Table Fountains
Art From The Court Of Burgundy: 1364-1419

Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony

Table fountains, like these, were a particularly ostentatious way to serve wine. While Rafael Beltran Llavador (in Comedy and Perfomance in Tirant lo Blanc) remarks that the fountains described in Tirant lo Blanc seem to “exceed the limits of what was historically possible,” he notes “precedents like the courtyard of the Aljafería of Saragossa where, in 1414, there was 'a fountain of wood painted to resemble marble, whence flowed in three directions water and red and white wine.'”

In 2010, Hampton Court Palace unveiled a re-creation of a 16th century wine fountain.

We have re-created a Tudor wine fountain on the spot where Henry VIII's octagonal fountain stood in Base Court. We discovered the remains of a Tudor conduit or fountain during a major archaeological dig in 2008 and decided to re-create this piece of Tudor magnificence in Base Court. The design of our fountain is based on the wine fountain you can see in the Field of the Cloth of Gold painting which hangs in the Young Henry VIII exhibition at Hampton Court Palace. Our fountain flows with water every day but has actually been engineered, like Henry’s own wine fountains, to serve real wine should the need arise.

Mangu had at Caracarum a great palace … In the entry of this great palace, it being unseemly to bring in there skins of milk and other drinks, master William the Parisian [Guillaume Buchier] had made for him a great silver tree, and at its roots are four lions of silver, each with a conduit through it, and all belching forth white milk of mares. And four conduits are led inside the tree to its tops, which are bent downward, and on each of these is also a gilded serpent, whose tail twines round the tree. And from one of these pipes flows wine, from another cara cosmos, or clarified mare's milk, from another bal, a drink made with honey, and from another rice mead, which is called terracina; and for each liquor there is a special silver bowl at the foot of the tree to receive it. Between these four conduits in the top, he made an angel holding a trumpet, and underneath the tree he made a vault in which a man can be hid. And pipes go up through the heart of the tree to the angel. In the first place he made bellows, but they did not give enough wind. Outside the palace is a cellar in which the liquors are stored, and there are servants all ready to pour them out when they hear the angel trumpeting. And there are branches of silver on the tree, and leaves and fruit. When then drink is wanted, the head butler cries to the angel to blow his trumpet. Then he who is concealed in the vault, hearing this blows with all his might in the pipe leading to the angel, and the angel places the trumpet to his mouth, and blows the trumpet right loudly. Then the servants who are in the cellar, hearing this, pour the different liquors into the proper conduits, and the conduits lead them down into the bowls prepared for that, and then the butlers draw it and carry it to the palace to the men and women.

William of Rubruck's Account of the Mongols, 1254

See Stefan's Florilegium for additional discussion of table fountains.