"The past five or six years have seen a massive rise in one particular area of medieval studies – an area that has the potential to give back a voice to the silent majority of the medieval population. New digital imaging technologies, and the recent establishment of numerous volunteer recording programmes, have transformed its scope and implications. The first large-scale survey began in the English county of Norfolk a little over six years ago. The results of that survey have been astonishing." [more inside]
X-Rays Reveal 1,300-Year-Old Writings Inside Later Bookbindings [The Guardian] The words of the 8th-century Saint Bede are among those that have been found by detecting iron, copper and zinc – constituents of medieval ink. Medieval manuscripts that have been hidden from view for centuries could reveal their secrets for the first time, thanks to new technology. Dutch scientists and other academics are using an x-ray technique to read fragments of manuscripts that have been reused as bookbindings and which cannot be deciphered with the naked eye. After the middle ages manuscripts were recycled, with pages pasted inside bindings to strengthen them. Those fragments may be the unique remains of certain works.
The Luttrell Psalter is a mid-14th century English illuminated manuscript containing a large number of illustrations of everyday life in medieval England. In 2008 the Psalter was adapted into a 20 minute short film for The Collection Museum in Lincoln, drawing on 35 scenes from the manuscript. There is also a blog describing the making of the film. [more inside]
"That’s all chivalry is: basic guidelines for how not to be a sack of shit. And as long as a sack of shit is not a good thing to be, chivalry will never die." Myths Retold (previously) clears up a few errors about chivalry. It's a handy guide to privilege, human decency, history, and Arthurian legend ("It turns out you’re not even allowed to see the grail if you thought about a boob once"). [more inside]
Geoffroi de Charny (c. 1300 – 19 September 1356) was a French knight and author of at least three works on chivalry. One of his works, Questions for the Joust, Tournaments and War consists of a series of open-ended questions regarding the law of tournaments and the proper conduct of war. The complete set of questions has been translated into English and made available online. [more inside]
Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index covers journal articles, book reviews, and essays in books about women, sexuality, and gender during the Middle Ages. [some pages may contain medieval nudity] [more inside]
The 10 worst misconceptions about medieval life that you would get from fantasy books debunks a number of fantasy-novel myths, inspired by this terrific Reddit thread where historians discuss high fantasy novel tropes [prev]. Some of the greatest misconceptions were around combat in the Middle Ages, which apparently included exotic weapons - like the scorpion bombs used in ancient warfare. [pdf] Also see the Medieval People of Color site to see some other dimensions of Middle Ages diversity that are often missing from fantasy novels. And, of course, a tip of the hat to the venerable and hilarious Tough Guide to Fantasyland.
Manuscript Miniatures, Effigies & Brasses, Armour in Art, and Aquamanilia are four online databases of medieval art. Together they comprise some 19,506 images. [more inside]
'Phisiologus dicit quod herinatius figuram habet porcelli lactentis. Hic deforis totus est spinosus. Sed tempore vindemiarum ingreditur in vineam, et ubi viderit uvam bonam, ascendit super vitem et exacinat uvam illam, ita ut cadant omnes racemi in terram. Deinde descendit et volutat se super illos ita ut omnes racemi figantur in spinis eius, et sic portat escam filiis suis.' -- By Obrazki nunu & Discarding Images (previously), based on this medieval bestiary.
The DMMapp (Digitized Medieval Manuscripts App) is a website that links to more than 300 libraries in the world. Each one of these contains medieval manuscripts that can be browsed for free. The DMMapp is a product of Sexy Codicology, an independent project focused on medieval illuminated manuscripts and social media. It maintains a great blog about medieval manuscripts, especially those that are available online.
Just how heavy and cumbersome was medieval armor? Who wore it? What did it look like? To find out, watch How to Mount a Horse in Armor and Other Chivalric Problems, an entertaining, informative, and deliciously snarky presentation by Dirk H. Breiding, assistant curator of the Department of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. [more inside]
Travel was always desirable to them / And they visited every continent … They considered travel and homeland synonymous / For them, every valley and desert was home. [more inside]
Before Game of Thrones (before Xena even), D&D geeks who wanted to see prime time TV shows with castles and swords and such were mostly out of luck. However, if one looks deep into the ranks of one-season-wonders, one will find the curious artifact from 1992 called Covington Cross. [more inside]
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville is a remarkable 14th Century book which tells the autobiographical story of Sir John Mandeville's travels from England to Jerusalem and beyond to Asia. The only problem is that the book "had been a household word in eleven languages and for five centuries before it was ascertained that Sir John never lived, that his travels never took place, and that his personal experiences, long the test of others' veracity, were compiled out of every possible authority, going back to Pliny, if not further." The book was very popular for many centuries and was illustrated many times. For more about the book there is the introduction to a recent scholarly Middle English version and an illuminating podcast interview [iTunes link] with Professor Anthony Bale, the translator of a new version of the "defective" version of the book, which was the best known version for centuries. The interview goes into the many errors and fantasias of Mandeville but also puts the work in the context of its time and place.
"The idea that Medieval people drank beer or wine to avoid drinking bad water is so established that even some very serious scholars see no reason to document or defend it; they simply repeat it as a settled truth. In fact, if no one ever documents the idea, it is for a very simple reason: it's not true."
In the academic sphere, at least, the "Conflict Thesis" of a historical war between science and theology has been long since overturned. It is very odd that so many of my fellow atheists cling so desperately to a long-dead position that was only ever upheld by amateur Nineteenth Century polemicists and not the careful research of recent, objective, peer-reviewed historians. This is strange behavior for people who like to label themselves "rationalists".-- The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews “God’s Philosophers”
Crusader Kings II is a computer game in which you play as any one of hundreds of feudal lords in Europe in the High to Late Middle Ages. Hoping for your family to become just that little bit more powerful, you scheme against your liege, your vassals, and occasionally even your enemies. Meanwhile, at least half of the game's cast of thousands schemes against you. The game's potential for Shakespearean intrigue has made it ripe for post-game write-ups called after-action reports. With the recent release of The Old Gods, an expansion allowing for play as a pagan ruler, PC Gamer published its own series of after-action reports: Lords of the North. The game's thematic similarities to A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones have not gone unnoticed, either. [more inside]
Fido and Spot weren't always generic dog names. Dogs and cats (and monkeys, birds, etc) have been kept as pets for a long time, and medieval pet names can sound very strange or oddly familiar to modern ears. [more inside]
Early English Laws is a project to publish online and in print new editions and translations of all English legal codes, edicts, and treatises produced up to the time of Magna Carta 1215. [more inside]
The earliest preserved, figuratively painted wooden ceiling in Europe can be seen above the nave of St Martin's Church in Zillis. It features beheadings, temptations, naked people, and lots and lots of fish tails.
Future shock? Welcome to the new Middle Ages - The 21st century will resemble nothing more than the 12th [more inside]
The Roman de la Rose Digital Library intends "to create an online library of all manuscripts containing the Roman de la Rose poem." The site currently offers illustrations, transcriptions, and bibliographical data for over one hundred manuscripts. One of the most influential poems of the Middle Ages, the Roman de la Rose was authored in part by Guillaume de Lorris, in part by Jean de Meun (who stepped in four decades later to finish it). Depending on which author is at work, the poem offers very different takes on its allegory of courtly love. The Roman de la Rose soon crossed the Channel as The Romaunt of the Rose, which may or may not be a translation by Geoffrey Chaucer. Notably, the poem's attitude to women spawned what came to be known as the "Quarrel of the Rose," led by Christine de Pizan (in French). In its long afterlife, the poem's influence has been felt everywhere from tapestry to pre-Raphaelite painting to allegorical gardens.
Dr. E.L. Skip Knox teaches history at Boise State University. His online courses have dedicated websites with his lectures and plenty of supporting material. There are five, History of Western Civilization, covering the wide sweep of European history from ancient Athens to Copernicus, The Crusades, Europe in the Late Middle Ages, focusing on the the Renaissance, and Europe in the Age of Reformation. You can also go on a Virtual Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in medieval times. Dr. Knox has written extensively about online teaching including a lecture called The Rewards of Teaching On-Line where he explains his methods and shares his experiences.
Norman Centuries is a new podcast by Lars Brownworth, best known for his podcast series 12 Byzantine Rulers (previously). Norman Centuries, as the name suggests, recounts the history of the Normans, those literal vikings who gained Normandy and then England, Sicily, Malta, Antioch and, well, a whole heck of a lot of other places too. They were a conquering bunch. First two episodes are out with more to follow. [iTunes link]
Churchyard Entertainment. Mad woman interview. Cave song. Three extracts from Book of Days, a 1988 film by composer, singer and choreographer Meredith Monk. Her work was explored by Peter Greenway in his 1983 documentary Four American Composers. [more inside]
Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531) was one of the great late medieval sculptors. Riemenschneider worked in both wood and stone, although his specialty was limewood sculpture. (Not surprisingly, he had imitators.) His greatest achievements, however, are his exquisitely carved and spectacular altars, of which the most famous is the Altar of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Blut-Altar). [more inside]
Tina Manthorpe's Flickr set of churces and church carvings has many lovely images of the kinds of things one isn't surprised to see in churches, trees of life, colorful roof bosses, misericords and many more such beauties. More shocking to modern sensibilities are the pictures in the set she calls exhibitionist church carvings, featuring such images as a protogoatse, Starbucksesque mermaids, autofellatio, free-hanging genitals and, uh... something involving thumb-sucking and snakes.
In Parentheses is a collection of many ancient, medieval and classic texts from all over the world, many of whom are hard to find anywhere, let alone on the internet. There are translations from Greek, Old Norse, Medieval Irish, Japanese, Incan, Old French, Medieval Latin and many more! As well as all that they have papers in medieval studies and vaguely decadent and orientalism series. Adding to that there's a linguistics section with wordlists and language flash cards in languages such as Icelandic, Quechua, Basque, Classical Armenian and a whole bunch more. [flashcard links go to pdf files]
The Speculum theologiae is a beautiful medieval manuscript. Its diagrams demonstrate visually various aspects of the medieval worldview. The diagrams are explained and translated and most of them are expounded upon in a short essay. My favorite diagrams are The Cherub with Six Wings, The 10 Commandments, Plagues of Egypt and Abuses of the Impious and The Tree of Virtue and The Tree of Vices.
Columbia University's Digital Scriptorium is a database of high quality scans from medieval and renaissance manuscripts. The highlights section alone is breathtaking, but you can search and browse through over 5000 manuscripts and almost 25000 individual images.
Physicist Howard Wiseman has a hobby, history. On his website he has three history subsites, filled with lots of information: 1) Ruin and Conquest of Britain 2) 18 Centuries of Roman Empire 3) Twenty Centuries of "British" "Empires". Especially informative are his many maps. As he says himself: "Drawing historical maps of all sorts has been a hobby of mine since my mid teens. Now I can do it digitally, and inflict it upon the world!"
The Pardoner's Tale - adapted to rap by Baba Brinkman, who has been rapping Chaucer tales for a few years now. He's also released The Rap Canterbury Tales, a book that presents raps side by side with Chaucer's original Middle English. Both video and book are illustrated graffiti-style by his brother Erik. Discussed in a previous post by fatllama on hip hop classics.
12 Byzantine Rulers is a podcast lecture series about The Byzantine Empire by Lars Brownworth, a history teacher at The Stony Brook School on Long Island, New York. 1123 years of awesomeness ready to go onto your iPod! [iTunes link]
Hedgehog: a beast that carries away grapes on its sharp quills Everything you ever wanted to know about animals in the middle ages, courtesy of The Medieval Bestiary. The Aberdeen Bestiary is now online; see also images at Bestiaire (a French site; parts available in English and Spanish translation) and the Getty Museum.
Qveere Eye for thye Medieval Man "Earliest known evidence of a reality series found in medieval vault in eastern Great Britain." [via Zeldman]