The Tents of History
An Introduction

Edited by Stephen Francis Wyley

A replica of one of the bell tents from the John Skylitzes Chronicle (12th - 13th century).A replica of a bell tent from the 13th century 'Cantigas de Santa Maria'A replica of a bell tent from the Maciejowsky Bible, 1250 A.D.
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Table of Contents

Part 1.  1st Century to the 6th Century
Part 2. 7th century
Part 3. 8th century
Part 4. 9th century
Part 5. 10th century
Part 6. 11th century
Part 7. 12th century
Part 8. 13th century
Part 9. 14th century
Part 10. 15th century
Part 11. 16th century
1501 - 1525
1526 - 1550
1551 - 1575
1576 - 1600
Part 12. 17th century
Part 13. 18th century
Part 14. Unknowns
Part 15. Index by Tent Types (e.g. bell, cone, marquee, yurt, etc)
Part 16. Conclusions
Part 17. Links
Part 18. News
Part 19. Under Investigation
Part 20. Collections (1st century to the 15th century)
Part 21. Bibliography
Further Reading

Extant Tents at the Istanbul Military Museum

Replica Tents

Tents and Encampments
From the 2001 Australian Medieval Conference

Replica wedge tents used in the UK

Here is a link I highly recommend visiting:


Throughout recorded history tents have provided temporary and transportable accomodation for use mainly during war (be it on the march or during a siege). Other uses for tent accomodation included; nomadic life, hunting expeditions, feasts, events and meetings. Tentage provided protection from the elements for the inhabitants and their accoutrements, however without it many combatants died from exposure while on campaign (Rowland p. 19, Flanders 1657-8 A.D.).

This document has been put together to aid in the study of tents from the 1st century to the 18th century using manuscripts, extant items depicting tents or actual remains of tents. Not a lot of extant material remains however many artists depicted tents in a variety of art works; frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, paintings, sculptures, tapestries and woodcuts. In most cases I have restricted the data to descriptions of the tents which do no justice to the great works of art some of these pictures represent (eg. Chroniques de Froissart 15th centurySiege of Constantinople 1455 A.D., Battle of Pavia 1525 A.D. and Siege of Boulogne 1544 A.D.). I have included some pictures of replica period tents to give the viewer some idea of what the tents looked like. I have also provided links to other sites which have pictures and information regarding the period examples.

Problems have arisen where far too many authors provide little or no information as to the provenance of the manuscript in question. It has also been noted that on a number of occasions that different authors provide conflicting information on dating, provenance and even the description of the same manuscript illumination.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many contributors without which this project would not have covered so much material in such a short amount of time. Those contributors (in alphabetical order) are;
Professor Peter Alford Andrews, Amanda and Steven Baker, Keith Baker, Jenny Baker,
 MAJ. Peter C. Barclay, Dr. Peter Beatson, Stephen Bloch, Roberta Bromley,
Tim Dawson, Callum Forbes, Tanya Guptill, Stephen Hand,
Bob Howe, Donna Hrynkiw, Eva Grammer, Peter James,
David Kuijit, Trish Lambert, Stephen Lowe, Charles McCathieNeville,
Bill and Gaynor McConnell, Fiona McDonald, Lori Rael Northon, Greg Priest-Dorman,
Peter Raftos, Wayne Robinson, Glenda Robinson, Lewis Scheuch-Evans,
Sean Schloss Craig Sitch, John Southall, John Sultana,
 John La Torre, Vasiliki Tsamakda, Angela Vanzella, Andrea Willet
and Paula Winkel,

If there are numerous tents in the manuscript the tents are described from foreground to background and from left to right. The tents themselves are described from the apex to the pegs.

As this collation is not without limit or error I would welcome any contributions, comments or criticisms, please do not hesitate in contacting me. If those people wishing to contribute full entries could they please follow the prescribed format to aid in speedy uploading.

Stephen Francis Wyley
3rd September 2001

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Apex; The top of the tent, usually decorated with a pennon flying from a pole and a ball shaped terminal.

Apron; The area just below the apex of a tent, sometimes decorated, may also indicate re-inforcement.

Guy rope; a rope attached to the apex, roof edge or wall bottom edge which is used to hold the tent in a rigid position. Guy ropes are provided with single, double or triple point attachment to the tent.

Marquee; A large tent with more than two poles.

Pavilion; A large tent with a peaked roof.

Roof edge; The bottom edge of the roof connected to the top of the wall.

Tent shapes:

    Bell; Pointed apex, round cross section with the roof edge circumference smaller than the bottom edge circumference.

    Cone; Like an inverted cone.

    Lean to (Reclining Prism); A prism with a face at ninety degrees to the ground, often that face is open.

    Wall; A wedge but the roof is cut short and wall drop vertically to the ground.

    Wedge (prism); A tent in the shape of a triangular prism.

Valance; The often decorated section of the tent at the join of the roof and the wall.

Yurt; A tent used by the Mongols, circular in cross section and almost condom shaped in out line.

This page was last updated on the 9th March 2004

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Copyright © Stephen Francis Wyley 1999 - 2004