Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Medieval Trade Fairs
The European trade fairs, which thrived in the 12th and 13th centuries, linked the economies of the north with those of the Mediterranean. Especially popular in France, these fairs were held annually, in cities located along ancient land routes, and were governed by an established set of rules known as “merchant laws”.
Textiles, leather, furs, and spices were sold at the fairs, and traders came from all over Europe to display their wares. There were six fairs throughout the year. Each fair lasted six weeks. The schedule, while not firm, generally reserved the first eight days for vendors to set up their sites. The final days, about four, were needed to settle accounts.
From Genoa, it took a month to reach the fair cities. Pack mules crossed the Alps loaded with wares. From Spain, merchants traveled the well-worn pilgrim route from Santiago de Compostela. Well-to-do merchants might hire freight handlers to move the goods to the fair location.
In my October release from Five Star, titled The Tapestry Shop, Catherine visits the Colde Fair in Troyes, where she shops for household goods and visits a fortune teller.
One of the images (above) is of the lower floor of a medieval warehouse in Provins which was rented by merchants during the faire. Goods were stored here, and the displays would have been on the upper floor. In Provins, visitors can see a permanent exhibition (top image) depicting a medieval market.