Classy glasses at Chillon Castle

In lots of today’s films and series taking place in a medieval or medieval fantasy setting, the characters always drink from glasses with boring old bases, or sad little tin tankards. They get even sadder when you realise that, in reality, drinks receptacles were much more diverse back then.

Need an example? Have you heard of a hobnail beaker?

Reconstitution of the Chillon hobnail beaker

This type of drinking glass emerged in the 13th century. It was so called on account of the small protruding dots which covered all or part of the surface of the glass. These decorative elements could appear in various shapes and patterns, at regular or irregular intervals, in staggered rows, in a circle, etc. Some ‘hobnails’ were even painted a different colour to the rest of the glass.

These new, transparent glasses are indicative of an interesting development – they show the importance of highlighting and showcasing the liquids they contained. See before you sip. This mostly applied to wine, which remained the highest-esteemed beverage throughout the medieval period. And although the most intricately crafted were reserved for the nobility, archaeological excavations have helped uncover traces of glass in communal spaces such as taverns. Their use was, therefore, much more widespread than we think.

Fragments of Chillon glasses found during archaeological excavations of the castle moat

At Chillon Castle, archaeological digs carried out at the very end of the 19th century by the canton of Vaud brought to light fragments of glasses and pitchers. Remnants of a hobnail beaker were found in the moat. You’ll find them in the glass display case in room 13, alongside a reconstruction of this precious object.

So, getting thirsty?


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