Buckles, Boucles, Plaques-boucles, Paire de garniture de jarretiere

Because Merovingians didn’t have zippers or velcro, they had to find other ways to keep their clothes from falling off. Brooches (Fibule – fibula – fibulae) were often used to keep clothes together. Fibula came in many shapes and sizes. Belt, garter and shoe buckles were a bit more limited due to their function.

I will post later on fibula, but today let’s talk about buckles. In Merovingian times, buckles were functional items used on belts, to hold up leg garters, and to fasten shoes. They ranged from small utilitarian items to something like this trinket from Sutton Hoo, housed at the British Museum. It is 13.200 cm in length and 5.600 cm in width, weighing 412.7n grams.

Some examples of other fine buckles are the pieces found with Arnegunde (515/520 to  565/570), a Queen who’s grave was found in the Cathedral of Saint-Denis, just north of Paris. Recent conservation work has been completed on the garments, which is a while ‘nother post entirely. The jewelry and metalwork (les bijoux, Aregonde) are quite beautiful. The most commonly discussed are the belt buckle, long pin, two round brooches and earrings pictures here.

In the 2009 April/May issue of Histoire et Images Medievales, the results of the recent re-conservation are presented. An artist, Marquita Volken, has provided some drawing of how the buckles would have been used, both on the belt and the leg/shoes. Marquita was very helpful when I was trying to figure out my first Merovingian shoe (well, first ever actually). Here are her drawings. I highly recommend you get a copy of the publication and support these amazing efforts.


Reconstitution du ceinturon

There were two sets of small buckles found on Arnegunde. They seem to have come in sets of three parts: the claps, the facing plate(s), and the belt tip.

Again, here is an image produced by Marquita Volken in Histoire et Images, this time showing the leg garters and shoes. I’m not really clear on how the garters are going together, as it seems there is an extra set of belt tips of a larger and slightly more intricate design. If anyone wants to take a stab at translating the captions, feel free to do so in the comments.

Les jarretieres d'Aregonde (Source: Histoire et Images Medievales, 2009)

The Leg garters of Arnegunde (Paire de garniture de jarretiere). The buckles are fairly plain, but the garter tips have cast designs in an interlace pattern. These are made of silver.

Here is a sketch I made of the large pendant belt/garter tips. (I still am not sure which they were).

Sketch of belt/garter tips

The shoe set of Arnegunde

However, most of the buckles weren’t quite so bling-o-liscious. The following images give a better view on how buckles were put together.

In the following image (I need to find my source!), you can clearly see how the buckle is put together.



Raymond’s Quiet Press has a reproduction of these buckles and has helpfully provided an image of the back.I’m not sure how accurate this is, but it does give a good idea of one way to put the buckles together.






  1. Reply
    Diane October 12, 2011

    Little silver belt buckles and counter-plates, with their (belt loops, tongues?) secured calfskin thongs at the knee. The lower ends of these garters, crossed under the shoes without being held in place, were fastened thanks to another set of tiny belt buckles and counter plates, also in silver. Large zoomorphic silver strap ends, that were strictly decorative, were suspended by other thongs at the calves. This reconstruction confirms that which Michel Fleury and Albert France-Lanord had suggested, with the difference that the large silver zoomorphic strap ends did not correspond with the ends of a belt knotted over/on the cloak, but were suspended at the upper part of the garters, with a strictly decorative function.

    From the description, it looks like there were metal plates on each side of a garter, fastened to the thongs that wrapped around the legs and crossed under the shoes before being buckled. The garter itself was then wrapped around to the front of the shin and buckled. A separate, decorative thong with the big strap end was looped around the garter (and stitched?), then hung down the front, tucked under the garter buckle.

    In my excitement at the museum, I forgot to take a picture of the reconstruction on display; thanks for posting this.

  2. Reply

    […] sudden crushes (we’ve fall for the queen Arégonde, wife of Clotaire I, her story and elaborate apparel). From the artifacts of early Paleolithic to the delicately crafted golden jewels of Bronze Age, […]

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