Foreigne Correspondaunces

by Alys Madder

Right worchepfull Albion, I recommaund me to you, letting you wit such tidings as I have:

Blessid by the Faith, I am well and enjoying my sojourn here at the court of his Majesty, King Hakon V. For such a Northern city, Christiania (or Oslo as the common people speak) is quite cultivated, having five churches, a royal palace, a bishop's palace, three cloisters and a hospital!

The monasteries have been most accommodating of my wishes to peruse certain manuscripts. This past summer I have spent much time with the Cistercians on their island. Their cloister buildings are impressive, although in a sad state of repair. Now that the winter storms approach I shall study on the mainland with the Dominican brothers in their monastery of St. Olav.

The greatest event here recently was the marriage of Queen Euphemia to King Hakon at the Feast of St. John. I beheld the procession myself - it was indeed a spectacle. First came the guards and some horses and knights, clearing the crowd. Next were the holy monks singing and chanting before the bishop leading the new king and his queen. Behind them were much of the court and many city officials, all dressed in greater finery than I had ever expected being so far from Southern marketplaces. Last of all came musicians, jesters and dancers, some of whom danced on stilts dressed fancifully in the habits of angels and devils. There were fire-eaters, fortune tellers and all manner of lowlife with them alas. These did enact a play outside the church of Maria which was most pleasing to the populace. The procession began at the bishopric and wound through the town to the same Maria church which is situated next to the king's residence. The royal pair were arrayed in red silk lined with ermine and looked justly pleased with their prudent alliance.

That night the festivities continued at the royal palace with displays of horsemanship and swordplay, dancing and storytelling and a magnificent feast. In the town there was a great merrymaking as well and bonfire were lit upon all the hills as is the custom at St. John's feast. It seemed to me that a line of fire encircled the valley and stretched out across the water via the islands to the fortress on the other side of the fjord - a wonderful sight.

At the Feast the king entrusted me with certain messages that I may soon vouchsafe to you if granted a providential journey to your shores. Until then I remain as ever your humble servant,

done by my hand at Michaelsmasse, anno domine 1299

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