Johannes von Narrenstein

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Johannes von Narrenstein in display.jpg
Johannes von Narrenstein in display
Resides: Shire of Mynydd Seren
Status: Active in Midrealm
Awards: Order of Precedence
Johannes von Narrenstein device.jpg
Ermine, a Bohemian love knot azure within a bordure gules, and for augmentation on a chief Or a dragon vert and a tyger azure both passant respectant maintaining between them a mask of comedy gules.
Award & Office Badges
Companion of the Order of the LaurelCompanion of the Order of the MauncheCompanion of the Order of the Silver CrescentAward of ArmsQueen's Order of Courtesy


Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia, Teutonic Knights

I, Johannes von Narrenstein, was born on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, in the village of Neuern/Nyrsko, in the kingdom of Bohemia, in 1368.

A Bohemian love-knot, which I bear on my device; from the Psalter section of the Wenceslas Bible, Austrian National Library Cod. 2759

Into the World of Letters

My childhood was typical of any among the German-speaking peasants along the Czech border with Bavaria at that time. After my father died and my mother remarried, I found myself disinherited by older step-brothers. My uncle Andreas helped send me to school in nearby Domazlice. From there I went to university at Prague – the big city, for which I was completely unprepared, and I fled from my debts in company with a rather abusive wandering scholar. I left his company near Utrecht, and joined the Brethren of the Common Life, to whom I owe so much, especially my love of books and book-making. They trained me as a scribe, and sent me to university in Cologne, and after a year there I began my career in chanceries. I served in various chanceries in the Rheinland, and received arms by letters patent in 1396 (Laurel). I was at work in Emperor Ruprecht’s chancery in 1402 when he went on his Italian campaign; I accompanied him as herald. While we were besieging Brescia I met Anna Ludovica, an educated lady of Padua. I was embarrassed at the paucity of my knowledge compared to hers, and upon returning to Heidelberg I worked gain my degree at the university; in 1408 I became at last a master of arts.

Medieval Vienna; detail from "Flight from Egypt" ca. 1470, by the Master of the Vienna Schottenaltar,

The World Beyond Letters

But for many reasons I decided against a career in the Church, and I took up an opportunity to serve Friedrich von Hohenzollern as an agent in the Mark of Brandenburg, which Friedrich would eventually receive from King Sigismund as a fief. Seeing that, as a chancery scribe, I carried little weight, I signed up as a mercenary gunner with the Teutonic Knights for the Polish campaign of 1410. I was ransomed after Tannenberg, and spent my last two more years in the Mark holding greater respect. In return for my service Friedrich recommended me to Sigismund, who in turn appointed me to his chancery, charged with the accounts for the royal artillery. I taught for a while at the short-lived University of Obuda, but teaching was not my strong point. I married Anna Ludovica in 1416. My last task for Sigismund was helping manage the wedding of Duke Albrecht of Austria to Sigismund’s daughter. After this Anna and I settling down in Vienna, where I run a book-painting workshop. We do work for Vienna’s university and its monasteries, for Sigismund and for Albrecht, and for the city of Vienna. Recently I travelled to the Rheinland to help with the establishment of Habsburg administration in Alsace. Lately, because of Hussite raids, I am now and then away with the city militia. Anna and I have no children; she has never complained, but I wonder now and then how we’ll get by in our old age without them. You can only expect so much from an apprentice.


  • Order of the Dragon’s Heart (kingdom service award) (Midrealm), 10/2017.
  • Award of the Purple Fret (kingdom service award) (Midrealm), 6/2017 and 5/2009.
  • Augmentation of Arms (Midrealm), 9/2012.
  • Order of the Golden Maple Leaf (kingdom arts award) (Artemisia), 2/1989.
  • Order of the Silver Crescent (kingdom service award) (Eastrealm), 8/1984.
  • Order of the Laurel (patent of arms), 10/1983.
  • Order of the Moon (baronial arts award, Carolingia, Eastrealm), 4/1983.
  • Queen’s Order of Courtesy (Eastrealm), 4/1982.
  • Order of the Maunche (kingdom-level arts award) (Eastrealm), 2/1982.
  • Award of Arms (Eastrealm), 11/1981.

Offices & Positions

  • Herald, Shire of Mynydd Seren (Bloomington IN), 2005-08 and since January 2018.
  • Deputy exchequer, Mynydd Seren, 2015-2016.
  • Exchequer, Shire of Mynydd Seren (Bloomington IN), 2012-14.
  • Minister of Arts and Sciences, Shire of Mynydd Seren (Bloomington IN), 2008-12.
  • Seneschal, Shire of Cote du Ciel (Logan UT), 1988-89.
  • Exchequer, Shire of Cote du Ciel (Logan UT), 1987-89.
  • Herald, Canton of St. Pyr’s Well, Crown Province of Ostgardr (New York), 1985-87.
  • Head, East Kingdom Calligraphers Guild, 1985-87. As such, organized a scribal workshop taught by noted artist Sheila Waters, 1987.
  • Tyger Clerk of the Signet (kingdom office), East Kingdom, 1983-84.
  • Guildmaster, Calligraphers Guild, Barony of Carolingia (Boston MA), 1981-83.

Event Staff

(partial list)

  • Deputy to the Dean of Performing Arts Tent, Pennsics 42 through 46 (2013-17).
  • Historic Scroll Exhibit coordinator, SCA 50th Anniversary, 2015-2016.
  • Autocrat, Scheherazade’s Tourney and Feast, Mynydd Seren (Bloomington IN), 10/2010.
  • Scroll exhibit arranger, Midrealm 40th Anniversary, Ayreton (Chicago IL), 10/2009.
  • Autocrat, Christmas Party, Shire of Mynydd Seren (Bloomington IN), 12/1997.
  • Autocrat, Spring Event, Cote du Ciel, 3/1989.
  • Event crew, Medieval University, Shire of Cote du Ciel (Logan, UT), 2/1988.
  • Scroll exhibit arranger, Aspilogia Pennsica I (Known World Heraldic Symposium), Barony of Middle Marches (Columbus OH), 7/1984.
  • Autocrat, Peasant Event, Barony of Carolingia (Boston MA), 5/1981.
  • Event crew at many other events in the Barony of Carolingia, the Crown Province of Ostgardr, the Shire of Cote du Ciel, and the Shire of Mynydd Seren.



Master Johannes von Narrenstein holdng the Codex.

Arts and Sciences – calligraphy and painting

  • Project manager, Calf-to-Codex, 2011-2016: to make a book by following medieval techniques. Designed stage sequence and timeline; enlisted personnel; initiated project; monitored and controlled progress of each group, and delivery prior to start of each stage; provided support (technical workshops, supplies) and communication (Facebook site, emails); closed project on schedule.
  • Guest lecturer, Double Wars 31 (Drachenwald), 5/2018; taught 4 classes on book arts.
  • Instructor, Parchment Making Workshop, Pennsic 46 (2017).
  • Midrealm Arts and Sciences champion, May-September 2012.
  • Painted group portrait of contributors for Known World Calendar, 1991.
  • Calligraphed chapter headers and example page (Batarde hand), for the Known World Handbook, second edition, 1985.
  • Designed and produced calendars for the Guild of Calligraphers, Barony of Carolingia (Boston MA) and East Kingdom Calligraphers Guild, 1981-85, and spear-headed their sale to raise money for these guilds.
  • Calligraphed and illuminated several hundred scrolls for East Kingdom, Artemisian, and Midrealm Signets over 35 years.
  • Taught book arts and commedia dell’arte at various SCA venues over 35 years.

Arts and Sciences – theater work

  • Member, Known World Players Advisory Board, since 2011.
  • “Henry V” (Shakespeare), Known World Players, Pennsic 40 (2011).
  • “Much Ado About Nothing” (Shakespeare), Known World Players, Pennsic 39 (2010).
  • Director and performer, “I Ciarlieri” commedia dell’arte troupe, Mynydd Seren, 2004.
  • Performer with “I Scandali” commedia dell’arte troupe, Barony of Flaming Gryphon (northern Cincinnati OH), 2003-2012.
  • “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Shakespeare), Barony of Carolingia (Boston MA), 1982.

Arts and Sciences – music

  • Member, Mynydd Seren Recorder Consort (Bloomington IN), 2011-14.
  • Member, Crucis Chorus, Shire of Mynydd Seren (Bloomington IN), 2006-07.
  • Member, Ostgardr area recorder consort (New York City area), 1984-87.
  • Member, Carolingian Recorder Consort, Barony of Carolingia (Boston MA), 1979-84.
  • Member, Carolingian Jongleurs, Barony of Carolingia (Boston MA), 1979-84.

Articles in SCA publications

  • “On Peasants.” Tournaments Illuminated v. 59 (summer 1981).
  • Editor, ITEM: Calligraphy Newsletter of the East Kingdom, 1983-84.
  • “Remedial Reading for Heralds.” Aspilogia Pennsica, v. II (Proceedings, Known World Heraldic Symposium), 1985.
  • “Banners from the Battle of Tannenberg” (co-author with Lothar von Katzenellenbogen). Proceedings (Known World Heraldic Symposium), 1995.
  • “Commedia dell’arte – a historical and practical outline.” Pale, arts issue, 6/2006.
  • “Medieval College ‘Diplomas:’ Determination Announcements at the University of Vienna.” Proceedings (Known World Heraldic Symposium), 2008.



  • Apprentice: Hroswitha von Schattenberg,
  • Apprentice: Maria de la Flor,
  • Apprentice: Arcana,
  • Apprentice: Symonne de la Fontaine
  • Other Assorted Apprentices


  • Apprentice: Mesterno Tyzes Sofia, OL
  • Apprentice: Rytsar Aleksei Dmitriev, OP
  • Apprentice: Baroness Ardis Bluemantle,
  • Apprentice: Dame Sarra Graeham,
  • Apprentice: Master Anton of Winteroak,
  • Apprentice: Mistress Aleksondra d'Accipitre
  • Apprentice: Baroness Paigan Crawford

Classes Taught

  • Presented on Calf to Codex, Known World Heraldic Symposium (Meridies), 2017.
  • “Making Shell Gold.” Pounce/Tournament of Chivalry, 9/2015.
  • “Heraldry of the Damned: Heraldic Devices of the Characters in Dante’s Inferno.” Bardic Roundhouse, Alderford/Cleftlands (Homeworth OH), most recently 6/2014
  • “Parchment making” (co-teacher). Royal University of the Midrealm, 10/2011.
  • “Arabic Calligraphy.” Scheherazade’s Tourney and Feast, Mynydd Seren, 10/2010.
  • “Painting with Medieval Pigments” (multi-part class), Pennsics 39 through 43.
  • “The Astrolabe.” Royal University of the Midrealm, 2/2009; Scheherazade’s Tourney and Feast, Mynydd Seren, 10/2010.
  • “The Medieval University.” Royal University of the Midrealm, 2/2009.
  • “Medieval College ‘Diplomas.’” Pots & Pens, Baile na Scholari (Normal IL), 11/2007.
  • “Universals.” Royal University of the Midrealm, 10/1997.
  • Co-taught classes on commedia dell’arte at the Royal University of the Midrealm.