How the Burden Cloth Was Proven Medieval…


Fourteenth century illuminated manuscript depicting a burden cloth in use as a ground cloth for a musical performer. Note the four roadies  holding the corner handles.

As outlined on our home page, Timeless Enterprises, in the way of all things, became Timeless & Daughters after Carol passed on (in 2007). For five years, Deb & Rebecca maintained Timeless’ 20-year membership & participation in Eugene’s Saturday Market and its winter indoor version, Holiday Market.  And in December of 2009, as Deb greeted another visitor and gawker at the Timeless booth with Carol’s tried and true opening line, ”So, what the heck is a Burden Cloth?

To Deb’s astonishment, the woman responded, ”I know what it is! Last week I was figuring it out in a medieval manuscript that I was including in the materials for my spring semester course on the minnesingers.” And she went on to explain that she was a professor at Chapel Hill in North Carolina, and had been examining the image above and figuring out that the square was some sort of gathering and carrying tool. She was tickled by the synchronicity of finding us selling the Burden Cloth (on her annual holiday visit to relatives in Eugene), understood its usefulness without explanation, and chose to purchase three of them. Further, she promised, and kept that promise, to provide the 1325 CE illumination shown here.

So…whether or not anyone in the Middle Ages called this thing a Burden Cloth, Conrad was eventually proven right in that they are ancient tools!