Saturday, September 29, 2007

Monty Python - Four Yorkshiremen

Kids these days...

Breaking News: Halo More Popular than God

"The building of a game like this is a work of electronic engineering comparable in scale to the building of a medieval cathedral. It is not like making a film."

- Brian Jarrard

From: Telegraph

I have been converted.

When I first read this quote I rolled my eyes. How could anyone compare the building of a Medieval cathedral, (a process which took thousands of man hours, vast wealth, staggering intellence, moving faith) to pushing a few pixels around a screen?

In my ignorance I was outraged. How dare someone so ignorant of the Middle Ages dare say such a thing? How could objects which defy gravity and stand for centuries be compared to a mere game?

But then, dear readers, I saw the light.

Consulting the one true source of knowledge (Wikipedia), I learned the truth.

All praise the Master Chief!

You see, dear readers, Halo (tm) is the light. The Wikipedia article for 'God' has 3610 words, whereas the articles for the Trinity (Halo 1, 2, and 3) have 3737, 5226, 5789 words respectively.

The will of the people have spoken - praise be to the Halo!

Brother Jarrard was right. Making Halo 3 (tm) is like building a cathedral - both seek to glorify the Master Chief (a.k.a 'God').

a11 pr813e teh Halo!!!

Medieval church restoration hope

A trust which aims to bring a medieval building on Lewis back to life has said work could begin in the Spring.

St Columba's Church near Stornoway, once an important centre for the Clan Macleod, dates back to the 14th Century and is currently a bare shell.

The Uidh Church Trust aims to re-roof the building for community use.
Donald-John MacSween, chairman of the trust, said he was "cautiously optimistic" the project would receive lottery funding.

The trust has already received a project development grant of £22,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It hopes the fund will award it another £250,000.

Historic Scotland has also awarded the trust £162,000. The total project cost is £610,000.

Trust director Campbell McKenzie said: "Our main aim is to re-roof the church so that it can be used and the walls protected."

Mr McKenzie said the church could be used for concerts, weddings and funerals.

The group have also received financial backing from local council Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the local enterprise company, HIE Innse Gall.

They hope to start on site in the next financial year.

The church lies on a narrow isthmus which links the Point district to the rest of the island.

Coastal erosion has pushed the shoreline nearer to the building over the centuries.

Sheet piling was placed near the site last year at a cost of £21,000 to protect the ancient building from further damage.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Looking for your own monastery?

It's nearing the end of September and the beginning of midterms. As a student of Medieval Studies, it is not unlikely that as you read of the serenity of the lives of medieval monks in their peaceful scriptoria, with nothing but the opus dei on their minds, you wish you were enjoying the methodical pace of a monastic setting far off in sunny Italy rather than facing the flurry of assignments in increasingly embittered weather, with nothing but your GPA on your mind. If only you had your very own monastery...

Voilà:, for those of you without student loans and money to burn. A charming, 11th century monastery with 60,000 square metres. Just use Mastercard. The calm of mind and soul is priceless.

Copy of Magna Carta to be sold

LONDON - A 13th-century copy of the Magna Carta, a milestone of English freedom, will be offered for sale in New York in December, Sotheby's auction house said Tuesday.

The vellum manuscript owned by the Perot Foundation is estimated to sell for $20 million to $30 million, Sotheby's said.

The document was on display at the National Archives in Washington for more than 20 years until last Thursday.

King John was forced by barons to agree to the charter in 1215. It guaranteed that freemen would not be imprisoned or deprived of property without due process, including a right to a speedy trial before a jury.

Versions of the Magna Carta were issued in 1216, 1217, 1225 and 1264 by John's son, King Henry III.

The copy offered by Sotheby's for sale on Dec. 10 is dated 1297, the year it was incorporated into the statute rolls of King Edward I.

Discovered among the Brudenell family records in England in 1974, the copy is one of only four remaining of the 1297 charter.

H. Ross Perot bought the copy in 1984 and loaned it to the National Archives. It was first exhibited in 1985.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A little Medieval humour

Today in the Glorious Roman Past

September 25th, 46 B.C. - Julius Caesar dedicates a temple to his ancestor Venus Genetrix in accordance with a vow he made at the battle of Pharsalus.
And Aeneas rejoiced from the Underworld...

Vatican warning over pope 'relic'

The Vatican has warned Roman Catholics that buying relics is sacrilege, after reports that pieces of former Pope John Paul II's clothes were for sale online.

The website of the Holy Diocese of Rome has been offering small pieces of John Paul II's white cassock as part of the campaign to beatify him.

But the site was inundated with requests after reports suggested pieces of the robe were available to buy.

John Paul II died in April 2005. He was the third-longest serving pope.

Unlimited edition

The website has been offering a relic featuring a prayer on one side and a "ex indumentis" - a piece from the clothing - of the former pope since early 2006.

But it has recently been swamped with requests for the tiny relics after it was reported in Italian media that they were for sale.

Anyone who clicks on the link to request the relic is now sent to an article in which diocese spokesman Monsignor Marco Frisina warns that it is sacrilegious to buy or sell relics.

The Italian version of the website also specifies that the relic is free, and requests only an optional small donation to cover postage costs.

The diocese would be able to send a relic to anyone who asked for one, director of social communications Monsignor Marco Fibbi told the BBC News website.

"We don't intend to let these objects have a collectors' value," he said.

"It's only a devotional object. It's useless to try to collect it or sell it on the internet because we will satisfy any request for this object."

John Paul II - born in Poland as Karol Jozef Wojtyla - is being considered for beatification, the first step to sainthood.

The much-loved late pontiff travelled the world extensively and was internationally renowned.
And he is on track to become a saint in record time, after Pope Benedict XVI waived the traditional five-year waiting period before the beatification campaign could begin.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Tonight's Events Have Been Cancelled


Unfortunately the General Meeting and Movie Night which were scheduled for tonight (Monday, September 24th) have been cancelled. Currently two thirds of the MSCU Executive have their lives spiraling out of control due to work load - but there is still hope.

We are tentatively rescheduling the two events for Wednesday, October 3rd. We will contact you when we have finalized our plans.

Sorry for any inconvenience.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Czechs get chance to view rare medieval manuscript

PRAGUE (AFP) — Czechs got the chance to examine the world's biggest medieval manuscript, the "Codex Gigas" or "Devil's Bible," for the first time in almost 359 years on Thursday when the precious work went on show as part of a four-month-long exhibition.

The 13th century masterpiece, considered at the time as the eighth wonder of the world, was carried off as booty by Swedish troops from Prague during the Thirty Years' War but has returned at the end of painstaking negotiations and preparations between Prague and Stockholm.

The 624-page, 75-kilogramme (165-pound) work is on display in a specially designed safe-like room in a former Jesuit college in the centre of historic Prague with visitors limited to 10 at a time and rationed to a few minutes each.

The book is so valuable that its Swedish owners insisted on a state guarantee worth 300 million koruna (10.8 million euros, 15.1 million dollars) rather than a normal commercial insurance to cover any eventualities, director of the Czech National Library, Vlastimil Jezek, explained at the unveiling of the exhibition.

The return of the "Devil's Bible," which owes its name to a superb illustration of the devil found inside and the legend about its creator, demanded long-drawn out negotiations.

"During discussions, you could feel on the Swedish side the underlying question: 'If we lend this to you Czechs, will you give it back to us?'" Jezek recounted with a wry smile.

The manuscript was the work of a monk working at the Pozlazice monastery located in the centre of the current Czech Republic. The monastery was destroyed during the 15th-century wars of religion.

Legend has it that the monk was condemned to be walled up alive for committing a grave crime. To escape from that slow death, he proposed to create the masterpiece in a night so that it would bring glory to the monastery and wipe out his sins.

To achieve that, however, he had to solicit help from the devil and, in recognition of that aid, slipped in the illustration of his "helper" in the final work.

Lodged among the Prague treasures of the celebrated arts collector Emperor Rudolph II, the rare book was carried off by troops of Swedish general Konigsmark at the end of the Thirty Years' War.
From: AFP

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Word of the Week

This week's word: Chain Booked

A book whose binding carries a staple and a chain for attachment to a desk or lectern, on which the book was read. The presence of a staple and chain generally denotes institutional ownership by a college or ecclesiastical establishment (for example, the chain library at Hereford Cathedral).

From:Michelle P. Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: a Guide to Technical Terms, (The J. Paul Getty Museum: California, 1994), 37.

Frozen wine, yellow fog: Medieval records help scientists understand climate history


EINSIEDELN, Switzerland (AP) - A librarian at this 10th century monastery leads a visitor beneath the vaulted ceilings of the archive past the skulls of two former abbots.

He pushes aside medieval ledgers of indulgences and absolutions, pulls out one of 13 bound diaries inscribed from 1671 to 1704 and starts to read about the weather.

"Jan. 11 was so frightfully cold that all of the communion wine froze," says an entry from 1684 by Brother Josef Dietrich, governor and "weatherman" of the once-powerful Einsiedeln Monastery. "Since I've been an ordained priest, the sacrament has never frozen in the chalice."

"But on Jan. 13 it got even worse and one could say it has never been so cold in human memory," he adds.

Diaries of day-to-day weather details from the age before 19th-century standardized thermometers are proving of great value to scientists who study today's climate. Historical accounts were once largely ignored, as they were thought to be fraught with inaccuracy or were simply inaccessible or illegible. But the booming interest in climate change has transformed the study of ancient weather records from what was once a "wallflower science," says Christian

Pfister, a climate historian at the University of Bern.

The accounts dispel any lingering doubts that the Earth is heating up more dramatically than ever before, he says. Last winter - when spring blossoms popped up all over the Austrian Alps, Geneva's official chestnut tree sprouted leaves and flowers, and Swedes were still picking mushrooms well into December - was Europe's warmest in 500 years, Pfister says. It came after the hottest autumn in a millennium and was followed by one of the balmiest Aprils on record.

"In the last year there was a series of extremely exceptional weather," he says. "The probability of this is very low."

The records also provide a context for judging shifts in the weather. Brother Konrad Hinder, the current weatherman at Einsiedeln and an avid reader of Dietrich's diaries, says his predecessor's precise accounts of everything from yellow fog to avalanches provide historical context.

"We know from Josef Dietrich that the extremes were very big during his time. There were very cold winters and very mild winters, very wet summers and very dry summers," he says, adding that the range of weather extremes has been smaller in the 40 years he has recorded data for the Swiss national weather service.

"That's why I'm always cautious when people say the weather extremes now are at their greatest. Without historical context you lose control and you rush to proclaim every latest weather phenomenon as extreme or unprecedented," Hinder says.

Most historians and scientists delving deep into archives seek accounts of disasters and extreme weather events. But the records can also be used to obtain a more precise temperature range for most months and years that goes beyond such general indicators as tree rings, corals, ice cores or glaciers.

Such weather sources include the thrice-daily temperature and pressure measurements by 17th-century Paris physician Louis Morin, a short-lived international meteorological network created by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1653, and 33 "weather diaries" surviving from the 16th century. In Japan, court officers kept records of the dates of cherry blossom festivals, which allow modern scientists to track the weather of the time.

Early records often are only discovered by chance in documents that have survived in centuries-old European monasteries like Einsiedeln, or in the annals of rulers, military campaigns, famines, natural hazards and meteorological anomalies. In Klosterneuberg near Vienna an unidentified writer notes a lack of ice on the Danube in 1343-1344 and calls the winter "mild," while the abbot of Switzerland's Fischingen Monastery laments the late harvest of hay and corn in the summer of 1639 when "there was hardly ever a really warm day."

Scores of similar clues are pieced together year by year to determine temperature ranges, says Pfister, whose team of four uses old "weather reports" to work back as far as the 10th century.

Pfister has found that from 1900 to 1990, there was an average of five months of extreme warmth per decade. In the 1990s, that number jumped to an unprecedented 22 months. The same decade also had no months of extreme cold, in contrast to the half-millennium before.

Even in the last major global warming period from 900 to 1300, severe winters were only "somewhat less frequent and less extreme," Pfister says. Over the past century, temperatures have gone up an average of 0.7 C, which is often attributed to the accumulation of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere.

Global warming is one of the world's top issues today because of fears of massive hurricanes and flooding. For most of history, though, it was the fate of farms and the fear of famine that encouraged careful weather observation.

The Einsiedeln abbots - princes within the Holy Roman Empire until 1798 - were powerful leaders who ruled over large swaths of central Switzerland's mountainous terrain. Agriculture was the primary source of income for the region and natural disasters such as floods and avalanches posed an omnipresent threat.

Debts accrued and honoured, accidents, local conflicts and business transactions also fill Dietrich's accounts, "but most days start with the weather," says Andreas Meyerhans, who cares for the monastery's precious documents.

The diaries - written in German sprinkled with old Swiss dialect and margin notes in Latin - are "unique" because of the exceptional everyday detail they provide, Pfister says. He adds that centuries of weather records make it clear that people need to adapt when extremely hot or cold weather becomes more frequent. While the lives of earlier generations were ruled by the weather, "in the second half of the 20th century people slept and became completely unprepared for natural disasters, because they happened so rarely."

In Einsiedeln, Hinder reads from a barometer flanked by the Virgin Mary, and worries that humanity is in trouble.

"God still controls the weather," he says. But, he adds, people must do their part by taking better care of the planet.


Monday, September 17, 2007

MSCU General Meeting and Movie Night

Greetings friends both old and new,

This Monday September 24th there will be the first Medieval Studies Course Union General Meeting of the year.

When? Monday September 24th from 6:30 - 9:30 pm

Where? Clearihue A204

What? Come and voice your opinions on the direction for the Medieval Studies Course Union. Get to know what we're all about. Get to know the MSCU Executive. Meeting new people and get involved!

What Else? In addition to the General Meeting there will be the first MSCU Movie Night of the year once the meeting concludes. We have several of these movie nights each year. We show movies which relate to the Middle Ages. More often than not, these movies are horrible and we end of laughing our collective bottoms off.

What's On? Camelot

What? There's More? Not only will there be a movie, there will also be snacks and refreshments. Free dinner and a movie? Not a bad deal at all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Oh my goodness...

Archaeologists hunt fire disaster

Archaeologists have begun digging in Nottinghamshire to search for evidence of a medieval disaster.

Records show that Mansfield Woodhouse and its church were devastated by fire in September 1304 - but little else is known about the event.

The excavation team said they want to expand some of the details about how extensive the damage really was.

Over the next few weeks a series of trenches will be dug near St Edmund's Church to investigate signs of burning.

Buried clues

Medieval records show that only the church tower was left standing and that the population asked the king's permission to use wood from Sherwood Forest for rebuilding.

Community archaeologist Emily Gillott said: "We know the church was involved in the fire and though it has been rebuilt several times it is in the same location.

"So we will start near the church and hopefully we will find a layer of burning and see how far it extends."

Human touch

She added that local people are interested to learn about their past.

"It kind of gives people an idea of where they have come from.

"If people have got a long ancestry and they think their roots go back a long way in Mansfield Woodhouse then they can put themselves in the position of the people who were here when the village burnt down.

"They imagine the kind of difficulties they had to go through and it kind of gives a human touch to something which is mud and pottery."

Ladies and Gentlemen...

Friday, September 14, 2007

MSCU Review: "The Ruling Class"

Lady Clair Gurney: "How do you know you're God?"

Lord Jack Gurney: "Simple. When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself."

When I sat down to watch this movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect. With only a recommendation from Dr Kluge (a man with eclectic tastes) and a bizarre Youtube trailer to colour my expectations, I doubted how much I would enjoy it. Now, after seeing the The Ruling Class, I can make an informed opinion – I really liked it.

This is a dark film. At first glance it may appear merely as light and quirky, but this changes quickly in the second act. The Ruling Class ends on a very dark and disturbing note. While I won’t completely divulge its ending here, let me just say that I haven’t been as disturbed by a film’s conclusion for quite some time.

But wait, I’m rushing things, let’s give a brief summation. After the sudden death of the 13th Earl of Gurney, the title is given to the late Earl’s young and mentally disturbed son, Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney (Peter O’Toole).

Jack is a special boy. He is thought to be insane because he believes himself to be Christ incarnate. As a result of this belief, the young lord Gurney spent a good portion of his life in a mental institution.

Without going too far into plot, Jack relatives decide to cure him of his 'affliction' by going to rather extreme measures. After being 'cured' Jack abandons his persona of love, charity and brotherhood for one of violence, punishment and retribution - he is pushed from one extreme to the other.

Within Jack's treatment and eventual transformation lies the biting social critique of the film. In the upper reaches of British society, a man who speaks of love and brotherhood is thought to be mad, but a man who speaks of punishment and retribution is lauded. Jack is transformed to resemble his society. Even though Jack is no more 'cured' at the end of the film than he was at the beginning, to the corrupt and violent British nobility, the new corrupt and violent Jack seems 'normal.'

Few movies end with evil vanquishing good. At the conclusion of The Ruling Class, however, Jack's darkest impulses have completely eradicated any sense of goodness left in him. Men receive the God they deserve. The British nobility deserve the wicked Jack. The film concludes with Jack's victory. He has draped himself a cloak of respectability and can now engage in the most wicked of acts without fear of punishment. British society, in essence, has killed Christ only to be left with Lucifer.

This pervasive darkness is what disturbed me the most. The first half of the movie is just so silly; characters burst out into song, Jack makes jokes and mostly plays the fool. The viewer becomes so used to the lightness of the first act that the darkness of the second act is chilling.

With a lesser actor the dichotomy between Jack's two personas could have been dreadful, but Peter O'Toole is magnificent in the role. O'Toole changes so dramatically in the second act that one tends to forget that the same actor played both roles. He is simply a wonder to behold in both roles. The fact that O'Toole for nominated in 1973 by the Academy for his role in The Ruling Class is a testament to performance.

All in all, The Ruling Class is a film worth watching. While I found that it did drag in places, it masterfully combines comedy and tragedy in a manner not often seen.

MSCU Rating: A

Medieval bridge is to be replaced

A 750-year-old bridge in Oxfordshire weakened by heavy lorries which use it as a short-cut is to be replaced.

A 1996 survey showed that the 13th-Century bridge that carries the A415 Abington to Witney road over the Thames had become "structurally weak".

An 18-tonne weight restriction was imposed and a frequency inspection regime introduced to ensure the safety of the general public.

The county council is hoping to buy land in Newbridge for a new crossing.

Oxfordshire Highways carried out an evaluation of a possible six routes for the new bridge and have settled on one.

Crossing the river some 250m (273yds) upstream from its current position, the chosen route is favoured by the Environmental Agency as it avoids a flood prone area.

The old bridge is unable to be reconstructed or strengthened because it is a protected listed monument.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Couple spend £30,000 on wedding banquet

Most girls can only dream of being swept off their feet by a knight in shining armour. But Sian Jenkins, 26, was determined not to miss out.

She and her 40-year-old fiancé, Rupert Hammerton-Fraser, decided to hold a medieval wedding at a castle complete with horses, falconry and a banquet.

The couple and 100 guests dressed in 14th century costumes, with the groom resplendent in a hand-forged steel suit of armour trimmed with brass and velvet coverings.

Miss Jenkins wore a court dress which was based on a brass rubbing and made from 270ft of silk. She arrived at the outdoor wedding at Lulworth Castle, Dorset, riding side saddle on a white mare.

The service was the Sarum Rite, on which modern ceremonies are based. In it, Miss Jenkins had to promise to be "bonny and buxom in bed".

After the vows, Mr Hammerton-Fraser, his squire and ring bearer fought challengers with swords, a common practice in the middle ages for fun and honour.

Miss Jenkins said: "The day was wonderful, everything I could have wished for. It was a wedding that will go down in history." The couple, who met in a muddy field seven years ago during a re-enactment, spent two years planning the day, which cost £30,000.

Mr Hammerton-Fraser, a lecturer in traditional print making, said: "I arrived with a guard of three armoured men and my best men, squire and chief usher. My bride then rode up on a white horse and was escorted by her oldest male friend, maid of honour, three armoured knights and three bridesmaids.

"We had a traditional medieval service and then went outside for the only contemporary part of the day which was the photographs."

The couple, from High Wycombe, Bucks, and their guests feasted on grete pie containing chicken, lamb, beef, hare, plums, figs, apricots, sultanas and spices. They also had venison pottage, roast hog and stuffed dates before a dessert of custard, fruit and cream syllabub.

And that was not the end of the festivities. The following day, about 200 more friends arrived to watch a jousting competition as well as dancing, sword fighting and a battle.

Mr Hammerton-Fraser said: "We had a great time with jugglers, falconry, a passage of arms and we finished the day with a joust."

From: Telegraph

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And now for something completely different...

Medieval women 'had girl power'

A new study by an academic says that "girl power" was alive and kicking around 600 years ago.

Dr Sue Niebrzydowski at Bangor university said medieval women enjoyed a golden era with a greater life expectancy than men.

"We found women running priories, commissioning books, taking early package tours to visit the Holy Land," she said.

She added women were also defending their property and property rights.

Dr Niebrzydowski's research involving middle aged women in the middle ages will be discussed at a conference at the university on Wednesday.

The medievalist at Bangor's Institute of Early and Modern Studies, studied legal records, literature and songs to build up a picture of life for women between the 12th and 15th Centuries.
Dr Niebrzydowski, whose research is funded by the Royal Historical Society and the British Academy, said: "Women were often widowed by the age of 30 and it gave them greater freedom.

"They could be more sexually liberated as there would be no child as evidence of their fornication or adultery.


"And if wealthy, they could enter the marriage market on their own terms - and for their own reasons, whether economic, for love, companionship or pleasure."

The study's findings will be explored on Wednesday at a conference in Bangor, attended by some of Britain's top female academics in the fields of archaeology, history, language and law.

Dr Niebrzydowski said: "We assume that women in the past had little economic independence or social power and that they were reliant on fathers or husbands for most of their lives. "

But we should be wary of holding too many misconceptions about women's lives in the past.

"It is true that most of the information we have is drawn from art, literature or historical records which relate to wealthier women, but middle aged women in the middle ages had far more power and independence than we might first imagine."

The conference, which runs until Friday, will bring together experts in literature, archaeology, art and history.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Today in the Middle Ages

September 10th 1419 - 1419 - John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy is assassinated by adherents of the Dauphin, the future Charles VII of France.

Was he really fearless? Only his assassin would know...

Ancient escape hatch found in Israel

By AMY TEIBEL, Associated Press Writer Sun Sep 9, 12:56 PM ET

JERUSALEM - Under threat from Romans ransacking Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, many of the city's Jewish residents crowded into an underground drainage channel to hide and later flee the chaos through Jerusalem's southern end unnoticed.

The ancient tunnel was recently discovered buried beneath rubble, a monument to one of the great dramatic scenes of the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 A.D.

The channel was dug beneath what would become the main road of Jerusalem, the archaeology dig's directors, Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said Sunday. Shukron said excavators looking for the road happened upon a small drainage channel that led them to the discovery of the massive tunnel two weeks ago.

"We were looking for the road and suddenly we discovered it," Shukron said. "And the first thing we said was, 'Wow.'"

The walls of the tunnel — made of ashlar stones 3 feet deep — reach a height of 10 feet in some places and are covered by heavy stone slabs that were the road's paving stones, Shukron said. Several manholes are visible, and portions of the original plastering remain, he said.

Pottery shards, vessel fragments and coins from the end of the Second Temple period were also discovered inside the channel, attesting to its age, Reich said.

The discovery of the drainage channel was momentous in itself, a sign of how the city's rulers looked out for the welfare of their citizens by developing an infrastructure that drained the rainfall and prevented flooding, Reich said.

The discovery "shows you planning on a grand scale, unlike other cities in the ancient Near East," said Joe Zias, an expert in the Second Temple period who was not involved in the dig.
But what makes the channel doubly significant is its role as an escape hatch for Jews desperate to flee the conquering Romans, the dig's directors said.

The Second Temple was the center of Jewish worship during the second Jewish Commonwealth, which spanned the six centuries preceding the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. Its expansion was the most famous construction project of Herod, the Jewish proxy ruler of the Holy Land under imperial Roman occupation from 37 B.C.

As the temple was being destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., numerous people took shelter in the drainage channel and lived inside it until they fled Jerusalem through its southern end, the historian Josephus Flavius wrote in "The War of the Jews."

"It was a place where people hid and fled to from burning, destroyed Jerusalem," Shukron said.
Tens of thousands of people lived in Jerusalem at the time, but it is not clear how many used the channel to escape, he said.

About 100 yards of the channel have been uncovered so far. Reich estimates its total length will reach more than a half-mile, stretching north from the Shiloah Pool at Jerusalem's southern end to the disputed holy shrine known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. The shrine is the site of the two biblical Jewish temples.

Archeologists think the tunnel leads to the Kidron River, which empties into the Dead Sea.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Beowulf (1999) - Even funnier in French

This movie cracks me up. So, so bad...

Medieval 'treasure' to go online

A manuscript from Kent, which contains some of the earliest examples of written Anglo-Saxon language, has been voted England's best hidden treasure.

The Textus Roffensis, written by a monk in St Andrew's Priory at Rochester Cathedral in about 1125, contains legal and monastery records.

It beat nine other treasures in a British Library competition to be turned into a "virtual text" online.

The digital version of the manuscript will be available for three years.
Among other entries was a Dorset Women's Institute WWII record book, which will also be put online.

The Textus, which belongs to Rochester Cathedral, is in Medway Council's care in an archive strong room at Strood Civic Centre.

The priceless document, which is a copy of an earlier work no longer in existence, is kept in temperature and humidity-controlled conditions.

The digital version will be made available alongside items from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Turning the Pages 2.0 software, which will cost £10,000 for each document, has been developed by the library with Microsoft.

It aims to mimic the action of turning the pages of real book.


Camelot? Camelot. Camelot!

Announcing the feature for the next MSCU Movie Night - "Camelot."

While this clip is from the stage version, we'll be showing 1967 film. It stars Richard Harris as King Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guenevere and the astounding Franco Nero as Lancelot Du Lac.

Stay tuned for date and time to be announced.

Clubs and Course Unions Day

As many of you out there in internet-land may know, the University of Victoria is holding their bi-annual "Clubs and Course Unions Day" September 13th and 14th all day in the Student Union Building (SUB).

Your friendly neighbourhood course union, the Medieval Studies Course Union, will have a booth at this wonderous little event. If you're in the area, why don't you drop by and say hello - plus the free candy never hurt anyone.

We hope to see you there!

Historian says men wed as early as 600 years ago in medieval Europe

Civil unions between male couples existed around 600 years ago in medieval Europe, a historian now says.

Historical evidence, including legal documents and gravesites, can be interpreted as supporting the prevalence of homesexual relationships hundreds of years ago, said Allan Tulchin of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

If accurate, the results indicate socially sanctioned same-sex unions are nothing new, nor were they taboo in the past.

“Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize," Tulchin writes in the September issue of the Journal of Modern History. "And Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures.”

For example, he found legal contracts from late medieval France that referred to the term "affrèrement," roughly translated as brotherment. Similar contracts existed elsewhere in

Mediterranean Europe, Tulchin said.

In the contract, the "brothers" pledged to live together sharing "un pain, un vin, et une bourse," (that's French for one bread, one wine and one purse). The "one purse" referred to the idea that all of the couple's goods became joint property. Like marriage contracts, the "brotherments" had to be sworn before a notary and witnesses, Tulchin explained.

The same type of legal contract of the time also could provide the foundation for a variety of non-nuclear households, including arrangements in which two or more biological brothers inherited the family home from their parents and would continue to live together, Tulchin said.
But non-relatives also used the contracts. In cases that involved single, unrelated men, Tulchin argues, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships."

The ins-and-outs of the medieval relationships are tricky at best to figure out.

"I suspect that some of these relationships were sexual, while others may not have been," Tulchin said. "It is impossible to prove either way and probably also somewhat irrelevant to understanding their way of thinking. They loved each other, and the community accepted that.”


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Carbon dating casts doubt on age of St Francis robe

By Stephen Brown

ROME (Reuters) - Carbon dating has cast doubt on the authenticity of one of four robes kept by Italian churches as relics of the medieval Saint Francis of Assisi, though another tunic, a belt and a cushion were found to be the right vintage.

Friars from two churches of the Franciscan order founded by the saint asked a laboratory specializing in dating artwork to examine two simple brown tunics said to have been worn by the champion of the poor, as well as a mortuary cushion.

Francis who gave up the life of a playboy and soldier and all his worldly goods to dedicate himself to the poor and preach the way of peace, died in 1226. His hometown, Assisi, attracts millions of Christian pilgrims every year.

Artistic depictions of the saint show him dressed in a brown robe with a rope belt -- the habit still worn by his order.

Four Franciscan churches have claimed to house relics. The tests showed that one, in the Basilica of Cortona in Tuscany, did date from his lifetime, as did an embroidered cushion said to have come from his deathbed.

A second robe from Florence's Basilica of the Holy Cross did not match the dates, though the belt around it did.

"The tunic and cushion from Cortona were found compatible with the period in which Saint Francis lived but the one from Florence wasn't," said Pier Andrea Mando of the Nuclear Physics Laboratory in Florence, in a statement released on Wednesday.

The other two robes are kept in churches in Assisi and Arezzo belonging to a different branch of the order and were not included in the tests, which used accelerator mass spectrometry to measure the amount of carbon-14 present in samples of cloth.

Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant, is said to have found his vocation while praying in a ruined wayside chapel. He heard a voice saying: "Go, Francis, and repair my house."

Pope Benedict visited Assisi in June for the 800th anniversary of St Francis' conversion.

Carbon dating of St Francis' robes has none of the controversy surrounding tests in 1988 on the Shroud of Turin, which bears an imprint many Catholics believe to be Jesus and has been venerated for centuries as Christ's burial cloth.

Findings dating it from at least 1260 AD were bitterly contested by some in the Church.

From: Reuters

Monday, September 3, 2007

Word of the Week

This week's word: floccinaucinihilipilification

The action or habit of estimating as worthless.

Also floccinaucical a., inconsiderable, trifling. floccinaucity, a matter of small consequence.

e.g. A floccinaucinihilipilification of the history and culture of the Middle Ages will lead to a Dark Age.

Edward Gibbon

Refer to Oxford English Dictionary.

Gregory the Great

It's Pope St Gregory the Great today. Pope from 590 to 604, he made some fairly important contributions to Medieval life, particularly through his homilies and church reforms. His major writings include the Moralia on Job, the Dialogues, and the Pastoral Rule. He also caused a tremendous musical reform through his standardization of the liturgy. More can be read at New Advent.

The picture to the right is of Gregory. The bird on his shoulder is actually a representation of the Holy Spirit, signifying Gregory's divine inspiration. The dove was observed by the peeping scribe behind the privacy screen, and rumour spread...