Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Day 1189

Of the famous Christmas dinners, I must comment on that of Christmas day 1189 when Richard the Lion-hearted gave a sumptuous banquet at Castello Mategrifon in Messina in Sicily.  The name of the castle means “curb on the Greeks.”  He invited the King of France and the Sicilian notables.  A few days later he had an interesting interview with the aged Abbot of Corazzo, Joachim, founder of the Order of Fiore.  The venerable saint expounded to him the meaning of the Apocalypse.  The seven heads of the Dragon were Herod, Nero, Constantius, Muhammad, Melsenuth (by whom he probably meant Abdul Mueim, founder of the Almohad sect), Saladin, and finally the Antichrist himself, who, he declared, had already been born 15 years ago in Rome and would sit on the papal throne.  Richard’s flippant reply, that in that case the Antichrist was probably the actual Pope, Clement III, whom he personally disliked.  This splendiferous feast was described by Ambroise (flourished c. 1190) a Norman poet and chronicler of the Third Crusade, author of a work called L’Estoire de la guerre sainte, which describes in rhyming French verse the adventures of Richard Coeur de Lion as a Crusader.  As proof of its splendor Ambroise, says that every dish was of gold or silver, and that there was not a dirty tablecloth in the hall, providing us some insight into hygiene in that period of time when it was notable that the tablecloths are clean.