For years I have been haunted by Geoffrey Chaucer.
This could be the opening sentence as well as the closing one… or the only one here.
But it needs some explanation.
My childhood was quite colorful. Thanks to my Dad, I had no time to be bored. Apart from attending English school – I had English lessons too. So as to catch the accent (or whatever they wanted me to catch)…
Finally I started to speak, and understand. This gave my teacher an idea to educate me more. She demanded reading Chaucer in original. 😉
Skipping several years…
I came to Poland and I was forced to study the English Philology. This was the worst I could do. It was being taught in a wrong way, the teachers had problems with pronunciation…
But one was worth suffering this all – Chaucer 😉
I had to read the Canterbury tales 😀 And once again – I had to read it in Middle English.
After many years – I decided to go and see the grave of this man, who had a great influence on my life… I went to the Westminster Abbey to see his grave. Unfortunately it was forbidden to take pictures there.
Why do I mention Dear Geoffrey here?
Simply because in the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (The Knight’s Tale) Malbork was mentioned. Not exactly – but let’s see how:
A knight there was, and he a worthy man,
Who, from the moment that he first began
To ride about the world, loved chivalry,
Truth, honour, freedom and all courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his liege-lord’s war,
And therein had he ridden (none more far)
As well in Christendom as heathenesse,
And honoured everywhere for worthiness.
At Alexandria, he, when it was won;
Full oft the table’s roster he’d begun
Above all nations’ knights in Prussia.
In Latvia raided he, and Russia,
No christened man so oft of his degree.
So… definitely the name Prussia (Pruss) means Malbork. But how do we know?
The explanation is in the history of the Teutonic Knights in Europe, and their greed for land an power. When they built the capital in Marienburg (today Malbork) – they had to impress the arriving knighthood from other countries. Noone would have wanted to come to a simple monastery. Hence such a huge castle, and splendid rooms. Among them was (and still is) the impressive the Great Refectory. It was the biggest feast room in the then Europe.
Here is some description of this exceptional room – from the brochure “The Grand Masters’ Residential Complex in Malbork Middle Castle. Palace with the Western Wing” – an editorial supported by a grant from Norway through the Norwegian Financial Mechanism.
…A huge hall called the Grand Refectory lies adjacent to the Palace from the north. The interior, supported by three pillars, was built in the first half of the 14th century. The first written record of this room being used comes from August 24th 1337. It was a reception hall, allowing the highest dignitaries of the Order to guest knights from all of Europe, and host lavish feasts made greater still by abundant “artistic programs”. Guests and artists from whole Europe were invited here. This was not only an element of courtly etiquette, but also a part of the Order’s strategy as they fought their battles using chiefly the strength of western European knights. Knights so received and motivated would go to Koenigsberg from whence they would embark on raids against Lithuania. These guests also took part in the wars against Poland, and constituted the core of the Order’s forces. Moreover, the Grand Refectory was also used to guest emissaries and delegations, as well as being the place where the Teutonic chapters were held. These gatherings met to debate on matters of the greatest importance to the Order, such as the election of its Grand Masters…
Among the known who visited the castle and feasted in the Refectory – was Henry Bolingbroke, later King Henry IV of Enlgland.
How would Geoffrey know about this place on earth – which today seems a bit forgotten? Well, he held a post of a Comptroller of the Customs for the port of London… So he must have met the knights returning from or setting off to Prussia.
Also, it should be remembered that the name “spruce tree” comes from here… From Prussia. But this is another story 🙂