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Margery in Dańsk

by David Wallace, Judith Rodin Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

‘The Middle Ages catch us up.’
Günter Grass.1

In the early Spring of 1433, Margery Kempe limped her way out of Lynn, in Norfolk, to visit ‘Danske in Duchelond’ (7784): the city now known to us as Polish Gdańsk.2 Margery, a grandmother and mother of 14 children, was considered ‘a woman in gret age’ by her neighbors: yet she traveled on and returned to tell the tale, some 16 months later, in what is now Book II of The Book of Margery Kempe.

Thanks to Birkbeck’s John Arnold and his colleagues, we now have much clearer understanding of the culture in which Margery grew up: of her father being five times’ mayor of Lynn and alderman of the Trinity Guild, the pre-eminent merchant body; of his being commissioned by the crown to finance a diplomatic mission to Prussia in 1385; of his involvement ‘in international trade, local politics, royal service and merchant banking, all aspects of which,’ Kate Parker says, ‘were run from his home in Lynn’.3 ‘Dansk in Duchelond’ lies some thousand miles from here: or as Margery puts it, ‘beyowndyn the see’ (7504), a place to be reached without modern assurances of time, latitude and longitude, weather reports and navigation equipment. How can we enter into such journeying, how assess the cultural intelligibility of Margery’s ‘Dansk’? Three interconnected lines of approach suggest themselves: historical, philological, and buying an airline ticket.

Readers have noticed that Book II seems markedly different in mood and modus agendi from Book I.4 Long years separate the travels and adventures of Book I, packed for the most part into the intense period 1413-18, from their commitment to writing: like Julian of Norwich, Margery has some 20 years in which to marinate intense experience in prayerful reflection. The writing of Book II, however, comes very much sooner after the aventure of its living out; and it observes a temporality more ordered and sequenced than the more random memorialisations of Book I.5 This forward drive of Book II is thus much more akin to the narrativity of romance than to the more static forms of contemplative literature; the trajectory of Book II in fact models a basic structure of romance, what Susan Wittig termed (in the structuralist 1970s) the ‘exile-and-return motifeme’.6

What, then, sets the great journey or quest of Margery Kempe, Book II, in motion? Margery sits one day at Lynn in ‘a chapel of owr Lady,’ thinking of her son, her daughter-in-law, and their ‘fayr mayde-child’ (their baby girl) in far-off Danzig (7494-7). She feels ‘desyr’ to see them: and immediately, the text tells us, ‘it was answeryd to hir mende that sche schulde seen hem alle er than sche deyid’ (7499-7502). Eventually, the son, wife and daughter at Dansk board ship for England: but such a tempest springs up that they decide to leave ‘her childe in Pruce wyth her frendys’ (7554). So Margery’s ‘felynge’ that ‘sche schulde seen hem alle er than sche deyid’ (emphasis added) is almost fulfilled when son and daughter-in-law arrive at Lynn: but not entirely, since the ‘fayr mayde-childe’ stays behind. So unless Margery herself crosses the sea, the truth of her inner voice remains incomplete. The ‘fayr mayde-child’ thus functions rather like the little Indian boy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: as a small-part player (with no speeches at all) who, nonetheless, catalyzes the plot. It is entirely typical of Margery that, on getting to Dansk, she tells us nothing of the ‘fayr mayde-child’: Margery is interested in baby boys, not little girls, since only boys can remind her of the baby Jesus.

Supplementary inspiration for Book II’s traveling comes from Margery’s lifelong devotion to Bridget of Sweden.7 Margery three times mentions ‘Bride’s book’, and while in Rome in 1414 sought out Bridget’s serving maid and spent time in Bridget’s deathchamber (3118-3131). Bridget had died in 1373, shortly after completing her momentous pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem and back; she was then in her seventieth year. ‘Bride’s book’ is some version of the Liber Celestis.8 One of the Middle English translations, BL Claudius Bi, also contains a brief Life, in which Bridget pleads old age and poor health against Christ’s command that she should travel: ‘she bigan to excuse hir bi sekenes and elde. Than saide Criste, ‘I made thee in thi kinde: I shall strenthe the. I sall lede and bringe the againe to this place.’’9 This injunction repeats in Book VII of the Middle English Liber Celestis: ‘Crist bad the spouse that sho suld wende to Jerusalem, and that sho suld no3t lete for elde [hold back for old age]’.10 Book VII of the Liber Celestis is the only text in the Bridgetine corpus that unfolds, like Margery’s second Book, in chronological sequence.11 It tells how Bridget’s son, Charles, dies when the party reaches the court of the infamous Queen Giovanna at Naples. Bridget worries over the destiny, the journey now taken, of her son; she envisions the Virgin Mary and a fiend battling for custody of his eternal soul.12 The devil-advocate, in the BL Claudius manuscript, is sure of his rights, since Charles ‘assented to worldli pride and fleshli likinge’ (p. 478, ll. 9-10): yet all this is washed away by the plentiful tears of Bridget, his mother.13

Bridget’s anxiety about the ‘fleshli likinge’ that nearly damned her son may be better understood if we turn to supplementary materials that did not make it into the official Liber Celestis, or that feature only as an additio. It seems that Bridget’s son did enjoy something of a liaison with Queen Giovanna at Naples that scandalised his mother: there are reports of his kissing Giovanna on the lips, and of Giovanna planning to keep him as her fourth husband (once she had gotten rid of her third). Happily, Charles falls sick and dies within 15 days; his mother nurses him stoically to death.14 Bridget gives Giovanna 14 pieces of advice on how to mend her ways; there follows a vision of a woman all spattered with semen and mud. ‘This woman,’ we are told, ‘is a monkey that sniffs at its own stinking posterior.’15

Thus St Bridget of Sweden. At this point we might turn back to Margery Kempe and the beginnings of her old age journey.16 The opening motif of Book II concerns Margery’s relations with a ‘tal yong man’ (7438), her wayward and lascivious son, the merchant at Dansk: he who lives with ‘hys clothys… al daggyd and hys langage al vanyte’ (7510-11); who winds up with his face ‘ful of whelys and bloberys, as it had ben a lepyr’ (7461). At first accursed by his mother, he turns to her for help in extremis; she, ‘not foryeytyng the frute of hir wombe,’ launches a mighty ‘meditacyon’ that leaves him ‘clene delyveryd of the sekenes’ (7487-90). In the very next chapter, however, he rises sick from Margery’s Sunday lunchtable; he dies one month later. Margery is immediately assured—or assures us—that ‘‘He schal comyn hom in safte’—not only into this dedly lond, but also into the lond of levyng men, wher deth schal nevyr aperyn’ (7566-7). Margery’s very next lines then brutally dispatch John Kempe, her husband, chief hindrance to her own religious ambitions: ‘In schort tyme aftyr, the fadyr of the sayd persone folwyd the sone the weye whech euery man must gon’ (7568-9). Suddenly, Margery of Lynn finds herself, as a widow of spiritual and prophetic inclinations, much closer than ever before to Bridget of Sweden.

Parallels between what is effectively the last book of Bridget’s Liber and Margery’s second Book are striking: each sees an elderly widow of religious life and infirm health launched into one last epical journey while preoccupied with the recent death of a son dogged by ‘worldli pride and fleshli likinge.’ But whereas elderly Bridget traveled with confessors, translators, editors, anchoresses, handmaidens, chaplains, and even an English knight,17 old Margery travels alone, or with anyone who will have her. Part of the allure of Dansk might thus have been Margery’s hope of finding the kind of spiritual and actual famiglia which surrounded Bridget: for the son returned from Danzig was the only true family convert that Margery Kempe ever made. This Germanised son, perhaps the first scribe of Margery’s book,18 could have fuelled Margery’s Bridgetine enthusiasms and, as we shall see, fixed Dansk in her mind as a special Bridgetine destination.

Margery’s route to embarcation at Ipswich is a slippery one. The understanding is that as ‘eldmodyr’ or mother-in-law, she should accompany her widowed Danskian daughter-in-law through the ‘strawnge cuntre’ (7600) of East Anglia and see her safely aboard; she should then return to Lynn. In preparing for her Jerusalem voyage of 1414, Margery had ordered her affairs properly: the parish priest announced her departure from the pulpit, inviting anyone to settle debts (1939-46). Now she slips out of town with a half-formed plan that is fully concealed from her confessor and spiritual director, Robert Spryngolde.19 Even Margery has doubts, but Jesus says (‘to hir thowt’): ‘I am abovyn thy gostly fader’ (7633). This is a strong claim: that the Jesus inside Margery’s head overrules the father-confessor outside it. Her leaving thus suggests semi-sanctioned exile or romantic flight, rather than orderly departure;20 some of her neighbors, back in Lynn, think they have seen the last of her:

Sum seyd it was a womanys witte and a gret foly, for the lofe of hir dowtyr-in-lawe, to put hirself, a woman in gret age, to perellys of the see, and for to gon into a strawnge cuntre wher sche had not ben beforn, ne not wist how sche schulde com ageyn.

Meanwhile, back in the boat, Margery and company head rapidly into trouble. At first there is fair-weather sailing, but by Palm Sunday the shipmates fear the worst. ‘The tempestys weryn so grevows and hedows,’ Margery insists, that

...thei myth not rewlyn ne governe her schip. Thei cowde no bettyr chefsyawns than comenden hemself and her schip to the governawns of owr Lord; thei left her craft and her cunnyng and leet owr Lord dryvyn hem wher he wolde.

These lines are worth considering in some detail, since their combining of mercantile and romance, nautical and religious vocabularies speaks to the complexity of this representational space, namely the ship bearing our heroine to Danske. Men attempt to govern their ship; but such efforts fail, and all is left to ‘the governawns of the Lord.’ A governour of a ship, in Middle English, is the steersman (as in the Latin gubernator); without the ‘craft and...cunnyng’ of steersmanship, Margery is in a rudderless boat. She thus keeps figurative company with the heroine of Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale, who, ‘sent to straunge nacioun’ (2.268), finds herself floating ‘in a ship al steerelees’ (2.439). God, the Man of Law never tires of telling us, is her steersman as ‘Sche dryveth forth into oure ocean/ Thurghout oure wilde see’ (2.505-6). Chaucer and the Kempe-author play here with the reciprocal identification of ships with churches and churches with ships: a church has a nave, with a wooden-beamed roof sometimes shaped to evoke a navis, or ship; and a ship, on the high seas, becomes a church.21 On the high seas, the frail wooden vessel of your ship is your only hope of salvation. In sailing ‘oure wilde see,’ then, medieval travelers knew themselves liminally suspended between life and death.22 Anchoresses, such as those at Lynn and Norwich, lived intensively and continuously in this place; they had been walled up with the service of the burial of the dead. The cell of an anchoress was generally attached to the church’s nave; Ancrene Wisse likens Holy Church to a ship which ‘must anchor on the anchoress’.23

Old age is another life-and-death threshold: Bridget of Sweden’s late prophecies and dicta acquired exceptional charismatic authority in being delivered as she traveled in old age. So too, I would suggest, does Margery’s address to God, delivered in the extremis of Book II, chapter 3. The Book is rather cagey about the status of this utterance: is it public or private? We are first told that Margery ‘cryid to owr Lord for mercy and preservyng of hir and alle hir felaschep’; yet we are then immediately told that she ‘thowt’ the address ‘in hir mende’(7718-21). Such caginess may stem from anxieties about women preaching in churches. At York in 1417, Margery had been forced to defend herself: ‘I preche not, ser; I come in no pulpytt’ (4213). The ship may have no pulpit, but it seems sufficiently church-like to prompt caution in the Book (even though, of course, we all hear Margery’s speech, as readers and auditors, as if it were delivered aloud). But we should notice that Margery does not actually preach in this chapter: she does something much more radical. She begins her address by speaking to God of herself and her personal safety: ‘for thi lofe I cam hedyr, and thu hast oftyntymes behite me that I schulde neveyr perischen neithyr on land ne in water’ (7721-2; emphases added). By the end, however, her first-person pronouns have switched from singular to plural: ‘Help and socowr us, Lord, er that we perischyn er dispeyryn, for <we> may not long enduryn this sorw that we ben in’ (7737-9). Through this subtle shift, Margery presumes to mediate for the entire ship’s company; she has become their representative or vicar in addressing God; she assumes a priestly function. And, ‘blyssyd mote God ben,’ her prayers are answered: fair weather returns, and ‘in schort time aftyr her schip was drevyn into Norwey coost,’ just in time for Easter (7759-60).

In Norway, most of the ship’s company visit a local church to see the raising of the cross. For their confession and absolution, however, they return to the ship. The text is punctiliously clear about this: ‘thei weren howseyled wythinne the schip, alle that longed to the schip’ 7762-3). Once again, the ship becomes church-like for this particular felaweshipe of East Anglians and Danskers. They set sail again, and a good wind ‘drof hem hom into Duchelond’ (7774). The ‘maistyr’ or captain of the ship treats Margery well: he is ‘as tendyr to hir as sche had ben his modyr’ (7778). And so Margery Kempe, who began her journey to Dansk as something of an exilic Jonah figure, ends it as Mary: mother to the Lord who is Himself ‘mayster’ of her ship, her church. This last analogy seems a little forced, but it is Margery who makes it: that is, she calls Christ her ‘Maistyr’ for the first and only time in her entire Book. This comes as part of a firm bid for closure, for final justification of willful traveling, as the epical sea journey comes to an end:

Sche went at the biddyng of owr Lord, and therefor hyr Maistyr, whech bad hir gone, purveyid for hir so that sche ferd as wel as any of hir felawschep, worschep and preysyng be to owr Lord therfor.24 (7780-3)

The description of the journey to Dansk, then, assumes a highly-wrought literary character, analogising ship to church and church to ship through complex figural and typological strategies.25 I am not suggesting that this ship becomes purely a sacred vessel at any point of textual imagining; it is always a merchant ship, plying a familiar Hanseatic route. I would further suggest that the Book’s imagining remains perennially mercantile even when contemplating matters of religion. If we look back at lines 7713-17, we find, at the moment of abandoning the ship to ‘the governaunce of owr Lord,’ an evocation of mercantile practice: ‘thei cowde no bettyr chefsyawns.’ Chevisaunce, in later medieval contexts, is applied to the raising or borrowing of money. The merchant of Chaucer’s Shipman’s Tale travels to Paris to ‘make a chevyssaunce’ and thus pay a debt; and Margery, at London in Book II chapter 9, will hide her face with a kerchief until she can make ‘sum chefsyawns’and replace her worn out traveling clothes (8184). To don chevisaunce, however, can also mean to make atonement for sins.26 Such movement between commercial and religious lexicons is one of the most striking features of late medieval European literatures.27 Margery renounces ‘the world’ with considerable fanfare as she turns to religious life.28 But commercial consciousness cannot be renounced: it supplies the categories she thinks through; it is integral to her very being. Even her perennial instinct to form felaweshipe while journeying speaks to both worlds. She seeks out those who would travel her roads to religious sites of pilgrimage; but above all, she seeks out those of her own nacyon.29

The sea passage that sees Margery Kempe ‘drevyn’ (7760) forth from England,30 then, is a symbolically supercharged episode sounding many literary registers all at once: romantic, hagiographical, mercantile.31 It brings us to Dansk: a place where Margery spent five or six weeks and where, so she tells us, she was very popular (7785). The symbolic overdetermination of this extraordinary city can hardly be exaggerated. It is where shipyard workers were murdered in 1970, giving rise to Solidarity, to sanctification by a Polish pope, and ultimately (so the Solidarity Museum says) to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is where World War II started on September 1st, 1939; it is, Napoleon thought in 1807, the key to the conquest of Europe.32 Its greatest novelist is Günter Grass; myth-making, one of Gdańsk’s most vigorous activities, endures today in the very layout of the streets. Postwar rebuilding was quickly undertaken as part of a heroic effort that saw Germans move out of Danzig and Poles move in. The Main Town was reconstructed in the period style of Gdańsk’s greatest cultural and economic glory; red brick medieval Gothic or Prussian styles thus lost out to white-facaded Flemish Renaissance neoclassicism. The lines of reconstructed houses often align imperfectly with the original foundations; there is a thus a civilised civil war in Gdansk between muddy-booted archaeologists, academic historians, and property developers.33 So long as we remember never to absolutely believe what we are seeing in Gdańsk, however, we may risk contemplating some images.

Picture looking north from the Green Gate Bridge.The first image (see image on the right) sees us looking north down the Mottlau (Polish Motława) river from the bridge by Green Gate. Green Gate, to our left, leads directly to Langer Markt and Langgasse, the most important civic thoroughfare of the Main Town.34 Seven gothic watergates line the quayside of the Mottlau: the first signs of the extraordinary measures taken for protecting the city. The most prominent feature here is the famous Zuraw, the huge medieval crane.35 Immediately beyond it you can see the distant tops of more modern cranes: these mark the site of the famous Gdansk shipyard. The feature that I would like to concentrate on, however, is that stretch of (orange) wall to the right of the cranes, just disappearing behind that large ship (the Sołdek). This wall survives from the fortifications of the castle of the Teutonic knights. The castle controls entry to the city and the port rather like the Tower of London protects, or overlooks, London. The Teutonic castle is the first grand structure that Margery Kempe and company would have seen in 1433.36 In 1454, it would be torn down by rebellious townspeople. Very little of it survives today: the townpeople of Dansk were extremely keen not to leave the Teutonic castle as a noble ruin to the past in 1454, but rather to remove it from the skyline and to recycle its materials into city. Archaeologist Zbigniev Borcowskí thus has very little to show at the excavation site of the Teutonic Castle. This he defends as an example of ‘negative archaeology’: that is, the near-total absence of material sometimes speaks as eloquently as its abundance.

Picture of the fortress of the Teutonic Order, Marienburg.The Teutonic Order of St Mary’s Hospital in Jerusalem37 emerged during the Third Crusade of 1189-91. When Acre fell in 1291, the Order concentrated its crusading and colonising energies more exclusively against the ‘Saracens’ in Prussia and Lithuania.38 Control of the Vistula, the mighty waterway connecting central Europe to the Baltic at Danzig, proved vital to the conquest of Prussia; it also drew the Teutonic Order to take ever-increasing interest in matters of trade. In 1308, when invited to put down a revolt at Danzig, the Order restored order and elected to stay; the castle fortress was then built and Teutonic (Chelm) law applied. In 1309, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order moved from Venice to Marienburg (see the image on the right), the fortress 58 km southeast of Danzig.39 Built on the west bank of the Nogat river, the castle controls the whole Vistula delta and hence all the goods trafficked down from the interior of Poland for export to the west.40 Crusades against eastern infidels, such as the Lithuanians, continued; with the passage of time, however, such efforts seemed less and less convincing. Marienberg castle contains an impressive fireplace frieze of Teutonic knights fighting pagans that dates from the fourteenth century (see the picture of the frieze below). It is currently in a recreation room, the place where knights met after their three meals a day. This seems appropriate: for by the 1430s, crusading knighthood seemed chiefly a matter of recreational reminiscence. The Grand Master’s bedroom has underfloor central heating, and next door a room with paintings of trompe l’oeil curtains and of gorgeous green-stemmed flowers, with orange blossoms; it looks like something from the Brighton Pavilion. One Grand Master, Konrad von Jungingen, kept pet monkeys: there were complaints that they damaged the wall paintings.41

Picture of the fireplace frieze at Marienburg: Teutonic knights fighting pagans.

The keeping of monkeys speaks, inter alia, to significant involvement in international trade. The Libelle of English Polycye, a remarkable poem about seaborne commerce from the 1430s,42 speaks of the great galleys of Venice and Florence exporting

Apes and japes and marmusettes tayled
Nifles, trifles, that litell have availed. (348-9)

This poet clearly disapproves of such frivolous imports: ‘chaffare that is wastable,’ he calls them (352). The ‘commoditees of Pruse and Hyghe Duchemenne and Esterlinges’ are much more to his liking, since they are useful: bowstaves and wooden boards; pitch and tar.43 The transporting of timber and pitch was obviously dangerous, although for marine archaeologists at Gdansk it proves a blessing: fire melts the pitch, and the pitch preserves everything onboard (at the bottom of the ocean) including whole cloves of garlic.44 A kind of tree emerges from this trade: elements of the Polish phrase ‘Z Prus’ (from Prussia) meld together to give us spruce.45 By Margery Kempe’s day, and indeed before, England had largely exhausted the primary growth forest that was best for bows or shipbuilding; timber was thus floated down the Vistula from deep within the Polish interior.46 Maurice Postan remarked that medieval trade from the ‘north and north east’ of continental Europe evokes ‘none of that romance which clings to the trade of Southern Europe. The latter,’ he continues, ‘brought to western Europe exotic goods of every kind: pepper, ginger and other spices...silks, brocades and tapestries, sweet wines, oranges, raisins, figs, and almonds’.47 He has a point: it is difficult to think of romance heroines in Middle English texts floating in with Baltic timber; the Mediterranean seems home to the luxuriously fantastical and exotic. But the Baltic merchants who took Mediterranean-based luxuries to their native region might have taken a more romantic view of their own enterprise and aventure.

It would be misleading to posit straightforward opposition between Hanseatic merchants and Teutonic Knights at Dansk: each was deeply involved in the business of the other. The Knights actually oversaw the design and building of the Rechtstadt, the Main town of Danzig that was the heart of its trading and civic life. The charter was granted in 1343; the process of building was technically demanding, since city buildings essentially floated on driven-pillar foundations.48 These monks cultivated a particularly intense devotion to the Virgin Mary that the town clearly shared; and there were fewer than 50 of them in the castle. This last detail seems especially remarkable: how might so few knights maintain control over a city of more than 10,000? A message from the Teutonic castle in Dansk could reach the Marienburg fortress, 54 km away, in about an hour (through a series of relays across satellite castles).49 But Teutonic knights maintained control at Dansk chiefly through ideological means: that is, through those visual signs that might interpellate and intimidate a population; through those cultural fragments still might be read in the city today.

Picture of the view of St Mary's parish church through waterfront gate.One of the most impressive of these lies at the heart of the city’s massive parish church.50 Red brick St Mary’s (Kościół Mariacki) may first be glimpsed through one of the gates along the quayside (see the image on the right); it is noticeable how very close this and all the major civic structures at Danzig are to the waterfront. Within this Marienkirke, in the east wall of the chancel, we find the chapel of St Hedwig (Jadwiga: see the image below). The altarpiece was produced by a local ateliér, c. 1430; the wall paintings, uncovered in 1988, were whitewashed over during the Reformation. Before this chapel lies a gravestone; its Gothic tablet reads in Latin ‘Here rest the honorable men Konrad Letzkau and Arnold Hecht, proconsols of the city of Dansk, who departed this world the Monday after Palm Sunday in the year of our Lord 1411’.51

Picture of the chapel of St Hedwig, St Mary's.

On July 15th, 1410, the seemingly invincible Teutonic Knights had been defeated by the combined forces of Poland and Lithuania at the battle of Grunwald.52 The citizens of Dansk, thinking the power of the Knights to be broken, swore allegiance to the Polish king. Henry von Plauen, brother of the Teutonic Knights’ Grand Master, invited a delegation from the city up to the castle at Danzig to talk things over; on April 6th, 1411, the two mayors were murdered. In 1433, this murder of mayors was just over 20 years old; the Teutonic Knights would survive at Danzig for another 21 years. The gravestone in St Mary’s is thus the most poignant reminder of the defining civic and political tension at Danzig at the time of Margery’s visit; her father, we have noted, was five times mayor of Lynn.

Forty years earlier, the heroic ethos of the Prussian knights had still (just about) been alive. Chaucer’s Knight, in the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales, had been one of hundreds from all Europe passing this way, en route to reysing in Russe (note the Germanic verb) and smiting Lithuanians ‘in Lettow’:

Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle naciouns in Pruce. (53-4)

The black-clad knight of The Book of the Duchess, taken to be a John of Gaunt surrogate, commends his lady for not sending men ‘to Pruyse, and into Tartarye’ in search of ‘worshyp’: that is, to the territory of the Teutonic Knights, and to the vast Eurasian landmass beyond their borders.53 But there was quite a rush to Prussia in the early 1390s. In mid-February 1391, Henry Percy, Clifford and Beaumont received permission from Richard II to cross the sea, since ‘they were keen to see foreign regions’.54 Gaunt’s son, Henry of Derby, twice traveled ‘to Pruyse’ in the 1390s and was entertained at the ‘bord’ of the Teutonic castle in Dansk. Margery Kempe, who sometimes seems like a medieval Zelig, knew about this: for in 1392, at about the time she was marrying John Kempe, the three ships that carried Henry of Derby and company to Dansk were being fitted out and provisioned at Lynn.55 Her tumultuous seapassage to Dansk in 1433 thus retraces the route taken some 40 years before by the future Henry IV, father to the great hero of Agincourt. The bows bent by the English at Agincourt were likely made of Polish wood, brought from Pruce to England in boats traveling in the opposite direction.56

Picture of the statue of St Anne, St Mary's.

Margery Kempe may not have sought out scenes of chivalry when walking through Dansk, although they were very difficult to avoid. Statues of the Blessed Virgin and Jesus were plentiful and affectively appealing; this same parish church of St Mary’s contains some notable and beautiful examples. There is the intriguing statue of a woman holding two children: this is St Anne, holding Jesus and Mary (who is clasping a book - see the picture on the right).57 There is an exceptionally expressive pietà in white limestone from c. 1410 (Picture of the pieta in painted limestone, St Mary's.see the image on the left).58 The chapel of the brotherhood of St George, in the north transept, contains an altarpiece (c. 1435) whose locally painted wings enclose five sections of ‘capricious and elegant’ English alabaster.59 Immediately to the left, we find a sculptural group depicting St George and the dragon (see the picture below). St George, England’s patron saint, is busily preserving female chastity under threat: a topic close to the heart of the 60-year-old Margery.60 The young woman in this sculptural group is identified (at the church and in the artbooks) as a Margaret,61 since St Margaret’s identifying sign was a dragon. English medieval people identified with their patron saints; it meant much to Mar-ger-y that her parish church in Lynn was dedicated to Mar-gar-et; she is pleased to tell us that the relics at Aachen are displayed ‘on Seynt Margaretys Day’ (8000). This sculpture is worth dwelling on for a moment, not because the young girl in the blonde braid is a Margaret (she is not), but because it offers further clues to the peculiar culture of Dansk. One peculiarity is that St George, patron of this élite mercantile guild, is also chief patron of the Teutonic Order.

Picture of St George: sculptural group and painted background, St Mary's.

The sculptural group and the painted background both date from c. 1403, which is when a chapel of the St George brotherhood is first recorded in the Marienkirke.62 They illustrate a scene from the Golden Legend, a text written c.1260 and disseminated right across Europe.63 St George confronts a plague-bearing dragon that has arisen from deep waters. The unflappable princess wears a girdle: at a crucial point in the narrative, George commands her to throw it around the dragon’s neck. The dragon is thus pacified and follows the princess, the text says, ‘like a little dog on a leash’ (I, 239): this perhaps accounts for his rather disappointing, lizard-like proportions. For the merchants of Dansk, this scene was especially appropriate. Firstly, the idea of a saint killing a plague-bearing beast that lurks in deep waters was especially appealing to a seaport like Gdansk; the great pandemic of 1348-9 spread primarily through seaborne traffic. Secondly, George is a wonderfully chivalric saint; his damsel-rescuing and beast-slaying overlap with more secular exploits of medieval romance . And thirdly, George is a genuine crusader, one who operates on the borders of Christendom: one whose exploits might implicitly critique the more recent record of the Teutonic Knights.64

Margery Kempe had ample opportunity to see motifs of St George outside as well as inside churches in Dansk: the St George’s brotherhood was the most exclusive and powerful of all the city’s merchant guilds, setting the fashions and practices for all others to follow. Members of this élite mercantile brotherhood gathered at the Artushof, the Court of King Arthur. It might seem surprising to find Baltic merchants imagining themselves as knights of the Round Table, but there were in fact equivalent Arthur’s Courts all the way along the Hanseatic traderoutes, from Stralsund to Riga.65 The Arthur’s court at Dansk had been established at the same site since the mid fourteenth century, namely just east of the Town Hall on the Long Market, the Main Town’s central thoroughfare.66 The mercantile brotherhood of St George attempted to keep Arthur’s Court, and the right to tourney at it, as an élite affair:67 but it was unable to prevent other guilds from sharing space in the Artushof. These newcomers drew members from lower social echelons; new statutes of 1421 suggest considerable widening of membership.68 Eventually, the élite brothers of St George decamped from Arthur’s Court to their own Georgshalle by Golden Gate.69 What we see here, then, are distinct uses and phases of chivalric culture. Firstly, a merchant patriciate develops forms of knightly behavior and display that challenge the Teutonic Order’s monopoly of honor: the aventure of mercantile life may also be Ehewurdig, honorable. Secondly, merchants and townspeople lower down the social scale aspire to chivalry: to share in its trappings and ceremonies and romance; to find benchspace for themselves in the Court of King Arthur. Such progression, from élite origins to more popular emulation of chivalric ideals, seems not a bad summary of the history of romance in fifteenth-century England: a history in which English merchant families play significant roles.70

A rather obscene English fabliau from the mid-sixteenth-century shows impressive knowledge of the workings of Dansk: ‘upon a tyme,’ it begins,

it fortuned in the worthy Cytye of Danswyke that two yonge marchauntes went walkyng together to warde a place called artus gardyn, whych stoode in the market place...71

The tale of adultery that follows depends precisely on the mechanisms of Arthur’s Court: for as the court’s clock beats the hours, an adulterous wife of Danzig knows exactly where her husband will be. This takes us back to the world of the 1421 statutes. If your husband is an alderman, one of the ‘olderlude,’ you know just how long he will be boozing.72 It is clear that the élite standards of St George’s guild have slipped a bit by the 1420s: there are regulations against unregulated round dancing and the inviting of women to sup in the wine cellar. In the 1430s, the Artushof was evidently a vital civic and social space for locals and aliens alike. It was expected that foreign merchants should visit Arthur’s Court;73 locals could discuss seadamages suffered against the English; citizens and common traders met on a daily basis.74

There is little doubt that the idea of an Arthurian Court spread from, and was thought to have spread from, England. A Danzig rhyming chronicler of 1569 actually says that Arthur, ‘an der Ostsee wol bekannt,’ founded the court and garden at Dansk himself: a fanciful claim, but we must remember that the Artushof was by then antique.75 In 1344, Edward III had promised, at a great joust at Windsor, to renew King Arthur’s Round Table and to build a great room for 300 knights. Following interruptions forced by war with France, Edward in 1348 founded St George’s Chapel, Windsor, associated with the Order of the Garter. This, then, is the conflated model that quickly spread itself along both trade and military routes, from Thorn to Elbing and Danzig.76 English residents at Dansk, some of whom brought over their families and acquired shops and houses, would have encouraged such exportation.77 The vigor of this English-originated culture at Dansk in 1433, however, is poignant: for one great phase of English Arthurianism has ended (climaxing perhaps with the ‘Hon y soit’ that ends Sir Gawain and the Green Knight); and the next has yet to begin. This new beginning comes with Malory’s Morte Darthur, published by a man who honed his craft in Hanseatic cities before moving to London. William Caxton’s 1485 publication of Malory happily coincides with the accession of Henry Tudor, a monarch who Christens his son and heir ‘Arthur’.78 It also coincides with presentation of London merchants to the new monarch, Henry VII, as ‘the Merchants Adventurers, citizens of the city of London’. The phrase ‘merchants adventurers’ is not much heard before this date; after this date the petitioning merchants are referred to in the City’s books simply as ‘Merchants Adventurers’.79 This confluence of revived Arthurianism with mercantile adventurism suggests the kind of cultural self-imagining kept alive in Dansk throughout the fifteenth century: following the catastrophic Wars of the Roses, we might say, lighter and more profitable forms of aventure, at once knightly and mercantile, can be exported back to their country of origin.80

Picture of Arthur's Court.The Book of Margery Kempe, I have suggested, is not to be categorised a priori as a religious treatise, a pious vita, but rather as a text negotiating and absorbing various genres and values (hagiographic, mercantile, and romantic). With this in mind, let us return to Arthur’s Court. Dwór Artusa has been rebuilt in the style of Netherlandic mannerism (c. 1616-17: see the picture on the right).81 The interior restoration features benches and decorated arcades of brotherhoods such as the St Christopher, the St Reginald, the Sailors’, and the Three Kings. Models of ships hang from the ceiling; such ships were often awarded as prizes in chivalric competitions. In the first arcade of the east wall there is now a painting, c.1568, distemper on wood, by an unknown artist (see the picture below).82

Picture of Ship of the Church, east wall, Arthur's Court.

The city in the background here, top left, is clearly Danzig; and the ship depicted here is an actual trading vessel of the period.83 The figures on the ship are religious: military martyrs keep watch front and rear; the Trinity appears amidships, with that distinctive St Anne (holding Jesus and Mary) just below them. Some saints, such as the St Christopher, forge links with the brotherhoods of Arthur’s Court. This painting is called The Ship of the Church. What we see here is that circularity in imagining between mercantile, seagoing, and religious registers that is evident throughout Gdańsk, a city built on water. Ship-shaped pilgrim badges are often found here; golden vessels presented to churches for containing and pouring holy oils are often fashioned as vessels, that is, as ships in the shape of a jug. Even in Solidarity Square, such circularity persists: for before the main gate of the shipyard, we find three high crosses where long-armed anchors take the place of Christ and the two thieves. It is thus remarkable how well the first sea journey of The Book of Margery Kempe, Book II, sustains such imagining: for as we have seen, Margery’s ship assumes, without ever losing its commercial character, church-like status in leading her forth on her great, old-age aventure.

The great opening sea journey of Book II arrives triumphantly at its promised destination: but Margery is in no hurry to repeat the experience. And so she is trapped: ‘afrayd on the see as sche came thedirward,’ she cannot travel by land (‘for ther was werr in the cuntre that sche shulde passyn by,’ 7796-8). The solution comes in two parts: first, she meets a man set on pilgrimage to Wilsnack; and second, she encounters ‘a marchaunt of Lynne,’ her hometown, who helps find shipping (7821) and resolves political difficulties. These difficulties are intriguing: Margery is in effect detained at Dansk at the pleasure of the Teutonic Order (lines 7817-20):

And than myth sche han no leve to gon owt of that lond, for sche was an Englisch woman, and so had sche gret vexacyon and meche lettyng [hinderance] er sche myth getyn leve of on of the heerys of Pruce for to gon thens. (7817-20)

There are two possible reasons why Margery might be in trouble here with the Prussian ‘heerys’(her unique usage of this Germanic term) as ‘an Englisch woman.’ Firstly, at the time of her visit thousands of Hussites, allied with the King of Poland, are mobilising against the Teutonic Order; they will head for the Vistula, burning down the fortress at its mouth and even, perhaps, the hospital of St James in the Old Town.84 In April 1433, while Margery was in Dansk, the Grand Master was urging the City Council to take defensive measures.85 The townspeople were unwilling to get involved in military maneouvres; the Teutonic Order again appealed to orthodox Crusaders for help, but (as Eric Christiansen succinctly puts it) ‘nobody came’.86 English Lollards had made common cause with the Hussites; Peter Payne was one of their most active advocates.87 Margery had earlier been interrogated as a potential Lollard, and traveling women famously disseminated Lollard texts and ideas.88 Might she thus be seen in Dansk in 1433, plotting to travel eastward into German territory, as a Hussite sympathiser or even provocateur? The other potential cause of Margery’s ‘lettynge’ or hinderance at Dansk concerns matters of Hanseatic trade. English merchants had long been pressing for privileges equivalent there to those enjoyed by Danzigers at the German Steelyard in London; they wanted, in effect, ‘a ‘Hanse’ of their own’.89 This Danzig was loathe to concede: from the evidence of the war waging with France out west, the English were inveterate empire-builders; a regularised bridgehead at Dansk might serve for further economic incursions down the Vistula or along the coast.90 In December 1428, however, the Teutonic High Master granted the English the right to elect a governor to rule over their members, their nation. But following further disputes in both London and Dansk, a period of supreme tension was reached: ‘the Prussians,’ Postan writes, ‘began to behave as if the day of reckoning had come at last’.91 English goods were seized by the High Master, and ancient claims revived. All this was going on, at the highest peak of mutual tension, at the time of Margery’s visit.

We thus have two possible causes of Margery’s difficulties at Dansk in 1433: being taken for a Lollard or Hussite sympathiser; being associated with the English mercantile nation. On my offering her the opportunity to pick one, Professor Beata Możejko of the University of Gdańsk replied with a polite Polish version of the famous Bill Clinton formula: ‘it’s the economy, stupid.’

Option two, then.92 It was not until 1437 that these extreme trade tensions were resolved; the treaty of that year was, Postan says, ‘an undoubted English triumph’: the right to enter, settle, and trade in Prussia was guaranteed as never before.93 Things did not, however, improve for the English; in fact, they got much worse. The chief factor here was civil war: those Wars of the Roses that broke out 16 years (to the day) after Margery Kempe’s last appearance in city records.94 It is ironic to think that while Arthurian and chivalric culture was being kept alive by the burghers and Teutons of Dansk, the actual knightly inhabitants of Arthur’s isle were fighting one another towards extinction. Arthur, we have noted, would return to Britain in the form of bookish recreation, purveyed by a Hanseatic printer, in 1485. By then the victory of the Hanse in the Baltic would be complete. Margery Kempe’s visit to Dansk thus comes at a cuspish moment in the fortunes of her nacioun; a moment that is quickly lost.95

Picture of the churches of St Catherine and St Bridget.There were two holy wives, subjects of lengthy canonisation processes, for Margery to contemplate in Dansk; the first of these was Bridget of Sweden. In 1374, following that epical, old-age pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Bridget died in Rome; her relics, carried slowly back to Sweden, rested awhile in Dansk (see the picture on the right: St Bridget’s is on the right). A strangely hybrid religious institution subsequently grew up at Dansk, promoted by Konrad von Jungingen (that high Master of the Teutonic Order whose monkeys damaged wallpaintings). This was a community of pious female penitents, so-called Magdalenes, supervised by Bridgetines imported from Sweden and following a liturgical rite laid down by the Teutonic Order.96 Such a heady brew would have attracted Margery Kempe, one imagines, like a wasp to the honeypot.

Picture of Millrace opposite St Bridget's church.Her son, you will recall, had fallen into ‘the synne of letchery’ at Danzig, ending up with ‘his face...full of pimples and pustules, as if he had been a leper’ (7460-61). These Magdalenes at Danzig, now under Bridgetine supervision, had served the sexual needs of a busy port population before (like Margery’s son) finding religion. To cap it all, the church co-dedicated to Mary Magdalene and St Bridget lay just across the street from a massive watermill (see the picture on the right): a poignant reminder of Margery’s own failed, worldly past as a miller, a profession she stuck at until (her Book says) ‘the hey mercy of our Lord Jhesu Cryst...kallyd hir fro the pride and vanyte of the wretthyd world’ (316-17).97 This mill is now a mall, as in shopping mall (see the picture, below).

Picture of the mill mall at Gdansk.

The other wife, widow, and holywoman for Margery to contemplate at Dansk was Dorothea of Montau. Clarissa W. Atkinson has argued that ‘Dorothea of Montau (1347-1394) was the Continental holy woman closest to Margery Kempe in time, place, and spirit’; Hope Emily Allen, Margery’s first great annotator, had high hopes for Dorothean influence.98 The two women do have much in common: illiteracy, prodigious motherhood, widowhood, Hanseatic-based travel, prodigious weeping, Bridget-emulation, husbands who will not die. Dorothea’s German Life, published in 1405, was widely disseminated (bishops sent forward copies to their parish priests) and St Mary’s at Dansk was strongly associated with Dorothea.99 Ultimately, however, comparisons only reinforce how very different they, or their two Books, are. Dorothea, from first to last, from birth to death and beyond, is a creature of the Teutonic Order. Her father was a Netherlandic colonist brought to Prussia by the Teutonic Knights. Montau, just a few miles from the great castle at Marienburg, had its own Hof or regional Teutonic outpost. Dorothea was named after one of the Order’s patron saints; she became an anchoress under the strict control of a father confessor/ Teutonic Knight. The Dorothea of Das Leben is given to extreme masochism and self-wounding; she was unconditionally obedient to masculine authority (her brother, her husband, her father confessor, her God). Dorothea’s Leben is in German, her mother tongue, but it is a German actually translated back from her father confessor’s own Latin; we cannot touch the texture of Dorothea’s language, her parole. The parole of Margery Kempe, au contraire, is the glory of her text.

In the 1930s, Dorothea was invoked as Protectress of Prussia against new barbarism at the borders, namely Russian Bolshevism.100 On September 19th 1939, Adolf Hitler appeared at Arthur’s Court, speaking of ‘the wild sea of blood and fire’ that had engulfed old Danzig.101 In 1943, young Joseph Ratzinger mounted anti-aircraft guns to protect the BMW plant north of Munich. On January 9th, 1976, Pope Paul VI canonised Dorothea of Montau: pressure for this came chiefly from German Catholics displaced from Prussia in 1945. On July 17th, 1979, Cardinal Ratzinger preached a sermon in Munich to celebrate Dorothea’s elevation; this was subsequently published in a volume called Christlicher Glaube und Europa.102 As Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger took a firm stand against admitting Turkey to the EU on the grounds that Turkey had always been ‘in permanent contrast to Europe’.103 His determination to maintain strong distinction between a Christian inside and a non-Christian outside, signaled by his choice of papal name, compares suggestively with the aims of the Teutonic Order. The Book of Margery Kempe is also a text of the 1930s: for it was in 1936 that the modernised version first discovered itself to the post-medieval world. Early reviews convey the shock and awe of meeting Margery for the first time.104 ‘Margery was certainly queer,’ Dean Inge muses in the Evening Standard, ‘even in a queer age’(p.238).105 ‘She was a wet blanket,’ says Sir John Squire, in the Daily Telegraph, but with ‘a genius for storytelling’(p.239). There is much more in this vein, but also one observation of genius. ‘Her book,’ says Graham Greene, in the Morning Post, ‘is a kind of Froissart of civil life. . . she had a sense of this world’(p.239).106 Here a religious-minded reader experiences The Book of Margery Kempe not a priori as a religious text, but as a narrative of indeterminate or paradoxical genre (‘a kind of Froissart of civil life’). Froissart is a romancer, believer and freelance knight who travels Europe, forms felaweshipe where he can, and survives to tell his tales. For Margery Kempe, the surviving of travel is the point and miracle that enables and reinvigorates her project of a written life.

At Dansk in 1433, however, Margery is a long way (in every sense) from Robert Spryngolde, the father confessor who was very likely her co-author or scribe; her passage back to him proves long and difficult. On returning to England, Margery did not, apparently, head straight for Lynn: she lurked in London, and made a point of visiting the new Bridgetine monastery of Syon. When Bridget’s followers came to England in 1415, at the invitation of Henry V, they had landed at Lynn. It is not until after her visit to Dansk, however, that Margery makes her first recorded visit to Syon, in order to ‘purchasyn hir pardon’ (8270). The difficult return to her hometown then follows. Her father confessor is indeed furious, and has many ‘ful sharp wordes’ for her: ‘but owr Lord halp her so,’ we are told, ‘that sche had as good love of him and of other frendys aftyr as sche had beforn, worschepyd be God. Amen’ (8332-6). In this last sentence of Book II, Margery sounds more like a Wife of Bath than a broken-hearted penitent: a clerical male is won over, an epical journey completed; the work of textual dictation can now begin. It is worth noting, finally, that when Margery does get down to the business of Book-making, religion is not the only thing on her mind, or in her life. Fifteen days before the writing of Book II begins, she enrolls in the Guild of the Trinity of Lynn: the scene of her father’s greatest mercantile and aldermanic triumphs. Margery thus reembraces the civic and commercial world of her youth even as she is co-creating her second Book. The vibrant culture of Dansk, with its complex interplay of chivalric and religious, romantic and commercial registers, and its intimate ties with England, pushes memory back to glory days at Lynn, and forward to ambitions for writing. The hybrid vitality of these two interconnected seaport cultures finds its perfect complement in the generic complexity of Margery’s last Book; we can only admire the at-home qualities of Margery in Dansk.


This William Matthews Memorial Lecture was delivered on 19 May, 2005 at the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS. I would like to thank the Master of Birkbeck for extending this invitation, plus others at Birkbeck whose help in producing the lecture in both spoken and printed form has proved invaluable: Vanessa Harding, John Arnold, Anthony Bale, Carol Barwick, James Brown, Ruth Clydesdale, Thomas Healy, and Sally Ledger. Sebastian Sobecki’s help proved vital in matters of Polish language; Kate Parker was a superlative guide to (King’s) Lynn and Paul Quinn (BBC/ Loftus) the best of travel companions. In Poland I much to Jerzy Limon, ‘the Polish Umberto Eco,’ and to Agnieszka Błewicż, Zbigniev Borcowskí, Jerzy Litwin, and Beata Możejko.


1 ‘das Mittelalter holt sich ein’: ‘Kleckerburg,’ in Gesammelte Gedichte (Neuwied: Luchterhand, 1971), 239-42 (p. 239); Poems of Günter Grass, tr. Michael Hamburger and Christopher Middleton (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1980), 77-80 (p. 77).

2 All references follow line numbers as given by The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. Barry Windeatt (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004).

3 ‘Lynn and the Making of A Mystic,’ in A Companion to the Book of Margery Kempe, ed. John H. Arnold and Katherine J. Lewis (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004), 55-73 (pp. 60, 56-7). On John Kempe’s professional connections with Danzig, Lübeck, Stralsund and other ports, see Anthony Goodman, Margery Kempe and Her World (London: Longman, 2002), p. 65.

4 Barry Windeatt has recently argued that the element missing from most critical considerations of the Book, as a whole, is prayer. This is undoubtedly true: it is more exciting to contemplate Margery confounding clerics than it is to dwell on her soulful, private meditations. It is less true, however, for Book II than for Book I. See Windeatt, ‘Introduction: Reading and Re-reading The Book of Margery Kempe,‘ in Companion, ed. Arnold and Lewis, 1-16 (esp. pp. 7ff).

5 And traveling is no longer the means of bringing us to miraculous sites, but the miracle itself. At Aachen, in Book II’s return journey, we might anticipate some prayerful reflection upon the four great relics of cloth that were housed there: the garment worn by Our Lady at Christ’s birth; the swaddling clothes of Jesus; the drape worn by Jesus on the cross, and the cloth that first held John the Baptist’s decapitated head. What we get at Aachen, however, is curt reference to ‘owr Ladys smokke and other holy reliqwiis’ (7999), glimpsed as it were en passant; the truly memorable drama of traveling Akun-ward unfolds as Margery sits by the side of the road amidst a group of naked poor folk, picking at lice (7983-94).

6 Stylistic and Narrative Structures in the Middle English Romances (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978), p.183. The Middle English prose Three Kings of Cologne, a text whose genre Julia Boffey cannily resists defining, melds travel writing and romance exotica with articulation of familiar Biblical scenes: another complex work to set by The Book of Margery Kempe. As Boffey notes, this text was popular with women readers; Margery very likely stopped at Cologne en route to Aachen in 1433. See Boffey, ‘’Many grete divers contrys of the eest’: The Reading and Circulation of the Middle English Prose Three Kings of Cologne,’ in Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain. Essays for Felicity Riddy, ed. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Rosalynn Voaden, Arlyn Diamond, Ann Hutchison, Carol M. Meale, and Lesley Johnson (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), 35-47 (p. 47).

7 Margery’s desire to emulate Bridget sometimes blossoms into outright competition: as in the ‘how do you like me now’ moment in Book I where the communion wafer flutters like the wings of a dove: ‘My dowtyr Bryde,’ Jesus tells Margery, ‘say me never in this wyse’ (1523). Margery’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1414, once she got to Jaffa, tracked the itinerary taken by the aged Bridget before her; even her move of nearly falling of her ass, through sheer religious ecstasy, imitates Bridget (‘in poynt to a fallyn of hir asse,’ 2188; The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. Sanford Brown Meech and Hope Emily Allen, EETS OS 212 (Oxford: Oxford UP for EETS, 1940), p. 289 (67/23)).

8 Bridget of Sweden’s Liber Celestis records some 700 revelations prepared for the canonisation process set up in 1377. At least seven English versions of parts of the book survive in fifteenth-century manuscripts, including two major translations (both British Library manuscripts).

9 ‘A Life of St Bridget,’ in The Liber Celestis of St Bridget of Sweden, ed. Roger Ellis, Vol I (Text), EETS, 291 (Oxford: Oxford UP for EETS, 1987), p. 5 (lines 15-17).

10 Liber Celestis, ed. Ellis, p. 475 (lines 4-5).

11 See Birgitta of Sweden: Life and Selected Revelations, ed. Marguerite Tjader Harris, tr. Albert Ryle Kezel (New York: Paulist Press), p. 279. The Liber Celestis, prepared just six years after Bridget’s death for the canonisation process, gives a rather sanitised and depersonalised account of this itinerary; the Middle English texts present it through some dense layers of editorialising and Swedish-Latin, Latin-Swedish translation. It is nonetheless possible to get some sense of an eventful journey

12 The Latin text gives us the remarkable revelation of the Virgin Mary appearing to Birgitta, describing how she stood by Charles as he died: ‘I acted like a woman standing by another woman,’ she says, ‘who is giving birth, in order that she might help the infant, lest it die in the flow of blood or suffocate in that narrow place through which an infant exits’: ‘Feci quidem sicut mulier alteri mulieri parienti astans, vt iuuaret infantem, ne ex fluxu sanguinis moreretur et ne in illo arto spacio, per quod exiret infans, suffocaretur, cauens eciam, ne infantis hostes, qui in eadem domo essent, ipsum interficere possent’ (Sancta Birgitta, Revelaciones, Lib. VII, ed. Birger Bergh (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksells Boktryckeri, 1967), VII,13,2); Selected Revelations, ed. Harris, p. 181. There are thus three female bodies at this death scene: Bridget, nursing her son, the Blessed Virgin as midwife, and the feminised, dying body of Charles himself. This birthing/ dying scene is somewhat muffled in the Middle English Claudius manuscript.

13 The devil is outraged; in the Latin he cries ‘O, quam maledicta est illa scrofa seu porca mater eius… What a cursed sow his mother, the she-pig, is, who has a belly so expansive that so much water was poured into her with the result that her belly’s every space was filled with liquid for tears!’ ( Revelaciones, ed. Bergh, VII, 13, 72; Selected Revelations, ed. Harris, p. 187).

14 See Bridget Morris, St Birgitta of Sweden (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1999), pp.122-6.

15 In the additio to the Liber Celestis: ‘Videbatur domina stare in camisia respersa spermate et luto et audita est vox: ‘Hec est symia fetencia posteriora…’’ (Revelaciones, ed. Bergh, VII, 11, 23; Selected Revelations, ed. Harris, p. 175).

16 Margery is described in Book II as ‘a woman in grete age’ (7697) and as ‘abowtyn iii scor yer of age’ (7880): this figure might be applied rather loosely, since for St Augustine as for many other medievals old age began at sixty. See Shulamith Shahar, Growing Old in the Middle Ages, tr. Jael Lotan (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 13, 29.

17 The large group which set out from Rome with the sick and septuagenarian Bridget on 25th November 1371 included three of her children (Katarina, Birger, and Charles); her two confessors (who also translated her Swedish into Latin); her future editor-in-chief, Alphonse of Jaen; two Spanish anchoresses, called Elvira and Praxedis, who probably doubled as Bridget’s handmaids; two Swedish chaplains; and (joining on at Cyprus), the Franciscan confessor to the queen of Cyprus and Sir William Williamson, the English knight. It is perfectly possible that the handmaid (‘Seynt Brydys mayden,’ 3118) interviewed by Margery at Rome formed part of this group. See Morris, St Birgitta, pp. 122, 129; Liber Celestis, ed. Ellis, pp. x-xi.

18 See lines 164-8.

19 This plan gathers support from a sermon heard in a village near Walsingham: ‘Yyf God be wyth us, ho schal be ageyn us?’ (7652: a refrain that harmonises sweetly with the words of Jesus, playing in Margery’s head at 7641: ‘Yf I be wyth the, ho schal ben ageyns the?’). The answer to the ‘who’ here, of course, is Robert Spryngolde, Margery’s priest-confessor.

20 Margery finds a Franciscan at Norwich who validates her reasons for departure (7675-7), but doubts remain. The Book finesses ambivalences attending Margery’s departure in a highly literary way, namely through amplification of a trope familiar from Chaucer, ‘diverse folk diversely they seyde’: see CT 1.3857; citations follow The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987). The first of the three response groups, in lines 7695-7706, shows a clear grasp of the perils awaiting Margery. The second and third subgroups of ‘the pepil’ are more sympathetic, but it is notable that this canvassing of views does not extend to Robert Spyngolde, vicar of St Margaret’s Lynn, Margery’s father-confessor and perhaps her scribe (the man who will write the Book of Margery Kempe). It is further worth noting that the Book here describes, in summarising local reaction to Margery’s absence, something that Margery herself could not have known. For intelligent meditation on such matters, see A.C. Spearing, ‘Margery Kempe,’in A Companion to Middle English Prose, ed. A.S.G. Edwards (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004), 83-97.

21 Medieval paintings of the Ship of the Church or of Noah’s ark may feature a church spire: see V.A. Kolve, Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative: The First Five Canterbury Tales (London: Edward Arnold, 1984), pp. 315, 317. On the rudderless ship motif, see Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 106-36.

22 Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, was commissioned by his nephew Richard II to negotiate with the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order in Prussia in 1391. His vessels, encountering violent storms, touched on the coasts of Denmark, Norway, and Scotland before making it back to Tynemouth; Gloucester, happy to have survived, returned home to Pleshy. See Expeditions to Prussia and the Holy Land made by Henry Earl of Derby (afterwards King Henry IV) in the Years 1390-1 and 1392-3. Being the Accounts kept by his Treasurer during two years, ed. Lucy Toulmin Smith (London: Camden Society, 1894), pp. xv-xvi.

23 Ancrene Wisse, tr. Hugh White (London: Penguin, 1993), Part III (p. 70).

24 Editor Barry Windeatt ends this sentence with an exclamation mark. The addition of exclamation marks here and elsewhere, in the Book of Margery Kempe as in other texts, adds tonal color that is difficult to control (with considerable hermeneutic consequences). We seem to need something between the modern exclamation mark (which often seems over-emphatic) and, as in medieval manuscripts, its absence.

25 Some of these draw attention from the manuscript’s annotators: ‘notas’ appear at some of the most sensitive points that we have considered.

26 See Middle English Dictionary, 1(b).

27 See further David Wallace, Chaucerian Polity, esp. pp.182-211.

28 Or with a series of fanfares: see for example lines 38-55, 153-6, 318-23.

29 Her great gift of ‘comownycacyon and good wordys’ would, after all, be largely wasted on foreigners (4213-4).

30 Talk of ‘driving forth’ returns us to romance register: we think of Chaucer’s Troilus, who at the end of Book I ‘dryveth forth his aventure’ (1.1092). But Chaucer’s Custance, we have noted, ‘dryveth forth’ in her rudderless boat. Margery finds herself in a similar predicament; her ship’s company abandons its ‘craft’ and ‘cunnyng’ and lets God ‘dryvyn hem where he will.’ At this point, Margery seems more like saintly Custance than pagan Troilus, the errant knight. But Troilus, too, is in a rudderless boat; his true aventure or errancy, from the viewpoint of the end of the text, concerns eternal salvation.

31 Every medieval merchant engaged in perilous business, committing himself to the great unknown: ‘Us moste putte oure good in aventure,’ another Chaucerian speaker says, continuing:
A marchant, pardee, may not ay endure,
Trusteth me wel, in his prosperitee.
Somtyme his good is drowned in the see,
And somtyme comth it sauf unto the lond
. (8.946-50)

This sense of merchants adventuring all, especially those working outside the wool staple, was keenly felt in these days before joint stock companies. Like pilgrims, they sought felweshipe or hanse in those of their own nacyoun; like Margery in Dansk, they were glad to come ‘sauf unto the lond.’ See further Eleanora Mary Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers: Collected Studies (London: Methuen, 1954), pp. 143-4.

32 The sedimented complexity of Gdańsk is reflected in the very history of its name: ‘My Giotheschants, Gidanie, Gdancyk, Danczik, Dantzig, Danzig, Gdańsk: you were a bone of contention from the very first’ (Günter Grass, The Flounder, tr. Ralph Manheim (Brooklyn, New York: Fawcett Crest, 1979), p. 114; Der Butt: Roman (Darmstadt: Hermann Luchterhand Verlag, 1997), p.138).

33 Archaeology in such a deeply layered city yields, by any urban standards, an extraordinary wealth of finds. At the Old Shipyard dig, for example, they have recovered 11,000 medieval metal artefacts from a 7,300 square meter plot. One would expect to see a lot of nails from a shipyard, but 3,000 of these finds are classed as ‘exhibition quality.’ These include numerous pilgrim badges, combs, coins, medieval Swiss army penknives, plus shoes, drawings on leather and moneypouches. The same site has yielded 200,000 pottery fragments and 68,000 animal bones. The Polish Maritime Museum, built on the site of the granaries, has an English coin from the reign of King Canute. The dig by the great parish church of St Mary’s is uncovering long rows of butchers’ shops from the fourteenth century, right under the church walls. The excavation site at the Teutonic Castle is to become a sort of rival to the Yorvik Experience at York: Teut’s World, perhaps. Such entrepreneurial vigor and imagination flourishes throughout Gdańsk: a continuation rather than negation of the urban and mercantile culture that took in Margery Kempe in 1433.

34 Pilgrims might be accommodated on the Granary Island, immediately over our right shoulder (as we look), but Margery Kempe had family and would thus likely enter at Green Gate.

35 Records speak of a wooden crane in the port from 1367; this one was rebuilt in 1442 (between two massive, round brick towers; you can see one) and again after 1945. The crane is operated by two sets of treadmills, worked by humans as in some hellish gymnasium; it can load and unload very heavy cargo and also step or lower the masts of ships.

36 The port records for this period do not, unfortunately, survive; they pick up in the later fifteenth century.

37 ‘Domus hospitalis sanctae Mariae Theutonicorum’: Hohenstaufen rulers were keen to encourage a German-based brotherhood that might better advance their interests than did the Knights Templar or Hospitaller.

38 On the tendency for romance chroniclers, and even the Teutonic Knights themselves, to refer to Prussians and Lithuanians as ‘Saracens,’ see Helen Nicholson, Love, War and the Grail (Leiden: Brill, 2001), pp. 89-90. Heinrich von Plauen wrote to Germany seeking aid against the ‘Saracen infidels’ who were besieging Marienburg: see William Urban, The Teutonic Knights: A Military History (London: Greenhill Books, 2003), p. 225. It should be noted that the term ‘Saracen’ meant ‘unChristian,’ rather than (as Urban suggests, p. 225), ‘Moslem.’

39 See Eric Christiansen, The Northern Crusades: The Baltic and the Catholic Frontier, 1100-1525 (London: Macmillan, 1980), pp. 74-8; Edmund Cieślak and Czesław Biernat, History of Gdańsk, tr. Bożenna Blaim and George M. Hyde (Gdańsk: Fundacji Biblioteki Gdańskiej, 1995), pp. 44-53; S.C. Rowell, ‘Baltic Europe,’ in The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol. VI, c. 1300-c. 1415, ed. Michael Jones (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 699-734 (pp. 712-13); Mary Ellen Goenner, Mary-Verse of the Teutonic Knights (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1943), pp. 2- 3; Terry Jones, Chaucer’s Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary, revised edition (London: Methuen, 1985), pp. 49-56.

40 The Vistula connects the Carpathian foothills and Cracow with Gdańsk; Cracow connects with further major trading routes (from southern Europe and the Near East): see Francis W. Carter, Trade and Urban Development in Poland: An Economic Geography of Cracow, from its Origins to 1795 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 1, 6, 139 and figure 30.

41 Site visit; conversation with Agnieszka Błewicż (Muzeum Zamkowe w Malborku).

42 The poem survives in two editions (nineteen manuscripts), dated 1436-8 and 1437-41 (with further revised versions of the second edition): see The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye: a poem (attributed to A. Molyneux) on the use of sea-power, 1436, ed. Sir George Frederic Warner (Oxford: Clarendon, 1926), pp. lii-lvi as updated, corrected, and augmented by Carol M. Meale, "The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye and Mercantile Literary Culture in Late-Medieval London," in London and Europe in the Later Middle Ages, ed. Julia Boffey and Pamela King (London: Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, 1995), pp. 206-8, 219-226, and "Appendix" (listing all known manuscripts, pp. 226-8).

43 Libelle, ed. Warner, rubric (p. 15) and lines 308-9.

44 Site visit and conversation with historian with Prof. Jerzy Litwin, Director of the Polish Maritime Museum, Gdańsk; see further Litwin, ‘Boat and Ship Archaeology in Poland,’ in Down the River to the Sea: Eighth International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology, Gdańsk, 1997, ed. Litwin (Gdańsk: Polish Maritime Museum, 2000), 7-10 (p. 8).

45 Spruce sometimes designates the territory of Prussia and sometimes wood originating from that region: see MED, Spruce. In MS BL Egerton 2726, CT 1.54 (cited in text below) reads ‘Aboue all nacions in Spruce.’

46 See Carter, Trade and Urban Development , p. 139.

47 ‘The Trade of Medieval Europe: the North,’ in The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, vol. II, Trade and History in the Middle Ages, second edition, ed. M.M. Postan and Edward Miller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 168-305 (p. 168).

48 Another aspect of Gdańsk’s claim to be ‘the Venice of the north’. Governance was complex and peculiar: Dansk in some ways seems like an Italian city state of the Trecento, governed by a mercantile élite: except that a regime of militarised monks is peering permanently over its walls. On the 1343 charter, see Cieślak and Biernat, History of Gdańsk, pp. 50-53.

49 It would then take about five days for the force from Marienberg to arrive.

50 St Mary’s, still one of the biggest brick-built churches in the world, was constructed in three phases, from 1343-1502. The second phase, which remodeled the original small basilica into an aisled hall with transepts, was completed in 1447. See Stanisław Bogdanowicz, The Basilica of St. Mary’s Church in Gdańsk (Dülmen: Edition Laumann, 1995), pp. 7-11; Jasper Tilbury and Paweł Turnau, Blue Guide to Poland (London: A & C Black, 2000), pp. 316-17.

51 Bogdanowicz, St. Mary’s, p. 97; see further Cieślak and Biernat, History of Gdańsk, pp. 75-8.

52 Jan Hus sent a congratulatory letter to the King of Poland; Tannenburg is strongly associated with a revival of Slavic fortunes. See Franz Heinrich Hieronymus Valentin Lützow, The Hussite Wars (London: J.M. Dent, 1914), p. 2.

53 Book of the Duchess, 1025, 1032. MS Bodley 638 reads ‘To sprewse’(1025). On ‘Tartarye,’ see David Wallace, Premodern Places: Calais to Surinam, Chaucer to Aphra Behn (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), pp. 121-2, 188-94; Terry Jones, Chaucer’s Knight, p. 38.

54 ‘obtenta a rege licentia transierunt mare affectantes visere exteras regiones’ (Ranulph Higden, Polychronicon, ed. Churchill Babington (vols 1-2) and Joseph R. Lumby (vols 3-9), Rolls Series (London: Longman etc., 1865-86), IX, Appendix, p. 246. Gower is sceptical about the motivations for such knightly travel to ‘Espruce et Tartarie’: ‘Le cause dont tu vas ne say’ (Mirour de l’Omme, 23893-6, in John Gower, Complete Works, ed. G.C. Macaulay, 4 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899-1902), lines 23893-6 (and see further 23897-988). On British knights in Prussia in this period (Scots had a difficult time, since they did not follow the Roman pope), see Dietrich Sandberger, Studien über das Rittertum in England, vornehmlich während des 14. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Verlag Dr. Emil Ebering, 1937), esp. pp. 233-41.

55 See Expeditions to Prussia, ed. Toulmin Smith, pp. xlviii, 157, 270, 278. Derby arrived at Dansk on 10 August 1392 and stayed until 25 August; he stayed there about 15 or 16 days on his return journey in September (pp. liii, lxxii) that preceded his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Some 80 men (including seven minstrels) are recorded as sailing from Lynn; including those unrecorded, living at their master’s expense, the number embarked is thought to be around 300 (pp. li-ii, xcvi-vii, cx).

56 A point made by M.M. Postan, Medieval Trade and Finance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 98.

57 Miri Rubin tells me that such statues of St Anne holding Jesus and Mary are not unusual in this part of central Europe; another appears in the Ship of the Church painting, discussed below.

58 This pairing, slightly larger than life size, was formerly in the Sacristy, but is now in St Reinhold’s chapel (by the west porch). It is associated with the ‘Beautiful Madonna of Gdańsk,’ now in St Anna’s chapel: this latter pairing of Mary with Jesus (here as a baby reaching for an apple) is also in white limestone (c. 1420-5); its current heavy paintwork dates from the baroque period. See Willi Drost, Die Marienkirche in Danzig und ihre Kunstschätze (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer Verlag, 1963), pp. 90-91, 129-31; Bogdanowicz, St Mary’s, pp. 66-9, 72-6.

59 See Drost, Marienkirche, p. 133; see further Bogdanowicz, St Mary’s, pp. 82-3. One of these ‘kapriziös und elegant’ English alabasters is an Annunciation: a somewhat startled Mary, turning from her book, sees a baby Jesus figure flying from the mouth of a crowned and bearded God the Father, heading right for her head (plate 133; Drost dates the alabasters to the beginning of the fifteenth century). Another grouping of five English alabasters, dedicated to the life of St John the Baptist and dated c. 1420-30, is to be found in this church: see Drost, Marienkirche, p. 129. Such English alabaster was exported all over Europe, ‘from Iceland to Portugal’ (E.M. Carus-Wilson, ‘The Overseas Trade of Bristol,’ in Studies in English Trade in the Fifteenth Century, ed. Eileen Power and M.M. Postan (London: George Routledge, 1933), 183-246 (p. 187)). Some of it, transported by an English pilgrim, can still be seen at Compostella; the ensembles at Gdańsk represent especially impressive examples of artistic cooperation at the time of Margery’s visit.

60 Fearing defilement, Margery in Book II prefers to go to bed ‘with a woman er tweyn’(8118).

61 See Bogdanowicz, St. Mary’s, p. 81; Drost, Marienkirche, p. 133; informational material in St Mary’s also identifies the princess under threat as a Margareta. The confusion here is with St Margaret of Antioch, who has a God-given vision of her enemy in dragon-like form. The visionary dragon is vanquished by her making the sign of the cross: see Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, tr. William Granger Ryan, 2 vols (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), I, 368-70. Citations follow this edition.

62 This according to Paul Simson, the great German Jewish historian of Gdańsk: see Simson, Der Artushof in Danzig und seine Brüderschaften, die Banken (Danzig: T. Bertling, 1900), p. 15. Bogdanowicz, St. Mary’s, dates the group c. 1400 and attributes it to a Gdańsk workshop (St. Mary’s, p. 81).

63 See Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend, tr. Granger, p. xiii.

64 ‘With the help of Christ I have conquered Palestine,’ he cries, ‘but now I have left all that to serve the God of heaven more freely’(I, 240). The end of the Golden Legend account sees St George appearing to Crusaders on their way to Jerusalem, wearing his white armor with the red cross. ‘Thus reassured,’ the Legend says, ‘the army took the city and slaughtered the Saracens’(p. 242).

65 See Alina Szpakiewicz, tr. Danuta Gumowska, The Artus Court (Gdańsk: Museum of the History of Gdańsk, 1996), p. 7; others; Margaret Schlauch, ‘King Arthur in the Baltic Towns,’ Bulletin Bibliographique de la Société Internationale Arthurienne, 11 (1959), 75-80 (p. 75).

66 In 1358 the Artushof is referred to as the ‘curia sancti Georgii’; in 1379, the city’s oldest treasury account book refers to it as a ‘theatrum’; annals of 1421 speak of a ‘Basilica Regis Arturi’. See Simson, Artushof, pp. 15, 17, 13.

67 Members were expected to live up to the highest knightly standards, upholding a code of honor that was laid out in detail; statutes of 1414 attempt to enforce stringent qualifications for membership. See Simson, Artushof, pp. 23, 28.

68 The expansion of manufacturing and trade in Danzig in the fourteenth century saw an increasing numbers of guilds establish themselves in the Main Town (smiths, coopers, pursemakers... perhaps as many as 20). Other craftsmen, such as ropemakers, cloth shearers, and tinsmiths, strained to organise their activities in guild-like structures. Some 1032 craftsmen are listed in a document naming those who opposed and overthrew the Town Council in 1416. See Cieślak and Biernat, History of Gdańsk, pp. 54-5.

69 The Court of the Fraternity of St George was built between 1487 and 94 as a shooting gallery for these merchant patricians; they did, however, return to the Artushof for special occasions

70 For intelligent and precocious meditation on ‘the interpenetration of culture between merchant class and gentry,’ see Sylvia L.Thrupp, The Merchant Class of Medieval London (1300-1500) (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1948) (p. 249).

71 Text follows Margaret Schlauch, ‘A Sixteenth-Century English Satirical Tale about Gdańsk,’ Kwartalnik Neofilologiczny, 4 (1957), 95-120 (p. 116). The tale forms part of The deceyte of women. To the instruction and ensample of all men, yonge and olde, newly corrected (London: Abraham Vele, c. 1560). The copy from which Schlauch edits, BL C.20.C.31, is a second edition (identical in text to that of Robert Copland, c. 1550). The woodcut frontispiece shows Aristotle ridden by his mistress (knotted whip in hand). The exempla of female deception run from Eve to a rich merchant of Hainault, deceived by his wife. The tale from Dansk (eighteenth in the sequence) is one of the best localised. The word ‘fockynge’ appears in the denouement of the tale (underlined in the BL copy): this is a relatively early adaptation of the term fuck, more common in Scots writing than English in the earlier sixteenth century.

72 ‘Item dat de olderlude up dem haue nicht lenger sitten sollen denne to tuelfenne de clocken up den auendt’(Simson, Artushof, p. 311)

73 See Simson, Artushof, p. 26.

74 In 1435, it was announced at the Court that those who had suffered sea damages from the Dutch, Zeelanders or English should report to the Town Hall next door. In the same year, a Danziger informed Prince William of Braunschweig of the extraordinary mixing of citizens and officials with common traders at the Artushof; this, he tells the Prince, is a daily occurrence (‘tegelich gewonlich ist’: Simson, Artushof, p. 25).

75 For the rhyming chronicle by Johann Hasentöter, published at Königsberg in 1569, see Simson, Artushof, p. 13.

76 Ironically, English and Teutonic knights ended up squabbling over the banner of St George; in 1364 and again in 1392, the Teutonic Order insisted on their exclusive right to bear it on their own territory and in reysas conducted in their name. See Expeditions to Prussia, ed. Toulmin Smith, p. l.

77 English resident representatives at Dansk, known as ‘liggers’, resumed penetration of Prussia after the settlement of 1388; they dominated trade in English cloth and took some part in local trade. By 1391 the community of the English nation, subject to terms dictated by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, elected its own Governor and oversaw its own affairs. See Postan, Medieval Trade, pp. 251-2; Carus-Wilson, Merchant Venturers, pp. xvi-ii.

78 Malory’s Morte, reprinted five times after its first publication, is ‘one of the very few of the works first printed by Caxton [in 1485] that retained its hold on the reading public in the following centuries’; the fact that there are so few surviving copies of editions by Caxton and de Worde (1498, 1529) suggests—to A.S.G. Edwards-- that it was ‘literally read to destruction’ (‘The Reception of Malory’s Morte Darthur,’in A Companion to Malory, ed. Elizabeth Archibald and Edwards (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1996), 241-52 (pp. 241, 243)).

79 See Carus-Wilson, Merchant Venturers, pp. xxvi, xxvii; Patrick McGrath, The Merchant Venturers of Bristol (Bristol: Society of the Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol, 1975), pp. ix, 1-9.

80 The great publisher of matters Arthurian, William Caxton, had himself been governor of the Merchant Adventurers abroad for almost a decade: see Anne F. Sutton, ‘Caxton was a Mercer: his Social Milieu and Friends,’ in England in the Fifteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1992 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. Nicholas Rogers (Stamford: Paul Watkins, 1994), 118-48 (p. 118). Caxton learned the art of printing at Cologne in 1471-2; there is a statue of King Arthur in the Hall of the Hanseatic League in the city’s Rathaus.

81 It is pictured on a day dedicated to protests against dictatorial politics in neighboring Bylorusse.

82 Only a narrow strip of the original survived the war; the rest is reconstructed.

83 Experts reckon it to be a French ship, captured (by the grace of God) by Danskers.

84 See Andrej Zbierski, ‘The Maritime Fortress of Wisłoujście as seen in the Complex Research by the Department of Archaeology of IHKM PAN and the Central Maritime Museum,’ in Wisłoujście Fortress: History, Present, Future (Gdańsk: Muzeum Historii Miasta Gdańska, 2000), 29-49 (pp. 35-6); Lützow, Hussite Wars, p. 314. The Hussite army went on to organise equestrian games and jousting at the edge of the Baltic: see F.M. Bartoš, The Hussite Revolution 1424-1437, tr. John M. Klassen (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1986), p. 104.

85 The townspeople were requested to supply 30 armored carts or wagons, each equipped with 4-5 crossbowmen, flammable projectiles and hand-held weapons, as well as heavy chains to tie the carts together. See Historia Gdańska, ed. Edmunda Cieślak, 5 vols, incomplete (Gdańsk: Wydawnictwo Morskie, 1978-), pp. 566-72; I thank Fr. Adam Szarszewski and Dr. Sebastian Sobecki for help here.

86 See Christiansen, Northern Crusades: ‘nobody came...the knights of Catholic Europe stayed at home’ (pp. 242-3).

87 See Bartoš, Hussite Revolution, passim.

88 See Rita Copeland, ‘Why Women Can’t Read: Medieval Hermeneutics, Statutory Law, and the Lollard Heresy Trials,’ in Representing Women: Law, Literature, and Feminism, ed. Susan Sage Heinzelman and Zipporah Batshaw Wiseman (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994), 252-86 (p. 271).

89 Postan, Medieval Trade, p. 255.

90 See Postan, ‘Northern Europe,’ pp. 300-01.

91 Medieval Trade, p. 260; see further T.H. Lloyd, England and the German Hanse, 1157-1611 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) pp. 136-7.

92 This is not to deny that overland passage in late Spring 1433 might have proved extremely hazardous, especially for ‘an Englisch woman’ departing from Dansk with an accent that might be mistaken for German.

93 Medieval Trade, p. 264.

94 That is, 22 May 1455 (Battle of First St Albans); Margery Kempe is first mentioned as a member of the Trinity Guild at Lynn on 22 May, 1439.

95 Władyslaw Jagiełło, King of Poland and Grand Prince of Lithuania, died on 31 May, 1434 (reportedly from a chill caught while listening to nightingales); his successors waged war with the Teutonic Knights until 1466. Political conditions thus also changed rapidly after 1433. See O. Halecki, ‘Problems of the New Monarchy: Jagiello and Vitold, 1400-34,’in The Cambridge History of Poland: From the Origins to Sobieski (to 1696), ed. W.F. Reddaway, J.H. Penson, O. Halecki, and R. Dybowski (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950), 210-31 (p. 230); A. Bruce Boswell, ‘Jagiello’s Successors: the Thirteen Years’ War with the Knights, 1434-66,’ in History of Poland, ed. Reddaway et al., 232-49; Jerzy Lukowski and Hubert Zawadzki, A Concise History of Poland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 38-9.

96 Relics from Wadstena were brought over in 1397, the same year in which the Bridgetine cloister received papal recognition. Relations between Bridgetines and Magdalenes remained difficult throughout the fifteenth century. See Willi Drost and Franz Swoboda, Kunstdenkmäler der Stadt Danzig, vol. 5, St. Trinitatis, St. Peter und Paul, St Bartholomäi, St. Barbara, St. Elisabeth, Heilig Geist, Englische Kapelle, St. Brigitten (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer Verlag, 1972), pp. 179-80. St Bridget’s church became associated with Solidarity and today serves as something as a shrine to that movement; a small community of Bridgetines endures at Oliwa (just north of Gdańsk). Oliwa, site of a famous Cistercian monastery founded in 1186, was sacked by Hussites in 1433. A Bristolian tells how, c. 17 June 1433, monks from a nearby monastery (probably Oliwa) took refuge in Danzig: see Goodman, Margery Kempe, p. 159.

97 Dating from the mid-fourteenth century, this mill became the largest of its kind in Europe: 18 waterwheels ground 200 tonnes of grain per day. It lies on the Radunia canal, built by the Teutonic Order in the 1330s; it brought the Order handsome profits. See Tilbury and Turnau, Blue Guide, p. 323; Cieślak and Biernat, History of Gdańsk, pp. 55-6.

98 Mystic and Pilgrim: the Book and the World of Margery Kempe (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), p. 179; Hope Emily Allen, ‘Appendix V,’ in Book of Margery Kempe, ed. Meech and Allen, pp. 378-80.

99 In pursuit of humility, Dorothea begged for alms at the porch of St Mary’s (much to the annoyance of the professional beggars); at the high altar of the same, great parish church her old heart was ripped out and a new, hot one put in its place. See Johannes von Marienwerder, Das Leben der Heiligen Dorothea, ed. Max Toeppen, in Scriptores rerum Prussicarum, ed. Theodor Hirsch, Max Töppen und Ernst Strehlke, 5 vols (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1861-74), II, 197-350; Johannes von Marienwerder, The Life of Dorothea von Montau, a Fourteenth-Century Recluse, tr. Ute Stargardt, Studies in Women and Religion, 39 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997), 2.1;2.19.

100 The most exhaustive account of Dorothea’s Nachleben is that of Petra Hörner, Dorothea von Montau. überlieferung—Interpretation; Dorothea und die osteuropäische Mystik (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1993).

101 See text accompanying photograph at the reconstructed Dwór Artusa, Gdańsk; Hitler is speaking just in front of the famous Renaissance stove.

102 See John L. Allen, Jr., Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith (NY: Continuum, 2000), p. 21; Hörner, Dorothea, p. 133. Ratzinger’s sermon was later published as ‘Die Heilige Dorothea von Montau,’ in Christlicher Glaube und Europa. 12 Predigten (Munich: Pressereferat der Erdiözese München und Freising, 1981), 31-41.

103 Interview with Le Figaro as reported by, Paris, 11 August 2004; see further, same day. See also

104 A conspectus of the almost eighty early reviews is presented by George Burns, ‘Margery Kempe Reviewed,’ The Month, 171 (March 1938), 238-44; for discussion, see Windeatt, ‘Introduction,’ in Companion, ed. Arnold and Lewis, pp. 1-4.

105 Inge’s queer musing is developed to spectacular effect by Robert Glück’s novel Margery Kempe (New York: Serpent’s Tail, 1994); see further Carolyn Dinshaw, ‘Margery Kempe,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women’s Writing, ed. Dinshaw and David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 222-39 (pp. 236-7).

106 It is fascinating to note, with Sarah Salih, that Margery’s Book sees her several times addressed as ‘damsel’: ‘a form of address to a burgess’s wife,’ Hope Emily Allen remarks, ‘probably unparalleled in printed Middle English literature’ (Book, ed. Meech and Allen, p. 393; Salih, Versions of Virginity in Late Medieval England (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2001), p. 185).