thinks that fashion and style were more ahead in the southern parts of Europe compared to the northern parts (including Denmark) around 1400. But speaking about pottery and ceramic accessories it is quite the opposite. In South Tyrol good pottery is rare, and almost never glazed.
There are even stories about travelers staying in an inn in the Northern part of South Tyrol. Their food and drinks were served in moldy plates and cups, so they had to complaint to the host..(source; Armin Torggler).
The story is the 1500 years. This should speak for itself.. The earth in South Tyrol contains almost no clay, but there is grooving a lot of trees. A similar situation is seen concerning wine and beer; In Denmark we can grow grain, but wine is not easy to grow. Down there - quite the opposite! Also these aspects helps us to understand the life in a castle.
Family life side-by-side with the "castle crew"
From a report from 1402 we know how the noble family von Starkenberg lived side-by-side the castle staff on the castle Kasten.
- Castle Kasten, Südtirol
Organization was like this;
Raising of the knight's children was the wife's job, while education was done by a private "School master".
The education of less important nobles children, was conducted by the castle's priest.
The School master on Kasten also had to do other tasks besides teaching; He worked as messenger, and hosted the craftsmen on the castle with wine. Apart from the castle priest and the school master, there are many other employed on Kasten. There are mentioned around 12 persons. Some of them are mentioned as "the head" by the other servant, others "traveling knights", meaning men from the lower nobility. These are followed by the cellar master (main responsible for the house hold), followed by a gunmaker, a falconer, the hunter, the baker, the stable master, the runner, the fisher, the tailor, the maison, two guards, two working men and two jesters. This set a scale with Knight Peter in the bottom, with 1 servant, the noble von Starkenberg in the middle with 12 servants, and the dukes castle Tirol, with their 188 servants in the top.
If we look at Francisk von Rafenstains status, and financial means, he can be placed somewhere between knight Peter von Schlandersberg and the family von Starkenberg. This would justify a staff between 1 and 12 people - possibly 6 servant..