Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today in the MedEVIL Past...

31st October, 1587 - Leiden University Library opens its doors after its founding in 1575.

A mere 375 years later, Dr Kwakkel rejoiced.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ye Olde IBMe thee Seconde

Word of the Week

This week's word: Wycliffite Bible

Wycliffite Bibles are translations of all or parts of the Scriptures into English.[1]

The texts derive their names from the theologian John Wycliffe (c. 1330-84). The original text was prepared by a group of academics associated with Wycliffe in the late fourteenth century.[2]

The use of English to translate the Latin Bible was controversial. In 1407-1409, Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible was outlawed by the archbishop of Canterbury. For the next 125 years it was illegal to produce or own a Wycliffite Bible; in theory anyone caught in possession of such a Bible could be tried with heresy and burned.

[1] Christopher De Hamel, The Book. A History of the Bible, (Phaidon Press Limited: New York, 2001), 168.
[2] De Hamel, 178.

Couture goes heavy metal

It's a rare moment when the nation's rugby fans are the most stylish group in the land. But if you peeped inside your local pub last weekend, you might have spotted one of the many fans who dressed up as Richard the Lionheart, decked out in chain mail and hose to support the troops.

Sadly, it didn't save the England team from defeat, but it did amuse the fashion crowd, because chain mail – along with all things battle-ready – is one of this winter's biggest trends.

Labels as diverse as Matthew Williamson, Christopher Kane and Chanel have gone all medieval and, with scant regard for history, have enlisted every conceivable reference, from Joan of Arc to jousting, coats of armour to the Crusades.

The love affair with armour started at Burberry Prorsum, when the label's designer, Christopher Bailey, used the brand's logo, a knight astride a snorting steed, as inspiration for his winter collection.

Taking a modern "warrior woman" as his muse, he created a series of chain-mail tabards, hand-stitched with thousands of metallic discs, and "armour-lite" dresses in satin.

Models were armed to the hilt with gauntlet gloves in black patent leather, finished with shiny silver zippers. Bags, shoes and boots bristled with studs, while wide, heavy, multi-buckled belts cinched in winter coats and jackets.

Designer and style icon Daphne Guinness has also been indulging in metalwork. In collaboration with the gold- and silver-smith Shaun Leane, she has built her own arsenal: a collection of jewelled, silver finger gauntlets which she wears with her favourite classic white shirts.

Those who need convincing that wearing shiny metal clothing can work need look no further than Cate Blanchett in her new film, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, in which she sheds her rustling skirts, corsets and farthingales.

She looks a vision of womanly power, with Titian curls streaming over a shapely suit of armour. It is not known whether the Virgin Queen ever wore armour, even when stirring her troops at Tilbury before the Spanish Armada, but, according to the wardrobe team on the film, they used creative licence because Ms Blanchett was so keen to try it out.

The silver- and gold-plated torques, cuffs and hairpieces featured in the film are by Angharad Rees, and cost from £200-£900 (020 7235 0268).

The high street has been quick to join the fray, and every fashion outlet has its own tunic- or tabard-style dress.

Topshop's version, £60 (0845 121 4519), is trimmed with chain mail. Some, like French Connection's, £150 (020 7036 7200), are covered with pewter sequins; others have a chunky jewelled or beaded choker neckline. These look amazing worn over bare skin or, if it's too chilly, with a fine black polo-neck and opaque tights underneath.

Accessories should be metallic, such as Sam Ubhi's chain-mail "dolly" bag, £48, at Liberty (020 8767 5533), and Peacocks' silvery-black sequin leggings, £10 (02920 270 222), or adorned with spurs and studs.

Alternatively, add Bertie's flat, metallic, black leather knight's boots, £85 at Shoe Studio (020 7079 7586), Via Repubblica's wet-look patent armoured bag, £369, or a chain-link belt, £49, in gold or silver, both from Fenwick (020 7629 9161), as you prepare to battle through the

Christmas party season – but don't, whatever you do, wear them all at once.

Medieval Dos and Don'ts

Do dress up a plain little black dress with a hefty silver or pewter neckpiece.
Do check out the website for inspiration.
Do cover up if there's a threat of rain — rusty chain mail is not a good look.
Do wear a metallic tabard over this season's black opaque tights.
Do leave full medieval garb strictly for fancy dress.
Don't stand too close to the fire if you're wearing a metallic skirt or dress.
Don't arm yourself with too many accessories.
Don't wear more than one chain-mail piece at a time; it's heavy.
Don't make sudden movements while wearing chunky metal cuffs — they're dangerous weapons.
Don't be tempted by medieval props — leave the sword at home.

From: Telegraph

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Church rolls into its next 700 years

A 700-YEAR-OLD church began its slow journey to a new home at 2 km/h, on a huge flatbed trailer, leaving behind an eastern German village being turned over to open-pit coal mining.

The Emmaus Church, first mentioned in historical documents in 1297, only reached the edge of its home village of Heuersdorf outside Leipzig by Thursday on its way to Borna, 12 kilometres away. It is expected to get there by next Wednesday, after crossing railway lines and the rivers Pleisse and Wyhra.

The stone building is a village church from the Middle Ages in Romanesque style, with a steeply pitched roof and a small black tower atop the roofline. At 19.6 metres tall and 14.5 metres long, it weighs around 750 tonnes. It is scheduled to reach Borna's Martin Luther Square on Reformation Day, when Lutherans traditionally remember the 16th century reformer.

Coal mining company Mibrag is paying €3 million ($A4.75 million) to move the church after the regional legislature in 2004 approved plans to dig up the village to mine 50 million tonnes of brown coal. Most of the 320 residents have already left.

New Bible, old-school elements

By Terry Lee Goodrich
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

The first handwritten, illuminated Bible to be made in 500 years will be the topic of a theology professor's lecture Nov. 3 at the University of Dallas.

Miguel Diaz, associate professor of theology at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn., will speak about the challenges of creating the Bible, commissioned by Saint John's and a Benedictine Monastery on its campus, University of Dallas officials said.

The Bible's construction is similar to that of medieval copies of the Bible, written on vellum, using quills and gold leaf, Diaz said. However, the new Bible will incorporate modern themes and images, as well as technology for graphic design, Diaz said. An example of modern images is an illustration in Acts inspired by satellite illustrations of Earth from space.

An illuminated manuscript contains text, along with decorations such as borders or illustrations, usually gilded with gold leaf or silver leaf.

Diaz's presentation will include photographs of portions of the manuscript, which is being created in stages by several calligraphers and illuminators. The Bible will be finished by early next year, he said.

Is this Pope John Paul II waving from beyond the grave? Vatican TV director says yes

This fiery figure is being hailed as Pope John Paul II making an appearance beyond the grave.

The image, said by believers to show the Holy Father with his right hand raised in blessing, was spotted during a ceremony in Poland to mark the second anniversary of his death.

Details appeared on the Vatican News Service, a TV station in Rome which specialises in religious news broadcasts.

Service director Jarek Cielecki, a Polish priest and close friend of John Paul II, travelled to Poland after hearing an onlooker had photographed the image.

Father Cielecki said he was convinced the picture showed the former pontiff.

"You can see the image of a person in the flames and I think it is the servant of God, Pope John Paul II," he said.

The pictures were being broadcast continuously on Italian TV and also posted on religious websites, some of which crashed as thousands logged on to see for themselves the eerie figure formed by the flames.

The bonfire was lit during a service at Beskid Zywiecki, close to John Paul's birthplace at Katowice, southern Poland, on April 2 - the second anniversary of his death.

Hundreds had attended the ceremony. Gregorz Lukasik, the Polish man who took the photographs, said: "It was only afterwards when I got home and looked at the pictures that I realised I had something.

"I showed them to my brother and sister and they, like me, were convinced the flames had formed the image of Pope John Paul II.

"I was so happy with the picture that I showed it to our local bishop who said that Pope John Paul had made many pilgrimages during his life and he was still making them in death."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Medievals invented a lot of good things...

..interest was not one of them.

Medieval ruins found near Stockholm castle

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Archaeologists have found the foundations of medieval buildings near the Royal Palace in Stockholm, dating from the city's early years.

The palace occupies the site of Stockholm's medieval castle. John Hedlund of the Stockholm Stadtmuseet told The Local the discovery of what appears to be a house, warehouse or combination of the two sheds new light on early Stockholm's appearance.

"We didn't know that there were buildings this close to the castle," he said. "We always thought there was a big gap between the town and the castle."

Most urban castles in the Middle Ages were set apart to make them more defensible. In fact, the research team believes the newly discovered buildings were emptied in the 16th century when King Gustav Vasa made the castle stronger, the newspaper said.

The buildings appear to date from the 14th century, about a century after Stockholm was founded in 1252. That would make them about the same age as the two oldest churches in the Old Town of Stockholm.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

‘Great Squirt’ in full flow as medieval gardener’s water sprinkler is recreated

NEWQUAY The world’s first garden sprinkler has been recreated from a woodcut in a 16th-century gardening book.

The Great Squirt was featured in a popular manual called The Gardener’s Labyrinth, written in 1577 by Thomas Hill. Hill wrote: “There may be some which use [sic] to water their beds with Great Squirts.”

The picture featured a cross-section of a giant pump made with leather valves and wooden pipes. No example of the Great Squirt has survived and some experts even doubted it would work, until a life-sized replica was demonstrated at Trerice Gardens in Cornwall. The device managed to spray water a distance of 15 ft (4.6 m).

James Breslin, spokesman for the National Trust, which commissioned the replica, said: “It looks very weird but it works, although the person pumping gets as wet as the garden.”

The replica Great Squirt was built by John and Henry Russell, technology experts, with help from pupils of St Newlyn East Primary School.

Mr Breslin added: “The experts estimate that it would take about 40 squirts before it is empty. Originally there was some ongoing way of keeping it full – but we’re still trying to figure that one out.”

Medieval (Russian) Snickers Commercial

As a Medievalist I do not believe in intellectual property...

From: Married to the Sea

New Free Medieval Economy Simulation

Based on the successful browser game Kapilands, this economy simulation is set in the High Middle Ages and draws you into the days of knights and maidens, horse-drawn carriages and market stalls, with its beautifully rendered, picturesque 3D-graphics.

Another war has ravaged the countryside, the fields are barren, the people starving. It is up to you to build your own village, make it prosper and rise from a humble hamlet to a blooming medieval metropolis. Starting with the rank of a villein, use your talents as trader, to become Archduke.

You may build your city from up to 40 different buildings. Cattle-breeding, agriculture, breweries, ...

Use your various workshops to produce up to 80 different products in different qualities; Go to the market place to buy goods from the system or your fellow-players, send and receive contracts and open up your own market stalls. But be sure to hire enough workers, and offer them accommodation and food, or you will find yourself faced with a discontent and rebellious population ...

Dive into the Middle Ages and become the founder of your own empire! Your subjects are awaiting your orders!

For more information please visit


Medieval Koran Breaks Auction Records

LONDON—An 800-year-old Koran sold for £1.14 million ($2.34 million) at Christie’s in London yesterday, fetching more than three times its high estimate and setting a world auction record for a Koran and for an Islamic manuscript, reports Bloomberg.

The manuscript is written entirely in gold, with margin notes in silver, and dates to 1203 A.D. It is believed to be from Mesopotamia and bears the signature Yahya ibn Muhammad ibn 'Umar. It was estimated to sell for £250,000 to £350,000.

A Kufic Koran from the early 10th century also exceeded expectations at the auction, selling for £916,500, or about twice its estimates of £400,000 to £600,000. A total of £5.95 million worth of Islamic and Indian art was on sale at the auction; 204 of 329 lots sold, or 91 percent of the value.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What have we learned from History?

Apparently not much...

Today in the Middle Ages

21st October, 1517 - Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany

An act which has no historical significance. But what do I know? My historical knowledge ends in 1500...

Python Terry beats cancer

Oct 21 2007 by Marc Baker, Wales On Sunday

MONTY Python star Terry Jones is back at work after being cured of cancer – a year after being diagnosed with the deadly disease.

The 65-year-old TV legend was diagnosed with bowel cancer this time last year.
But last night the Colwyn Bay born star was back at work after being given the all clear by surgeons following an operation which has saved his life.

And to show the world he is back to business, Terry has been enjoying long walks to the pub with his 23-year-old Swedish girlfriend, former Oxford student Anna Soderstrom.

The actor, writer and director, who has hosted a historical documentary series, Medieval Lives, described his speedy recovery as “miraculous”.

He said: “It’s amazing really. I’m already going for walks on Hampstead Heath and for pints in the pub.”

Like a true Python, Terry has continued to smile through his treatment. Last year, he even managed to find the time to join former Monty Python colleagues Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin for the London opening of Idle’s Python musical Spamalot.

Jones directed the three Python films as well as movies including The Wind in the Willows, and has had success as a TV presenter, author and historian.

Terry’s agent Jodi Shields said: “I am delighted to say that Terry has been given the all clear. He has not stopped working since. He is in America at the moment doing a lecture tour of universities with his book Who Murdered Chaucer?

“He filmed a new TV series for BBC Wales over the summer called Ogilby’s Roads about the mapmaker John Ogilby and he has written an original musical called Evil Machines, which he will direct in Portugal this Christmas with the Lisbon Philharmonic Orchestra. He’s a busy (and very happy) man! Thanks for asking.”

Terry underwent treatment for colon cancer at a private hospital in London.
Miss Shields added: “He is in high spirits and very pleased the doctors caught it early.”

Terry’s fellow Python pioneer Graham Chapman died aged 48 in 1989 after a long battle with throat cancer.

When he was first diagnosed, Terry laughed off the disease, saying: “Unfortunately, my illness is not nearly bad enough to sell many newspapers, and the prognosis is even more disappointing.”

Saturday, October 20, 2007

In further theft of intellectual property...

Metalwork on the catwalk

By Kirsty Munro

It might be hard to imagine, as we embrace the warm weather in flimsy sundresses and eyelet lace blouses, but designers want to protect us. In the Northern Hemisphere, shoppers are armouring up, thanks to autumn-winter 2007 fashions that reflect a predilection for medieval style.

Burberry Prorsum was a key collection that embraced the modern armour look.
According to Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey, the inspiration came from the company's horse-and-rider logo. "It was a knight in shining armour, that medieval thing," he says.

He also said it was time for women to feel protected, which - judging by the heavy pyramid studs, padded leather, chain mail details and gauntlet gloves seen at the collections - they certainly will. Some of the items could be classed as restricted weapons.

Trends forecaster Tony Bannister says it has been steadily building. "It started as a colour trend," he says, citing last winter's love affair with metallics. "Also, hoods have become important, not just on jackets as you would traditionally see them, but on tops and dresses."
Bannister says soft knitwear has developed into a layered, wrapped look, similar to medieval tunics worn over leggings.

"It's enveloping and makes the wearer feel protected," he says. "There's also a move to protective garments with stitching that mimics armour, rivets and studs and quilting."
Bannister feels there are two quite distinctive trends emerging for both men and women. One is glamorous, with metallic details, flowing velvets and brocades - quite a medieval feel. The other, he says, is emerging in casual wear, especially for men. "We're calling it Storm Troopers and it's more aggressive, with padded leather jackets, knee pads and studs. I think it reflects the political climate."

Of course, it's easy to read too much into fashion trends, but the last time the "armour" trend swept through fashion, the world was feeling very uncertain. In 2003, designers embraced medieval influences in a more obvious, costume way. Former Jil Sander designer Milan Vukmirovic was inspired by the film Excalibur and Karl Lagerfeld was working a futuristic take on Renaissance gowns.

At the time, Europe enjoyed two very influential exhibitions: one in Geneva featuring the work of Milanese armourists for the kings of France and Spain and the other in the Netherlands, called Armour, curated by trends forecaster Li Edelkoort.

Gathering chain mail pieces by Paco Rabanne and Helmut Lang, padded jackets and hefty knits, Edelkoort said at the time, "I think [the armour trend] is a long-term change and that we are going to incorporate violence and the defence against it."

Two years after the London bombings and six years after the attacks of September 11, we still fear terrorism, and anyone who braved the streets of Sydney over the APEC weekend can testify that even the most benign cities can become a fortress. When the police are all in riot gear and you have to pass three checkpoints to buy your morning coffee, it's hard not to feel vulnerable.

This time around, however, the influence of fear is subtler and rather more glamorous.
The metal-studded trench coats, padded leather gauntlets and thigh-high boots in collections by Burberry and Chanel were part medieval, part rock'n'roll.

Alexander McQueen also took on a medieval theme but his interest was more gothic, focusing on the witch trials with emerald velvet gowns, silver beading and cloaks that would have suited Morgan Le Fay.

Roberto Cavalli turned model Agyness Deyn into a medieval biker babe with heavy metal embroidery, to mimic chain mail, on leather.

London designer Christopher Kane moved on from fluoro to heavy velvet gowns spliced with leather - inspired, he says, by French history painter Paul Delaroche's The Execution of Lady Jane Grey.

Marios Schwab, a contemporary of Kane, kept his collection tight to the body but gave protection in the form of iridescent metal plates on bodices and wrapped figures in soft fleece pieces. Kane and Schwab seemed to owe a creative debt to Romeo Gigli, who was the 1980s answer to that other medieval revivalist, William Morris. Even Matthew Williamson, purveyor of Ibiza hippie-glam, presented a collection of heavy metallic brocades, jacquards and jewel-toned satins.

At the July haute couture shows, the Chanel models were kitted out in hoods, tabards, gauntlets and sweeping coat dresses over leather leggings, ready for battle. Jean Paul Gaultier presented a series of fairytale princes, striding in slim leather leggings and ornate velvet jackets that echoed Hans Holbein's swaggering noblemen.

Thankfully, no designers were influenced literally by Joan of Arc, as John Galliano was last year at Christian Dior. The dour grey suiting and the unfortunate medieval-style pudding basin haircuts were far from flattering.

Two coming movies may very well influence designers to move their medieval musings up to more modern times. Cate Blanchett will reprise her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age while Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman will vie for the affections of Henry VIII in The Other Boleyn Girl.

If anyone can make a Tudor gable hat look good, Johansson and Portman can. And before you say, "how can we possibly translate Tudor style to modern life?", remember Marc Jacobs's autumn-winter 2007 collection for Louis Vuitton which was inspired by 17th-century painter Jan Vermeer and, specifically, Johansson in Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Jacobs drew on the colours, the soft draping and the distinctive hats to create a perfectly wearable collection. The little things - the colours, the fabrics, a sleeve detail - will inspire.
As Sass & Bide designer Heidi Middleton says, "It could be just the puff of a sleeve or the trim or the buttons.

"Quite often the beginnings of an idea will come from a vintage detail; it will never look obvious."

Whether continuing global unrest will push fashion to the warrior extremes of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, remains to be seen. But you should dig out your shoulder pads now - forewarned is forearmed.

Iran and Armenia to hold medieval literature convention

TEHRAN, Oct. 20 (MNA) -- Director of Armenia’s National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Literature Azat K. Eghiazaryan and Iran’s cultural attaché in Yerevan Reza Atufi plan to hold a convention focusing on Iranian and Armenian medieval literature.

Eghiazaryan stated that Armenian medieval literature, particularly its poetry, was greatly influenced by the richness of Persian literary works of that epoch. The first convention will be held in Iran in May 2008 and five Armenian literary scholars will be attending the event.

Eghiazaryan is of the opinion that this joint literary investigation will strengthen the cultural bonds between the two countries.

Atufi welcomed the proposition and added that the Iranian cultural attaché’s office is willing to support programs highlighting the cultural commonalities of the two countries.

He also mentioned that there is to be a convention on Molana Jalal ad-Din Rumi at the venue of Armenia’s National Academy of Sciences on November 6 which is to be inaugurated by Armenia’s Minister of Education and Science Levon Mkrtchyan .

From: Mehr News

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stealing other's work counts as blogging...right?

The fate of this ancient château in Provence will be decided at auction

By Paul Shearer

ESTATE agents often puff up their offerings with phrases such as “period home” and“original features”. Few brochures are able to state “Built in 960” and “Has been in the hands of the same family since 1178”. Château d’Ansouis is able to make both these claims. This is a property older than the Tower of London.

The château is in the centre of the village of Ansouis in the Luberon in Haute Provence, one of those regions now so firmly on the international radar screen that you can’t nip down to the village market without bumping into a foot-ball/fashionista/film star/pop celebrity. Château d’Ansouis is perched on a rocky outcrop and has views over a protected valley.

Formed around a medieval core, this fortress underwent several eras of modification. The battlements, vaulted rooms, crenellated keep and dungeon all form part of the earlier construction remodelled variously in the 12th, 13th and 15th centuries. During the Wars of Religion in France the place suffered and was further rebuilt in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. More changes in the 18th century led to its spacious living apartments and ceremonial dining rooms.

The château was classed as a Monument Historique in 1948. Listed status requires owners to ensure that any new alterations are approved, but gains the owner access to tax breaks and grants for renovation and maintenance. It also creates a surrounding conservation area, so that any other buildings within 500m have to apply for special permission to make modifications.

Thus the village of Ansouis will keep its old-world charm and maintain its membership of the “the most beautiful villages in France” club. Around the château is its ornamental park, complete with a flower garden, pond, 18th-century fountains and an avenue of cypress trees; vineyards surround the village.

Why on earth would anyone sell that? Such are the rigours of French inheritance laws that property passes equally to all the children in a family. So, since the death of the Duke and Duchess of Sabran-Pontevès (in 1973 and 1988) the château and several other properties belonging to the family have been the subject of, to put it delicately, “disagreements” between the heirs. The current owners, three brothers and a sister, have been unable to come to a quiet family arrangement about who gets what, and have been forced into a very public auction sale.

France has many strangely decrepit or sadly empty buildings which, in answer to an inquiry, one learns are part of an inheritance dispute. To resolve these prolonged family debates, a law was introduced under which it is possible for an individual member of a family to force a sale.

But to avoid any hint of corruption, such a sale has to be at an auction. So, on October 29, 2007, Château d’Ansouis, along with several other lots, is to be sold at auction. The castle and its 16.6 hectares (41 acres) of park will go under the bougies rather than under the hammer. French auctions are conducted with candles. At the end of any rapid and obvious bidding, two candles are lit, one after the other. When the smoke rises from the second candle, the lot is deemed sold – although it won’t be completely sold, because next come several parcels of land around the village. Vineyards and orchards are for sale, even the village boules court is on offer. In total, just over 48 hectares of land is available.

At this point in the auction the total value is added up and further bids are possible for the ensemble, so cunning bidders may choose to wait until this point before putting in their killer bids. They will still have to wait ten days, though, because the law then allows a ten-day period during which anyone can make a 10 per cent overbid.

The mise à prix (opening bid) for the château is €1,114,000 (£776,241), a low and mouth-watering sum. However, with 50 rooms and 1,380 sq m of inhabitable space, there is some reluctance even to guess at the final sale price. After all, €10 million is small change for a billionaire. Will the brothers manage to club together and rescue the family seat, complete with Romanesque chapel in which their parents are buried, or will the whole edifice pass to new well-heeled owners? If so, who will they be? Hoteliers keen to exploit the castle’s obvious attractions? Or will it pass into the hands of a Russian oligarch, a sheikh, or London hedge fund manager?

Philip Hawkes, a Paris-based estate agent who has the details of the sale, says: “It would be nice to think that it can be preserved as a family château, but it is an auction and so, of course, anyone can bid. Who will end up the winner no one knows.”

If the château is not to your fancy, other lots in the auction include family apartments in Paris in the Place Vauban, near the Hôtel des Invalides. Or you could put your hand up for one of two ruined castles in the Var, each with a starting bid of €4,500.

Whatever happens, there’s an astonishing amount of history on sale.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yet another strange web comic

From: Married to the Sea

Word of the Week

This week's word: provenance

Provenance is the history of a book's ownership. Provenance information may be deduced from evidence relating to the original commission (such as heraldry, emblems, devices, and mottoes), from subsequent additions and annotations (including obits, inscriptions, bookplates, and library labeling), or from reference in catalogues, correspondence, and other records.

From: Michelle P. Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts - A Guide to Technical Terms, 1994.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

MSCU Recommendation: Popper's List

Vanessa Recommends: Popper's List

Now the World Wide Web is an awfully big place filled with wondrous sights to behold. Unfortunately, it can be hard to separate the proverbial wheat from the proverbial chaff. Friend of the MSCU Vanessa has recommended a gem of a website - Popper's List (see above link).

To quote the nature of this website, it's filled with "BBC PBS UKTV Discovery Channel History Channel A&E TLC Great Documentaries & Stuff [the blogger] like[s]!"

This blog is literally brimming with all kinds of quality documentaries - spanning virtually all periods of history.

But wait, there's more!

Not only has the blogger found the titles of many different documentaries, but he and or she has provided a link for each documentary to GoogleVideo so you can watch them for free. That's right, free documentaries!

In short, Popper's List does all the hard work for you - all you have to do is watch the documentaries.

How many times in life does some else do the work for you? It's well worth taking a look (or two).


It costs how much?!?!


"Leather clutch bag with silver stud detail. Zip and lock closure. Strap detailing with dark nickel D-ring buckles. Adjustable hand strap. Leather. 31 x 12 x 5cm."

Yes, this wonderful bag can be yours for the low, low price of £825.00 (roughly $1,642.61 CAD).

See. Who said you can't make money with a Medieval education?

Monday, October 15, 2007

The (Plough) Cat with Hands

Happy Halloween from the Medieval Studies Corpse Union...

Medieval church rebuilt

A medieval church which was dismantled and rebuilt stone-by-stone 50 miles away is due to be opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

St Teilo's Church has been moved from the West Wales community of Pontarddulais to the St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff and renovated in a project that has lasted almost a decade.

Carpenters and painters have rebuilt and decorated it to look as it did in the 1520s, using inspiration from a set of rare wall paintings dating from the period which were found when the building was being dismantled.

The painstaking project is thought to be the first of its kind attempted in Europe.
Reverend John Walters, the vicar of the new St Teilo's Church in Pontarddulais which replaced the medieval building, said: "The church will be a revelation to everyone and will offer an insight to part of our country's hidden history."

First Minister Rhodri Morgan is one of those welcoming the church's renovation as his great, great grandparents were one of the last couples to be married there.
He said: "I have watched the incredible skills of the restoration team that have reconstructed the building and saved the frescoes.

"This is a stunning addition to the treasure trove of Welsh history contained in St Fagans."
Original materials have been used where possible, with missing items replicated to be as authentic as they could be. Craftsmen used the same tools and techniques as those used hundreds of years ago in the ambitious process.

Those who remember the church at its original site, where it last stood in 1985, have been invited to a service being held by Rev Walters as part of the opening.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Life and Death of a Pumpkin

On October 26th you too can brutalize a pumpkin!

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlemange!


Just to let everyone know, the Medieval Studies Corpse Union is holding two very spooky events this October.

1. MSCU Pumpkin Carving - Since many of us live away from home we miss many of holiday rituals. Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. To celebrate the scariest time of year, the MSCU will be holding a second annual Pumpkin Carving Day!

Come along and bring your fiends ... er friend (living or dead) and carve a pumpkin for your favourite professor. We'll provide everything you need to make a fearsome jack-o-lantern - pumpkin, cutting tools, clean-up supplies, candy - you name it we'll have it.

We're holding this event on Friday, October 26th starting at 4:00 pm in the courtyard of Clearihue. Dress warmly - you wouldn't want to catch your death of cold.

2. Corn Maze of HORROR!!! - On Halloween Night (October 31st.) we're organizing a trip to Galey's Corn Maze of HORROR!!! I do not yet know the prices, but the moment I know I'll post the information.

Are you brave enough to endure such terror as a haunted corn maze? I'm sure we'll have a devil of a time.

Ryan Haunt

Medieval Studies Corpse Union !


MSCU Recommendation: "Cursing the Basil"

In this new feature, members of the MSCU will give their recommendations for 'things' (as Dr Kwakkel would say, 'kept deliberately vague') which they believe are worth looking into. If you have any glowing recommendations, please let us know.

Ryan's Pick: Cursing the Basil by Vivian A. Rich

Several years ago my grandparents were moving and selling many of their surplus books. Since family got first (and more importantly free) choice, I dove in with gusto. You see, I'm a strong believer that free things are the sweetest things.

One book which caught my eye was Vivian A. Rich's Cursing the Basil. I flipped through a few pages and looked at the index. Much to my glee there was a chapter on death curses. I was more than happy to take home a book which taught me how to smite my enemies, especially at the low, low price of zero dollars - I took it home.

My frugality and sadism (once again) served me well - this is a wonderful and informative book.

Cursing the Basil examines the use of plants throughout the ages. Her topics range from Roman flower markets to the special treatment of mandrake root to the Byzantine significance of Victorian flower arranging.

Author Vivian A. Rich earned her Ph.D. from the University of London, England. Currently living in Victoria, B.C. Canada she has been known to give lectures at the University of Victoria about the history and lore of flowers and herbs. She is also the author of The Medieval Garden and contributed to the Macmillan Dictionary of Art. Rich, therefore, has a firm grasp on the material at hand.

The author strikes a good balance between erudition and readability. The book, while informative, is easy to pick up and read. The use of plants and the attitudes which surrounded them had never been a subject I considered until I read this book. It provides an account of social history - a field which I too often neglect.

I won't go into too many details because this book is worth reading for one's self. Even though I got this book for free, I would happily pay for it. Although be warned - the death curses don't actually work (not that I tried them...).

Manuscript discovery brings medieval music to life

Medieval history comes to life at Harvard University on Oct. 18, when students and guest musicians collaborate in the North American premiere of an 800-year-old chant repertory from Harvard’s Houghton Library.

One of the chants that will be performed was recently discovered by Thomas Kelly, Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard, in a collection bequeathed by Philip Hofer, founding curator of the Houghton Library Department of Printing and Graphic Arts.

“I was looking through several stacks of manuscripts to explore which would be good subjects of study for a graduate seminar, when I opened one and said, ‘Wait a minute…’” Kelly explains.

It’s a good thing he did. The manuscript turned out to be a book of Ambrosian chant, dating from the 14th century. Kelly estimates that there are only 100 complete manuscripts of Ambrosian music still in existence.

Ambrosian music is a style of liturgical chant that was practiced in Milan for centuries. The chant is named for St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. Although Gregorian chant is more familiar today, Ambrosian chant remained an important part of the medieval cultural scene well into the 15th century.

“We misrepresent medieval chant if we say it was all Gregorian,” Kelly says. “Ambrosian chant survived the spread of Gregorian chant, so it has a larger significance in understanding how music spread throughout the medieval world.”

According to Kelly, Ambrosian chant survived because of strong local authority and tradition.

“No one in Milan could be convinced that the authority of Pope Gregory was greater than the authority of St. Ambrose,” Kelly says. “But the myth of Gregory the Great enabled Gregorian chant to spread widely elsewhere.”

Thrilled by his discovery of the manuscript, Kelly encouraged Houghton Library to acquire two additional, older manuscripts of Ambrosian chant. With the help of William Stoneman, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library, Harvard was able to acquire, preserve, and digitize what has become a significant collection of Ambrosiana. The collection now spans the 12th to the 15th centuries, which will allow Kelly and others to study the development of the repertory over time.

“We are excited that the acquisition of these manuscripts will provide deeper understanding of the topic and encourage scholarly discourse,” says Stoneman. “Our goal is to acquire material which supports the teaching and research of the Harvard community.”

For Kelly, the most exciting part of the manuscript discovery is the opportunity it provides for live performance and music-making.

“It is incredible to sing from an 800-year-old object,” he says. “These manuscripts come to life only when you sing from them. Through performance you can create a connection with a human being who, centuries ago, held this same text in his hand.”

Ambrosian chant will once again ring out on Oct. 18 when Kelly and the maestro di cappella of the Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan lead vespers services at St. Paul Catholic Church in Cambridge. Performers from the Basilica of St. Ambrose and music students from Harvard University will sing from the Harvard manuscripts in what is likely their first American performance.

“Ambrosian music is still sung in two places in Milan,” Kelly says, “but we don’t know that it is used anywhere else in the world.”

The vespers will include all the ceremonial rites of a traditional Ambrosian service.

“All are equally welcome, whether they think of it in religious or academic terms,” Kelly says.

The service kicks off a weekend conference focused on the Ambrosian manuscripts, titled “Ambrosiana at Harvard: New Sources of Milanese Chant.”

“We are especially pleased that these acquisitions have created this occasion,” says Stoneman.

The conference is funded by Houghton Library through a gift in honor of Zeph Stewart, Andrew M. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus; the Committee for the Provostial Fund in the Arts and Humanities; the Harvard Divinity School; the Committee on Medieval Studies at Harvard; the Harvard Department of Music; and the Barker Center for the Humanities.

The three Houghton manuscripts, an additional manuscript from a private collection, and photographs of other Ambrosian material are currently on display at Houghton Library.

By Emily T. SimonFAS Communications

Priory yields medieval security secrets

They lay hidden from view for hundreds of years, guarding silently the secrets of a tumultuous history.

But when archaeologists working on a £900,000 conservation project at Binham Priory, in north Norfolk, uncovered two medieval windows dating back to the 13th century, they knew the discovery would provide a rare glimpse into the site's past.

Historians are now working to find out whether or not the two windows at the site's gatehouse were part of a room possibly inhabited by a monk who would have kept a watchful eye on all people, animals and carts entering or leaving the monastery.

The two dressed stone windows had been blocked out when previous owners built a reinforced concrete pen to house a bull on the existing mediaeval building, bricking in the ancient walls. With conservation work currently underway, archaeologists decided to demolish the shed and strip the wall bare to reveal the mediaeval structure that had been hiding underneath for centuries.

“The discovery comes as a surprise,” said Peter Wade-Martins, director of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust. “We were astonished to find these two windows which will now help us to get a better idea of what the gatehouse and indeed what the entire site would have looked like in medieval times.”

The site, which witnessed moments of upheaval from the earliest days of the Norman Conquest through to the dissolution of monasteries at the Reformation, continues to surprise not just historians but also botanists who have recently stumbled across one of Norfolk's rarest plants.

“The wall bedstraw is a very frail flower which grows in chalky soil only,” said Pauline Scott, of the Binham Priory Trust.“

We have recently been told by botanists that 70pc of north Norfolk's wall bedstraw grows here at Binham Priory. As the conservation work includes the restoration of the old precinct wall we are taking great care not to disturb this frail plant and to protect it as much as we can.”

The conservation work is being undertaken as part of an £886,000 project aimed at making the historic priory more accessible to the public, of which £648,500 has been financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The discoveries follow a remarkable fund-raising campaign led by a project team of four and supporters in a village of only 250 residents, which has led to the project securing all of the remaining funds with just a £53,000 shortfall to be found over the coming year.

Planned improvements to the site are: paths to enable disabled access; a new porch in the north aisle to act as a secondary entrance to the church, which is still fully operational for services; the addition of visitor toilets; display space for archaeological finds from the site and a refreshment point. The project, which is due to be completed by September next year, will also see additional information panels. The site is enjoyed by more than 12,000 visitors a year.

Anyone willing to help can contact David Frost from Binham Priory Trust on 01328 830362 or email

From: Fakenham & Wells Times

'World Without End' by Ken Follett

By Stephen O'Shea, Special to The Times

Descendants of the author's Kingsbridge folk in "The Pillars of the Earth" contend with 14th century calamities.

At more than 1,000 pages, Ken Follett's "World Without End" comes perilously close to fulfilling the promise of its title. The second of the thriller writer's medieval novels, this new supersized story inspires the same question posed by its doorstop predecessor: Too fat to pick up, or too engrossing to put down? Naturally the author plumps for the latter: Sure of interest in the project, he invited a crew to film him writing the monster, and the program aired in his native Britain last month.

All this excess will delight the Follett faithful, accustomed to his whipsaw plotting and repeated recourse to violence and rapine. Like his previous medieval effort, "The Pillars of the Earth" (his most popular book to date), "World Without End" makes for giddy chutes-and-ladders reading; no situation can be reversed too often, no conflict resolved without serial surprises. Follett's Middle Ages -- bestial, political, venal -- are relentlessly eventful.

The setting is Kingsbridge, a stout market town in the heart of England whose 12th century cathedral builders were put through the Follett wringer in "Pillars." Now comes the turn of their descendants, as the novel follows four principals through the first half of the calamitous 14th century. Two spirited women -- one a stubborn and lovesick serf, the other a preternaturally intelligent merchant's daughter -- lead tempestuous lives intertwined with those of two sons of a ruined nobleman. One boy becomes a master architect; the other, rotten to the core, rises in the ranks of the aristocracy through the application of strategic atrocity. As children, these four witnessed a murder on which the kingdom's fate hinged; as adults, they struggle for power and position amid the interest groups in the town: monastery, nunnery and merchants' guild.

While the story zigzags mostly around this foursome and their weddings and beddings, along the way Follett has his many characters work out the mechanics of medieval bridge building, wool dyeing, market trading, medicinal bleeding and tax levying. These nuts-and-bolts dialogues are edifying, even if at times the enterprising townspeople sound, alas, like the guileless problem solvers of "The Magic School Bus." Where Follett excels, however, is in the dramatization of the politics of clergymen versus burghers versus nobles -- the constant tug of war that made medieval life as contentious as our age of litigation. Monastic politics, for example, usually come coated with dust in academic histories; here, thanks to Follett's breezy, anachronistic style, the obscure infighting is fresh and diverting. Thus we are treated to the memorable prior of the monastery in Kingsbridge, incompetent at everything save acquiring and maintaining power, and his Karl Rove-like sidekick, adept at playing dirty tricks and sliming reputations. Like the current White House, the two move from one catastrophic decision to the next, all the while maintaining the upper hand.

So, what actually happens? In the first half, the central stake is the governance of Kingsbridge and its revenue-generating fleece fair. The bright merchant's daughter, Caris, and her paramour architect, Merthin, struggle to free the town from monastic control and its hidebound devotion to tradition. Follett shows how effervescent the medieval era was, with trade expanding and new ideas cautiously being floated. The lovers' ambitions are thwarted when Caris, accused of heresy, is forced into a convent, upon which the heartbroken Merthin decamps to seek his fortune in Florence. Unbowed, Caris journeys to France with a beautiful lesbian nun and accidentally witnesses the Battle of Crécy, the kickoff to the Hundred Years' War. Mayhem connoisseurs will rejoice at this reconstruction.

Into the narrative roars the Black Death, reshuffling, or rather halving, the deck and allowing the survivors a chance to hatch new schemes and couple with new partners. It will come as no shock to his readers that Follett, whose flair for nonconsensual-sex scenes borders on the distressing, lingers on the hideous symptoms and agonies of plague victims. In a more seemly vein, he demonstrates how the epidemic changed the lives of peasants, who suddenly had bargaining power as a result of the labor shortage. In the wake of the plague, the perpetually luckless serf Gwenda finally manages to outmaneuver her rapist overlord, who is none other than Merthin's ne'er-do-well brother, Ralph.

In the dizzying spiral of the book's latter half, Caris more or less invents modern medicine in her convent plague hospital in Kingsbridge. Merthin, now a rich widower, returns to town. Ralph, a hero of Crécy and thus in royal favor, extorts, bludgeons and abuses with abandon.Couples are made and unmade, ghastly comeuppances dished out and a swarm of subplots finally put to sleep, until at last a gay bishop and his lover (both French, of course) come to see the innate reasonableness of the townspeople, who are led by Merthin and Caris, united by love and brains.

Stretch plausibility as it may, "World Without End" remains a breathless entertainment, and one with few pretensions to faithfully re-creating the Middle Ages. (That feat was perhaps best achieved in Zoé Oldenbourg's 1946 classic, "The World Is Not Enough.")Serious medievalists may sniff and literary novelists howl, but legions of readers will go along for the ride -- needing nothing more than a strong pair of wrists to lift the darn thing and, if I may make a suggestion, a very big bowl of popcorn.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Medieval Copiers

Viking longhouse project is right on track


MANY hands are making light work of an ambitious £78,000 living history project at the Ard Whallan outdoor education centre.

After months of fundraising, work began in April to build an authentic Viking longhouse on the slopes overlooking West Baldwin, designed to give a taste of life in the Island 1,000 years ago.

It will eventually form part of a Viking homestead where school parties will be able to make clothes and furniture, as well as cook, weave and tend to hens and sheep.

The Department of Education-led project required a lot of tough physical labour to build solid dry-stone walls and sturdy wicker fences by hand, but staff from Scottish Provident International Life Assurance (SPILA) were happy to help.

In the last five months, most of the firm's 130 Island-based staff have swapped their office for a wind-swept hillside to bond as a team and get involved in what they called a 'worthy community scheme'.

Under the supervision of an expert, these hardy volunteers have put up fences marking a path up the hill to the site of the longhouse, where the walls are still under a metre tall but rising every day.

Visitors will pass through rows of saplings planted by school children, expected to grow within 15 years into an ancient woodland of trees indigenous to the Island in Viking times.

Once the walls of the longhouse are two metres tall, these same trees — including oak, beech, willow and Scot's pine — will be used along with Manx timber to create a roof frame and thatch roofing.

Those species which no longer grow around West Baldwin or even in the Island will be provided by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Ard Whallan education officer Paul Young said support from the government and volunteers had allowed the project to maintain its ethos of using authentic materials and building methods.

Although completion was still some way off, Mr Young said young people and adults visiting the centre would benefit from a rare opportunity to experience first-hand the life of ancient Island dwellers.

A spokesman for SPILA said: 'As part of its corporate social responsibility, SPILA feels it is very important to assist in educational programmes such as this.

'Many employees have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of getting involved and have even learnt a few skills along the way.

'Lillian Boyle, managing director of SPILA, said the project was an 'opportunity to put something back into the community' which would 'aid youngsters in learning about living life in Viking times'.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Word of the Week

This week's word: vade mecum

The phrase means "goes with me" in Latin and refers to a portable book (often suspended from a belt), frequently consisting of leaves folded in a concertina or fold-out format. Such books could be consulted easily by physicians, for example, and often contain calendars, almanacs, and medical information.

Michelle P. Brown, Illuminated Manuscripts - A Guide to Technical Terms, 1994.

Vid game is next chapter in fairy tale

Worldwide Biggies is bringing the 1987 film "The Princess Bride" to video games in an exclusive deal with Act III Licensing.

Worldwide Biggies CEO Albie Hecht said a teaser version of the game will be on the upcoming "The Princess Bride 20th Anniversary DVD," with the full game, "True Love and High Adventure -- The Official Princess Bride Game," set for release as an online download in the spring.

Hecht added there are no plans for retail distribution, but he said the game has a strong chance to tap into the burgeoning casual gaming audience. And that includes women, many of whom grew up as fans of the Rob Reiner movie that starred Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn and Wallace Shawn.

Numfar- do the dance of joy!

Hey, it's Medieval-ish, right?

Car park dig for medieval castle

Volunteers are helping archaeologists search for signs of a medieval castle thought to be under a village car park.

Researchers believe the castle once stood at the site in Maenclochog at the foot of Pembrokeshire's Preseli Hills.

Villagers are working with professional archaeologists for two weeks in a bid to find out more about the land.

A topographical survey of the site last year suggested the site was probably that of the castle and possibly an earlier Iron Age fortification.

Documentary evidence suggests there was a castle at Maenclochog dating back to the 13th Century.

The dig, involving part of the village carpark, has been organised by local enterprise organisation Planed, with the help of Cambria Archaeology and Pembrokeshire National Park.
Planed's Christian Donovan said research was commissioned last year to come up with possible locations.

Actively involved

"They had always thought there was a castle in Maenclochog and people living there wanted to find out more about it," she said.

Around 20 amateurs will take part in the dig which started on Wednesday and at the end of each day villagers will be invited to tour the site for an update on what - if anything - has been found.

"We also have local school children coming to have a look next week," added Ms Donovan.

A similar project last year saw volunteers uncover human remains as they searched for a pre-Norman cemetery at Angle Bay in Pembrokeshire.

"They found a body last year - we don't think that will happen this year," added Mrs Donovan
She said the aim of the projects was to interest people in the history of their communities and get them actively involved in researching their heritage.


Castle unveils medieval tapestry

A tapestry that recreates part of a priceless Renaissance work of art has been unveiled at Stirling Castle.

The intricate 12ft by 14ft tapestry, entitled The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle, has taken a team of weavers four years to complete.

It forms the third part of the famous 16th century Hunt of the Unicorn series of tapestries, being recreated at the castle at a cost of £2m.

The original tapestries are housed in a museum in New York.

Work to recreate the set of seven tapestries is due to finish in 2013.

Historic Scotland unveiled the third work to the public at a special reception within the castle, where it is to hang in the centuries-old Chapel Royal.

'Love story'

The original tapestries, woven between 1495 and 1505, once adorned the walls of the castle, which was once the seat of the Stewart Kings.

They are believed to have been bought by King James V and appear in every Scottish royal inventory from 1539 to 1578.

John Graham, chief executive of Historic Scotland, said: "This is a very special contribution to the restoration of one of Scotland's finest castles.

"It is also helping to keep important traditional skills alive. "

Watching the weavers at work on the wonderful colourful tapestries has now become established as one of Stirling Castle's key attractions."

It is not known exactly who the original tapestries were first made for, although the initials A and E, the E written backwards, are woven into all seven originals.

They are also said to contain "hidden meanings" which can be interpreted as both a religious story and as a medieval love story.

They are now housed in the Cloisters Gallery of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and are considered among the finest examples in the world.

Stirling historian Craig Mair said the tapestries were an integral part of medieval and renaissance interior decoration in the chambers, state-rooms and great hall at the seat of the Stewart monarchs.

He said: "Tapestries provided decoration and a lavish display of wealth as well as keeping out the cold and damp. "

They also contained many vibrant colours and gold threads which would shimmer in the candlelight, to give at least an illusion of much needed warmth in the cold stone rooms."


Getty Center Exhibitions Explores Decorated Letters

The Decorated Letter, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, November 13, 2007-January 27, 2008, explores the stylistic traditions of decorated initials preserved from a period that spans over 700 hundred years. Exhibition materials are primarily drawn from books of scripture and prayer, with a few examples from the realms of law and history, and provide insight into the trends that shaped medieval artistic production.

The exhibition complements the Getty's Fall Premiere Presentation Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Throughout the Middle Ages, handwritten manuscripts were elaborately decorated with initials that called attention to the important part of a text, testified to the authority of the written word of God, and brought the vibrancy of speech and song to the manuscript page. Medieval initials were often intricately designed, lavished with gold, and painted with expensive pigments.
This display of 25 manuscripts and leaves from the Getty Museum's collection presents some of the most beautifully decorated initials in manuscripts, tracing the sophisticated relationship between pictures and words in three major categories of decorated letters: ornamented, inhabited or figurative, and historiated.

Ornamented letters were among the earliest decorated letters applied by medieval manuscript artists. They are usually adorned with foliage or vegetal motifs that range from carefully interlaced, stylized forms to more naturalistic renderings of lush vegetation. In the context of Christian religious service and prayer books, luxurious foliage and vegetal patterns expressed the medieval belief in the life-giving power of the word of God.

People, animals, and fantastic beasts appear in two types of initials that engaged the reader's attention and provoked curiosity about the text the letters introduced. In inhabited letters, figures climb on, crawl through, or emerge from decorative forms. In figurative letters, the contoured bodies of people or creatures form the shape of the letter itself.

Historiated letters contain distinct scenes or subject matter specifically related to the texts they introduce. The earliest historiated letters were simple illustrations of the biblical or historical figure to which a text was attributed. Later examples depicted elements of an important story or scene from the text.

This exhibition also includes an example of a Renaissance constructed alphabet by Joris Hoefnagel, arguably the last great manuscript illuminator. In stark contrast to the animated initials in medieval books, Hoefnagel's Model Book of Calligraphy provides a geometric template and a completed character for each letter of the alphabet.

The Decorated Letter is curated by Richard Leson, a former intern in the Department of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. --

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Non movete! Tempore Hammorem est!

MSCU Skating with the profs!

As previously announced, there will soon be a MSCU Skating with the Profs Night. This event will occur on Saturday, October 20th between 7:15 and 8:45 pm at Oak Bay Rec. Centre (1975 Bee Street).

Now there is one caveat. Since professors will be taking time out of their busy schedules to join us, we want to make sure that we have sizable group of students. If you would like to go, please email us back . If by Thursday (Oct. 11th) we do not have 5-10 people signed up, we will be forced to cancel the event.

Admission for skating is $4.10 for students plus a small skate rental fee (less than $3.00). Rides can be arranged for anyone interested - just let us know in advance. People of all ability are welcome. I can barely skate, yet I enjoy myself every time.

We've had this event several times in the past and it's always great fun. Where else can you see your prof fall flat on his/her face? So if this sounds like fun, let us know you're coming. If you want a specific prof to come, let us know and we'll put extra pressure on them to come.

We hope to hear from you,
Ryan Hunt

MSCU President

MSCU Events for October

There are a number MSCU events this October. They are as follows:

1. A General Meeting - Come and voice your opinions on the MSCU's direction this fall and meet the MSCU executive. All people welcomed and encouraged. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 10th 2007 in Clearihue A204 starting at 6:30 pm. If you can't make it at that time, feel free to come late.

2. In addition to the General Meeting there will be the first MSCU Movie Night of the year once the meeting concludes. The Movie will be shown after the General Meeting (Wednesday, October 10 th 2007 in Clearihue A204 starting at 6:30 pm). 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. As always drinks and snacks will be provided. Please bring friends, family and those of non-specific romantic attachment.

We will leave the choice of movie up to you, the audience. Your choices will include: A Knight's Tale, Camelot, The Seventh Seal, and Aladdin - choose wisely...

3. In keeping with the upcoming holiday spirit (Halloween), the MSCU will be holding the second annual Medieval Pumpkin Carving Extravaganza! Here's your chance to carve a pumpkin for your favourite Medieval Studies Department professor or faculty member. It's a great way to get into the Halloween spirit and to show your appreciation for the hard work of the faculty and staff in the department. As we get closer to the day, the date and time will be finalized. If you are interested let us know so that we may reserve you a pumpkin.

4. A Medieval Script Workshop will be offered later this month. Ever wonder what it was like to be a scribe? Now you have a chance to learn. The MSCU will provide all the materials to make your own faux-folio ( i.e. quill, ink, parchment, gold leaf, script hand-book). The date and time for this have yet to be finalized, stay tuned for more information.

5. Skating with the Profs. Several times each year the MSCU goes skating with Medieval Studies Professors. It's a great way for students to get to know professors. In the past we've had Dr Kwakkel, Dr Millwright, and Dr Baboula come skating. If you're interested, let us know. More information will be provided shortly.

Russia to return medieval stained glass windows to Germany

MOSCOW, October 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will return to Germany the last six of 117 stained glass window panels taken by the Red Army in 1945 from the church of Marienkirche in Frankfurt an der Oder.

The decision to return the windows, currently being held in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, was made on Thursday in a Cabinet session, the Russian government's press service said on Friday.

In 2002, Russia returned to Germany 111 of the 117 stained glass windows, which had been kept in the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, under a program on the exchange of looted art.

After the draft federal law specifying the procedure of exchange is approved by the State Duma, the remaining medieval-era windows will be returned to the church in eastern Germany.

Russia has claimed a number of German works of art as compensation for the damage the Soviet Union suffered in World War II, when Nazis blew up Russian churches and residences. One of the most famous objects lost in the war was the legendary Amber Room, made in Prussia in early 18th century, and believed to have been looted by Nazi troops in 1945 in Kaliningrad.

Friday, October 5, 2007

We have found a witch. May we burn her?

Monty Python legend theorizes Richard II victim of medieval spin

An English king who has been portrayed as a tyrant for 600 years was likely the victim of political spin, an international conference on medievalism was told in London yesterday.

Terry Jones, better known as a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, showed his scholarly side as the provocative opening speaker for the weekend conference at the University of Western Ontario.

There were certainly laughs during his presentation in Conron Hall, such as when he described Niccolo Machiavelli as "a very naughty boy" or payments for pardons as "a very good bargain."
But when Jones had finished his 90-minute address on Richard II, he had made a case that the king's aborted reign was "a brave experiment in monarchial rule" usurped by the real tyrant,

Henry IV, his successor.

Jones said Richard made peace with France, a good thing for his people, but his reign was plagued by high-ranking plotters who killed 30 of his supporters and proved to be traitors.
Henry used brute force and censorship to establish his power and scared scribes of the day into revising history, said Jones.

It was largely they who gave Richard the bad rap that still dogs him, he said.
To give weight to his thesis, Jones showed slides of paintings and writings altered during Henry's rule and how writers of the day had changed their tunes about both Richard and Henry.
The legend of comedy received hearty applause at the end of his speech and praise from conference organizer, UWO professor Jane Toswell.

"With an opening address, one hopes for a provocative, well-researched, interesting and exciting speech, and we've certainly had that," said Toswell.

She encouraged Jones to write a book about his findings on Richard.

With such books as Chaucer's Knight and Who Murdered Chaucer? to his credit, Jones has already established himself as a credible historian, said Toswell.

In an interview, Jones said he has always enjoyed writing more than anything -- whether it has been writing comedy skits, movie screenplays, children's books or such contemporary works as his War on Terror.

In the early days of Monty Python, his writing and performing collaborators believed "we could be funnier than anything else that was on television."

But never did they think their comedy would endure to become classics, he said.

"We were just being as silly as we could be at the time," he said.

Jones said he remains good friends with his old Python pals -- John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam.

"It was a short period during our lives. We had a lot fun. But we never had a breakup like the Beatles."

Monty Python's Flying Circus was a series of 45 television shows that aired over four seasons in Britain between the late 1960s and early 1970s. Skits such as Dead Parrott, Spam and Nudge

Nudge became comedy classics.

After TV, the Pythons turned their talents to movies, making the last one in 1983.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail was screened for the medievalists at Conron Hall last night.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Vatican Secret Archives to unveil rare book on Knights Templar

On October 25 in the Vatican's Old Synod Hall, the presentation will take place of the "Processus contra Templarios," a book published by the Vatican Secret Archives on the subject of the Knights Templar, the medieval military-religious order founded in Jerusalem in 1118 and suppressed by Pope Clement V (1305-1314).

According to a communique made public yesterday afternoon, the new volume is "a previously unpublished and exclusive edition of the complete acts of the original hearing against the Knights Templar." The book, unique of its kind, will have a print run "rigorously limited to 799 copies" and contains the "faithful reproduction of the original parchments conserved in the Vatican Secret Archives."

The project, the communique concludes, "is part of the series of 'Exemplaria Praetiosa,' ... the most elaborate and important publication yet undertaken by the Pontifical Archives."

The new volume will be presented by Archbishop Raffaele Farina S.D.B., archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church; Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, and experts such as the historian Franco Cardini and the archaeologist and author Valerio Massimo Manfredi."

Il Poverello

Today is the feast day of perhaps the most popular Saint in history, Francis of Assisi.

Living in Italy from 26 Sept. 1181 to 3 Oct. 1226, he was a crucial figure in the mendicant movement, founding the order of Friars Minor (O.F.M., the little brothers). His life was pretty eventful: from receiving orders from God to rebuild the Church in San Damiano, to tossing off his clothes in the middle of the town square in obedience to the bishop's commands to return everything of his father's, to embracing lepers, to jumping into a rose bush at the sight of a beautiful woman, to trying to make peace with Sultan Melek-el-Kamel.

Although Francis was not in favour of his order becoming a teaching order like the Dominicans, one obvious problem being the ownership of books as a contradiction of his rule of absolute poverty, the Franciscans made their mark in Medieval education and had a large role in the development of universities, of which Paris and Oxford come to mind most readily. Famous Medieval Franciscan intellectuals include St Bonaventure, Bl. John Duns Scotus, Alexander of Hales, and Roger Bacon.

Here is a well-known poem Francis wrote in Italian, which in English is known as "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace":

Preghiera Semplice

O Signore, fa di me uno strumento della tua Pace:
Dove è odio, fa ch'io porti l'Amore.
Dove è offesa, ch'io porti il Perdono.
Dove è discordia, ch'io porti l'Unione.
Dove è dubbio, ch'io porti la Fede.
Dove è errore, ch'io porti la Verità.
Dove è disperazione,ch'io porti la Speranza.
Dove è tristezza, ch'io porti la Gioia.
Dove sono le tenebre, ch'io porti la Luce.

O Maestro, fa ch'io non cerchi tanto:
Essere consolato, quanto consolare.
Essere compreso, quanto comprendere.
Essere amato,quanto amare.

Si è: Dando, che si riceve;
Perdonando che si è perdonati;
Morendo, che si risuscita a Vita Eterna.