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  • Adrian J. Boas

On Nuptial Fashions


Tacuina sanitatis (XIV century) Public domain

With anticipation, as the weddings of my two still unmarried sons approach this spring, it occurs to me that of the many great and small events of my life, one of the most difficult to recall is one of the most important; my own marriage ceremony that took place over four decades ago. It seems that the haze of time lies more thickly around it than around many entirely inconsequential and even more distant events of my past. One of the few clear recollections of that occasion that I do have, is how fearful I was that I might fall off the shoulders of my bride's uncle who had, as is often the custom in Jewish weddings, lifted me up during the dancing following the ceremony. The other distinct recollection is of how beautiful my bride appeared in her wedding dress.


The Andalusian traveller, Ibn Jubayr when observing a wedding at Tyre, was greatly impressed by the appearance of the Frankish bride:


"An alluring worldly spectacle deserving of record was a nuptial procession which we witnessed one day near the port in Tyre. All the Christians, men and women, had assembled, and were formed in two lines at the bride's door. Trumpets, flutes, and all the musical instruments, were played until she proudly emerged between two men who held her right and left as though they were her kindred. She was most elegantly garbed in a beautiful dress from which trailed, according to their traditional style, a long train of golden silk. On her head she wore a golden diadem covered by a net of woven gold, and on her breast was a like arrangement. Proud she was in her ornaments and dress, walking with little steps of half a span, like a dove, or in the manner of a wisp of cloud. God protect us from the seduction of the sight."*


When an Augustinian monk, Jacobus de Verona, visited Cyprus in 1335, he too witnessed a wedding, and he also had something to say about dress, though in this case, he was rather less interested the bride's appearance than of that of the women who accompanied her:


"Also in the same city, one Sunday, I saw a bride go to the house of the bridegroom thus ; before her were borne twenty large candles lighted, and after her twenty, and in the midst she sat on a horse, with her eyebrows and forehead painted, and after the candles came forty or more ladies with black cloaks over their heads and reaching to the feet, in very decent fashion, and thus go all the ladies of Cyprus, showing nothing but their eyes, and when they go out of doors they always wear this black cloak; and this from the

time that the Christians lost Acre, which is Aeon or Ptolemais."**





* Roland Broadhurst, trans., The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, London, 1952, pp. 320.

** Claude Delaval Cobham, "Jacobus de Verona" in Excerpta Cypri, Cambridge, 1908, p. 17.


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