Sleeping Tight in the SCA

Camping season is here! Do you have a comfortable place to sleep? Aoife shares sources for Medieval and Renaissance beds in this week's column.

Hello everyone. This week's Links post is on the subject of Medieval and Renaissance Beds. With camping season upon us, I thought some of you might like to make improvements to your in-tent sleeping arrangements: I know lots of folks who do not camp at all because it is too painful to sleep on the ground! One of the beds below (the one by Duke Sir Cariadoc, based upon an historical illustration), takes only about 1/2 hour to construct and one hour to lace, and is adjustable so that you can easily tighten the laces!

I'd like to note, off topic, that several nice folks have suggested topics for future Links lists. I heartily thank you for doing so. If you HAVE suggested topics and have not seen results, it's because either it's hard to find information on those subjects, or because I am saving the subjects with few results to post in one of the "compilation of subjects" links lists. Please continue to suggest topics.

At any rate, please forward this links list wherever it will find an interested audience, and use the links to update your own lists.


Photo: Bunratty Castle and folk park: Medieval Bed
Click the Index page icon to see more medieval and medieval-oid furniture photos.

Medieval Pavillion Resources:
Acrobat Reader needed to view articles.

Camp Furniture by Findlaech mac Alasdair
(Site Excerpt from the Field Bed section) A truly period field bed would most likely use a rope suspension. This example uses the slats left over from a futon, left by the previous owner of our house. The corner posts are common 4 by 4's, each hewn down to a octogon. The head and foot boards are tenoned into the posts with glued pegs. Tusk tenons hold the rails in place. Leave sufficient height so you can use the space beneath for out-of-sight storage.

Photo of a 16th Century Bed

Ancient Furniture: Beds
Adobe Acrobat Reader required. Short article, but a great photo of a renaissance bed.

A Period Rope Bed (assumed to be authored by Duke Sir Cariadoc le Bow though no credit is on the page)
(A longer version of this article is in the 9th edition of the Miscellany)
(Site Excerpt) Some time ago, several of our SCA friends told us about a period picture one of them had found, a 13th c. Byzantine ivory showing a rope bed (Figure 1). I made a version of that bed sized for a small child (Figure 2). It turned out to be ridiculously easy to make--about half an hour for me to build the bed, plus another hour or so for me and my lady wife to lace it.

Osberg bed
(Site Excerpt, scroll down to see the bed) A bed was found and even this was richly decorated and could be taken apart for purposes of transport. Tents and camp beds seem to have been normal accessories when traveling by ship those days. The inside overall length of the bed is 1.64 meters (5.4 feet) and the width approximately 1.80 meters (5.9 feet), but the overall size is more than 2x2 meters (6 1/2 x 6 1/2 feet).

Ravensgard: Beds
(Site Excerpt) Beds and fragments of beds have been found in two archaeological sites from the Viking Age: Oseberg and Gokstad in Norway. The Oseberg find is dated to circa 850 and Gokstad circa 900. This is a reproduction of one of the Oseberg state beds from a museum in Norway. Note the angled headposts. This was probably to save space on ship by allowing the bed to be placed as close to the gunwale as possible. The non-state beds do not have this feature.
See also Ravensgard repro beds with plans at:

An ongoing site with articles & links on furniture as it applies to the Middle Ages & the SCA

Illustration: Champeaux Medieval Bed

Ch´┐Żeau de Tennessus Poitou Charentes, France
This commercial site offers a medieval bed-chamber for guests, several bed photos photos are on the site.

Markland Article: So, you're going to sleep on the ground? By: Nina Surr
(Site excerpt, copyright Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia and the individual who created the particular information in question) Cots, hammocks and rope beds have similar advantages and disadvantages. They lift you up off the ground, so you don't have first-name acquaintance with every rock in the neighborhood. Rope beds can be lumpy, and often take a great deal of time to set up if you're not careful with the design. On steep ground you can set a block under one or more of the legs of your bed and sleep on the flat. You should do this, unless you want to revert to method one of camping out (sleeping on the ground). The true joy of having a raised bed comes when it rains, and your friends are grumping about their wet beds while you are sleeping high and dry.

Designboom's day-bed history part 2
Note the MANY photos of medieval beds and the ee cummings-like punctuation and capitalization.
(Site Excerpt) it became customary for royalty to give audience in the bed chamber. The bedchamber became a place for reception as well as for rest. it was usual for beds to be enclosed in drapes. the hangings gave added warmth, and assumed ceremonial importance. the baldaquin was used not only to magnify the bed but for the purpose of preventing the dust falling upon the persons lying on it, nord europe, 15th century

Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ (included because of bed illuminations)

Medieval Furniture

Italian Renaissance Beds
Note that you must scroll down to see the part about the beds. Sources cited.(Site Excerpt) In palaces and the homes of well-to-do citizens bedsteads of the XVth century were built rather high from the ground; the legs were invisible because two chests were placed close together at either side and sometimes one at the foot, forming steps to make getting into bed easier, and at the same time serving as sitting accomodation.

The Electronic Neanderthal
(Site Excerpt) A repository of information on the use and preservation of old and antique woodworking tools: sources of tools and materials, events, organizations, books, and places to visit, both real and virtual.

Cocketts Mattresses: Medieval Beds
See this site for photos of a simple reconstruction bed and info on mattresses

Current Middle Ages: Simple Rope Bed