When looking at instrument families, you can start to separate them by longevity.  Few instrument families have been around as long as the guitar family.  While some experts go back to the bowl-harps of the Egyptians, I do not.  Bowl harps are bowl harps, lutes are lutes, but the guitar as an instrument different from these other strummed instruments does go back to just pre-Christian times, with a Roman instrument we know existed as early as 200 B.C.  Through small improvements, into the Middle Ages, we reach the Citole and it's subfamily, then the Cittern and it's relatives, then the Gittern and it's offshoots, then finally the Guitar and it's variants.  Each evolution was not a technological redesign, like the jump from fyddle to viol, but it was a gradual polishing of the instrument into what we have today.  And a 14th century Citole is closer to a modern Guitar than a 14th century fyddle is to a modern Violin. 

One of the features that is most useful on a modern guitar is the truss rod.  This allows a long neck to be kept straight and playable.  Without the truss rod the neck would have to be shorter and stockier.  But in some citole, this problem with neck warp was taken care of by making a very thick longer neck, and then removing the wood from the middle, leaving a slot for the thumb and two thinner necks.  This is the style of citole I prefer to build, as it provides a scale length more familiar to modern guitar players, and still falls within period in design.

We base our instruments on archaeological evidence, historical art and written documentation, but we do not replicate these instruments.  Instead, we choose to take what we know from these sources and our own experience, mix in the imagination of the customer, occasionally add in a drop of technological magic, and create what a citole builder of this era would have created, a unique piece for his client. 
So drop us a message or give us a call.  We promise, we won't charge to answer your questions.

Example of one of my citole

Cantigas Style

One of the best references early period builders have is the E Codex of the Cantigas de Santa Maria written in the mid 1200s.  There are many illustrations in this manuscript of musicians playing lots of different instruments.  This Citole is designed around some of the more common features shown in these illustrations, a half holly leaf body, a moderately long neck, and a size similar to a modern mandola.  This example has five strings in individual courses, over a long thumbslot neck with bone frets and a flat peghead. Citole had many stringing configurations, the most common were 4, 5, or 6 courses, either single, double, or some combination of both.  This is a surprisingly loud and dynamic instrument.  

Warwick Castle
Example of one
                of my citole

The Warwick Castle citole is the single remaining instrument of the period.  It was originally made in the late 1200s and was later converted into a fiddle.  It is a perfect example of the technology of the time, a large carved body which was originally fitted with a flat lightly braced soundboard, a short neck with a thumbslot, end mounted tuning pegs, strung with six strings in four courses.  This example is based on the Warwick instrument, but has an extended neck.  Strung in six strings in four courses (the bass courses are doubled) with horn plate frets, this is a light and lively instrument.