Gittern (Accepted)

Gittern (Accepted)

A gittern is a stringed musical instrument, found from the end of the 13th Century until supplanted by the Renaissance guitar.  There has been a great deal of confusion about the gittern:  the name has been wrongly used to describe other instruments (e.g., the citole), and the gittern itself has been called other names (e.g., a mandora).  Such agreement as we can find among modern musicologists makes the gittern a smaller version of the round-backed lute, with the entire instrument, body and neck, carved from a single piece of wood.  The gittern had four strings (or courses of strings), and was played with a plectrum.  The illustration is taken from the figure in Amiens Cathedral, 1375 [Grove 9:907].

Very similar to the gittern, and adding to the confusion, was the 16th Century “cittern”:  a descendant of the citole, it had a flat back (unlike the gittern’s rounded back) and a somewhat longer, fretted neck.  Like the gittern, it had four courses of strings, and was played with a plectrum [Grove 5:877].

Both the gittern and the cittern have the same default orientation in Society heraldry:  affronty, with strings facing the viewer, and with neck to chief.  See also viol.

Thomas of St. John bears as a badge:  Argent, a gittern bendwise sinister sable.

Margaret Katheryn Cameron bears:  Ermine, in saltire a short sword and a cittern proper, overall a rosebud Or, stalked and leaved vert.

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