Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Maiden Garlands.....

Also known as Crants (from the German kranz- which means wreath or garland)

Defination: A garland carried before the bier of a maiden and hung over her grave.

Made as a funerary memento, as a token and symbol of
"triumphant victory over the lusts of the flesh."
These were carried in the funeral procession or placed on the coffin.
Afterwards they were hung inside the church,
sometimes over the pew where the maiden might have
usually sat.
Although usually made for a young woman that had died a tragic
death and still remained a virgin, in some places they were also
made for young men.
I also found a reference of a crants being made for a younger child.
The earliest garland known to exist (1680)
can be found at St. Marys' Church, Beverley, Yorkshire, England.
The most recent was made in 1973,
and is found amongst the 43 Virgin Crowns at Abbotts Ann.

The garlands were usually constructed from two hoops
of lightweight wood, with bands crossing and attatched
at right angles, forming a sort of "crown"
These were then wrapped with paper or sometimes cloth.
At the "joins" there were sometimes fastened very intricate rosettes made from paper. 

Hanging from the center of the crown you could often find a handkerchief, or a pair of gloves,
either real or made of paper.
The name of the person being remembered was often written on the glove or handkerchief.......
sometimes the date of death was included, or perhaps some bible verses.
The glove is evidently a survival of the custom to throw down the gauntlet
 as a challenge to anyone who might dispute the charactor of the deceased.

A couple of literary mentions of crants:

Re: Ophelias' burial...................
"Yet here she is allowed her virgin crants,
her maiden strewments".

Shakespeare-Hamlet (act 5, scene 1


"Well, here I am to-night, hoping for sleep,
and lying like Ophelia in the play,
with "virgin crants and maiden strewments".
Dracula.....(Bram Stoker)

And also..................

"A chaplet of white flowers is borne before the corpse
by a young girl nearest in age, size and resemblance ,
and is afterward hung up in the church
over the accustomed seat of the deceased.
These chaplets are sometimes made of white paper, in imitation
of flowers, and inside them is generally a pair of white gloves.
They are intended as emblems of the purity
of the deceased and the crown of glory which she
has received in heaven.          
.....................Washington Irving

Abbots Ann Crowns

Although widespread in England and Wales
the custom of Maidens garlands (crants)
was also practiced in parts of Europe,
for example France and Germany.

An example of what one might have looked
like when it was made.

I had never heard of this custom before,
and found it very interesting.
Some of these are in a state of decay, being very old,
and some are in the process of being gently restored.
Some of them apparently had some color on them when made but time and dust has
made them it's own color.

Have you ever heard of a crants?

I am taking the liberty of creating a crants of my own
partly as an art/history exploration project,
 but mostly in memory of a member of our family. 

Stay tuned................

Some links to explore:



  1. This is a new one on me...and I love it. I've seen beaded funeral pieces, memory jars, etc., but never anything like this. In your travels, have you purchased an old one and where did you first learn about these? You've got me intrigued for more.

    1. I came across a reference to them somewhere and started searching online. I didn't find that much,mostly what I shared here.I think they are an English thing. Doubt if you would find any in the States. The few of them that still exist are probably hanging in very old churches in England and Wales.(in various states of fragility) There are some photos online of a few.If you or anyone else finds more information on them please share. The fact that they were mentioned in literary works makes me think that at one time they were fairly common.

    2. I've not heard of these either, though will ask my Welsh husband if he has seen them. I'm really loving this post, and if you don't mind I'd like to share it on my blog!

      I'm new to your blog but am going to be sticking around ;)

  2. Woww Gayle.. I've never heard of those before... thanks for sharing... can't wait to see your project... :)

  3. This was so interesting!!! I have never heard of this and have read some of the passages you posted but never stop to understand what a crant was...that will have to change!! LOL I can't wait to see the one you make... Thanks for sharing this...I love pieces of history like helps explains many of the customs we see but do not know the origins that set these customs in motion... I wouldn't be surprised to see these in Canada as well coming from France... Wonderful post!

  4. Well researched. It will make yours that much more meaningful. I can almost feel you making it, thinking about it. Healing.

  5. Very interesting gayle, leave it to you to discover these treasures. Do you have any hair wreaths? I can't wait to see what you come up with.

  6. I love them as well, the having of mementos for the deceased, but anything pertaining to virgin ruffles my feathers(unless it's olive oil)(and not Popeye's Olive Oil) anything on chastity belts...I think I saw one on pinterest, gonna have to check that out again.

  7. Interesting post, Gayle! I've never heard of this before. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a lovely weekend!
    Gaby xo

  8. Gayle, thank you for coming over to my blog and leaving a comment. I just love this post...I'm a big history buff. I have never heard of crants and now you've sparked my curiosity...going to check out your links.

    I look forward to reading more and learning more. I especially love your photo of the squash blossom...that's an old one and priceless. I recently was given a smaller coral squash blossom and had to have more silver beads added to it...with the price of silver, the Navajos and other Native-American jewelers are having to cut back on the length of their necklaces. Also, the sell of coral will be discontinues since they have been overly harvested, however, as long as there is a market for it, there will always be the black market..sigh.

    Anyway, have a great weekend and again, thanks for coming by and I'll be signing up on your blog membeship.


  9. Wow. That's really interesting. I've never heard of this custom. How did you find out about it?

  10. No, I've never heard of a crant before now. How very very interesting. I particularly like how they hang a pair of gloves with one, giving it a personal touch. Well, I guess they have a personal touch regardless, don't they?
    I think I would like to make one also Gayle.

  11. I love to learn something new, especially from the the Elizabethan period. I can not wait to see your creation...seriously.
    Of all of the books I would think a crant would have been mentioned...but then again, I may have forgot.
    Thank you girlfriend♥♥♥

  12. Just fascinating. And beautiful, too. I am inspired to make something similar for my current altar. Gayle, thanks so much for sharing your find with us.

  13. These are just so beautiful! I've seen them before, but not with as many links as you have - thank you! I look forward to seeing what you create.

  14. I just discovered your blog and I love how you honored your aunt. I also have never heard of crantses before - probably just glossed over the reference in Hamlet. I wonder if they're related to clooties?? Thank you for posting. Very very touching...