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Of Six Mediæval Women by Alice Kemp-Welch

Illustration THIRTEENTH CENTURY TREATISE ON SURGERY


Whilst

touching upon such a subject as this, it may be a surprise to some to learn that in large towns baths were provided for those who could not afford to have them in their own homes, and that there were also professional women hair-washers.

[Illustration: THIRTEENTH-CENTURY TREATISE ON SURGERY, IN FRENCH.

Sloane MS. 1977.

_To face page 103._]

But to return to the hospital. On one side of the ward were ten windows, each four feet square, and on the opposite side was a large door leading into the cloister with its garden, where the convalescents and the old people, whilst sheltered, could enjoy the sunshine and see the flowers and the birds. In addition to this there was a smaller ward for women, a chapel, a kitchen, and a room for the matron, as well as accommodation for the resident doctor, Maitre Robert, and the serving-women. It is some consolation to think that these poor suffering folk of centuries ago were even thus well tended, but when we look at contemporary representations of the surgery of the day,[29] we tremble at the mere thought of the heroic methods adopted. Besides the actual necessaries which she provided for the hospital at Hesdin, Mahaut constantly sent gifts of fish, game, and wine. Similar gifts she likewise made to the hospitals in Artois generally, as well as to those in Paris, and, on fete-days, to the poorer religious

houses.

[29] See Roger of Parma, _Treatise on Surgery_. French thirteenth century. Brit. Mus., Sloane MS., 1977.

From her beneficence to the sick and sorry, the aged and the poor, we turn to her hospitality to her relations and friends, and to all those in spiritual or temporal authority in the towns or villages of Artois. The Castle of Hesdin, destroyed in the sixteenth century--only a few stones remaining to mark the site,--was situated a few miles from the present modern town of Hesdin. It must have been not only a scene of constant festivity and social intercourse, and a treasure-house withal, but also a veritable hive of industry, with workers and workshops within the Castle enclosure as well as in the town nestling beneath its walls. Here might be found artists and craftsmen of all sorts and degrees--sculptors and workers in stone, ivory-workers, wood-carvers, carpenters, artificers in silver and precious stones as well as in copper, forgers of iron, painters of wall-decoration, stonework, saddle-bows, and even masquerading-masks, illuminators of MSS., workers and painters of glass, harness-makers, armourers, tailors, and embroiderers--the whole forming a rare and remarkable centre of activity for a woman to have developed and ruled and made into a living force.

* * * * *

[Illustration: BANQUET, WITH MINSTRELS PLAYING, AND ROOM HUNG WITH EMBROIDERY.

MS. Romance of Alexander, 14th century, Bodleian, Oxford.

_To face page 104._]


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