Friday, April 15, 2016

The Medieval Cyprus Birdies (Oiselets de Chypre): Tracking Historical Scents & Fragrance Use


"Since she had exchanged one of the most luxurious Courts of the Middle Ages for that of Aragon, chiefly concerned with the ceaseless tumult and turmoil of war. In the fortress-palaces of her husband's kingdom how often she must have pined for the garden-isle of her birth, for its groves of orange, pomegranate, citron, mulberry, acacia, olive, and palm, for the vision of the happy valley of Makaria, across whose far-famed loveliness she was to gaze no more from the casements of her brother's palace at Nicosia! How she would pine to hear once more the merry laughter and the jingling bells of the huntingtrain " sport made ideal in that land of " the richest and most generous lords in Christendom " of their day, one of whom, the Count of Jaffa, alone, kept no less than five hundred hunting dogs. Memories of scented waters " rose, jasmine, and many another of which the secret has long been lost to the distiller " would be wafted to her with the lifting of every lid of her cypress-wood coffers, with their metal inlaying, with every breath of her perfumed " oiselets de Chypre " " that favourite toy of the mediaeval boudoir which she was probably the first to introduce into Aragon. These pomanders of scented paste, generally moulded into the shape of a bird " hence their name " were hung in the apartments of great ladies, in cages or similar receptacles, to serve the double purpose of purifying as well as of perfuming the room. A heavy and disappointed heart beat, we may be sure, beneath the royal robes, thick with " ors de Chypre, o Ma o Aragon ; heavy, because of its homesickness, disappointed, because of her childlessness. Her sumptuous wardrobe itself would grow to be a weariness, since she might not wear it in that Cypriote setting which alone might have fitly framed it."  

[source, Miron E.L The Queens of Aragon: Their Lives and Times. Reprint. London: Forgotten Books, 2013. 152-3. Print.]

I wrote a concrete piece on Oiselets de Chypre, the Cyprus scented birdies of the Middle Ages on Fragrantica. Please check it out on this link.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Oh well--a great commentary from you on Fragrantica! :)

    1. Glad you found it interesting :)


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