Mediaeval Ships Part VI Stem Ropes Part 2

By H.H. Brindley, published February 1912


This piece deals with the use of stem-ropes, based on the visual evidence in contemporary seals and coins. The author presents and discusses five possible explanations for their presence in such images: gammoning of the bowsprit; anchoring the forestay; the representation of an anchor cable; a survival of ropes used to lash the ‘fighting stages’ (fore and aft castles) to the hull; and girdling intended to strengthen the stem of the ship. Several illustrations support his analysis.  In this paper the author considers a small detail of medieval ships, the stem rope, as represented on coins and seals of the time. The stem ropes were two or more turns of rope around the stem, just under the forestage, whose function is unclear and had been extensively discussed in earlier editions of Mariners Mirror. The author describes a number of representation between 1391 and 1500, suggesting that as the level of detail declines significantly over this period, the use of stem ropes died out during this time, and later artists could not longer take examples from life.

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Filed under: Late Middle Ages | High Middle Ages | Other (location)
Subjects include: Archaeology | Shipbuilding & Design

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