An 850-year old love poem ‘Floris and Blancheflour’
1. Eight hundred and fifty years old
2. French author
3. European bestseller
4. Thirteen West-European versions of the poem
5. ”Flanders (Belgium): 750 years of “Floris ende Blancefloer”
6. Diederic van Assenede
7. Commemoration “750 years Floris ende Blancefloer”
7.1. Anniversary publication of Professor Emeritus Dr Jozef Janssens et al (edition
7.2. A 100 meters long tapestry (90 cms high) : “Tapestry of Assenede: Floris and
7.2.1. First official embroidery stitch 23 October 2015 in Assenede (Belgium)
7.2.2. Belgian linen. English wool.
7.2.3. Mobile Educational Tool
7.2.4. The Embroiderers
7.2.6. International cooperation. International project.
8. The lovestory of Floris and Blanchefloer 9. Pictures
1. Eight hundred and fiftyyears of age
In the middle of the twelfth century, a French clerk who lived in the Loire-valley
near Tours, thought to be Robert d’Orbigny, wrote a 3348 verse love poem.
This poem “Floire et Blancheflor” in French or “Floris and Blancheflour” spread all
over western Europe and was translated into thirteen languages. The poem tells the
story of a forbidden love between a Christian girl and a Muslim boy set in the eighth
The girl (Blancheflour – white Lily) is the daughter of a Christian countess kept
prisoner by the king of a Spanish Muslim country during the eighth century.
The boy (Floris – red rose) is the crown prince of this kingdom. Although their love
is opposed by the King and the Queen, after many trials and tribulations (3000 verses
long) they eventually marry. True love conquers all: the story and its themes are
However, the name of the 12th-century French author was not mentioned in the French
2. French author
Around the year 1220 the German poet Konrad Fleck transcribed this French love story
into German, using 8006 lines. He gave the name of the original French author as
Ruprecht von Orbent or Robert d’Orbigny.
Orbigny is a small rural village (in the French department d’Indre-et-Loire, arrondissement
of Loches), which was called Orbineum in the medieval charters. Orbigny is one of
the oldest villages in the TOURS region.
It is apparent through his use of Latin, Greek and oriental elements in his story
that, as a clerk, Robert d’Orbigny must have been a very literate man with extensive
knowledge of the Greek and Latin classics.
The French expert Prof Dr J.L. Leclanche writes:
“The author of Floris and Blanceflor has undoubtedly read the ancient novel ‘Historia
Appollonii Regis Tyri’ dating from the beginning of our era. This novel refers to
antique stories from the orient and the Mediterranean where lovers are separated
by fate. These stories may have inspired some of the medieval literature and poetry.”
3. European bestseller
This French love story became a bestseller in its time in all of Western Europe.
It was transformed into many medieval poems, songs and prose in Dutch ( Flemish),
German, English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Czech, Yiddish
Prof Dr JL Leclanche in the introduction of his 1977 work on the three most important
French manuscripts of this poem states:“ From the middle of the 12th century Floris
and Blancheflour, together with other ‘love-couples’ such as Paris and Helena, Tristan
and Isolde, Lancelot and Guinevereplay important examples”
Leclanche dates this French love poem around the year 1150.
“The love poem of Floire et Blancheflor is in many ways a typical product of the
cultural boom of the years 1050-1250, a period characterised by a very dynamic flourishing
of the arts, literature and culture. This era is currently referred to as the ‘12th
century Renaissance’, as indicated by Professor em. Dr Jozef Janssens, literary historian
in his brand new publication “Floris ende Blancefloer van Diederic van Assenede.
Liefde in het Vlaanderen van de dertiende eeuw” edition DAVIDSFONDS, Belgium, October
2015: [“Floris and Blancheflour of Diederic van Assenede. Love in Flanders in the
D’Orbigny : “ …wrote a love poem contrary to the literature of his days. Where in
the “chansons de geste” and the early novels the heroic battle was predominant, the
military action in Floire et Blancheflor is marginalised ...for the most part the
story deals with “amors”(French signification), where reciprocal love conquers all”
(Janssens 2015). Or to view it more simply : The heroic knight stories are dripping
with blood of their heroes and counterparts in their battles for God, the Church
and their sovereign. However, Floris achieves his goals not by the sword but by intellect,
reason and emotions (empathy). Love conquers all obstacles. This is an important change
in storytelling of the time, which is the main reason why this love poem was translated
into each of the main West-European languages of its day.
4. Thirteen West-European versions of Floire et Blancheflor
French : Floire et Blancheflor, middle 12th century; three manuscripts and one fragment
by ROBERT D’ORBIGNY. Floire et Blancheflor (sc version populaire), ca. 1200; one manuscript
Paris, Bibl. Nat., ms. fr. 19152.
Maasland : Floyris en Blantsefluor, ca. 1170; fragment Trier, Stadtbibliothek, Mappe
(Dutch) X, nr. 13.
(High) German : Flore und Blanscheflur, ca. 1220; 2 illustrated manuscripts (Heidelberg,
Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Pal. Germ. 362) and 2 fragments – KONRAD FLECK.
English : Floris and Blancheflour, ca. 1250; 4 partial manuscripts.
Dutch : Floris ende Blancefloer, middle 13th century ; manuscript Leiden, UB, Ltk.
191, and a fragment – DIEDERIC VAN ASSENEDE.
Norwegian : Flores saga ok Blankiflur, ca. 1250; translation in prose; damaged manuscript,
Oslo, Riksarkivet, NRA 65.
Icelandic : Flores saga ok Blankiflur, end of the 13th century ; two manuscripts from
the Norwegian version, 3 manuscripts from the 17th century, 11 from the 18th century
and 10 from the 19th century.
Low-German : Flos unde Blankeflos, early 14th century; five manuscripts.
Swedish : Flores och Blanzeflor, ca. 1312, transmisson from Norwegian versions; kept
in 4 different transcripts and one remaining fragment.
Danish : Eventyret om Flores og Blantzeflores, 14th century, transmission from the
Swedish versions; Stockholm, KB, Cod. Holm. K 47.
Italian : Cantare di Fiorio e Biancifiore, middle of the 14th century, 4 manuscripts,
one fragment and several early prints; Il filocolo, ca. 1341, more than 40 manuscripts
and fragments; among others kept in the beautifully illustrated renaissancemanuscript
from ca. 1364 Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms. Canon. Ital. 85 – GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO. L’amore
di Florio e Biancifiore, inspired on Il filocolo; Venetian print of 1532 – LUDOVICO
Czech : Floria z Hispanij, a geho milee panie Bianczeforze; Prague print from 1519.
These version is based on a German transmission of Il Filocolo: Ein gar schon newe
histori der hochen lieb des kuniglichen fursten Florio: vnnd seyner lieben Bianceflora,Kaspar Hochfeder, Metz 1499) – frequently reprinted; on which the theatre play of
Hans Sachs (1551) is based : Ein comedi mit fünfftzehen personen, Florio, des königs
son auß Hispania, mit der schön Bianceffora.
Greek: Diegesis exairetos erotike kai xene Phloriu tu paneutychu kai kores Platzia
Phlores (The extraordinary, erotic and strange story of the very happy Phlorios and
of the girl Platzia-Phlore), 15th century
Spanish : Cronica de Flores y Blancaflor; end of the 13th century, integrated in a
chronicle on the history of Spain; manuscript Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, 7583. La
historia de los dos enamorados Flores y Blancaflor (print in prose from1512).
5. In Flanders (Belgium): anniversary of «750 years of Floris ende Blancefloer»
“Diederic van Assenede”, was employed as a clerk around 1260 for the Count of Flanders,
and translated the French poem into a 3, 974 verse Flemish (Dutch) poem.
750 years ago Assenede was the capital of the medieval political entity “De Vier
Ambachten”, in the North-Eastern part of Flanders, and nowadays ASSENEDE is a rural
municipality in the Belgian province of East Flanders near the Dutch border. An
“ambacht” was a medieval institution of administrative and jurisdictional decentralisation
within the County of Flanders. It covered several towns, villages and neighbourhoods.
This earlier “De Vier Ambachten” is today a border crossing region situated between
the GHENT agglomeration (Belgium) to the south and the river Scheldt (Westerschelde)
in the Netherlands, in the north.
6. Diederic van Assenede
Diederic van Assenede was, among other things, a collector of an annual ducal property
tax known as the “Brieven van Assenede” (“Letters of Assenede”)
Diederic was a medieval clerk. A clerk in this period of illiteracy was a scholar.
His mother tongue was Flemish (Dutch): he studied classical languages, and he also
spoke and wrote Latin and French. The language of the Court of the Count of Flanders
in those days was French. One of his handwritten accounts of his tax revenues for
the year 1289, was written in Latin, has survived and is kept in BRUGES.
Diederic translated the French poem into his Flemish mother tongue. This is significant,
because Diederic’s Flemish version of that poem belongs to the earliest pieces in
Contemporary Flemish (Dutch) poets (also county clerks) of Diederic were : Willem
van Baudelo attributed as the author of the Flemish version of the ‘roman de Renart’
cq Reynaerd cycle; and the poet, Jacob van Maerlant from Bruges who produced more
than 220.000 verses of poetry during his lifetime.
7. Commemoration 750 year « Floris ende Blancefloer »
The heritage foundation vzwHallekin, active in Assenede, plans to commemorate the
750th anniversary of the Flemish translation in 2 ways :
7.1. An anniversary publication written by Professor em. PhD Jozef Janssens
A book (256 pages, 140 illustrations) for publication by the Flemish Cultural Society
DAVIDSFONDS (www.davidsfonds.be). The book was presented on Friday 23 October 2015
in the church of Assenede. On this occasion the author presented some new analyses
around 13th century literature, and positioned this medieval poem, both the French
original and the Flemish version, within their cultural historical context. This is
the first publication of its kind to be written for a large audience and provides
a base for both primary education teachers as well as secondary and higher education
7.2. A tapestry 100 m long and 900 mm high : “Tapestry of Assenede. Tapestry of
Floris and Blanceflour”
Hallekin started a visual arts project to illustrate this ancient love story in embroidery
of coloured (English) wool on (Belgian) linen. The medieval story is to be recounted
in 85 scenes. A drawing of 950 x 900mm is made for the majority of the scenes, although
some of the descriptive scenes are a little longer. The drawings are then traced
onto the linen via a light box which gives the pattern for the embroiderers. This
tapestry will take 3 years and will tell the visitor the love story. Prof Dr Janssens,
in 2015 thought: “In creating this visual work people who got out of the habit of
reading can still enjoy this historical heritage”. Hallekin has been inspired in this
project by the 940 years old “Bayeux Tapestry” : www.tapisserie-bayeux.fr and by
recent Scottish tapestry projects : www.prestonpanstapestry.org; www.scottishdiasporatapestry.org;
7.2.1. First official stitch on Friday 23 October 2015 in Assenede
The first “official” stitch of this tapestry was made by the representative of the
Flemish Minister Joke Schauvliege (patroness of the project), and representatives
of the Belgian province Oost-Vlaanderen (Governor Jan Briers), the Dutch Province
Zeeland (Deputy for Culture ‘Ben De Reu’ also for the Commissioner of the King) and
the Mayors and aldermen of the modern towns situated in the medieval ‘Vier Ambachten’-circumscription
: the Dutch towns of TERNEUZEN (Mayor Jan Lonink) and HULST (alderman Frank Van Driessche)
and the Flemish (Belgian) Mayors and aldermen of ASSENEDE (Mayor Dr Ph. de Coninck),
EVERGEM (Mayor De Maertelaere Yourie), ZELZATE ( first alderman Martin Acke) and
WACHTEBEKE (alderman Jacques De Smet). Did also participate at “the first official
stich” : Professor Dr Jozef Janssens; Katrien De Vreese (Director of DAVIDSFONDS-editions);
CEO Raymond LIBEERT of LIBECO, Belgian linenweaver; Prof Dr Adri de Kraker; the artist
Peter Audenaert; Dr Dirk De Smet (President of vzw HALLEKIN) and in presence of many
embroiderers and interested people and the press.
7.2.2. Belgian linen : LIBECO
The 170 m2 linen, made from Flemish flax, for the tapestry was donated by the Flemish
(Belgian) linen-weaver LIBECO, one of the top-3 linen weavers in Europe; www.libeco.com.
The trademark “Belgian linen” is world famous.
From medieval times on, Flanders was famous for its linen and tapestry. GHENT, BRUGES,
OUDENAERDE in particular. The English wool producer ‘Appletons’ will provide the coloured
7.2.3. Mobile Educational tool
The tapestry will be exhibited in Assenede initially; thereafter the tapestry may
be lent out to schools, cultural centres, museums or any other institutions who are
interested, in Belgium and elsewhere.
Flemish and Dutch embroiderers started mid 2015 the embroidery; it is planned to
finish the embroidery project mid-2018. Embroiderers can work individually at home,
or can choose to work in local groups. Mrs Annie De Smet, chairman of ‘the tapestry
team’, furnishes the embroiderers : the linen with the drawings on, the needed wool,
the drawings-in-colour on paper and digital, and of some advice and information.
7.2.5. Artist and draftsmen
In 2013 localartist Peter Audenaert (Assenede) made a full scale bronze statue of
Diederic van Assenede, which can be seen in the Assenede town Hall garden. Peter
is the designer of the tapestry drawing story-board and works together with other
artists to realise the individual scenes. Professor PhD Jozef Janssens supervises
the designs on their historic relevance.
7.2.6. International cooperation-International project
HALLEKIN’s intension is to create a minimum of two panels in each of the 13 countries
where the story was translated to enhance the international relevance of this historic
work. Volunteer embroiderers from France, Germany, England, Spain, Italy, Norway,
Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Greece, Czech Republic, Belgium and The Netherlands are
welcome to cooperate on this international project.
Mrs Annie De Smet, memberof the board of vzw HALLEKIN, is chairman and Prof Dr Jozef
Janssens is vice-chairman of the steering team of the Tapestry-project; other members
of the team are: stitch-coordinator Mrs Renée Gerits and embroidery-specialist Mrs
Lieve De Zutter; formerly embroidery teacher at the Antwerp Fashion Academy.
8. The lovestory of Floris and Blanchefloer : A FLORAL NOVEL - A CLOSER LOOK AT THE
In the middle of the 13th century the Flemish poet Diederic van Assenede begins his
romance like this:
“I will tell a love story that is not meant for uncivilized or stupid people. The
story is about a strong love, about joy and happiness but also about sadness and
sorrow. If you want to put a story into verse and tell it well-organized, you have
to shorten it in one place and extend it in another. This was quite a job for Diederic
van Assenede, who translated it from the French language for those people who were
not familiar with it.”
The story is about two children, Floris and Blancefloer, who endured terrible grief
because of being in love but who were also very lucky. That's why they preferred
living with pain, rather than being in heaven. Some people claim that others, who
fully surrender to love are stupid. These are lies. We' ve heard about the love of
Tristan and Isolde, of Paris and Helena who were dignified and sincere, which is
often told about in adventure novels. But I' ve never heard that silly people would
be able to love from the bottom of their heart. Love should be left to courtly clerics,
courtly knights and courtly ladies.
True love can never be resisted. This becomes clear in the case of Salomon: even
though he was mighty and wise, he had to submit to love.
So you don't have to be surprised that love kept into its power two young and vulnerable
children, whom I am going to tell you about.
BORN ON THE SAME DAY
In ancient times, when spring came, king Fenus- who was pagan- arrived with his fleet
from Spain in Christian land. There he robbed and set castles, monasteries and churches
on fire; he killed men and women. When he realized there was nothing left to destroy
in a distance of about thirty miles, he asked forty priviliged knights to march into
the country and take pilgrims prisoner. They created death and destruction; many
of them bought their freedom with their possessions. A French earl defended himself
so heavily that the robbers didn't want him to stay alive. He was killed and his
pregnant daughter, who was on a pilgrimage to Rome (together with her father), was
taken prisoner. The thieves brought the crying lady to their king, who was exceptionally
glad, for his wife, before his departure, had told him she'd appreciate having a
Christian maiden at her service.
The pagans ceased the raid and sailed to the Toledo harbour in their homeland Spain.
Once he had arrived, Fenus divided the booty. The Christian woman was granted to
the queen. She admitted her to the women's rooms and gave her the permission to continue
professing her Christian faith. The woman served her mistress faithfully. She learned
the queen French so that she could use it adequately. The consequence was that the
Christian woman found high favour with the queen.
At a certain moment, while embroidering, the Christian woman got pale and groped
for her side. The queen asked her if she was pregnant and also when the child had
been begotten. Soon after that they started figuring- as women tend to do- because
the queen was expecting too. To their surprise it turned out their child had been
fathered at the same moment.
The queen gave birth to a son on Palm Sunday; on the
basis of their book knowledge the magicians gave him a beautiful name: Floris.
On the same day the Christian woman gave birth to a baby daughter. She was baptized
and her mother named her Blancefloer.
The king and queen looked for a pagan wet nurse for their child, but for its education
they entrusted the Christian woman who gave the two children a tender loving care.
“She started loving them so much, that we haven't found in any of our sources, who
she loved most: her daughter or the king’s son”. (Vs 265-269)
CHILDREN IN LOVE
Before they were five years old Love shoot an arrow straight into their hearts. They
got injured and the arrow let them love each other very strongly. This leads to
When they were having a bath together they looked at each other in a very loving
way. When they were in the cradle they kissed.
At the age of five they were already very beautiful. Then the king decided that his
son had to go to school. He wanted him to stay with master Gaydoen. But Floris was
crying and tried to make clear that he didn't want to learn how to read and write
without Blancefloer. Shortly afterwards the king gave them permission to go to school
together. This gave them the opportunity to tell each other freely what they wanted.
They loved each other but they did it secretly. When they were not at each other's
side, they were not able to remember anything.
“They were both inspired by one thought, equally good-looking”. (Vs 328-329)
While reading”Juvenalis”, “Pamphilus” or “Ars amandi”, they also learnt the tricks
of love. Stimulated by their reading, they were in a hurry to make love; they'd rather
die than being separated for a long time. Nights seemed too long to them and days
to short. So they lived in “sweet pain”,(v.344).
The children learnt to speak Latin adequately; this offered them the opportunity
to tell each other what they wanted without the lay being able to understand them.
This lasted for as long as the news about their love was widespread and came to
the king's attention.
The king was furious and discussed with his wife how he could put an end to this
love. He wanted Blancefloer to be beheaded so that Floris would forget her as soon
as possible and would choose a woman of higher descent. However the queen had a better
advice. Floris' master had to pretend he was ill; that's why they would send the
boy to Montorië for his further training, where other girlfriends would distract
him, so that he would forget his beloved. Blancefloer was not allowed to accompany
him, because she had to stay with her mother, who had to feign illness. A fortnight
later the girl would follow him.
In Montorië Floris was made a very warm and courtly welcome by duke Goras, his wife
Sante and their daughter Sybilie; but whatever they tried to do, Floris could not
forget his beloved. Besides, when Blancefloer did not appear after that period, Floris
went downhill rapidly: “He neither slept nor ate or drank. His eyes looked sunken,
because he seriously lost weight.” (Vs 542-545)
The accompanying chamberlain sounded the alarm and contacted the king who was beside
himself because his plan had failed. He suspected Blancefloer of having bewitched
his son and wanted her to be beheaded immediately. However the queen tried to make
him change his mind: it would be a sin to kill such a beautiful child! It was better
for Blancefloer to be sold on the slave market in Nicle and to be carried far away
from Floris by some merchants. The king sent for two of them to do so.
SOLD AS A SLAVE
In Nicle there were some very rich merchants who bought Blancefloer for a huge treasure
of gold and goods. The purchase price also included a magnificent golden goblet,
on which you could see scenes from the Trojan history: how Paris abducted Helena,
how Menelaos pursued the kidnapper and how Agamemnon besieged Troy with an immense
army. On the lid of the goblet, one could see how Juno, Venus and Pallas were fighting
for the possession of the golden apple which was meant for the most beautiful. One
could also see how Paris was chosen to pass judgement. Juno promised him wealth,
Pallas promised him knightly glory and Venus promised Paris the most beautiful woman
ever born. Paris gave the apple to Venus. On the lid a ruby was applied, that twinkled
in the darkest cellars. A bird sitting on top held the ruby in its paw. It seemed
as if the bird was alive and could really fly. The goblet was made by Vulcanus. Eneas
brought it from Troy that was completely devastated and gave it to one of his sweethearts
in Lumbardy. It finally came to the emperor in Rome, where it was stolen. The thief
in Nicle sold it to the merchants, who bought Blancefloer with it.
IN THE HAREM OF BABYLON
The merchants thought to have made a bargain and were off happily to Babylon. There
they offered the girl for sale to the emir. He was so entranced by her beauty that
he bought her for ten times her weight in gold. He usually had another wife every
year but when he saw Blancefloer he wanted to break that custom and take her as
his wife. He locked her in a tower, where another 27 beauties were located who had
to serve and comfort her. He would wait one year before making her mistress of Babylon;
meanwhile she could learn the ethic customs of the country.
“ Now Blancefloer is in a strange country” (v. 735). She was so distressed at the
loss of Floris that she didn't know what to do. She lamented her misery in long monologues.
She couldn't give up her love, although she realized she was not fit for Floris ,
because of his high birth. The ladies who beheld her sadness tried to comfort her
as good as possible, but it seemed to be a fruitless attempt.
The citizens who had sold Blancefloer returned and handed the king the generous amount
and the presents they had received for the girl. However the queen was not happy;
she feared for the return of Floris and his compelling questions. She thought one
had to build a tomb of marble and crystal, handsomely wrought with silver and gold.
They would tell Floris it was the grave of his beloved. Necessary masons and goldsmiths
were then summoned and they started building the construction under a tree, in front
of a monastery. It was a miraculous grave. There was not a single creature that wasn't
portrayed on it: birds in the air, snakes, lions and other animals and fish that
swim in rivers and in the sea. Expensive gemstones were applied.
At the head of the grave they put a colourful marble sculpture in a way it always
kept its hand in the direction of the sun, even when it was cloudy. In the middle
of the tombstone two golden statues were constructed which represented the children.
One looked like Floris and the other was a good likeness of his beloved. Blancefloerhad a red golden rose in her hand which she held in front of Floris' face and Floris
did exactly the same with a lily. Additionally there were tubes on the grave where
the wind blew through. The wind blew the statues in motion so that it seemed the
lovers kissed. When the wind died down, the statues stood still and gave each other
a loving look. It seemed as if they were really alive. A wonderful tree was planted
in front of the tomb. Its branches bloomed all year round. It was an ebony tree.
Its flowers were red and white. Its wood was incombustible and its leaves gave the
sweetest scent one has ever smelled. At the foot of the grave there was a fragrant
turpentine tree. On the left and on the right there were balsam trees from which
perfumed oil was dripping. They spread such a wonderful fragrance that bystanders
thought they were in paradise. In the trees birds sang throughout the year. When
two courtly lovers came nearby, they couldn't do otherwise than as showing their
love: that was the effect of the birds' singing. However when a villager or a fool
came in the neighbourhood, he immediately fell asleep.
The tomb was beautifully decorated with many different precious stones that had magical
qualities. On the frame of the tomb golden letters could be seen, with the following
At the bottom of this grave rests Blancefloer
who faithfully loved the beautiful esquire Floris.
THE RETURN OF FLORIS
When Floris returned to the royal court he immediately asked for his beloved. No
one answered him. He got worried and went to Blancefloer's mother. Although she initially
refused to answer, she finally confessed her daughter died. Floris lost consciousness,
because of his deep sorrow. Her mother cried it out and everyone gathered. At his
request he was taken to the grave when he came round. On seeing the laughing children
figurines he fainted three times in succession. Then he laid down in front of the
children and cried and complained at length about his loss.
He called upon the death to come for him too. He wanted to take his own life so
that he could be united in Paradise with his beloved. He took a case and pulled out
a golden stylus that Blancefloer had given him when he had left for Montorië. He
wanted to stab into his heart but his mother tore the pen out of his hand and spoke
to him severely:” If you commit suicide you won't end up in Paradise where Blancefloer
is , but in the dark depth where Biblis and Dido fulfil the farthest corners of hell
with their complaints in eternal search of their beloved for whom they committed
The queen went to her husband to give the matter some further careful thought. He
did not feel strongly about it but his wife succeeded in convincing him that they
could not lose their one and only child. The queen told Floris the truth. She let
the gravestone lift to prove that the grave was empty. Joyfully Floris wanted to
look for Blancefloer as soon as possible.
Floris was sad as well as happy. He was sad because he couln't appreciate the cunning
of his parents at all and he was happy because Blancefloer was still alive. When
the king saw that Floris couldn't bring down his intention of going in search of
his beloved he wanted to help him with anything he had in his power. But he warned
him to proceed thoughtfully and to disguise himself “because true love requires much
cleverness”. v 1430
Floris wanted to travel as a merchant. He would take twelve pack horses with him:
three loaded with silver and gold, three with money, two with exclusive cloth and
four with grey and black fur. In addition he took twelve servants and twelve squires
with him, a steward, the king's chamberlain and the merchants who had sold Blancefloer.
When Floris said goodbye the king gave him his favourite horse as a present. It was
an animal which one could find nowhere: one side was white, the other red. Moreover
it was born with various flowers on its head.
Also the harness is described in detail. It was all very beautiful and really precious.
Moreover the king gave him golden spurs which he had always used himself. Floris'
mother gave him a ring with magical power. As long as Floris would wear the ring,
no person, animal or thing could harm him. And the one who was looking for something
in a persistent way, would finally find it.
Then the painful farewell followed: especially the queen kissed him about ten times
. They feared never to see Floris again, which indeed would happen.
LOOKING FOR THE BELOVED
On advice of his chamberlain Floris drove to the harbour where Blancefloer had gone
aboard with the merchants. There they found lodging with a citizen who used to accomodate
merchants more frequently.
The servants were instructed to go to the market to buy food and drink; they brought
the most expensive food they could find, as Floris had ordered it. The meal was festive,
the wine flowed and the members of Floris' company soon forgot their fatigue. They
felt like in a St.- Martin's inn. They laughed and talked about all sorts of things,
but Floris could only think of Blancefloer. He was sighing and really lost in deep
thought. The innkeeper's wife suspected him of not being a merchant and spoke to
him. She told him that a while ago a young woman had stayed at the inn, in the company
of merchants; she was as sad as he was and what was more: the young woman resembled
him. Her name was Blancefloer and she was taken to Babylon. On hearing that name
Floris got so confused that he pushed a goblet of wine over with his knife. As a
compensation Floris offered the landlady a golden goblet because now he knew where
he had to proceed. Merrily Floris treated everyone abundantly to wine.
The next day it was rising tide and the wind blew favourably, so that Floris and
his company could sail to Babylon. He asked the captain of the ship to bring him
ashore as soon as they had reached the town; for in about thirty days there was a
where all the monarchs of the emir would be present. This event promised to deliver
a clientele for his merchandise of scarlet and silk garments.
After eight days with full sail they had reached a town, situated on a four days'
drive from Babylon. Floris was happy when he set foot ashore in a country where
hopefully he would find Blancefloer.
He spent the night with a rich man who was the owner of the ship that had transported
Blancefloer from Spain.
The inn had an abundance of food and drink, also “ verken vleesch ende renderijn”
(v 1844 pork and beef). Before having the opportunity to have lunch Floris made
aquaintance with “enen quaden sede” (v 1853) : a bad habit of the country : through
his official the emir demanded a high import tax on his merchandise.
During dinner Floris was again in deep thought. When the host asked why he didn't
eat anything he told him that a while ago some Spanish merchants had been staying
overnight at his inn, with a sad lady in their company. She was called Blancefloer
who they brought to Babylon. For this good news Floris donated his host a brand
new scarlet coat and a silver goblet. That night Floris dreamed that he was lying
in the arms of his beloved.
The next morning he was so disappointed when he realized it was only a dream. The
journey continued for a few more days until in the evening they arrived at a wide,
fast-flowing water, called Fire. Beyond the water there was a town: Monflijs. Floris
called the ferryman by means of an ivory horn that was fastened on a post.
The man saw his sad mood and associated his grief to that of a young woman who had
also sailed across about three months ago. Merchants sold her to the emir of Babylon
for a lot of money. The company spent the night at the friendly ferryman's. The next
morning Floris asked him if he could help him to find accommodation in Babylon. The
good man advised him to appeal to the bridgeman, who was his partner. Outside the
town there was a wide river over which a bridge was built; tollage was imposed. The
ferryman gave Floris a ring which was an identifying mark as a guarantee for help
AT THE BRIDGEMAN'S
The bridgeman Daris and his wife Licoris welcomed Floris and gave him shelter. Now
that he had arrived at his destination, Floris overcame with doubt. In a highly agitated
monologue with constantly changing moods he decided to stay- despite the danger to
life- and to do everything he could to liberate Blancefloer. For quite a long time
he was torn between two minds: vv 2149-2153
What fear forbad him to do, was exactly what love ordered him. Love made him brave
and filled his heart with courage. “ Stay here” love whispered. It was fear that
compelled him to save his life and to go back home to become happy there.
The bridge keeper noticed Floris' distress but he carried on his role of a caring
merchant. When after the meal Floris let fetch the cup with which Blancefloer was
paid and he saw portrayed how Paris abducted Helena, it was all too much for him.
He started weeping abundantly and the landlady suspected him -because of his resemblance
with Blancefloer- either to be her brother or her lover. Thereupon Floris dropped
his mask and revealed the true reason of his journey.
According to Daris Blancefloer's liberation was a highly dangerous, even impossible
task. The emir was allmighty. Deceit nor power nor magic could benifit. Moreover,
the place where Blancefloer was staying was almost unattainable. Babylon was protected
by a thick circular wall, 27 fathems high. There were no less than 33 steal gates
and an equal amount of towers. The city where people were partying throughout the
year, had the highest towers one had ever beheld. They were all guarded by seven
hundred mighty knights. But the circular tower in the middle of the town exceeded
all the others: it was a hundred fathems high and carved out of red marble. On top
of the spire there was a precious apple which was topped by a ruby. It sparkled so
brightly that even at night it illuminated the whole town.
The tower consisted of four floors. The floors were made of pure marble and had no
other support than a crystal pillar in the middle that went up right through each
floor; therethrough a clear fountain squirted water up to the top floor via an ingenious
system. Blancefloer was staying on the top floor; she and about 140 companions had
superb, separate rooms. The doors were made of hard-wearing ebony; the window frames
were of myrrh, a type of wood that spread a lovely scent. No fly, no mosquito or
any other insect could come through the windows to bother the ladies. Because so
many ladies were staying there the tower was called “ der jonckfrouwen tor” (the
The tower guard was so malicious that no one dared to approach the tower, unless
he had a good reason to do so. In addition each floor was guarded by four cruel,
armed men; sorcery made sure they were kept awake and they were vigilant both night
It was a habit of the emir to keep a particular woman precisely during one year.
As beautiful as she was, after a year she was beheaded in front of all vassals, so
that no one else still could possess her. Then he summoned all the women to the tower,
to an enclosed garden through which a river flowed that came from Paradise. By the
way, the exceptional beauty of nature reminded one of Paradise. Throughout the year
the garden was in full bloom and the birds sang uninterruptedly. In the middle of
that magnificent garden a fountain rose and above it a tree grew. All the women had
to walk past the fountain: when the water was staying clear the lady was still a
virgin; when the water was clouding the woman coloured blood-red which meant she
was no longer a virgin. The girl on whom a flower from the tree fell was the emir's
chosen one for the following year. But he cheated because if there was a girl that
was enjoying his preference, he made sure the flower fell on her.
Within a month the emir would summon his nobles by means of his sorcery to celebrate
his wedding. Daris had heard that the emir fell in love with Blancefloer and he would
indicate her as his favourite beloved. He was even ready to keep her all his life
and to end his terrible custom. Floris begged his host for advice. Daris thought
it would be a good idea for Floris to pose as an architect who wanted to build a
similar tower in his own country.
“When the tower watchman will hear of those ambitious plans he'll drop his glimness
and invite you to a game of chess. If you win you'll have to return his own stake
and yours, but afterwards you'll have to raise the stakes systematically. Meanwhile
take your goblet with you because he' ll want to possess it. Finally give him the
goblet as a present, as a sign of your friendship. He' ll then promise you fidelity
and will be helpful to achieve your goal.”
AT THE TOWER WATCHMAN'S
The next morning, accompanied by three squires Floris drove to the tower and there
he pretended to take measurements. Furiously the watchman came upon him but when
he saw Floris' rich appearance and when he heard about his ambitious plans, he soon
acted calmly. He invited him for a game of chess. Floris was willing to do so on
one condition: it should be a big bet. It was set at one hundred golden coins. Floris
won but gave the watchman – to his surprise- his own stake and the watchman's.
The next day there was the same scenario with twice the stake. On the third day Floris
brought his golden goblet and redoubled the stake again. It was an excellent game
but Floris succeeded in checkmating his opponent with his bishop. Again Floris gave
both their stakes to the gatekeeper who was very upset and wanted to play again,
the goblet being the stake. Floris refused. The tower watchman invited him to his
home for a meal. He was pondering about how he could get hold of the goblet. He even
wanted to buy it for a thousand gold marks, but Floris gave it as a present to win
his friendship. In the garden the tower watchman expressed his faith towards Floris
and secretly he became his servant.
Now that he was sure of the guard's help, he confessed his plans. The guard realized
Floris had lead him up the garden path but nevertheless he decided to help him. Within
three days Floris had to return; it was on May 1st. He would pick the first flowers
and together with Floris, hidden in a flowerbasket, he would let them bring to the
tower. Floris was deliriously happy because he would see his beloved. What might
happen afterwards let him cold. The watchman was terrified but he let fill several
baskets with a wealth of columbines, lilies, roses and violets.
At last it was 1st May. As agreed Floris was wearing a red coat because he didn't
want to attract attention in account of his clothes between the red roses. He was
hidden in the flowerbasket ! The tower watchman put a wreath of roses on Floris'
head. Then he ordered to bring the basket with roses to the highest floor of the
tower, as a present for Blancefloer. Two strong servants climbed up the crystal pillar
and reached the top floor, but by mistake they put the basket in the room next to
Blancefloer's. It was Clarijs' room. She was German and a good friend of Blancefloer.
Their rooms were next to each other and connected by a communicating door.
In the morning and in the evening both girls were on duty in the emir's bedroom.
Lady Clarijs chose a rose from the basket and Floris, under the illusion it was Blancefloer,
jumped out of the basket. The lady was terrified, screamed and made such an awful
lot of noise that all other ladies came up to her. Floris crept again into the basket
and the shocked lady came to herself. She remembered she had heard Blancefloer talking
about her Spanish friend. She invented an excuse: a butterfly had flown from the
flowers onto her face which was the reason of her shouting. Then all the ladies went
back to their rooms. Clarijs closed the door and went to Blancefloer. She urged her
to come and watch the flowers. This proposal elicited only complaints from Blancefloer
and even the intention to commit suicide before marrying the emir. However Clarijs
insisted; meanwhile Floris had turned out from the basket again. Then an incredible
moment followed: the two lovers met and were unable to say something. First they
came walking up to each other silently and embraced. Then they clung to each other,
kissed and hugged so longlasting, that you could have covered more than one mile
in the same time. When they finally stopped kissing they smiled silently.
The beloved ones asked Clarijs not to betray them, which she solemnly promised. They
would share food and drink. Blancefloer took Floris to her room; they were blissfully
happy and told each other about their experiences.
CAUGHT IN THE ACT
Clarijs did everything she could to hide the fortune of the young couple. But the
wheel of Fortuna kept turning mercilessly. From the regained happiness she would
throw the lovers again into deep misery.
One morning Clarijs woke up when the day had already progressed. Blancefloer hardly
reacted to her friend's calling and dozed off again, because she felt very sleepy.
Clarijs went to the emir on her own. He was astonished not to see Blancefloer. Clarijs
told him Blancefloer had a good excuse, because all night long she had been praying
for his well-being. That was all right for the emir.
Another morning they were late again. Clarijs called Blancefloer but Floris held
her close to him. They kissed and embraced each other till they fell asleep again.
When Clarijs arrived at the emir's alone, he got suspicious and ordered his chamberlain
to have a look and to find out where Blancefloer was. The chamberlain had not seen
Clarijs at the emir's and he went to Blancefloer's room; he saw two people blissfully
in bed, but he thought it was Clarijs and Blancefloer. When the emir heard about
this, he got aware of the deceit. With bare sword he hurried to the upper floor
and saw the two children in bed, most deeply embraced. Because he also doubted he
let them bare their breast and discovered furiously that one of them was a man. He
was about to kill them when the two youngsters woke up with a start, thinking their
final hour had come. The emir felt deeply hurt. His honour, his authority and his
love had been harmed. He cursed Blancefloer as a whore. In a rage he called Floris
to an account before killing them. Floris could only confess their mutual love but
he begged not to be executed without a judgement being pronounced. The emir admitted.
The annual holiday had come on which a new wife for the emir was chosen. All the
leading figures of the empire had gathered in the hall where the knights normally
met. The interior was exceptionally beautiful. Neither in Thebe nor in Troy such
a precious palace had ever been built. At the golden entrance gate there were strange
scenes: at the top one saw the sky and down one could see the earth; in between a
bright light was shining. Around the earth there was the sea. On earth one saw people
and animals, mountains, valleys, rivers and woods. One could not imagine a single
living creature that was not depicted there.
When everyone was seated the process began. The emir gave a full account and appealed
to his subjects to revenge the indignity that had been done to him. Everyone wanted
vengeance and wanted to condemn the children to the most cruel death. King Alfages
however reprimanded the excited crowd for the shouting; the accused ones should been
given the opportunity to tell their truth. But the proud Arabian king Gaifier required
an immediate execution; after all the children had been caught in the act. Everyone
agreed. The two children were fetched. They constantly gave each other a meaningful
look and they started to get deep compassion for each other. Floris took all the
blame and hoped the emir would spare Blancefloer; he gave her the ring which would
protect her from death. But Blancefloer took the blame as well and refused the ring.
During the loving quarrel that followed, the ring fell on the ground. Meanwhile the
lovers continued arguing about the possibility of dying first.
The two young people were led towards the emir. No one had ever seen neither such
a beautiful man- more beautiful than Absalom- nor such a graceful lady. All the people
at the meeting were impressed by such a lot of beauty, but the emir stayed firm.
He let them undress and ordered to tie them up firmly and lead them to a stake outside
Then the duke came with the ring for the emir; he was crying and kneeled. He told
him what he had heard of the beloved couple while they were coming down from the
stairs and led into the hall. This intrigued the emir and he wanted to hear their
story himself. Floris pleaded to let Blancefloer live: she was not to blame. From
her side Blancefloer begged to take away her life and to save his. When the emir
personally wanted to behead them, they both stuck out their neck to be killed first.
The emir was overwhelmed by emotion and by his love for Blancefloer. His sword fell
on the ground. At that moment everyone chose the children's side. Now the duke with
the ring addressed the assembly and argued that the emir's honour was more suited
with forgiveness than with a crude act of revenge. Moreover he would not have committed
the sin of manslaughter. Everyone agreed and also the emir appreciated the new advice.
He wanted to follow it on condition Floris would tell him how he had got into the
tower. But Floris refused because he didn't want to betray anybody. Again the emir
inflamed with anger and refused to grant mercy. Then a bishop stepped forward and
pleaded to forgive all those people who had cooperated with Floris. « Everyone agreed:
it would be a very noble deed to grant mercy to everyone in this matter.” v 496)
The emir did no longer want to go against the wishes of his subjects. He forgave
the beloved couple and all those who had helped him.
The two young people were overjoyed about it and now Floris could tell his story,
without any restriction. The story impressed the emir, who even had to laugh at it
when he heard how Floris had been carried upstairs in the basket. Then the noble
emir asked Floris to take a seat beside him and he gave him Blancefloer's hand. The
lovers fell down at the emir's feet. He kissed them and let them stand up again.
A MAGNIFICENT MARRIAGE
As is customary in his country the emir dubbed Floris. Clarijs became the emir's
wife for the rest of his life. In the presence of his subjects, he let her crown
as a queen. Then he attended Blancefloer to church to celebrate Floris' and Blancefloer's
wedding. There were a lot of musicians playing stringed instruments: viols, harps
and guitars. Music sounded everywhere. Quality and abundance characterized the meal.
The emir chaired the celebration, next to him was Clarijs and on the other side the
wedding couple was seated. While they were enjoying the feast, two knights appeared
with sealed letters for Floris. They asked the young man to travel to Spain immediately
because both his parents had died. He had to govern the country urgently.
So from necessity Floris and Blancefloer had to leave, overloaded with gold and silver
which the emir granted them generously. Once they were back in Spain Floris and Blancefloer
were crowned king and queen. To express his love Floris let himself baptize together
with all his subjects. Afterwards he inherited Hungary and Bulgaria from an uncle.
His wife gave him a daughter: her name was Bertha with the big feet. She would become
the wife of the mighty king Pepijn. That was Charlemagne's father about whom a lot
more still could be told.
Floris has had to endure a lot for his beloved. He worked himself to death for her,
always with God's help. May God always be on our sides too. Amen