Posted in 1270s, alternative history, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—Mass at Santa Margherita

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari at a party held by her parents.

This week’s excerpt comes a bit after last week’s, which takes place the morning after the party. Dante ran across the Portinaris while both were walking to church, and was easily convinced to go to Santa Margherita with them instead of his usual San Martino.

Church of Santa Margherita, Copyright Sailko

When we passed through the doors of the church, I looked back and forth between the men’s and women’s sides. Though I was young enough to stand with the ladies and children, Babbo preferred I stand with the men and older boys to avoid developing soft habits. At the same time, it would be rude to spurn the people who’d invited me to church with them, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to be close to the youngest of God’s angels even for just an hour. Monna Cilia also possibly already thought poorly of Babbo because he let me attend Mass alone, and I didn’t want to give her more reasons to dislike him and disseminate gossip. Building a stronger friendship between our families was imperative if I wanted to marry my dream girl. I remained on the side for ladies and children.

To impress Beatrice and her mother, I followed along in perfect Latin. There were a few words and lines here and there I didn’t fully understand, even after a lifetime of hearing them, but I still knew how to pronounce them correctly. By the time I was old enough to start taking Communion in a few years, I’d be fluent in Latin.

I barely paid attention to the priest’s sermon, and immediately forgot his subject as soon as he finished speaking and began leading us in the Nicene Creed.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

This was a prayer I often struggled with reciting perfectly, since it was so long. Today, however, all the words came out just as they should, without any stumbling. When I prayed my own prayers privately, I spoke to God, Christ, and the saints in Italian, but I was obligated to use Latin in church.

As usual, only a few people besides the priests took Communion. Ricovero nudged me when a young man in turquoise robes went up with two ladies and an elderly man.

“That’s Pietro Tonelli, and he takes Communion at least once a week,” Ricovero whispered. “A lot of people suspect he’s falling into heresy, is losing his mind, or thinks he’s so much holier than everyone else. I’d advise you to avoid him.”

With this comment, I knew Ricovero was destined to be a genuine friend, not just a convenience or surface friend. As undesirable a habit as it is, I’ve long had a weakness for listening to entertaining gossip. Besides, not all gossip is falsehood.

Posted in 1270s, alternative history, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—The morning after

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari at a party held by her parents.

I’m skipping ahead a bit to near the start of Chapter II, “Answered Prayers.” In true Medieval style, I decided to use Roman numerals for the chapters and sections of chapters.

In case I saw her again today, I dressed in a dusky red tunic and light blue hose, which I proceeded to rub with a powder made of crushed rose petals, lavender, orris root, and cloves. I also hung a little bag of crushed sage and violets around my neck, tucked inside the tunic. Since I was only permitted a bath on Saturdays, I needed to be as sweet-smelling as possible in the interim days.

In the kitchen downstairs, I washed my hands and ate a few fennel seeds for an apéritif, followed by chunk of bread, a piece of sausage, and some almonds, washed down with plum juice. For a dragée, I had a piece of aged cheese. Then I washed my hands again and went back upstairs to clean my teeth.

Babbo was in his office when I left for morning Mass. Since his moneylending business was so important, he rarely accompanied me to church in the morning, and instead attended a later Mass. We usually only went together on Sundays and feast days. At home, we didn’t often pray together either, though Babbo expected me to pray and read the Psalms for Vespers and Compline in the evening.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

He was too busy and distant to care if I regularly prayed the other canonical hours.

While walking to San Martino, I heard my name being called. Upon turning to my left, I saw Beatrice clothed in an evergreen robe with a pure white sash. The violet crown I set on her head yesterday was still there. Only as an afterthought did I notice her mother and siblings were there too, minus baby Gherardo.

“I’m happy to see you again so soon,” she said as she came closer. “Are you on your way to church too?”

Posted in 1270s, alternative history, Beatrice Portinari, Couples, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—The party ends

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari at a party held by her parents.

This comes right after last week’s excerpt, when a group of young Maggerini (May Day singers) came to the courtyard to perform. Now the happy mood of the party is broken by the necessity of leaving prematurely.

The word “windows” was frequently used to refer to eyes in Medieval Italy.

Babbo came up behind me and put his hand on my back. “Dante, we must return home. Unlike certain other people here, we haven’t the luxury of spending all day at a party. Work can’t entirely stop for the sake of Calendimaggio.”

I bent my head slightly. “Yes, Babbo.” As badly as I wished to remain here the rest of the day and prolong my closeness to Beatrice, I wanted even more to avoid tasting the sting of the birch and transforming a joyous day into a ruined, unhappy day. “May I bid farewell to my friends first?”

“Of course, but don’t take too much time doing it or let anyone pull you into a long conversation. I have important business to resume, and you have Latin to study.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

To my great delight, when I turned to my right, I found Beatrice’s lovely emerald windows directly fixed upon me. An angelic smile graced her countenance.

“It was very nice meeting you and your family, Bice. I hope we’re able to visit again soon.”

“I enjoyed meeting you too. I’m surprised we never met before when we live in the same neighborhood and also both have summer villas in Fiesole.” She adjusted the violet crown I’d set upon her head. “Ricovero and I will put in a good word about you with our parents. I don’t think they’ll disapprove of you visiting us again.”

I smiled at her and nodded. “The next time I visit, I’ll bring a little gift to thank your parents for their hospitality. God should bless your family in all things.”

Posted in 1270s, alternative history, Dante, Food, holidays, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—The party nears its end

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari at a party held by her parents.

This comes a bit after last week’s excerpt, when the main course of dinner (the Medieval name for lunch, the biggest meal of the day) was served. After a long, decadent meal punctuated by conversations and songs, the final foods are now brought around.

The descriptions of the Maggerini (May Day singers) and the people watching from the house are based on Marie Spartali Spillman’s 1887 painting, seen below.

Another round of basins and towels were brought around at the conclusion of the meal, and then we had dragées to close our stomachs until we ate again. On offer were aged cheese, lumps of spiced sugar, honey-covered almonds, and hippocras, a hot wine mixed with cinnamon, spices, and sugar. After a final hand-washing, the tables were cleared, and everyone gradually dispersed to different corners of the house and yard.

The sweet sounds of Maggerini brought me to one of the side doors. Out in the courtyard were seven children playing cymbals, horns, and lutes to accompany their heavenly verses. They were all bedecked with fragrant flowers and held more flowers or alder and laburnum branches. Behind them, a maidservant was drawing water from a well, and an older girl sat on the uppermost of the stone steps around the well, holding a long violet chain in one hand and a large cloth sack in the other, presumably to collect their courtesy tokens.

When they finished their performance, Beatrice’s mother, Monna Cilia, came forward to distribute gold florins, hard-boiled eggs, figs, and pears. As she went around rewarding each child, I noticed Beatrice was standing to my right, leaning against a yellow, blue, and lavender cloth draped over the half-wall above a small tree in an earthenware jug. Her face was very intent as she observed her mother’s charity and the happy faces of our guests.

Posted in 1270s, alternative history, Beatrice Portinari, Dante, Food, Writing

WeWriWa—The main course is served

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari at a party held by her parents. They’re now walking in the garden.

This comes right after last week’s excerpt, when the partygoers were summoned to dinner (the Medieval name for lunch, the biggest meal of the day). Per that era’s scientific views, a meal had to begin with apéritifs to open the stomach, followed by light foods which were easy to digest, and then somewhat heartier foods. Only after all these preliminary foods had been eaten did the main course come out.

The Taste of Medieval Food - Medievalists.net

Our next course consisted of cabbage, more fruit, broth, duck meat, lettuce, and herbs. Finally, the servants brought the towels and water basins around again so we could wash our hands in preparation for the main course which sat temptingly in the middle of every table. And what a marvellous meal it was.

Though everything I ever could’ve dreamt of at a dinner was on offer, I regardless waited to see what Beatrice and Ricovero would put on their plates first. This wasn’t my home, and I was a first-time guest. If they thought I were a glutton or more interested in the food than their company, my chances of being invited back would diminish.

“You must eat your fill,” Ricovero said. “Don’t wait for us to start eating. This isn’t Great Lent.”

“Yes, please serve yourself whatever you’d like,” Beatrice said.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

“All this food is here for us to enjoy in abundance. Calendimaggio only comes once a year.”

I smiled at her and began filling my silver plate with an abundance of hard-boiled eggs, bread, cheese, sausages, beef, olives, roasted vegetables, and porpoise meat. Then I requested a servant fill my tankard with mulberry juice. If my stomach still permitted the intake of food afterwards, I planned to eat a slice of vegetable and eel pie, ravioli, and mussels. It was imperative to preserve enough space in one’s stomach for the dragées which closed every meal, but I wasn’t sure when I’d again get the chance to eat so much decadent, delicious food in one sitting. At least I wasn’t tempted by everything on the table. To this day, I’ve never had the desire to eat swan, lark and other songbirds, porcupine, whale, or hedgehog, despite their popularity among the wealthy. People often develop many strange habits when they acquire or are born into too much money.