A fork in the Palace of Grand Dukes of Lithuania

Fork, 17th century. Photo by Vytautas Abramauskas. National Museum, Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

In the Middle Ages, Lithuanians used spoons, their hands and knives to eat, but then the wife of Sigismund the Old, Bona Sforza, arrived and changed their habits forever. In her dowry chest, she had a fork. In the Middle Ages, clergymen called forks the tools of a devil because they signified antlers, but in the 16th century, when the Renaissance period thrived, fork were used in Italy when eating fruit, pasta or meat. An exhibition at the Palace of Grand Dukes of Lithuania displays one of the first forks in Lithuania – forks had only two tines in those days.

The new queen dictated fashion trends within the manor and soon you could see noblemen using forks at the table. Just imagine what it would look like if you brought your own fork on a visit! This was actually a common practice in the 16th century – table utensils were expensive, and many noblemen took their utensils with them in special cases made of leather and lined with velvet. A fork would be given only to the most honourable of guests.

Forks eventually became table decorations – they were made by skilled masters and decorated with family coats of arms, different patterns or monograms. The art of fork usage was revealed to the Swedes as well. It was introduced to foreigners by Sigismund Augustus’ sister Catherine, who was married to the brother of the King of Sweden, the Prince of Finland. By the way, their wedding was held in Vilnius at the Palace of Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

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