The Interesting History of Medieval Era Handbags

Before Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and Hermes, people pretty much crafted their own bags, such as the Reticules, Chatelaines, Girdles, and baskets in the 18th Century. But, have you ever wonder what kind of bags did they have before the Victorian Era? Wherein pockets are not yet craft?

If we are to root the origins of bags, there is not much actual evidence, especially in the earlier era of the Medieval Period. But indeed, handbags do exist. Fortunately, first handbag usage was found out through paintings and arts that were dated back ago in the previous Medieval Period. Some were found along with the body of the dead, dated from the Middle ages.

Medieval Period, as we all know, started at the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Middle age was also one of the tough eras where such difficulty –Not to mention the Black Death, and calamity was ever-present, and most people are busy working or going on a pilgrim. Bags in the years’ of 1453 onwards weren’t solely used for fashion, but also as a mere status symbol. Workers or laborers like shepherds and people who went on pilgrimages are the ones who usually use handbags to carry their food on a long day of fieldwork. With many things going on, people needed something that we now call handbags to carry or store items. Here are the handbags that were most commonly used back in the medieval era:

The Loculus –Carved on the Trajan’s Column


Loculus was like a typical satchel or bag. It was the Roman soldiers that used Loculus to carry and store foods, water, or weapons along with their Sarcina. It was made of calf leather, with crossed-diagonal straps held by a single ring and closed by a triangular flap.

A recreation of the Sarcina


It was typically carried by Roman Army’s Professional Infantrymen along with the Loculus. The Sarcina and Loculus were used to store the Soldier’s gears and necessities.

Soldier’s in this era was accustomed to bring slaves to carry their things or stuff for them. But later on, because of the reform by Gaius Marius, soldiers were banned from bringing slaves requiring them to take and get their supplies. Hence, calling them “Marius’ Mules.”

With this new practice, roman soldiers carry Sarcina along with the Loculus to reduce the load of their baggage trains.

Tasques or Hamondeys

These decorative and embroidered handbags were often designed and adorned with jewelry and with pictures of a man and woman in love.

Tasques or Hamondeys were not the usual handbags that laborers could use while they were on the fieldwork. These bags were status symbols used only by the elites, given as a wedding gift, and displayed to show the social status.

Almoner Purse

Almoner Purse is a simple coin purse that used to store and keep coins that are given to the poor as alms. It comes from the French word ‘aumonière,’ which means ‘almoner.’ It was usually an almoner, also known as the church officers, who give alms to the poor.

Swete Bagges

Swete Bags were used for the same purpose as pomanders. It is a handbag where a fragrant cotton ball, or with lavenders, or herb powders were placed. These pomander-like bags can be used to enhance the smell of pillowcases, clothes, or hanged on the girdle.


The Replica of The Papil Stone –depicting the use of handbags in the earlier era

Shoulder bags

Although both men and women were entitled to carry a bag for their belongings, it has a different take or depiction back then.

Shoulder leather bags were the usual bags carried when going on a long journey or pilgrim. Shoulder bags or satchels were usually used as book storage or carrier preferred by monks. Some field laborers used shoulder bags to carry tools for working on fields and sometimes used to bring products harvested from the area. However, in the former era, a woman seen carrying a handbag is perceived as a sorcerer that brings a magical charm hidden in her bag.