Friday, November 30, 2007

Adventures of Robin Hood (1955)

Robin Hood BBC

Disney's Robin Hood

Rocket Robin Hood (1966)

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

A special Bible project

Exhaustive work blends ancient, high-tech in the Good Book

Jesus’ directive to spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth came a couple of thousand years before the Space Age.

But that did not stop creators of a massive new Bible — handwritten in medieval style, with quills on calfskin — from including an illustration of Earth based on a NASA satellite image.

Green-and-brown land, blue oceans and swirling white clouds accompany the book of Acts in the St. John’s University Bible, commissioned by the Collegeville, Minn., university and a Benedictine monastery.

Theologian Miguel Diaz has given a PowerPoint presentation about the 1,150-page Bible at the University of Dallas in Irving. It is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible to be created in more than 500 years, said Brian Schmisek, founding dean of the Irving, Texas, university’s School of Ministry.

“As Christian theologians, we’ve tended to focus on Martin Luther and the apostle Paul’s emphasis that salvation comes with the hearing,” said Diaz, associate professor of theology at St. John’s University. “But that’s only half the story.

“We’re a visual generation, and one of the things the Bible can do is through the illuminated pages show the beauty of the word.”

While Jews still copy by hand the Torah and Muslims do so with the Quran, Christians stopped the practice of hand-writing the Bible soon after the invention of the printing press in the mid-1400s, Diaz said.

But a decade ago, Ronald Jackson of Wales — senior scribe to Queen Elizabeth — approached St. John’s University with his dream of creating a handwritten, illuminated Bible. Illuminated texts feature decorative borders, illustrations and gold, silver or platinum leaf.

University officials approved the $4 million, 10-year project, and Jackson chose several calligraphers, artists and a graphic designer to help.

The Bible — 24.5 inches long and nearly 16 inches wide — will be in seven volumes in the New Revised Standard Version. It will be completed by April 2008, Diaz said.

While calligraphers and artists used ancient methods, “the layout design of the pages is computer-generated,” he said. “And they came up with a Bible that appeals to the culture of our times.”

Aboriginal rock carvings discovered in Australia sparked the artists’ imaginations in depicting the story of creation.

An image of DNA accompanies Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy, while the artist who depicted the suffering servant spoken of in Isaiah was inspired by an Ethiopian child, Diaz said.

Images of piles of skeletons evocative of the Holocaust represent the prophet Ezekiel’s description of a “valley of dry bones,” symbolic of lost hope.

And a fellow in jeans scatters seeds on the ground, portraying one of Jesus’ parables about God’s abundance.

Already finished are five volumes: one containing the first five books of the Bible; one the Psalms; one prophetic books; one of the “Wisdom” books, among them Job and Song of Solomon; and one of the four Gospels and Acts, Diaz said.

There have been hurdles.

“No one has seen God; how do you represent him?” Diaz said. “Wherever you see gold in the Bible, that represents God — in the midst of chaos, gold.”

Schmisek said he has seen pages of the St. John’s Bible, and “it’s fascinating.”

“It stacks up extremely well” again handwritten Renaissance Bibles he has seen in Catholic archives in Shreveport, La., he said.

Some portions of the Bible already are in traveling exhibits. When completed, the Bible will be bound and housed at St. John’s. Smaller, printed versions of each of the seven volumes will be sold at bookstores and can be ordered online. Cost will range from $40 to $70, depending on the volume.

An official with the American Bible Society in New York City praised the St. John’s effort.

“Our mission is to put the Bible in the hands of all men, women and children in a language they can understand,” said Bob Hodgson, dean of the society’s Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship. “We cannot say, ‘One size fits all.’ The spiritual requirements of the world are demanding that we put the Bible on DVDs, on the Internet, on YouTube, through iPods — or through tape recordings for a village somewhere in the world that has no written language.

“People have encountered the Bible message in paintings, in catacombs, in cathedrals, in hymns and illustrated manuscripts. We’re delighted by the elaborate craft of the St. John’s Bible, taking us line by line, image by image.”

Today in the Middle Ages

30 November, 1406 - Gregory XII becomes Pope...

...and is immediately excommunicated. The Schism amuses me.

Bone find mystery solved

A GRIZZLY discovery in a churchyard left police and parishioners fearing the worst.

What looked like a human pelvic bone was unearthed by gardeners at St Michael’s Church in Sheerwater on Thursday. The area was quickly cordoned off by police and the bone was taken away for analysis.

After analysis, it was found to have belonged to a cow that grazed on the green grass of Woking more than 500 years ago.

Detective Sergeant Chris Rambour said a police expert decided that the bone belonged to a medieval cow. The medieval era ended in 1485, meaning the bone is at least 522 years old.

He added: “The bone was removed from under a bush and we always treat such finds as human until proven otherwise.”

The Rev Iain Forbes, minister for Sheerwater and Woodham, said the bone was discovered by a working party provided by the probation service.

He said alarm bells rang when it was unearthed on land outside the Dartmouth Avenue church that is consecrated only for the burial of ashes.

Mr Forbes said: “With the current stories in the news, people got rattled quite understandably.
“We’ve been told there were signs of butchery on the bone."

“It seems that someone was cutting up the cow and saying ‘yum yum, there’s my dinner’ several hundred years ago.”

Mr Rambour added that this was the first time he had dealt with the discovery of a mysterious bone, although they were not uncommon.

The last case, he said, was two weeks ago when people who discovered pig bones in Addlestone also feared the worst.

Ancient woodland gets chopped down to size

ANCIENT woodland in Corby has been getting a facelift by volunteers from The Wildlife Trust.

The King's Wood nature reserve is the oldest part of Rockingham Forest and is being spruced up by volunteers from the trust after receiving a grant.

The Fit for a King project was set up after the Waste Recycling Group donated £7,000 in Gift Aid for the work on the green space in the heart of Corby.

Three volunteers and two members of the trust have been coppicing, laying trees and hedges to increase the range of habitats, and also removing litter and clearing ponds.

Stuart Baker is a countryside management student and has volunteered his time for work experience.

He said: "It's hard work but it certainly keeps you warm. "Historically, the forest was coppiced so we are trying to return it to coppiced woodland and how it would have been managed."

At the end of the day you can see what you have cleared and know when you come back
next year you will see the growth that has come through.

"At the moment it looks like a bomb site but next year it will look like a woodland glade."

Lisa Adams, reserve officer at the Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust, is also working at the site.

She said: "Coppicing is a traditional managing method for woodland. You cut back strands of trees and it provides a mosaic of habitats."

It reinvigorates and prolongs the life of lots of old trees and various species.

"The King's Wood remains one of the best examples of the medieval Rockingham Forest, which is initially thought to have survived so long because of its value as a preserve for the king's deer and later because of the expansion of Corby around it.

Corby Council also promoted it as the first local nature reserve in the county.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Anyone want to built a cathedral?

The Medieval Studies Program has recently been given a 3-d puzzle of the Notre Dame Cathedral. We as the faithful members of the Medieval Studies Course Union have been tasked with building this monument to God.

Our virtuous Social Chair, Matt "the Conqueror" McHaffie, will be planting his flag on another country next week, therefore, there will be no meeting of the Research Collective.

In lieu of the Research Collective we will be meeting to build the Notre Dame Cathedral.

When: December 5th, 2007

What time: 7:00 - 9:00 pm

Where: David F. Strong Building C124

What: Building a monument to God

What else: There will be snacks (likely pizza) and possibly a movie (likely not pizza)

We hope everything is going well. A few more weeks and the madness will stop.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Becket (1964)

I've discovered the what makes a good Medieval movie - Peter O'Toole.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Accents - they really make a difference.

If you can stick with one, you shouldn't have one at all.

The Lion in Winter

Now this is a cast: Katherine Hepburn (Eleanor), Peter O'Toole (Henry II), Anthony Hopkins (Richard the Lionheart)

Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Gawain and the Green Knight.

In preparation for tonight's Research Collective, I pose the following question - why do movies based upon Medieval literature also depart so radically from the source material?

Today in the Middle Ages

28 November, 1095 - Pope Urban II appoints Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy and Count Raymond IV of Toulouse to lead First Crusade to the Holy Land.

And 890 years later, Matt rejoiced...

Coronation chair and medieval panels damaged by heating in Westminster Abbey

Environmental conditions inside Westminster Abbey are now causing “serious concern”, according to one of its own conservators, Marie Louise Sauerberg. The Coronation Chair, commissioned in 1296 and used for virtually every crowning since 1308, has suffered from serious flaking of its gilded surface.

Humidity levels fluctuate considerably in the abbey, mainly because of central heating. Polychromed wood is particularly vulnerable to these changes, causing the paint to flake.

Although unpublicised at the time, three years ago the chair was treated in situ, with adhesive being used to stabilise the lifting gilding.

Serious damage has also been sustained by the ancient sedilia, or priests’ stalls, which date from around 1307. The sedilia, on the south side of the high altar, are decorated with paintings and are among the abbey’s greatest treasures. They also feature some of the earliest English paintings on panel. The sedilia have long been regarded as a rare survival, and William Blake recorded them in a watercolour in 1775.

On the front of the oak sedilia there were four painted full-length figures—two kings (possibly Henry III and Edward I) and two ecclesiastics. The reverse was decorated with the figures of St John as the Pilgrim, St Edward the Confessor, the Virgin and the Arch­angel Gabriel (in the Annunciation). Half the painted figures were virtually destroyed in 1644, during the iconoclasm of the Civil War.

The condition of the sedilia is now so fragile that if one were to pass one’s hand over the surface, a considerable area of the surviving 700-year-old paint would simply fall off. Even though they are just beyond the reach of tourists’ hands, tiny paint fragments occasionally fall to the floor.

The throne, too, is on view but beyond the reach of the public in the ambulatory. It is moved, however, for every coronation to the area in front of the high altar, for the new monarch’s anointing and crowning.

The environmental damage is largely the result of heating in the abbey, which reduces relative humidity. This is now thought to vary from around 30% to 80% throughout the year, a very high range.

Last September small monitoring devices were placed throughout the abbey, to record temperature, humidity and light levels. This data will be used to devise an environmental strategy.

Although heating is essential for worshippers, it may be possible to reduce the temperature slightly. Another option would be to alter the heating system. The negative impact of direct sunlight, which also causes wood to dry out, could be mitigated. One possibility would be the installation of strategically placed cloth “sails” inside the windows, to block direct light on the vulnerable objects, but this would inevitably be visually intrusive.

Consultant conservator Ms Sauerberg expects that initial recommendations for an environmental plan will be made towards the end of next year.

In the meantime, conservation of the sedilia is an urgent priority, and last month the Dean and Chapter approved the work. This $50,000 project is being supported by the World Monuments Fund, with a Kress Foundation grant.

The work will involve a microscopic examination of the painted wood, and any lifting paint will be secured with an animal or synthetic adhesive. There will also be a light surface cleaning, with both dry cleaning (dusting and vacuuming) and wet cleaning (with de-ionised water). Old varnish and surface coatings will not be removed and there will only be minor retouching.

It is also intended to conduct a full survey of the sedilia, including photo­grammetry, x-radiography and infra-red reflectography. All work will have to be done in situ, since the sedilia have never been moved in seven centuries.

EPS produces 'largest-ever' print for £30m cathedral project

Electronic Print Services (EPS) is to produce "the largest single graphic ever made" as part of a restoration project on York Minster medieval cathedral.

The Leeds-based printer will produce a life-sized graphic of the building's Great East Window, which features the world's largest expanse of medieval stained glass, in order to cover scaffolding while the window is restored.

The 14x27m replica of the 15th-century glass, which will be printed on Epiflex using EPS' HP DesignJet10000s press, is expected to take an estimated four weeks to produce.

EPS managing director Steve Farley called the project a "massive undertaking" that presented a lot of technical difficulties.

He said: "Rather than have visitors to the cathedral stare at scaffolding for the next 10 years, we have been working with project organisers at York Minster to develop a solution that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing."

The restoration work is part of a £30m development campaign by the cathedral and may take up to 10 years to complete.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A little Monty Python to cheer up the world during essay season.

Essays - grrrr!

Archaeologists unearths buried treasure

A FREELANCE archaeologist has unearthed one of the most dramatic finds of Anglo Saxon materials within an ancient burial ground in the North-East.

The Royal Anglo-Saxon cemetery - with some of the finest gold jewellery to be found in Britain - has been discovered on land in Loftus, east Cleveland.

The 109-grave cemetery is arranged in a rectangular pattern and dates from the middle of the 7th Century.

The cemetery, bed burial and high status objects are considered to all indicate the people buried must have connections with Anglo-Saxon royalty.

The finds were unveiled at Kirkleatham Museum, in Redcar, yesterday, where it is hoped they will eventually go on permanent display.

An aerial photograph, showing evidence of an Iron Age site, gave archaeologist Steve Sherlock the first clues to what has been buried treasure.

The finds include gold and silver brooches that may have connections with the kings of Northumbria.

The excavations, which began in 2005 and continued under Mr Sherlock's supervision with help from Tees Archaeology and local volunteers, working four to six weeks every summer, have covered an area the size of half a football pitch.

Mr Sherlock said: "I knew the significance of the site straight away after being involved in excavating an Anglo Saxon cemetery at Norton, but I couldn't believe it - you don't find sites like this twice in your career.

"And it's grown each year, the first year we found 30 graves, but I didn't expect to find any more, then in 2006 we found another 13 and this year has been even more spectacular, finding the fantastic plan of the site, actually showing a social order."

Whilst human bone does not survive because of the acidic soils, a range of high status jewellery was found, including glass beads, pottery, iron knives and belt buckles. Five of the graves had gold and silver brooches and a further burial had a seax, a type of Anglo-Saxon sword.

"One burial had been placed upon a bed with the lady dressed wearing three gold brooches, one of which is unparalleled in Anglo-Saxon England. Quite who this person was we may never know, but we can say she was alive at the time St Hilda was establishing the monastery at Whitby."

The Teesside coroner needs to conduct an inquest to confirm the treasure definition and the finds will then be valued by a panel of experts from the British Museum.

Robin Daniels, of Tees Archaeology, said: "It is the most dramatic find of Anglo Saxon material for generations.

"I was stunned - it is not the kind of site you expect to find in this part of the world - there is nothing to indicate that we should have a royal cemetery near Loftus."

Traditionally, Anglo Saxon royalty were always buried in the south of England and it is thought the royals buried at the Loftus site could be linked to the Kentish Princess Ethelburga who travelled north to marry Edwin, King of Northumbria.

Redcar and Cleveland Council's cabinet member for culture, leisure and tourism, Councillor Sheelagh Clarke, said: "It is a great thrill for all of us - for everyone who has been involved with it. It was so poignant to see the children's' and babies graves - it brought home how hard life was for people in that day in age. It is quite incredible how they came to be here but that is a million dollar question - how did a royal family come to be in Loftus?"

A virtual cathedral for Digital Age pilgrims

Computer re-creation of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral portrays the building as it looked in the 13th century -- and took only seven years to construct.

By Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer November 24, 2007

In a computer lab at UCLA, the worlds of cyberspace and Medieval Europe merge.

A large group of computer engineers, scholars, students and other experts at UCLA have built a virtual cathedral -- a computer re-creation of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral as the building probably appeared when it was dedicated in northwest Spain in 1211.

Projected onto a screen curving nearly a half-circle, the image looks as if it belongs in the virtual world of a video game. Animated granite bricks rise up to form massive towers and Romanesque arches, and cartoon clouds fill a flawless royal blue sky.

"We can go anywhere we want, at any moment," John Dagenais, chairman of the Spanish and Portuguese Department at UCLA, said as he "walked" visitors through the computerized cathedral.

Actually, he did more than walk.

"If we could just proceed toward the altar at ground level and then we'll fly up later on," Dagenais said, giving instructions to undergraduate student Meghana Reddy, who was operating the simulation. "Let's slide on down that column." He turned to his visitors. "Prepare yourself for a big drop. Boom," Dagenais said, as the images flew quickly by, creating a roller-coaster sensation.

For centuries, the real cathedral, which is still standing and is said to house the bones of St James, rivaled Rome and Jerusalem as a destination for Christian pilgrims. In recent years, modern pilgrims have rediscovered Santiago; this year, government representatives said they expect that 200,000 pilgrims will pay homage at the cathedral.

Since it was dedicated in the 13th century, a series of ornate Baroque-style embellishments have been added to the cathedral, making the modern structure almost unrecognizable from the original. Now, through the work of Dagenais and other members of the UCLA team, students and scholars are able to take a "virtual pilgrimage" that its creators say will help people understand the place that for centuries compelled thousands of pilgrims to set out on an arduous journey for months -- even years -- along often-dangerous roads.

In its virtual realization, the cathedral and parts of the surrounding town are projected onto the curved screen in a specially designed theater; visitors can wear 3-D goggles that create an experience reminiscent of a ride at Disneyland.

"Why don't we just fly out that window and turn around and look back," Dagenais said, continuing the virtual tour. The cathedral shrank away and the visitors were given a bird's-eye view of the building's facade: simple but impressive.

The aerial view also offers a look at the last part of the pilgrimage route, known as the Camino de Santiago, to the cathedral. There are many routes to the town, located in the Spanish region of Galicia, but the most common one stretches from the Pyrenees on the French-Spanish border through northern Spain.

Modern pilgrims most often make the journey on foot or bicycle. Some walk only part of the road; an officially recognized pilgrim is one who walks at least 100 kilometers -- about 62 miles -- or bikes at least 150 kilometers, said Jose Suarez Otero, an archaeologist who is working with the Galician government to bring the computer reconstruction to Spain.

More than the cathedral, it was the pilgrimage -- the mass movement of people across Europe to a remote portion of Spain -- that inspired Dagenais to immerse himself in the history of Santiago de Compostela.

"I'm not a Catholic," he said. "I'm interested in what Medieval people thought, what they believed, how they behaved. For me it's this amazing human phenomenon that impresses me, that makes me think this is worth understanding."

No one knows exactly what pushed so many people to Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages.

For many, it was the perception that St. James, one of the 12 apostles, had a special relationship with Jesus, experts say.

"He's one of the closest to Jesus. Very often, Jesus would take only three people with him: Peter, James and John. They seem to be the closest," said Charles Hilken, chairman of the history department at St Mary's College of California in Moraga.

Modern pilgrims come for all imaginable reasons."Some come for religious reasons, spiritual reasons. They also come for health, tourism, to see the world, to enjoy Spain," Otero said. "I imagine it was the same even in the Middle Ages."

Otero and Dagenais share a fascination with the centuries-old movement of people inspired by the cathedral erected on the site where many Christians believed St James was entombed.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Citizen Unearths Medieval Jewellery near Bulgarian Seaside Village

A Bulgarian citizen stumbled upon golden adornments that belonged to a person, who lived in the Middle Ages, Darik News reported.

The man found the precious antiques near the seaside village of Shkorpilovtsi and handed them to the Museum of History in Varna.

The jewellery date from the second half of 14th century, when Tsar Ivan Alexander ruled the Second Bulgarian Empire.

A diadem, three rings, two earrings and glass buckles are among the objects found.

The citizen, who discovered the adornments, will be paid some amount of money over his noble action.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Spring Trip to UBC

ATTENTION: This information is out of date. For the most accurate news click here.
MSCU Trip to UBC

After the Research Collective (November 28th from 8:30 - 9:30 pm in David F. Strong Building C124) we will discuss a potential trip to the University of British Columbia during the Spring Reading Break.

The purpose of this trip is to look at the University's special collection of Medieval

Dr F. Kwakkel has kindly agreed to sacrifice some of his much needed time off to
be our guide at UBC. He once taught at that University and is knowledgeable
about their manuscripts.

If the UBC Trip is to go ahead we need at least seven people who can guarantee that they will come.

I stress these points for a reason. This trip will be time consuming to organize. We do not
want to waste Dr Kwakkel's time. If we do not get at least seven people who can solemnly
swear to come, the trip will not be planned.

If you are interested in this trip, please attend the meeting.

If you are interested but cannot come, please email us and another time for a meeting
can be arranged.

The trip will take one day during reading break. We'll leave in the morning, take a ferry to Vancouver and come back in the late afternoon. Transportation will be provided.

We need to have this trip planned before January, so time is of the essence.

This trip will provide a valuable chance to see some amazing manuscripts - don't miss
your opportunity.


MSCU Research Collective

Continuing next Wednesday (November 28th) at 7:00 pm in David F. Strong Building C124 the MSCU will be holding its second of several informal research meetings where students may get together to discuss a broad general topic related to medieval history.

The aim of these meetings, which will use a broad question to begin discussion, is to allow students to approach a question where they can bring their own ideas from readings and research to the discussion and help to arrive at an 'answer', as much as one is possible, for the weekly question. Through student interaction, it is hoped that participants will become familiar with new ideas and opinions held by other students in their efforts to come to terms with the topic of discussion. Through collaboration we can arrive at some measure of truth...hopefully.
Thus, in the spirit of academic collaboration, the question for next week (28November) is:

How are the Middle Ages portrayed in modern society?

Consider this topic to encompass any aspect of modern society.
The topic ranges from historiography, pop culture, fashion, language,
film, etc...

Since we will all be mentally exhausted by this point in the year,
this topic is designed to be fun. Feel free to involve your favourite movie,
t.v. show or video game.
At the same time, if historiography is your thing
go crazy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Will the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms-like treatment of the Middle Ages never stop?

Another day, another denigration of the Middle Ages. Will journalists ever stop their ignorant Cold War mentality? WARNING: May cause extreme mind-numbing-ness!


I personally blame the corporately owned media and their Edwardian period views. They impose Mesopotamian restriction on we the oppressed people.

We need to rise up in righteous indignation and overthrow our elitist masters and their oppressive The Age of Enlightenment corporate complex.

In honour of our new quotation...


FUN FACT: The woad applied as war-paint had to be mixed with urine to achieve it's blueness.

BraveMel looks a lot less tough when you think that he had to smear pee on his face.

A month late and a dollar short...

This post would have really been more appropriate around Halloween since Christmas is hardly known for pumpkins.
But nevertheless, I thought that I'd share the fruits of our labour with you out there in Internet land.
Not only does the MSCU climb mountains, but we also carve pumpkins. Before Halloween we carved pumpkins for our beloved professors. As you can probably tell by viewing this picture, while virtuous, the MSCU members are not the most artistic bunch. Personally, I'd rather paint pictures with my words than pumpkin flesh.
Stayed tuned for more exciting pictures from MSCU events!

Bodleian book depository given final thumbs-down

Scott Brownrigg £29m scheme for Oxford University in doubt after Oxford council decision
Oxford University’s plans to build a Scott Brownrigg-designed book depository for the Bodleian library have once again been quashed by the town council.

City councillors last night voted 26-15 against building the depository on the Osney Mead estate in North Oxford.

Councillors cited impact on views, the height of the building, and flood risk as reasons the development should not go ahead.

The £29m scheme has gone back and forth between planners and designers for most of this year. Scott Brownrigg’s original designs were scaled down during the summer for fear the 20m building would impact on Oxford’s "dreaming spires".

Councillors then approved the scheme early in October, before calling it back in for review just a week later. The remaining options for the University are either to put in a planning appeal or find an alternative site for the depository.

Dr Sarah Thomas, a Bodleian librarian, said: “We remain firmly committed to developing new facilities which will allow us to continue to provide scholars and visitors with what they come to Oxford’s libraries for – the best university collections in the world.”

The Bodleian Library, one of the largest in the world, is in urgent need of a depository to store 8 million books. Unless the books are stored elsewhere, the University will not be able to fulfil its plan to revamp the Gilbert Scott-designed New Bodleian with designs by Wilkinson Eyre.

Sanctuary of Rome's 'Founder' Revealed

ROME — Archaeologists on Tuesday unveiled an underground grotto believed to have been revered by ancient Romans as the place where a wolf nursed the city's legendary founder Romulus and his twin brother Remus.

Decorated with seashells and colored marble, the vaulted sanctuary is buried 52 feet inside the Palatine hill, the palatial center of power in imperial Rome, the archaeologists said at a news conference.

In the past two years, experts have been probing the space with endoscopes and laser scanners, fearing that the fragile grotto, already partially caved-in, would not survive a full-scale dig, said Giorgio Croci, an engineer who worked on the site.

The archaeologists are convinced that they have found the place of worship where Romans believed a she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of the god of war Mars who were abandoned in a basket and left adrift on the Tiber.

Thanks to the wolf, a symbol of Rome to this day, the twins survived, and Romulus founded the city, becoming its first king after killing Remus in a power struggle.

Ancient texts say the grotto known as the "Lupercale"_ from "lupa," Latin for she-wolf — was near the palace of Augustus, Rome's first emperor, who was said to have restored it, and was decorated with a white eagle.

That symbol of the Roman Empire was found atop the sanctuary's vault, which lies just below the ruins of the palace built by Augustus, said Irene Iacopi, the archaeologist in charge of the Palatine and the nearby Roman Forum.

Augustus, who ruled from the late 1st century B.C. to his death in the year 14, was keen on being close to the places of Rome's mythical foundation and used the city's religious traditions to bolster his hold on power, Iacopi said.

"The Lupercale must have had an important role in Augustus' policies," she said. "He saw himself as a new Romulus."

Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome's La Sapienza University and an expert on the Palatine, said the grotto is almost certainly the "Lupercale."

"The chances that it's not are minimal," said Carandini, who did not take part in the dig. "It's one of the greatest discoveries ever made."

Most of the sanctuary is filled with earth, but laser scans allowed experts to estimate that the circular structure has a height of 26 feet and a diameter of 24 feet, Croci said.

Archaeologists at the news conference were divided on how to gain access to the "Lupercale."
Iacopi said a new dig would start soon to find the grotto's original entrance at the bottom of the hill. Carandini suggested enlarging the hole at the top through which probes have been lowered so far, saying that burrowing at the base of the hill could disturb the foundations of other ruins.

The Palatine is honeycombed with palaces and other ancient monuments, from the 8th-century B.C. remains of Rome's first fledgling huts to a medieval fortress and Renaissance villas. But the remains are fragile and plagued by collapses, leaving more than half of the hill, including Augustus' palace, closed to the public.

Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli said the first area to benefit from an extensive, $17.5 million restoration of the hills' ruins will be Augustus' palace, scheduled to reopen in February after being closed for decades.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Named by some as a wonderful film; named by others as a dreadful film.

What do you think?

Ivory diptych of Christ fetches record at Sotheby's

PARIS — An diptych of the Passion of Christ crafted between 1360-1380 fetched four million euros (5.9 million dollars) in Paris Monday -- a world record for a medieval ivory art work, Sotheby's auction house said.

The work is also the largest diptych of the Passion ever registered, stretching to 31.4 centimeters when opened.

It was part of a stunning medieval French collection of ivory and champleve enamels in excellent condition known as the Dormeuil Collection, which fetched a total of 9.45 million euros.

Other pieces included a small ivory statue of Virgin Mary and infant Christ, dated around 1250, which was sold for 1.5 million euros and several 12th- and 13th-century reliquaries from Limoges.

One of the jewels of the collection, a champleve enamel reliquary of Saint Thomas Becket, fetched 570,000 euros.

From: AFP

Fragment Found

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Greek and Roman Studies Reading Room (fourth floor of Clearihue). Searching for an English dictionary, I stumbled upon this Greek dictionary.

When I picked up the dictionary, it nearly fell apart in my hands. I couldn't help but notice that there was what appeared to be a fragment of sorts on the spine.

It appears that this dictionary used a page from a music book in the binding. The book dates from 1861.

While this fragment is interesting, it is hardly historical. If you are interested in Medieval fragments, Dr F. Kwakkel will be giving one more lecture this year on Medieval fragments.

The last lecture of the year will be on 30 November: A Fragmentary History of Medieval Devotion

The lecture will be in McPherson Library, Room 210, at 3:00 PM

Journey To The Heart Of The Hill

Experts reach the centre of Silbury Hill a new theory on the shape of the monument emerges.

English Heritage and Skanska have reached the centre of the mysterious 4,400 year-old Neolithic monument, Silbury Hill, in Wiltshire through the tunnel originally dug by respected archaeologist Professor Atkinson in the 1960s.

The excavations to the central chamber are a critical phase of a £1million conservation project to stabilise Silbury Hill. The project has seen English Heritage archaeologists and Skanska engineers re-enter the Hill through the doorway sunk into its side in the 1960s so that they can empty the tunnel before repacking it with chalk, to stabilise the Hill for the long term.

The project has resulted in an exciting new theory being put forward about the use and design of Silbury Hill. The iconic shape that we recognise today may not have been how the Hill looked when it was first built. English Heritage archaeologists believe the summit may have changed from a domed shape when it was constructed 4,400 years ago into the current ‘flat top’ hundreds of years later, in Saxon or Norman times.

Archaeologists have discovered a series of medieval postholes, one of which was very large, on top of the Hill, indicating a possible huge military building there, during the Saxon or Norman periods. They have also discovered two iron arrow heads which suggest the building had a military and defensive function, such as a lookout post or signal station. They now also believe that the summit of Silbury Hill was also significantly modified and flattened during this period.

Jim Leary, English Heritage prehistorian and archaeologist, says that they believe the top of the Hill was literally ‘lopped off’ around the time of the Battle of Hastings or even earlier when the Danes attacked in 1006 to create flat land for use as a military base.

"The absence of Roman deposits, and Professor Atkinson’s discovery of 11th and 12th century pottery in the side of the Hill, all appear to support the theory that there was a fortified Saxon or Norman building on the summit," he says.

While investigations continue to test this new theory, archaeologists are taking advantage of a rare opportunity for detailed recording and investigation along the 85 metre length of the 1960s tunnel. It reaches right to the heart of the Hill where archaeologists are working nearly 40 metres below the sumit beneath thousands of tonnes of chalk.

The tunnel cuts through each of the Hill’s three main construction phases, which experts believe were built quite separately. The interface between each phase is clearly visible in the tunnel walls. Silbury I, the oldest part of the Hill, was constructed by its Neolithic builders as a stack of turf with a capping of clay. Silbury II was built of piled rubble chalk very soon afterwards in around 2400 BC. Archaeologists currently believe there was a gap of a few hundred years between the construction of Silbury II and Silbury III.

The part of the tunnel which cuts below the original Neolithic ground level reveals the earth’s natural geology with bright white Cretaceous chalk which is millions of years old. This is overlaid by clay with flints deposited during the Ice Ages, and then the Neolithic ground surface. During excavations, archaeologists have found parts of antler picks as well as animal bones and flint cutting tools. These remains will help to date the three phases of construction much more accurately and could radically alter our understanding of the Hill’s purpose.

Until now, the best guess was that Silbury Hill could have been constructed over a period of anything between 100 and 500 years. Once more dating work has been carried out, archaeologist hope to explain and how and why this monument was built. A shorter construction period over a couple of generations might indicate it was a heroic piece of work led by one or two charismatic individuals for instance, where as if it's construction stretches over hundreds of years and many generations experts can conclude that it was integral to a much more longstanding set of spiritual beliefs.

Organic remains such as molluscs and insects have also been found. The unusual burial conditions within the centre of the Hill mean that they have been excellently preserved. With analysis, English Heritage experts will be able to create a complete picture of the Neolithic landscape including the type of vegetation, the climate, and how the land was managed by prehistoric people for grazing, arable and woodland use.

A chance find for the archaeologists was a time capsule buried at the back of the tunnel by the BBC film crew who made a documentary about the Hill with Professor Atkinson in 1969. The capsule contains three reels of film of the documentary, two enamelled badges with the Silbury ‘S’ logo, a 50p coin and various pieces of paperwork. It is hoped these items will eventually be placed in the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury.

The current programme of works has been more complex than first envisaged and will now run until December. Heavy rainfall in the summer made tunnelling conditions more dangerous and the old Atkinson tunnels suffered collapse caused by the unexpected discovery of heavily saturated clay within the central chamber. In response, a new tunnelling method had to be devised by English Heritage and Skanska to continue the excavations to known voids in the centre of the Hill. This method has involved replacing the Atkinson arches with new, much more secure mining arches.

The next step will be backfilling the tunnel and the known voids with chalk, sealing and stabilising the Hill for future generations.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Those crafty Templar

Hmmm... This video-game looks better than the majority of Medieval movies I've seen recently.

MSCU Pilgrim Speaks

A couple of photos of our recent hike up Mt Purgatory (as it were) have already been posted. Note also this one to the right. Verily, that very sign sits in Goldstream Park—yet another piece of evidence that the Middle Ages follow you everywhere.

One pilgrim recorded a log of the journey...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007:
Mt Purgatory, Finlayson, what you will

By 11:20 am, six courageous souls had gathered at the foot of the mountain. The weather was fair and promising, though characteristically damp. We pilgrims examined the salmon briefly but were eager to make our journey.

Before setting off, we consulted a map—surprisingly or not, Jerusalem was not marked, and as true medievalists we consequently felt slightly disoriented. After only an eighth of the way, we began to feel “the weight of our sins” (i.e. the toll that exclusive studying takes on the body).

Along the way we lost two of our members: one to illness, the other to compassionate ministry to the sick. The four remaining clambered onwards, nervously laughing in the face of treacherous slopes.

When finally the Garden of Eden—the summit—was reached, we rested and enjoyed lunch. A timeless lesson was learned: Ryan makes good quesadillas. Now deep into the bush, we were not ashamed to commit such barbarous acts as using a straw for an eating utensil.

Great sights were seen from the mountain top: golf courses as far as the eye could see and flying johns, not to mention Beautiful British Columbia’s breathtaking wilderness. The journey downwards, with rising winds and slippery rocks, inspired increased religious fervour and oblations were nearly promised for our safe return.

By 2:30 pm, we returned to whence we had set out, having been preserved from both great injury and whistling cougars.

Look out for equally exciting MSCU events in the near future!

Another day, another disaster

To prove that yesterday's post about the 'quality' of Medieval history in modern news media wasn't an isolated incident, here's some more 'news.' WARNING! May cause extreme annoyance.

From now on I'm going to try to use eras from history as negative descriptors.

For example: "Oh, the traffic was absolutely Tokugawa shogunate-like today."


"I think that America's treatment of detainees is Interwar period-like in it's restriction of human rights."


"The plight of women in developing nations reflects a Indus Valley Civilization mentality."

Which era do you think deserves more play in common parlance? If you have any favourites, please leave comments. Or, for the most virtuous among you, use random eras in history to describe things and watch the confused reactions of those around you.

Purgatory - the view from the top

Hey look! You see can Hell from here...

These pictures come from our annual trip to Goldstream Park. In true Dante-like fashion, we ascended Mount Purgatory (or maybe Mount Finlayson). After trekking through kilometers of unspoiled wilderness to make it to the top, what did we find? New construction.

Yes, from the top of Purgatory you can see straight into Hell.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Do you hear that sound? It's my teeth grinding...

Here are some 'news' that will make you shake your head. WARNING! May cause extreme aggravation.

And the worst by far....

... I may have just thrown-up in my mouth.

But wait, it gets even worse. All of this horrible news was generated by the news cycle of one day! That's right, each and every day the Middle Ages are denigrated on a mass scale.

Learn your history well - only you can stop mass idiocy!

A Brief Explanation of Medieval Theology...

Today in the Midd... GLORIOUS ROMAN PAST

17 November, A.D. 284 - Diocletian is proclaimed emperor by his soldiers...

...and the dozens of Christians who would eventually be martyred under his rule rejoiced (well not actually as they were being martyred. Their bodies may have screamed in agony, but their souls rejoiced.)

Archaeology student finds Roman remains in garden

AN ARCHAEOLOGY student struck lucky when he began digging the garden of his new home - and discovered ancient Roman remains.

Chris Bevan had no idea that a historic find was lurking inches beneath his feet when he moved into the house at Holme-on-Spalding Moor.

Now he and his fellow University of York students are using their spare time to carry out a survey of the garden in High Street and a neighbouring field where the ancient pottery was unearthed.

"I bought the house in July and was just doing some gardening when I found a Roman pot and some Medieval green glaze pottery," says Chris, 24, who is a second year archaeology undergraduate.

"I immediately knew what it was and was obviously excited. There have been quite a few finds of this type in the Holme-on-Spalding Moor area, but I never expected to find something like this in my garden. It's a real coincidence when you consider the subject I'm studying.

"It looks like I made a good choice when I decided to move here!"

Chris and his fellow students have taken the unusual step in archaeology circles of inviting a metal-detecting club to help them sweep the garden and field.

"It's a way of doing things which is almost unheard of, because there has always been a level of mistrust between the archaeological and metal-detecting communities," he said.

"Unfortunately, archaeologists think metal-detecting is done by people purely after making a profit, while metal-detectorists often believe archaeology doesn't let people near important sites.

"We're hoping to break this down and show what can be achieved by a new generation of archaeologists taking opportunities such as using metal detectors rather than avoiding them. By doing this, we've already discovered fragments of Roman coins and other remains, and we hope there are even more still waiting to be found.

"We're having to fit in the work around our studies, but the university has been extremely supportive and has agreed to lend us equipment to help do it."

The archaeology group hope to complete their survey this weekend, and it will be followed by several months of painstaking analysis of the find.

Holme-on-Spalding Moor has a history of historic discoveries - in the 1980s, an Iron Age boat was excavated on the banks of the River Foulness at nearby Hasholme.

Historic conversion finally complete

WORK to breathe new life into a historic building by converting it into some of the most sought-after homes in a Suffolk town is finally complete.

The West Front, in Bury St Edmunds, has been carefully restored over the past month and now comprises five houses - all but one of which already have new owners.

As well as transforming the grade I listed properties, which lie next to St Edmundsbury Cathedral, developers Hawes and Southgate have worked on conserving the medieval remains of the flint core belonging to an 11th century Benedictine Abbey, onto which 17th and 18th century timber-framed houses and some early 19th century structures were built.

John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “Councillors and officers alike have worked very hard over several years to achieve the restoration of the West Front and we are absolutely delighted with the results.

“This is a unique project which shows what can be done when everyone works together. It also celebrates our rich heritage while bringing fresh life to some of the most wonderful buildings in Bury and I would like to thank everyone involved.”

Stanford to put Renaissance manuscripts online

Stanford University announced a partnership Thursday with Cambridge University in Great Britain that will make more than 500 medieval and Renaissance manuscripts from Britain available online.

A total of 538 manuscripts from the sixth through the 16th centuries will be available for viewing at by 2009. Currently, approximately one-sixth of the manuscripts can be found on the Web site, according to a university announcement.

Stanford officials began negotiating with officials at Corpus Christi, a college at Cambridge University, in 2001 about putting the contents of the college's Parker Library online.

"What we brought to the table was a comprehension of what it takes to make a project succeed-from concept to being fundable by a grant agency. We knew about digitization and process-how to roll up our sleeves and get it done," Stanford University Libraries Director of Communications Andrew Herkovic said.

Members of the public who want to view digital images of manuscripts from the time of Beowulf will have until the end of 2008 to use the Web site. However, once the site is fully developed it will become subscription-only for academic and research institutions, according to the university.

The partnership is funded by $5.6 million in grants from the Gladys Krieble Delmas and Andrew W. Mellon foundations.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Second SReCo Meeting

Continuing next Wednesday (November 21th) at 7:00 pm in Clearihue B215 the MSCU will be holding its second of several informal research meetings where students may get together to discuss a broad general topic related to medieval history.

The aim of these meetings, which will use a broad question to begin discussion, is to allow students to approach a question where they can bring their own ideas from readings and research to the discussion and help to arrive at an 'answer', as much as one is possible, for the weekly question.

Through student interaction, it is hoped that participants will become familiar with new ideas and opinions held by other students in their efforts to come to terms with the topic of discussion. Through collaboration we can arrive at some measure of truth...hopefully.

Thus, in the spirit of academic collaboration, the question for next week (21 November) is:

When were the Middle Ages?

This is an umbrella topic which encompasses many issues. The most general ofthese questions will concern how we describe the era (if there was any such eraat all). S

hould the Middle Ages be seen as the period between the 'fall' of Rome andthe 'Renaissance?' Is it helpful to create such a descriptions? What were the Middle Ages?

If you are interested in joining our discussion, please feel free to come.There is no need to do any research in advance, although the more you put into the Research Collective, the more you will receive out of it.

If you have any questions and comments, please let us know.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

What do you make of this?

I, Madeleine, have a penchant for browsing MS images online, seeing as it's one of the ways I can get close to the real thing.

One bizarre MS jumped out at me tonight: an image from Sloane 121 (a MS devoted to medicine and including a recipe for gingerbread), found on the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts website.

What do you make of this? It is a flyleaf, as the description supports, but I think it is worthy of comments and suggestions as to its history and what it reveals about MS production and usage. I invite you, my readers, to post any observations in response to this entry.

For a better image, refer to:
For the description, see:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And lo the Beckham dost kicketh the balle...

Check out

This website was recently brought to my attention. It follows executions on specific days throughout history. It's engaging, factual and there's Medieval content - this site is well worthy checking out for all you lovers of the macabre out there.

"Here's an excerpt from an account of the St Brice Day's Massacre of 1002:

On this date over a millennium past, according to the chronicle of John of Wallingford, King Ethelred the Unready of England conducted a massacre of Danes living in the realm.
The character of this sanguinary event — named after a fourth-century French bishop whose feast day Nov. 13 happens to be — lies half-buried in history’s shifting sands. Surely the slaughter of every Dane in a Britain then very much in the Scandinavian orbit would have been not only morally reprehensible but logistically unimaginable.

The accepted, albeit sketchy, story has it that to consolidate his own authority — or to check an actual or suspected plot against him — Ethelred ordered the surprise apprehension and summary execution of some sizable number of Danish lords and mercenaries. British historian Thomas Hodgkin characterizes it as a sort of coup d’etat."

For the rest of the story, please check out

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Medieval Sufi poet all the rage in Iranian rap

By Golnar Motevalli

LONDON, Nov 13 (Reuters Life!) - Baggy jeans, baseball caps and 13th century Farsi poetry may not appear to be natural bedfellows, unless you are an Iranian rap artist.

Iranian rappers from around the world gathered in London for the first time this month to rap in Farsi using the lyrics of 13th century Persian Sufi poet Mawlana Jalaludin Rumi.

Young men and women packed London's Queen Elizabeth Hall to hear artists like 23-year-old Farinaz rap the words of one of Iran's most revered poets to a pounding hip hop beat.

Born in Iran and now living in the Netherlands, the track-suited, lip-pierced Farinaz said Rumi remained a role model for today's young Iranians.

"He speaks of love for people, love for God, love of oneself and his poems can be nicely mixed with rap."

The London concert was a showcase for Iran's underground hip hop scene which has grown in popularity over the past five years despite the fact that Western music is illegal in Iran.

"Rapping in Iran is very widespread because it's the easiest way for young people to talk about their feelings and their daily life," concert organizer Behzad Bolour said.

"Rumi's poetry is very open-minded…It's very modern, it's very funky, it's very surreal. It's very rhythmic."

Classical Persian musician Ali Nourbakhsh, 25, plays in a band of four traditional musicians and one rapper and says he likes Rumi because the poet keeps things simple.

"Rumi just says 'I'm drunk, you're crazy - how can we go on?'" Nourbakhsh said.

Some of the performers who are shy, retiring and hesitant to talk to reporters off stage come roaring to life once they begin performing, striking defiant poses and belting out lyrics protesting the politics at home.

"You can arrest us, beat us, kill us but we will still say our piece," said Afra, a brooding 24-year-old.

Feisty female rapper Persia, born in Iran but brought up in the north of England raps with a strong Mancunian accent but sings about freedom of speech in Iran.

"For all the women of Iran who can't open their mouths, I'm saying everything I want to say," Persia said.

Reveal is a 23-year-old student of classical Persian literature who speaks with a soft cockney accent and for whom Rumi is Iran's most accessible poet.

"A lot of villages in Iran, even though they are illiterate, they're very familiar with his poetry…it's got this everyman element in it."

From: Reuters

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Things that make me shake my head

I (Ryan) read a lot of news in an attempt to find suitable content for this blog. It never ceases to amaze me what comes up when I type 'Medieval' into a GoogleNews search engine. Literally dozens of news stories each day make reference to the Middle Ages - do you know what they have in common? They make me shake my head.

By this I mean, these 'news' stories grossly misrepresent Medieval history. From what I have observed in trolling various news websites, general knowledge of the Middle Ages is tragically low. The word 'Medieval' has become a synonym for backwardness, barbarism, ignorance and brutality.

This, in my opinion, is sad. When I see the Middle Ages, I see a glorious cross-section of the human experience. Many of man's greatest joys and sorrows can be seen in the Middle Ages. It was an age of contrast - for every triumph there was a failing. Such a plurality of experience existed, that one can barely even say what the Middle Ages were.

The age was hardly homogeneous. As partial as I am to the Middle Ages, I cannot say that violence and brutality were not present. But at the same time, few ages can boast the degree of intellectual, artistic and social ferment.

As a result, this new feature will highlight what I consider to be the most gross of misrepresentations of the Middle Ages.

Stay tuned for things that will make you shake your head...

Easily the funniest thing I've ever seen...

... oh wait. They're serious? Oh.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

There is no 'I' in 'Blog'

The Medieval Studies Course Union has attempted to regularly update this blog over the past few months. For the most part, we've managed to keep the content flowing.

But we don't want you to consider it as 'our' blog, we want you to consider it a blog for everyone. We want to encourage you to send us content to post on the blog. Do you have a story you want to tell? Have you found an interesting news article? Exciting new lecture? Funny YouTube video? Favourite website?

If you have anything you'd like to share, please sent it to us and we'll post it on the blog. Feel free to disagree with us. Do you think that "Tristan + Isolde" deserved an Oscar? Write up your own movie review. The blog is here to foster dialogue, education, information and entertainment.

If you have any feedback on the blog or would like to suggest ideas for future articles we'd like to hear that as well.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ancient Hebrew text to return to Israel

JERUSALEM - For six decades, Sam Sabbagh carried a good luck charm — a parchment he found on the floor of a burned synagogue.

Turns out that parchment likely is more than 1,000 years old, a fragment of the most authoritative manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. His family plans to present it to a Jerusalem institute next week, officials said Thursday.

The parchment, about "the size of a credit card," is believed to be part of the Aleppo Codex manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, said Michael Glatzer, academic secretary of the Yad Ben Zvi institute.

It contains verses from the Book of Exodus describing the plagues in Egypt, including the words of Moses to Pharaoh, "Let my people go, that they may serve me."

In 1947, Sabbagh, then 17, picked up a piece of the manuscript off the floor of a synagogue in Aleppo, Syria. The synagogue had been burned the previous day in riots after the United Nations decided to partition Palestine, a step toward creating the Jewish state of Israel.

When Sabbagh later immigrated to Brooklyn, he carried the parchment around for years in a plastic pouch in his wallet, Glatzer said. Sabbagh used it as a good luck charm, even bringing it with him when he underwent open heart surgery.

About 20 years ago, a Jewish studies institute in Jerusalem named after Israel's second president, Yad Ben Zvi, learned of the fragment's existence. But it was unable to persuade Sabbagh to part with it.

After he died two years ago, his family decided to donate it to the institute.

The recovery "is important in the sense that we are getting the chance to unify the missing parts and put them in their original place," said Michael Maggen, who as head of paper conservation at the Israel Museum will oversee restoring the document.

The codex "is not just another manuscript — it's a landmark," Maggen said, mainly because it provides insights into key aspects of Hebrew grammar and pronunciation.

Portions of the codex that have already been retrieved are on display in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The Sabbagh fragment would eventually join its counterparts there, Glatzer said.

Glatzer hopes that the parchment's recovery will encourage others to check their safety deposit boxes and attics for similar treasures.

"What (Sabbagh) did, others must have done," he said.

The codex, also known as the Masoretic Text, was written in Tiberias, next to the Sea of Galilee, in the 10th century and later brought to Jerusalem.

It then traveled to Cairo, after which, according to tradition, Moses Maimonides' grandson brought it to Syria. The elder Maimonides was a 12th-century Jewish scholar whose writings and rulings are still followed and studied.

"We have only about 60 percent of the codex — more than a third is still missing," said Aron Dotan, professor of Hebrew and Semitic languages at Tel Aviv University. The missing part includes most of the Torah, or Pentateuch, he said. The codex comprised the books of the Old Testament.

Although only a tiny scrap, the find is still noteworthy, he said.

"Every find is something, every new piece is something," he said. "It is an addition to what we


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Today in the Middle Ages

8th November, 1308- John Duns Scotus dies...

....8th November 1342, a mere 34 years later, Julian of Norwich is born.

One philosopher dies, another is born - the circle of life.

Having been watched, the clip amused...

Golden Treasure Found in Medieval Fortress Markely

By excavation work in medieval fortress Markely near Karnobat (Eastern Bulgaria), archeologists found very valuable golden treasure.

That was announced by the local museum's director Dimcho Momchilov.

The treasury consist of 37 golden coins of three Byzantine emperors, golden ring and five gilt loops. They were found in a clay pot.

Treasures like this are rare for Bulgaria, explained Dr. Dochka Aladjova, science assistant in charge to Archaeological Institute of Bulgarian Science Academy, who arrived immediately to survey the find.

According to her the treasure could be valued to dozens thousands EUR.

31 of the coins wear the face of Nikifor III Votaniat, 1078- 1081, 4 are with Aleksii I Komnin , 1092-1118, and another 2- Joan II Komnin, 1118-1143 year.

The most valuable, according to specialists are the coins of emperor Aleksii I Komnin.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sorry, Pisa, you've been out-leaned


A LOPSIDED church in Germany has knocked the Leaning Tower of Pisa out of the Guinness World Records as the building with the biggest tilt on the planet.

The landmark in the village of Suurhusen in northern Germany applied for the title in June and has now been told that its curious angle beats that of the famous Italian tourist attraction.

It will be entered into the next edition of the book in 2008, Olaf Kuchenbecker, of Guinness World Records' German office in Hamburg, said.

Officials measured the steeple bending over at a 5.19 degree angle, compared with the meagre 3.97 degrees managed by the tower of Pisa.

Mr Kuchenbecker confirmed: "It is a world record."

The church was built in middle of the 13th century, but a 90ft tower was added in 1450. It was built on wooden foundations, and the combination of the oak foundations and wet soil has caused the tower to slowly lean to one side over the years. Several attempts to stop it from leaning over any further have been made since 1982, and it was eventually stabilised in 1996.

The church is still in use and it also offers guided tours. Officials are appealing for donations to help maintain the lopsided building.

Because of the danger of it falling over, church services are held only on occasions such as Christmas or Easter. "It is still generally considered safe, but you cannot help worrying whether it is going to land on your head," Bärbl Köller, the head of the association to save the church, said.

Suurhusen councillors hope that fame will bring in more tourists to the area, but it is doubtful: the community numbers only about 1,200 and the village lies on flat land with little in the way of natural beauty or amenities.

"I don't see it ever getting the trade that Pisa does," Ulrich Menge, a local historian, said.
"Of course it has its own beauty, and now, thanks to its lopsidedness, its own individuality. But you can't call it a gem of medieval beauty like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

"Still, people around here are very proud."


EUROPE has the highest number of officially "leaning" structures, with 24 - four in Britain alone.

Asia has six - but the Iron Tower of Yuquan Temple in Hubei, China was actually designed with a tilt.

Even the United States has one - a replica of Pisa's famous structure, in Niles, Illinois.
The worldwide fame of the Italian tower comes as much from its place in history as from its architectural beauty. Construction work began on 9 August, 1173. It began to sink as the third floor was put in place in 1178. The seventh floor was completed in 1319 and the bell-chamber, the final touch, was not added until 1372.

Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped two cannon balls of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their descending speed was independent of their mass. This is considered an apocryphal tale, and the only source for it comes from Galileo's secretary.

In 1934, the Italian leader Benito Mussolini - in his quest for perfection - ordered that the tower be returned to a vertical position, so concrete was poured into its foundation. However, the tower actually sank further into the soil.

During the Second World War, the Allies discovered that the Nazis were using it as an observation post. A humble American army sergeant was briefly entrusted with the fate of the tower. His decision not to call in an artillery strike to take out the Germans saved the edifice.