The tradition of the Minstrels' Court began back in 1204 when a ragged band of musicians and entertainers from Chester marched into Wales to save Earl Ranulf from a siege and thereafter gained his blessing and protection. There is a great legend around this. This tradition continued with their gathering at the church of St John the Baptist each midsummer for over 500 years until it died out in 1756. The tradition was revived back in 2008 by a group of musicians, re-enactors and community groups and has taken place each year since.
There are lots of living history displays in the church, recreating something of the bustling atmosphere of the medieval church where business transactions and meetings took place each day. Scribes sit beside weavers and traders, soldiers and knights mingle with pilgrims and gamblers. All the while music is performed by some of the finest medieval musicians in the land.
The church of St John the Baptist is surrounded by history, with the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre on one side, Grosvenor park on another, where a excavation is current in progress shedding light on lost buildings, and the river Dee to its rear. St John's is the oldest church in Cheshire and the city's original cathedral. Visitors can wander between huge Romanesque pillars and discover Saxon carvings alongside medieval effigies and even Civil War history. It's a very atmospheric place and the perfect setting for the Minstrels' Court.
As well as the eye-catching medieval characters, storytelling and puppet shows provide lots of interest for families. It's a free event too, making it a great day out for families.
At 1pm the minstrels leave St John's for a procession through the streets of the city, arriving back at the church at 1.30pm to collect their licences to perform in a recreation of the ancient ceremony.
Living history displays and demonstrations take place through the day in the church, along with informal music sessions in the porch. At the front of the church there are performances through the day. The approximate timings are below.
10.30 - Maranella - Cheshire based medieval music ensemble
11.00 - Storytelling - medieval tales from Cheshire and North Wales
11.30 - Medieval Puppet theatre
12.00 - Trouvere - one of the finest medieval music groups in Britain
12.30 - Dressing a Knight demonstration
13.00 - Procession of Minstrels through the city
13.30 - Licensing of Minstrels
13.45 - The Time Bandits - Chester based group mixing music from 15th-18th centuries.
14.30 - Doucette - Renaissance recorder group
15.30 - The Mulberry Tree - new music inspired by the Shakespeare 400 anniversary
16.00 - Maranella
There's so much to see, and it's all free. Hope to see some of you there!