Saturday, March 31, 2012

Filmmaker to bring the Middle Ages and Rap together in ‘The Quickener’

An Irish filmmaker is seeking to raise $8000 to produce a medieval rap movie. The Quickener is described as “a fast-paced medieval drama, set during the year the Black Death struck England. It is dotted with battles of wits, moments of epiphany and flashes of otherworldly activity and yes, all the dialogue is spoken in the rhymes and rhythms of rap and performance poetry.”

The project is the brainchild of Joel Wilson, who is directing the film. He tells that he has long been interested in both the Middle Ages and hip-hop culture and has been seeking a way to bring them together. “Around the globe, hip-hop has been embraced in all its current guises”, he explains”: the school ground battle, the bling, the socially conscious, the pop song interlude and yet it feels like we’re just scratching the surface of what hip-hop music can accomplish. Artists like Buck65 or Prince Paul have woven numerous hip-hop songs into lengthy narratives and hip-hop spoken word performers Polarbear or Jon Berkavitch are exceptional storytellers. And Nas and Damian Marley genuinely blazed a positive trail recently with their Distant Relatives album. There is hope."

Click here to read this article from

Gloucester's Greyfriars dig uncovers medieval floor

The ancient cloisters of Greyfriars Priory and the remains of a medieval tiled floor have been uncovered during an archaeological dig in Gloucester.

The excavation was carried out by a small group of amateur diggers who were supervised by Cotswold Archaeology.

Chief executive Neil Holbrook said: "We knew the cloisters existed but no-one has ever seen them before."

All the findings, such as pottery, will be recorded and then exhibited at Gloucester Museum later in the year.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Friday, March 30, 2012

Game of Thrones as History

By Kelly DeVries

For half a century, fantasy has essentially been a series of footnotes to Tolkien. Until George R.R. Martin, that is. Martin's epic A Song of Ice and Fire series -- now five novels and counting, with the first two dramatized by David Benioff on HBO as Game of Thrones -- ventures boldly outside the Tolkien box and has revitalized the entire genre in the process. Gone are hobbits, elves, orcs, non-human dwarves, ents, balrogs, and most magical items (although not all magic or magical creatures). Gone too are the Manichaean simplicities of a world in which most characters can be quickly identified as good or evil. Martin's saga has few one-dimensional heroes but many fully fleshed out people.

A Song of Ice and Fire is set in a world modeled after medieval England, and many claim that the series' genius and popularity stems from its accurate and sensitive portrayal of medieval life. Millions of readers and viewers have formed a passionate bond with Martin's creation, this argument runs, precisely because it is not simply made up but, rather, rooted in actual human experience. Martin himself has encouraged this line of thinking, claiming he reads "everything I can get my hands on" about medieval history and even including a bibliography on his Web site for those interested in his source materials. But is the argument correct? Just how realistic is A Song of Ice and Fire?

The short answer is "not very." Before hordes of angry fans launch their trebuchets in my direction, however, let me hasten to add that this is a good thing, not a bad one. As a historian of the period, I can assure you that the real Middle Ages were very boring -- and if Martin's epic were truly historically accurate, it would be very boring too. I'm glad Martin takes all the liberties he does, because I prefer my literature exciting. Medieval people did also, which is why their own most popular literary creations were nearly as fantastic as Martin's.

Click here to read this article from Foreign Affairs

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Towton was our worst ever battle, so why have we forgotten this bloodbath in the snow?

Today, March 29th, should be a significant and melancholy date in the English calendar, known and marked by all schoolchildren. For on Palm Sunday, March 29th 1461, as church bells rang out across the land, two vast armies met on a bleak, snow-swept Yorkshire plateau near the village of Towton to fight what was to be our country's biggest, bloodiest and longest battle.

When it comes to superlatives, Towton has them all. Even England's other epochal, history-changing clashes, Hastings in 1066 and the Somme in 1916, for example, cannot challenge Towton for the butcher's bill of the slain. Hastings was a battle that changed the ethnic, political, and linguistic culture of the land forever, and lasted across an autumn day until dark. Yet neither the numbers that fought there (7/8,000 on each side) nor the casualties inflicted, approach anywhere near the later medieval battle. The first day on the Somme, July 1st 1916, when almost 20,000 died, is generally seen as Britain's greatest military disaster, cutting the flower of the nation down like summer corn. Yet Towton trumped even that bloody day in carnage and sheer savagery. As the Civil War battle of Antietam, America's bloodiest single day, is to the US, so Towton is to England. Why, then, is it not better remembered?

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

Mixed Martial Arts Celebrity Recruited for Ancient Roman Army

Millennia before modern-day military recruiters talked up potential soldiers in shopping malls or put up posters, one Roman city took a rather different approach to recruiting soldiers for the emperor's army.

A newly translated inscription, dating back about 1,800 years, reveals that Oinoanda, a Roman city in southwest Turkey, turned to a mixed martial art champion to recruit for the Roman army and bring the new soldiers to a city named Hierapolis, located hundreds of miles to the east, in Syria.

His name was Lucius Septimius Flavianus Flavillianus and he was a champion at wrestling and pankration, the latter a bloody, and at times lethal, mixed martial art where contestants would try to pound each other unconscious or into submission.

Flavillianus proved to be so successful as a military recruiter that it was decreed that he be made a "cult figure in the band of heroes" after he died, with each tribe of the city erecting statues in his honor. The inscription, written in Greek, was engraved on the base of a statue found in Oinoanda's agora (a central public space) and would have been erected by the people of the city. Discovered by a team in 2002, it wasn't until now that researchers translated and published it.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Coin of Charlemagne sells for 160,000 euros

New record hammer price for a Medieval coin at Künker’s: the portrait denarius of Charlemagne, that had been estimated at 30,000 euros, was sold for 160,000 euros. The winner was an anonymous bidder by telephone. That result was the outright highlight of the spring auction held from March 12 to 16 in Osnabrück. The silver pfennig, weighing 1.52 grams, with the bust and the imperial title of the great Carolingian ranges amongst the absolute rarities in numismatics and is described in greater detail in catalog 205 under no. 1405 ( Scholars assume that only 15 to 35 specimens had been minted at the maximum, either on the occasion of the imperial coronation in 800 or on the Byzantine acknowledgement of KARLVS IMP(erator) AVG(ustus) in 812.

The auction was possibly record-breaking in itself: half a dozen catalogs, almost 8,000 lots, and a total hammer price more than 11 million euros. The result exceeded the estimates by more than 60 percent. Only 181 numbers went into re-sale, which is already indicative of a lively auction process. The ancient coins (in sum more than 76 percent above the estimates) and part three of the Hagander Collection (a plus of 102 percent!) greatly contributed to the overall result. The crucial factor with Künker once again were the exquisite conditions which yielded more than one surprise on Monday in catalog 204. An aureus of Vespasian from 72 from Lugdunum, estimated at 12,500 euros, obtained 135,000 euros, the same denomination of Postumus, 266, Colonia, the sum of 110,000 euros against its estimate of 75,000. A solidus of Procopius from Constantinopolis 365/366 brought 60,000 euros instead of the estimated 40,000 euros.

Click here to read this article from Coin Update

The Walters Art Museum Receives $265,000 NEH Grant to Digitize Over 100 Flemish Manuscripts

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has granted the Walters Art Museum $265,000 for a three-year project to digitize, catalog and distribute 113 illuminated medieval manuscripts from Flanders, present-day northeastern France and Belgium. This project, Imaging the Hours: Creating a Digital Resource of Flemish Manuscripts, will digitize 45,000 pages of text with over 3,000 pages of illumination from the 13th through 16th centuries. A highlight will be the digitization of a collection of 80 Books of Hours—prayer books of personal devotion—which were the “bestsellers” of the Middle Ages, often sumptuously illuminated in gold and painted by masters of the time.

“Just as the Walters provides access without admission fee to our permanent collection, we are also making it available as part of our public mission. The museum is grateful to the NEH for its continued generous financial support allowing us to provide a free worldwide online resource of preservation-quality, digital manuscript surrogates to anyone with an Internet connection,” said Walters Director Gary Vikan.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Battle to protect Norwich’s medieval city walls receives time and cash boost

Protectors of the medieval city walls in Norwich are hoping to save cash and slash waiting times for urgent repairs by up to 12 months.

Norwich City Council faces an ongoing battle to preserve the much-loved walls, with water, road salt and plants causing damage throughout the year.

Now officials at City Hall are in talks with English Heritage about making it easier to patch-up the early 14th century structures.

It is hoped the deal, known as a heritage partnership agreement, will prevent permission being required from English Heritage every time the council wants to carry out repairs on the walls.

Officials say this can be a time-consuming and costly process.

Click here to read this article from EDP24

Click here to read the Norwich City Walls Survey 1999 - 2002

Historic volcanic eruption preserved ancient Roman daily life

On Aug 24, 79AD, a volcanic eruption left a sudden snapshot of the lives of the estimated 20,000 inhabitants of Pompeii, near Naples, Italy. This catastrophe, which is believed to have killed several thousand people, made it possible to preserve the ancients’ way of life in every detail to be revealed to us centuries later.

Since its discovery in the middle of the 18th century, the city of Pompeii has inspired architects, writers, poets and artists. The town, buried in the lava of the volcano Vesuvius, gives evidence of daily life in the Roman Empire like no other documentation.

Currently, the Maillol Museum in Paris invites visitors to discover this ancient civilisation’s lifestyle by wandering through the different rooms of a recreated house (called domus) of the legendary city. Dating mostly from a time period starting from the last century of the BC era to 79AD, the year of the tragedy, 200 exceptional objects have been gathered to testify to the refinement and modernity of this civilisation.

Click here to read this article from the Epoch Times

Monday, March 26, 2012

Crac des Chevaliers in danger as Syrian forces shell town around medieval castle

Video emerged yesterday which appears to show that the town surrounding Crac des Chevaliers in Syria under artillery fire from Syrian forces. The two-minute video was posted on Youtube by Souria2011archives, an anti-government source that has uploaded over two thousand videos related to the uprising against the Assad regime.

The video shows the town below the castle being hit with artillery blasts – one building can even be seen smoking after being struck. The footage is too poor to see if the medieval fortress has been damaged from the fighting.

Click here to read this article from

Thieves target medieval castle

Police have turned to the public for help after metal thieves struck at a tourist hot-spot. Sometime over the weekend raiders targeted Helmsley Castle and took the lead guttering from the front fascia of the visitor centre.

It is estimated the lead is worth around £1,000 and officers are checking CCTV to try and identify the the thieves.

PC Andy Rogers said: "I am appealing to anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the area of Helmsley Castle over the weekend. It is likely that the offenders will have used a vehicle to transport the lead from the scene, therefore I would also like to hear from anyone who saw any suspicious vehicles in the area around the time of the theft.”

Click here to read this article from the Darlington and Stockton Times

See also Relic Robbing: Church’s Medieval Treasures in Jeopardy?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Landmark is turned pink for charity run‎

A medieval landmark was transformed into a glowing pink beacon in a bid to promote a charity race.

An eerie fuchsia glow radiated from the stony structure of Cartmel’s iconic priory after organisers of Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life descended on South Cumbria.

The stunt took place as evening fell over the village on Wednesday to drum up support for the fundraising ladies-only race, which will be held at Cartmel racecourse for the first time on July 1.

The charity was forced to cancel separate events in Barrow and Kendal last year due to dwindling numbers and opted to merge the two to create an event on middle ground for the south of the county.

Click here to read this article from the Northwest Evening Mail

Saturday, March 24, 2012

First Performance in 400 Years for Medieval Passover Music

Jewish high school students in Toronto, Canada, will sing two pieces of medieval music from the Passover Seder at their “Sounds of Spring” Musical Concert. This is probably the first time in almost four hundred years that the music has been performed.

In 1644, Johannes Rittangel, a Christian scholar, published a Haggadah with a Latin translation for the benefit of other Christian Hebraists. Unusually, when transcribing the traditional songs at the end of the Passover night Seder meal, he also included musical notation – a unique record of how Passover songs were sung in Medieval times. In what is probably the first public performance of this festival music for almost four centuries, the choir of the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto’s Kimel Family Education Centre will feature the music at their annual concert at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, March 27.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, March 23, 2012

University of Mississippi students analyze Shakespeare's signature

Before William Shakespeare created such literary and stage classics as "Macbeth" and "Romeo and Juliet," the legendary playwright may have labored over property deeds and other mundane legal documents.

Did Shakespeare work as an attorney before achieving immortality at the Globe Theatre? That's one of the theories a University of Mississippi professor speculated on this week after he and three of his students compared a known signature by the Bard of Avon with another signature on the title page of "Archaionomia," a well-known legal treatise housed at Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

Gregory Heyworth accompanied UM seniors Andrew Henning of Batesville, Mitchell Hobbs of Madison and Kristen Vise of Jackson, all students in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, to the nation's capitol, where they spent their spring break studying the Folger documents. Using state-of-the-art digital imaging equipment, the Ole Miss team verified that the previously unknown signature is indeed from the same 17th century period as the playwright.

Click here to read this article from

Dr Tom Nickson Appointed Lecturer in Medieval Art and Architecture at the Courtauld Institute

The Courtauld Institute of Art is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Tom Nickson to the post of Lecturer in Medieval Art and Architecture.

Dr Nickson (BA Cambridge 2003; MA Courtauld 2005; PhD Courtauld 2009) is currently a Lecturer at the University of York where he is also Director of the Medieval Research School. He brings to his teaching and research a wide knowledge of medieval architecture from across Europe and the Mediterranean, along with his particular focus on the material cultures of medieval Iberia. His recent work interrogates the connections between art and belief in this area, particularly within the context of encounters between the Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions. Dr Nickson has published in a wide range of journals and is currently preparing a major monographic study of Toledo Cathedral, building on his PhD dissertation. He will take up his post in September 2012.

Click here to read this article from

Story behind Faddan More Psalter discovery told at John Rylands Library

The fascinating story behind a 1,200-year-old book unearthed by a mechanical digger operator six years ago in an Irish bog was told by the man who is supervising its conservation.

John Gillis, a Senior Conservator of books and manuscripts at Trinity College Library, Ireland, spoke at The John Rylands Library yesterday in an event jointly organised by the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies (MANCASS), based at The University of Manchester, and Manchester Medieval Society.

As the first medieval manuscript ever found in a wetland environment, the Faddan More Psalter is one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries ever made. Mr Gillis, who is working with the National Museum of Ireland on examining and conserving the manuscript, described the latest discoveries he has made about the remarkable artefact.

Click here to read this article from

Oh, My Hand: Complaints Medieval Monks Scribbled in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts

“Thank God, it will soon be dark.”

The history of bookmaking hasn’t been without its challenges, but never was its craft as painstaking as during the era of illuminated manuscripts. Joining the ranks of history’s most appalling and amusing complaints, like this Victorian list of don’ts for female cyclists or young Isaac Newton’s self-professed sins, is an absolute treat for lovers of marginalia such as myself — a collection of complaints monks scribbled in the pages of illuminated manuscripts.

Click here to read these marginalia from Brain Pickings

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Satellites Spy Thousands of Ancient Human Settlements

Ancient humans have changed the landscape around their settlements in such ways that even today archaeologists can distinguish between "lived in" spots and those never occupied by humans.

Now, two scientists have figured out a more efficient way of locating these sites, via their footprints, from space.

The scientists relied on two distinct features of ancient settlements in the Near East: soils altered by human activity and little hills that formed over time as residents successively built on top of older structures. By examining satellite images for these two features, they have found evidence of about 9,500 possible human settlements across an area of 8,880 square miles (23,000 square kilometers) in northern Mesopotamia, located in the northeast of modern Syria.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

'World's Oldest Temple' May Have Been Cosmopolitan Center

Ancient blades made of volcanic rock that were discovered at what may be the world's oldest temple suggest that the site in Turkey was the hub of a pilgrimage  that attracted a cosmopolitan group of people some 11,000 years ago.

The researchers matched up about 130 of the blades, which would have been used as tools, with their source volcanoes, finding people would have come from far and wide to congregate at the ancient temple site, Göbekli Tepe, in southern Turkey. The blades are made of obsidian, a volcanic glass rich with silica, which forms when lava cools quickly.

The research was presented in February at the 7th International Conference on the Chipped and Ground Stone Industries of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic in Barcelona, Spain.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Archaeologists uncover pre-Christian temple in Norway

A fascinating discovery is shedding light upon pre-Christian Scandinavian religion and early Christian inroads into Norway. In the Norwegian press, this highly important find is being called "unparalleled," "first of its kind" and "unique," said to have been "deliberately and carefully hidden" - from invading and destructive Christians.

Located at the site of Ranheim, about 10 kilometers south of the Norwegian city of Trondheim, the astonishing discovery was unearthed while excavating foundations for new houses and includes a "gudehovet" or "god temple." Occupied from the 6th or 5th century BCE until the 10th century AD/CE, the site shows signs of usage for animal sacrifice, a common practice among different peoples in antiquity, including the biblical Israelites. (E.g., Num 7:17-88) Over 1,000 years ago, the site was dismantled and covered by a thick layer of peat, evidently to protect it from marauding Christian invaders. These native Norse religionists apparently then fled to other places, such as Iceland, where they could re-erect their altars and re-establish the old religion.

Click here to read this article from

'Franciscan monk' remains unearthed in Scotland

Human remains have been unearthed in one of Scotland's most ancient towns during road repairs. Experts say the skeletons found at St Andrews could be those of a group of Franciscan monks who lived there in the 15th century.

Resurfacing work at the town's Greyfriars Garden has now been halted for the remains, found six inches from the surface, to be excavated and preserved.

Fife Council's archaeology team has spent years trying to pinpoint the exact location of the monastery inhabited by the monks.

Archaeologist Douglas Spiers said: "St Andrews is a town of considerable antiquity so we always held the possibility of archaeological remains coming to light in that area as part of the works. However, we thought that because they were only reducing the surface by a small margin it wouldn't be deep enough to disturb anything. Clearly, we were wrong."

Click here to read this article from STV

Radar search for medieval remains

A radar system that can detect the underground remains of old buildings has been used to investigate a site near Towcester where a Norman ringwork castle once stood.

The investigation at The Mount, in Alderton, followed archeological digs carried out in 2009 and 2010 that found substantial stone foundations of two ‘high status’ buildings, dating from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Among the findings were rare pieces of medieval glass and worked stone – suggesting the owner was wealthy – and a 1.7 metre stone wall.

Derek Batten, who owns the site, called in Subsurface Geotechnical to carry out a ground probing radar scan to try to find more foundations beneath the ground.

He said: “It’s obvious there’s potential here for finding more evidence of substantial high status medieval buildings. The problem is that we ran out of money.”

Click here to read this article from the Northampton Chronicle and Echo

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sports scientists examine the medieval archers of the Mary Rose

A unique project about the historical warship the Mary Rose which is providing information about life in medieval times is benefitting from 21st century technology.

For the past 18 months the Mary Rose Trust has been working with sports scientists from the College of Engineering at Swansea University to discover more about the lives of the medieval archers on board the ship.

When Henry VIII’s warship, which sunk in 1545, was raised from the Solent in 1982, many thousands of medieval artefacts along with 92 fairly complete skeletons of the crew of the Mary Rose were recovered.

Nick Owen, Sport and Exercise Biomechanist from the College of Engineering at Swansea University said, “This sample of human remains offers a unique opportunity to study activity related changes in human skeletons. It is documented that there was a company of archers aboard when the ship sank, at a time when many archers came from Wales and the South West of England."

Click here to read this article from Early Modern England

Ox Carts and No Coffee: Building a Monastery the Medieval Way

Historians, architects, archaeologists and volunteers in Germany are teaming up to build a medieval monastery the old-fashioned way. Working conditions will be strictly 9th-century, without machines, rain jackets or even coffee. It will take decades, but they hope to garner fresh insights into everyday life in the 800s.

What did a medieval stonemason do when heavy rainfall interrupted his work? Umbrellas are impractical at construction sites. Gore-Tex jackets weren't yet invented, nor were plastic rain jackets. "He donned a jacket made of felted loden cloth," says Bert Geurten, the man who plans to build an authentic monastery town the old-fashioned way.

Felted loden jackets will also be present on rainy days at Geurten's building site, which is located near Messkirch, in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg, between the Danube River and Lake Constance. Beginning in 2013, a Carolingian monastery town will be built here using only the materials and techniques of the 9th century. From the mortar to the walls, the rain jackets to the menu, every aspect of the operation will be carried out as just as it was in the days of Charlemagne. "We want to work as authentically as possible," says Geurten.

The building contractor from the Rhineland region has long dreamt of carrying out his plan. When he was a teenager, the now 62-year-old was inspired by a model of the St. Gallen monastery plan in an exhibition in his home city of Aachen. The plan, dating from the beginning of the 9th century, shows the ideal monastery, as envisioned by Abbot Haito of Reichenau.

Haito dedicated his drawing to his colleague Abbot Gozbert of St. Gall, who presided over the monastery from 816 to 837. He meticulously recorded everything that he believed was necessary for a monastic city, from a chicken coop to a church for 2,000 worshipers. Altogether he envisaged 52 buildings -- but they were never built. That will change in spring 2013, though, when ox-pulled carts wil begin carrying the first stones to the building site in the forest near Messkirch. It won't be finished until about 2050, according to estimates.

Click here to read this article from Der Spiegel

See also this Youtube video (in German)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vikings not alone when they crossed the North Atlantic – mice hitched a ride too

New research has revealed that when the Vikings sailed across the North Atlantic to places like Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland, they brought with them the common house mouse. An international team of researchers from the UK, USA, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden examined the mitochondrial DNA of these mice to see where their origins were from. Their article, “Fellow travellers: a concordance of colonization patterns between mice and men in the North Atlantic region” was published in BMC Evolutionary Biology.

During the Viking age (late 8th to mid 10th century) Vikings from Norway established colonies across Scotland, the Scottish islands, Ireland, and Isle of Man. They also explored the north Atlantic, settling in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Newfoundland and Greenland. While the Norse settlers took with them domestic animals such as horses, sheep, goats and chickens they also inadvertently carried pests like mice.

The researchers used techniques designed to characterize genetic similarity, and hence the relatedness of one population, or one individual, with another, to determine a mouse colonisation timeline.

Click here to read this article from

Norway's pilgrim trail

Reaching into its medieval past, Norway has revived an old pilgrim path as a challenging long-distance walking trail with possible spiritual vibes.

Called St. Olav’s Way after the country’s patron saint, it follows the footsteps of pilgrims to Trondheim, called Nidaros in the Middle Ages, and the earthly remains of St. Olav buried under its great cathedral.

In life, the saint was King Olav Haraldsson, credited with sealing Norway’s conversion to Christianity with a martyr’s death in battle in 1030. He was rushed into sainthood a year later. His spreading fame made Nidaros a major destination for European pilgrams, along with Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Pilgrims trod St. Olav’s Way until Lutheranism reached Norway in 1537, shutting down saint worship.

Retraced and signposted in the 1990s, it is a Nordic entry in the pilgrim tourism field dominated by Spain’s Santiago way, made famous by many books and a recent movie with Martin Sheen. Norway’s trail is Santiago without the crowds, and with natural beauty replacing the historic villages and churches of Spain.

Click here to read this article from the Montreal Gazette

Monday, March 19, 2012

Heritage crime: medieval structure being ruined by late-night revellers

Late-night revellers are ruining a medieval wooden structure in Chester by urinating on it, it is feared.

Council leaders have warned that the “major problem” is causing “irreparable damage" to the Rows, the covered walkways that surround the city centre.Town Hall officials have said the surface has worn away because the seven hundred year-old structure has had to be cleaned so many times.

In some areas the problem is so bad shopkeepers have found urine “seeping through their ceilings” from the Row above. Authorities have recently launched a crackdown on the anti-social behaviour to stamp out the growing problem in the historic Cheshire city.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph

St.Louis University to host Medieval Academy of America Conference this week

Saint Louis University’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies will host the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America Thursday-Saturday, March 22-24.

The international meeting will feature 50 concurrent sessions from a wide range of disciplines and approaches. Plenary speakers will include:

William Chester Jordan (Princeton University and President of the MAA Fellows) - ”The Gleaners”

Caroline A. Bruzelius (Duke University) - ”Inside/Outside: Friars and the Dynamics of Urban Space”

Alice-Mary Talbot (Dumbarton Oaks) - ”Searching for Women in the Archives of Mount Athos”

Richard C. Hoffmann (York University) - ”Too Many Catches? Consumption, Habitat, Climate, and Competition in Medieval European Fisheries”

Click here to read this article from

Teaching Children the Value of Pre-Web Pages

Squeezing paint from a tube is too tame for the sixth graders in Ida Owens’s art class. They prefer making their own with malachite (a green mineral), spinach and cochineal — or dried insects. “They love cochineal,” said Ms. Owens. “To them it’s working with bugs.”

Her class at the Gordon Parks School for Inquisitive Minds (P.S./I.S. 270) in Queens is part of the Morgan Book Project, which aims to instill in children of the digital age an appreciation for books by providing authentic materials to write, illustrate and construct their own medieval and Renaissance-inspired illuminated manuscripts. The free program was developed by the Morgan Library and Museum with the New York City Department of Education for public school grades 3 through 7.

Ms. Owens said she thought her students acquired a greater affinity for physical books after designing and building one. “They see the process involved and can look at books as an art form,” she said. “When I suggest that they are doing something that keeps this art form alive, it makes them feel important.”

Click here to read this article from the New York Times

Click here to visit the Morgan Book Project website

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Archaeologists discover 7th-century Anglo-Saxon teenager with golden cross

One of the earliest Anglo-Saxon Christian burial sites in Britain has been discovered in a village outside Cambridge. The grave of a teenage girl from the mid 7th century AD has an extraordinary combination of two extremely rare finds: a ‘bed burial’ and an early Christian artefact in the form of a stunning gold and garnet cross.

The girl, aged around 16, was buried on an ornamental bed – a very limited Anglo-Saxon practice of the mid to later 7th century – with a pectoral Christian cross on her chest, that had probably been sewn onto her clothing. Fashioned from gold and intricately set with cut garnets, only the fifth of its kind ever to be found, the artefact dates this grave to the very early years of the English Church, probably between 650 and 680 AD.

In 597 AD, the pope dispatched St Augustine to England on a mission to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxon kings; a process that was not completed for many decades. Using the latest scientific techniques to analyse this exceptional find could result in a greater understanding of this pivotal period in British history, and the spread of Christianity in eastern England in the Anglo-Saxon period.

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Was St Patrick a slave-trading Roman official who fled to Ireland?

The classic account of St Patrick’s life tells us that he was abducted from Western Britain in his teens and forced into slavery in Ireland for six years before escaping, during which time his faith developed.

However, a new article looking at Patrick’s own writings in their historical context argues that the saint may have in fact fled to Ireland deliberately to avoid becoming a ‘Decurion’ – a Roman official responsible for tax collection.

“In the troubled era in which Patrick lived, which saw the demise and eventual collapse of Roman government in Britain in 410, discharging the obligations of a Decurion, especially tax-collecting, would not only have been difficult but also very risky,” says Dr Roy Flechner of the University of Cambridge.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, March 16, 2012

Has the lost Leonardo da Vinci painting been found?

Researchers are now even closer to answering the question if The Battle of Anghiari is still hidden in the walls of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. Led by scientist Maurizio Seracini, a team of researchers have uncovered evidence late last year that appears to support the theory that a lost Leonardo da Vinci painting existed on the east wall of the Hall of the 500, behind Giorgio Vasari’s mural The Battle of Marciano.

The data supporting the theoretical location of the da Vinci painting “The Battle of Anghiari” was obtained through the use of an endoscopic probe that was inserted through the wall on which the Vasari fresco was painted. The probe was fitted with a camera and allowed a team of researchers to see what was behind the Vasari and gather samples for further testing.

Using an endoscopic, researchers were able to view the wall behind the Vasari mural and obtain samples for analysis. The data from chemical analysis, while not conclusive, suggest the possibility that the da Vinci painting, long assumed to have been destroyed in the mid-16th century when the Hall of the 500 was completely remodeled, might exist behind the Vasari.

Click here to read this article from

Seeking to Preserve the Past, but Stumbling on the Present

On land where Assyrian kings once reigned, an Iraqi farmer named Araf Khalaf surveyed the scrap of earth that has nurtured three generations of his family. It is little more than a mud hut and a scraggly vegetable patch, yet his land has become a battleground, one pitting efforts to preserve Iraq’s ancient treasures against the nation’s modern-day poor.

With violence ebbing, Iraqi and international archaeologists are again excavating and repairing the country’s historic sites. But they are running into a problem: thousands of Iraqis have taken up residence among the poorly guarded ruins of Mesopotamia, in illegally built homes and shops, greenhouses and garages. And they do not want to leave.

“My father grew up here,” Mr. Khalaf said. “This is our land.”

It is a familiar issue for other nations with troves of unrecovered antiquities, like Egypt. And to Iraqi authorities, the residents are nothing more than illegal squatters who need to be moved. Officials say they pose the latest threat to an archaeological patrimony that has been plundered by looters, pummeled by decades of war and disfigured by Saddam Hussein’s egotistical additions and renovations. They want to relocate the families and seal off the areas, much as Kurdish officials in northern Iraq did to clear away squatters from an ancient citadel overlooking the city of Erbil.

Click here to read this article from the New York Times

New TV drama – “Vikings” – to be filmed in Ireland and Northern Europe

The History Channel in the US and History Television in Canada have announced they will be airing a scripted drama series, Vikings. The series will chronicle the extraordinary and ferocious world of the mighty Norsemen who raided, traded and explored during medieval times. Set to premiere in 2013, the series will be filmed in Ireland and throughout picturesque locations in Northern Europe. Shaw Media will be the broadcast partner in Canada, airing the show on HISTORY Television in Canada. The announcement was made by Nancy Dubuc,

“This is an amazing crossroads for HISTORY embarking on our first scripted series,” said Nancy Dubuc, President and General Manager of History. “People think they know about the Vikings – we see references to them all the time in our popular culture from TV commercials to football teams – but the reality is so much more fascinating and complex, more vivid, visceral and powerful than popular legend. We will explore the mysteries of the Vikings – the adventures they took and the people who led them. And we will start to understand a past that is very much part of our collective DNA today.”

Vikings is an international Irish/Canadian co-production being co-produced by World 2000 and Take 5 Productions. Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios will distribute internationally, outside of Ireland and Canada

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Social Media as a Teaching Tool

Twitter's popular hashtag, #thatawkwardmomentwhen gains another contribution when Criseyde tweets, "I just realized that my uncle is setting me up with the King's son... "

Of course, Criseyde, the ill-fated lover who makes a cover appearance in Chaucer's poem, Troilus and Criseyde, doesn't have her own Twitter account. She and others from Chaucer's Medieval writings must rely on the students in an upper-level class at Shenandoah University to say what they would if they could in a social media experiment being tried out by instructor Bryon Grigsby.

Grigsby, who is also the vice president of academic affairs at the Virginia institution, is one of multiple instructors in campuses who have dived into the deep end to test out the use of social media as a teaching tool to support student learning without knowing the outcome.

At Georgetown University, Professor Betsy Sigman is using Google+ in her courses at the McDonough School of Business. There she's trying out the social networking platform to help students keep up with current events on data, the topic of the course she's teaching.

Click here to read this article from Campus Technology

The Vikings: Victims and victors

It's ironic that we remember the Vikings best for one small failure -- their frozen far-north Greenland colony. We should instead be praising the Vikings for struggling through the cold and stormy Dark Ages, for designing those fabulous dragon ships, for swaggering their way through the abundance of the Medieval Warming -- and ultimately for leaving many of their descendents in warmer locations to survive the Little Age..

Overall, the Norse were big winners in their struggles with the earth's abrupt climate change cycles. When the cold, stormy Dark Ages set in about AD 600, the Norse had just succeeded in clearing enough Scandinavian land to support their dairy cattle and a few hardy crops. They had also developed their famous long-ships, for catching codfish on the Dogger Banks offshore.

Then, suddenly, the Dark Ages shortened the northern farmers' already-short cropping season by weeks. The colder and stormier seas drove the codfish and herring further south, away from their nets and hand-lines. Even their trading voyages became far more dangerous.

Click here to read this article from Enter Stage Right

800-Year-Old Frescoes Leave Texas For Cyprus

A set of 13th-century Byzantine frescoes — plundered after Turkey invaded Cyprus and on display in Houston for the last 15 years — is headed home at last. It's the closing chapter in what turns out to be a remarkable odyssey.

It all started in the summer of 1974, when the Turkish army invaded Cyprus and nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots became refugees fleeing south.

"And so all the churches and homes and art was left behind," says Josef Helfenstein, director of the Menil Collection in Houston. "And after years, some of these churches began to be looted."

Hundreds of them, in fact, including a tiny 13th-century limestone chapel outside the small Cypriot town of Lysi. It took several years before somebody noticed the two incredible 800-year-old frescoes inside the Greek Orthodox sanctuary, but eventually somebody figured it out. Thieves took a chainsaw and brutally hacked the frescoes out of the dome and apse — in 38 pieces.

Click here to read this article from NPR

See also the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Website

See also Medieval churches being destroyed and looted in Northern Cyprus, experts say

Multi-media exhibition at Hungate Medieval Art takes a modern look at Norwich’s history

A new multi-media exhibition which aims to link Norwich’s heritage with contemporary art is to open in the city this month.

Journeys Through the Light is being presented at Hungate Medieval Art, based at the redundant St Peter Hungate church in Princes Street. The show will focus on artists’ responses to the qualities of light as it travels through medieval stained glass, and it is being described as a “lively dialogue” in which artists engage with the venue’s historical setting.

The show is being put together by Hungate Contemporary 2012 – a team of University of East Anglia masters students all studying either museum studies or cultural heritage. They are Abigail Dear, Virginia Choy, Laura Iseli, Elizabeth Bergeron, Bridget Eaton and Rachael Murphy.

Miss Dear said: “Norwich has got so much magnificent heritage. Our aim is to promote the heritage and to bring the contemporary art crowd into the setting of some of the magnificent architecture of Norwich.”

Click here to read this article from EDP 24

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mafia, Vesuvius and Roman heritage

The European Heritage Prize 2011 is awarded an archaeologist and an Italian mayor, who have shown how discoveries from the distant past can help create alternatives to a mafia-run economy.

The European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) has awarded its thirteenth Heritage Prize to Dr. Girolamo Ferdinando de Simone of St Johns College, University of Oxford, and Avvocato Francesco Pinto, Mayor of Pollena Trocchia, in recognition of their combined efforts that have set an important example for the integration of scholarly, and societal achievements with good heritage management under particularly demanding circumstances.

On the Northern slopes of Vesuvius people have not been used to much attention around their history and culture. Tourists have crowded elsewhere at more illustrious locations in the Campania region such as Napoli, Baiae, Pompeii and Herculaneum. The inhabitants themselves used not to think much of their own local past, not known for any of the Roman splendour that has made its neighbours world famous.

Click here to read this article from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research

New viking village discovered

Norwegian archeologists have discovered the foundations of at least 15 buildings, an 80-meter long street and a harbour near Gokstadhaugen burial mound in Sandefjord.

So far, the ground hasn’t even been broken into. The remains that could potentially be part of an entire village have been located by using ground penetrating radar and magnetometer.

Archeologists from the Cultural and Historic museum in Oslo, the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) and Vestfold County made the discovery at Gokstadhaugen, where the famous Gokstad viking ship and burial ground were also discovered in 1880.

"This is a very exciting and surprising find that shows there have been several buildings located close to the burial mound Gokstadhaugen," Professor Jan Bill at the University of Oslo tells NRK.

Click here to read this article from The Norway Post

Stanford lectures, research examine sexuality, religion and the cosmos

Perspectives on the relationship between gender and religion come from sources as far apart as studies of medieval Christian interpretations of the body and modern efforts to achieve equality in Tibet.

That often tangled relationship is being explored at Stanford through a series of lectures, coursework and research.

Religion professor Hester Gelber's most recent research, for example, focuses on how medieval men and women perceived the rules and laws governing the divine cosmos and their place within it.

Her upcoming project, "With Justice and Mercy: The Medieval Retributive Cosmos," examines "the way in which the religious cosmic structure exacts justice and how people inhabit that cosmic structure," said Gelber.

Click here to read this article from the Stanford Report

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Research Re-examines Role of Maya Women

Contrary to popular belief, women played a central role in Maya society before the arrival of Spanish explorers in the early 16th century, a University of California, Riverside graduate student has discovered. That finding is significant for modern Mayan women, whose status in society rapidly diminished under Spanish colonial rule and remains so today, according to Shankari Patel, a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology.

Patel’s groundbreaking research, which included extensive fieldwork in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and an examination of previously uncatalogued artifacts in the British Museum, has won her the 2011 Dissertation Award from the American Anthropological Association’s American Feminist Association (AFA) and the AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship. Patel expects to complete her dissertation, “Journey to the East: Pilgrimage, Politics, and Gender at Postclassic Yucatan,” and graduate in June.

The AFA described her reinterpretation of the archaeology and history of the Maya as “compelling.”
Patel, a native of Hawaii who grew up in Echo Park, Calif., said she became interested in the role of Maya women while touring the Yucatan Peninsula.

“Maya culture has been described by scholars as male-dominated. But I found many towns named for women, and female deities on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula,” she explained. “I started asking how women came to be removed from religious institutions and activities, and from the history of the region.”

Click here to read this article from the University of California-Riverside

Byzantine Studies at Notre Dame Expands Research Resources

In preserving and developing the intellectual and literary traditions of the Greco-Roman world, in fashioning eastern orthodox Christianity, and in defining the notion of a Christian empire that was a center of intellectual and commercial trade, the Byzantine Empire was one of the great formative cultures in European history.

Although its rule ended in 1453 C.E., Byzantium’s influence was far from over, and the University’s Byzantine Studies at Notre Dame initiative continues to explore this influential period in medieval history.

Faculty and student research into this area of inquiry will also now benefit from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Reading Room for Byzantine Studies, located on the seventh floor of the University’s Hesburgh Libraries. The February 2012 dedication was attended by Greek Orthodox Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos from Chicago, Consul of Greece Ioanna Efthymiadou, and Stelios Vasilakis, a representative of the Niarchos Foundation.

“The inauguration of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Reading Room not only provides an appropriate home for one of the great research collections in this field of study, it also firmly embeds Byzantine Studies at Notre Dame within the Medieval Institute, the crown jewel of humanities research here at the University,” says Charles Barber, professor of medieval art history and Byzantine Studies at Notre Dame scholar.

Click here to read this article from the University of Notre Dame

£40,000 grant will help to save medieval painting

A painting from the 14th century will be saved from water damage thanks to a grant from English Heritage and the National Lottery.

St Nicholas’ Church, Stanningfield, has been awarded a £40,000 grant to replace its leaking roof. Water coming through the roof has been threatening to damage a rare medieval doom painting on the arch separating the nave from the chancal.

The painting, depicting the Last Judgement, shows Jesus sat on top of a rainbow with the apostles to either side of him. Below him, the dead rise from scattered skeletons to be judged.

Gerry Biggs, warden of the church, said: “The painting has been there a long time, everyone involved with the church is quite proud of it and the fact that there might be something happening to it is quite worrying."

Click here to read this article from the Bury Free Press

Monday, March 12, 2012

Exploring the enigma of Bristol Cathedral

The Medieval art, architecture and history of Bristol Cathedral is the focus of a new book by researchers at the University of Bristol. The study, edited by Jon Cannon and Beth Williamson of Bristol’s Department of Historical Studies, offers a detailed analysis of the architecture of Bristol Cathedral (then St. Augustine’s Abbey) during the Middle Ages.

From its Romanesque chapter house to its Perpendicular cloister and extraordinary 14th-century east end – potentially one of the most revolutionary works of architecture of the entire Middle Ages – the Cathedral boasts examples of each of the main architectural styles but has been little studied compared to many other English cathedrals.

Jon Cannon said in a statement, “Bristol Cathedral, formerly the abbey of St Augustine, is a remarkable building. To medievalists it is an enigmatic and compelling place, filled with important work of various periods, work that raises a range of important questions about style, patronage and the intentions behind medieval architecture."

Click here to read this article from

White Rock company takes a siege approach to history

A small White Rock-based feature-type documentary film producer believes her company's latest series Battle Castle will help take it to a new stage of development.

Parallax Film Productions co-owner and series producer Maija Leivo said the show - described as an interactive, trans-medieval journey into castle engineering, siegecraft and clashes that transform mortals into legends - began airing on Thursday nights on History Television Feb. 23 and is doing very well.

"It's been amazing," said Leivo of the $2.5-million production, which was put together over a 16-month period and will run until March 29. "We've filmed on location at each castle and other areas in Europe. We'll build on this and enter another phase of development.

"There's a future in history."

Click here to read this article from the Vancouver Sun

Click here to read more about Battle Castle

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Slovakia’s Krasna Horka castle destroyed in fire

Children playing with matches has led to a fire gutting one of Slovakia’s most important medieval castles on Saturday. Krasna Horka, which was built in the 14th century, has suffered extensive damage, with the castle’s roof, the exposition in the Gothic palace and the bell tower were completely destroyed. The heat from the flames even melted down three bells from the bell tower.

Although there were fears that much of the castle’s collection of artefacts were also destroyed in the fire, it seems that only the upper parts of the castle were damaged in the fire. Daniel Lipšic, Slovakia’s Interior Minister, has announced that “the vast majority of exhibits remained undamaged.”

Click here to read the full article and see videos from

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tweeting History: Social Media meets Mummies and Moats

Last week, dozens of Toronto-area bloggers gathered at a local bar, bringing with them their iPhones and Blackberries. Amidst watching Viking re-enactors fight it out on stage and playing trivia, the group got ready for the main event of the evening – watching a tv show about the Pergamon and Neues Museums in Berlin, Germany, and tweeting history.

The bloggers/tweeters were there for a viewing party organized by the makers of Museum Secrets, a Canadian television show, and were busy tweeting about the episode, which featured Viking swords, ancient sculptures and the bust of Queen Nefertiti.

The viewing party was just one of many new efforts by two Canadian-made history shows, Battle Castle and Museum Secrets, to promote themselves to the online world. The programs, which air back-to-back on Thursday nights on History Television in Canada, are using their websites, Facebook and Twitter to reach out to an international audience.

Click here to read this article from

Relic Robbing: Church’s Medieval Treasures in Jeopardy?

The theft of a medieval relic from a church in Ireland earlier this week is raising questions about the security of these places of worship and the safety of the items held within them.

On Saturday morning, church officials in Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral discovered that the preserved heart of St Laurence O’Toole (d.1180) had been stolen. Church dean Rev. Dermot Dunne said, “It’s just unthinkable that someone should steal something like that,” but this theft is just one of an increasing number of robberies that are taking place in churches.

Other Irish churches have been targeted in recent months – a rare Celtic-designed reliquary, worth €10,000, was ripped out of the wall at St Brigid’s Church in Killester, Co Dublin (fortunately the saint’s relic had been removed earlier for conservation work), while a piece of the True Cross was taken from Holycross Abbey, but was later returned. Meanwhile, the Codex Calixtinus, a 12th-century manuscript, was stolen from Santiago de Compostela last year, making international headlines. The theft of medieval relics is not just occurring in Europe – last year it was reported that a 780-year old relic purported to be part of Saint Anthony of Padua, (the patron saint of lost things) was stolen from a church in Long Beach, California.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, March 09, 2012

Medieval graffiti is well worth a look

What to do on a wet (and snowy, for a time) Sunday? You could do worse than visit All Saints Church in Leighton Buzzard, which provided not just very welcome shelter from the wild weather, but also enough intrigue to keep anyone interested in local history or architecture occupied for an hour or so.

We’d first popped into the Costa Coffee in the High Street for a hot drink to fortify us against the cold. Chain cafes aren’t usually my first choice but there didn’t seem to be anywhere else open.

The staff at this Costa were polite and friendly but the place could really do with a bit of a spruce up – tatty chairs aren’t really on when you’re a multi-million pound operation.

The ‘falling masonry’ sign outside the church made us take a step back as we approached the main entrance (the west door), and although the gentleman inside seemed a little surprised to have visitors we were invited to take a look around, and given a handy guide to some of the church’s interesting features.

Click here to read this article from the Leighton Buzzard Observer

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Tweets of Antiquity: Project examines ancient graffiti

History is often shaped by the stories of kings and religious and military leaders, and much of what we know about the past derives from official sources like military records and governmental decrees. Now an international project is gaining invaluable insights into the history of ancient Israel through the collection and analysis of inscriptions — pieces of common writing that include anything from a single word to a love poem, epitaph, declaration, or question about faith, and everything in between that does not appear in a book or on a coin.

Such writing on the walls — or column, stone, tomb, floor, or mosaic — is essential to a scholar’s toolbox, explains Prof. Jonathan Price of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Classics. Along with his colleague Prof. Benjamin Isaac, Prof. Hannah Cotton of Hebrew University and Prof. Werner Eck of the University of Cologne, he is a contributing editor to a series of volumes that presents the written remains of the lives of common individuals in Israel, as well as adding important information about provincial administration and religious institutions, during the period between Alexander the Great and the rise of Islam (the fourth century B.C.E. to the seventh century C.E.).

Click here to read this article from History of the Ancient World

Cosmeston Medieval Village: Protest at Vale of Glamorgan funds cut

Supporters of a south Wales tourist attraction used as a location for the BBC TV series Merlin have protested against funding cuts there.

Vale of Glamorgan council is making three redundancies at Cosmeston Medieval Village, Penarth in a bid to save £50,000. But it is also introducing free entry to attract more visitors to the site.

Campaigners, who say the changes threaten the village, marched to the council offices in Barry at 17:00 GMT.

The 600-year-old village site was discovered on the Cosmeston Lakes Country Park site in 1978. During the next decade it was reconstructed as a visitor attraction portraying life in a medieval village in the year 1350.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here to visit the Cosmeston Medieval Village website

Fresh take on medieval castles: Series explores historical sites and how they stood up in times of war

This medieval battle started centuries ago on England's Dover cliffs, but it was finished - in a manner of speaking - at an Abbotsford farm, and on a computer screen.

Battle Castle is a six-part documentary series that takes viewers back to the building of six historically significant castles, and then shows how each castle stood up when attacked.

Vancouver producers Ian Her-ring and Maija Leivo filmed several days on location at each castle - the show led off with Syria's Crusades-era castle Crac des Chevaliers - and the third episode tonight is on Britain's Dover Castle.

"For the Europeans, castles are so ubiquitous, it doesn't occur to them to do a show about them," says Leivo, as to why a Vancouver team took on the subject. The show is also airing on Britain's Knowledge TV.

Click here to read this article from The Province

See also ‘Battle Castle’ lays siege on-air and online

Our review of the first episode of Battle Castle: Crac des Chevaliers

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

800-year old Leper Chapel in Cambridge to be site of renewable energy project

There are 21st century ideas in prospect for the 800 year old Leper Chapel in East Cambridge following a unique collaboration between Cambridge Past, Present and Future, and an Architecture student at the University of Cambridge.

Often considered the oldest surviving building in Cambridge, the Leper Chapel has a long history that dates back to when it was known as the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene and was at the centre of the Stourbridge Fair, the largest medieval fair in Europe. In its recent history, the chapel has been owned and lovingly maintained by Cambridge Past, Present and Future.

Click here to read this article from

Emergency repairs to medieval gatehouse set to begin

A medieval monastic gatehouse at Pentney Priory in Norfolk, England, is to be saved, following a £200,000 English Heritage grant for emergency structural repairs.

The Grade I listed gatehouse which is also a Scheduled Monument has been on the Heritage at Risk register for many years and is at serious risk of collapse. Temporary internal scaffolding is currently in place in an attempt to brace the unsupported external walls and falling masonry poses a significant threat to the nearby public footpath.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Mona Lisa copy may have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci's lover, art historians suggest

Last month, a copy of Leonardo's most famous painting rocked the art world with revelations about its provenance. Two weeks after it went on show to the public at the Prado, the museum's conservation team believe they are closing in on a conclusion about the painting's authorship.

The most likely candidate is Gian Giacomo Caprotti, the apprentice known as "Salaì" - which translates as "Little Devil" - who went to work in Leonardo's workshop when he was ten years old.
Many historians believe, though it is not proven, that Salaì was Leonardo's lover. He is presumed to be the youthful model for Leonardo's paintings 'St. John the Baptist' and 'Bacchus', as well as numerous drawings.

The Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari describes Salaì in his 'Lives of the Artists' as "a graceful and beautiful youth with curly hair, in which Leonardo greatly delighted"

Click here to read this article from The Daily Telegraph

Mayan civilization collapsed because of modest rainfall reduction, study says

A new study reports that the disintegration of the Maya civilization may have been related to relatively modest reductions in rainfall.

The study was led by Professors Martín Medina-Elizalde of the Yucatan Center for Scientific Research in Mexico and Eelco Rohling of the University of Southampton in the UK.

Professor Rohling explains, “Our results show rather modest rainfall reductions between times when the Classic Maya civilization flourished and its collapse – between AD 800-950. These reductions amount to only 25 to 40 per cent in annual rainfall. But they were large enough for evaporation to become dominant over rainfall, and open water availability was rapidly reduced. The data suggest that the main cause was a decrease in summer storm activity.”

Click here to read this article from History of the Ancient World

Roch Castle in Wales turned into luxury retreat

A 13th century castle, damaged in a Civil War siege, has been transformed into a luxury retreat after more than £6m of investment.

Architect Keith Griffiths, is behind the project, returning to his Pembrokeshire roots after buying Roch Castle and Penrhiw Priory.

Over three years, he has restored the historic monuments, investing £6m and £3m respectively.

He said he was keen to safeguard the county’s heritage by turning the historic buildings into retreats, giving them a sustainable future.

“My aim was to match the contemporary luxury in hospitality provided by the international Armani and Bulgari hotels within an historic building,” he said. “But it was essential not to detract from each of the properties’ own special and unique existing structure and style.

“It is for this reason that these icons of West Wales heritage were developed as corporate, individual, retreats and not as hotels – the required changes to the fabric of the buildings to meet current legislation would have damaged their beauty and substance,” Mr Griffiths added

Click here to read the full article from Wales Online

Developer behind restored and reopened Roch Castle confirms Haverfordwest interest

The multi-million pound restoration of Roch Castle was officially revealed to the public yesterday by St Davids born architect and developer Keith Griffiths.

It was also announced that it is Mr Griffiths and his Griffiths Roch Foundation hoping to transform Haverfordwest's former prison and governor's house at the town castle into a luxury boutique hotel, restaurant and gallery.

Council members, including chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones, were among the dignitaries to take a closer look at Roch Castle and the five-star luxury it offers for those with big budgets.

The Retreat Group specialise in high-end luxury coporate escapes for relaxation or business and Roch Castle in just one of Mr Griffiths' Pembrokeshire projects.

The castle's sister property Penrhiw Priory, St Davids, also offers exclusive accommodation costing from £4,000 a week.

Click here to read this article from the Western Telegraph

Click here to visit the Retreats Group website for photos of the restored castle

New book examines the role of Arab doctors in the history of medieval medicine

Professor Peter E Pormann from The University of Manchester says too few people realise European and Arab doctors were part of the same medical tradition which played a pivotal role in the development of medicine as we know it.

“Arabic was the scientific language which united doctors 850 year ago and which contributed to a medical discourse that went beyond country and creed,” he said. “Jew, Christian and Muslim worked together in an openness within medicine which more or less has continued to this day.”

The minute clinical observations of the clinician al-Rāzī, he says – who even once used a control group to test a medical procedure – are a 850-year-old blueprint for how doctors work today.

Al-Rāzī was one of the many clinicians to be inspired by Arabic translations, he says, making great strides in their understanding of medicine and forming the basis of what we know today.

Click here to read this article from

Exemplaria receives the Phoenix Award for most improved journal

Exemplaria, an academic journal dedicated to medieval and Renaissance studies from Maney Publishing, has received the 2011 Phoenix Award for Significant Editorial Achievement from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ).

The CELJ is an organisation made up of editors of scholarly journals covering a range of subjects, and in 1987 it established the Phoenix Award to give recognition to the most improved journal, regardless of its state at the time renovations began.

Judges noted “significant development for this already excellent journal” over the past three years.

The quarterly journal provides a forum for those interested in medieval and Renaissance studies, with an expansive scope covering European literature; literary theory; film; rhetoric; historicism; and old and Middle English.

Click here to read this article from

Ancient Byzantine road unearthed in Greece

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient marble paved Byzantine road during excavation work for a new metro in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, the Culture Ministry said on Friday.

Dating from the third century BC, the marble paved road, known as the Via Egnatia, runs across much of modern day Thessaloniki at a depth of three meters.

Other finds range from hundreds of graves and tombs spanning an 800-year period from the fourth century BC, marble sarcophagi, stone tombs and more than 2,500 square meters of ancient buildings.

Many of the burial sites contained offerings, including 1,500 pieces of jewellry made of gold, silver and copper, Roman-era gold coins from Persia, clay vessels, glass perfume-holders and eight golden wreaths.

Click here to read this article from IOL Scitech

Monday, March 05, 2012

Westgate Towers in Canterbury to be blocked from traffic

The massive 14th-century Westgate Towers in Canterbury will no longer see cars passing through its gate, as city officials start a 12-month experimental project to make the roadway accessible only for pedestrians. The aim is to protect and preserve the towers, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

The change will take place on March 27th. Local councillor Peter Vickery-Jones said, “Removing traffic from passing underneath one of our landmark, historic buildings has been an ambition for many years. We have had proposals in the past that have either not worked or not got off the ground. However, we now have a scheme that we believe can be successful and it is imperative we give this a real go."

Click here to read the full article from

Conservation work to begin on medieval chapel in Malta

Maltese Bus Operator Arriva has announced it will be collaborating with conservation group Din l-Art Ħelwa (DLĦ) on a project focused on the conservation of the chapel in Ħal Millieri, limits of Żurrieq and Mqabba. Arriva’s Commercial Manager Thomas Dimech met with DLĦ Chief Executive Officer Simone Mizzi, Mr George Mangion Warden and Curator of Ħal Millieri Chapel and Ms Maria Grazia Cassar DLĦ Council Member Responsible for Restoration, at the Chapel, where the sponsorship was officialised during a small ceremony.

“Our national heritage is amongst the most beautiful and diverse in the world, and we all have to play our various parts in safeguarding it for future generations. Even though we have only started operations 8 months ago, as a corporate citizen of the Maltese Islands, Arriva believes it has a duty to help in conserving these gems, that are not only part of our history but indeed among our richest treasures as Maltese citizens. Arriva is extremely glad to be able to support Din l-Art Ħelwa on this project and to be associated with the beautiful and quite unique chapel here at Ħal Millieri,” said Mr Dimech.

The chapel of the Annunciation is situated in the old village of Casal Millieri, which lies between Żurrieq, Qrendi, Mqabba and Kirkop. This village was first documented in 1419 and its origins date back to Roman and possibly pre-historic times. The chapel was consecrated in around 1480 on the site of an earlier chapel built in the thirteenth century, and is a typical example of a Maltese medieval church.

Click here to read the full article from the Malta Independent

Chaucerian professor makes a pilgrimage to Romania

University of Colorado's Thomas Napierkowski cuts an impressive figure that is every inch an English professor. He is tall and thin, completely bald, and sports a rather impressive mustache. He even jokes about his age, claiming that he had conversations with poet Geoffrey Chaucer 500 years ago.

Napierkowski was accepted as a Fulbright Specialist in December. According to the U.S. State Department, the Fulbright Specialist program "sends U.S. faculty and professionals to serve as expert consultants on curriculum, faculty development, institutional planning, and related subjects at overseas academic institutions for a period of two to six weeks."

These appointments are limited. A Specialist is only allowed two in his career. Napierkowski said, "If you teach for 50 years, you can only have two appointments." He is in his first five-year appointment.

This is not simply a spur-of-the-moment honor, though. Napierkowski said, "It's sort of an interesting – and arduous – process." The process begins with an application with multiple essays. Those essays are peer-reviewed by other Fulbright Scholars, and even if you pass that review, a final board has to pass you as well. Once a scholar is on the Specialist list, their name and dossier are available to foreign universities for assistance in their American literature programs.

Click here to read this article from The Scribe

Bodleian Libraries Cairo Genizah collection now available online

The Bodleian Libraries have digitized and made available for the first time their exceptional collection of the Cairo Genizah fragments. The website launch is marked by a bequest of five Genizah fragments from the library of the late Eli Weinberg.

The Cairo Genizah is an accumulation of almost 280,000 medieval Jewish manuscript fragments, mostly written in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic. They were discovered in the late nineteenth century in an annex of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat, presently Old Cairo, Egypt. Documents accumulated there from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries, and remained there until their value for scholarship was discovered in the 19th century.

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Somewhere in Ireland, a burglar has the heart of a saint

Here is a series of articles about the theft of the relic of St. Laurence O’Toole this weekend from a church in Dublin, Ireland.

Somewhere in Ireland, a burglar has the heart of a saint

Officials at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin said Sunday they’re distraught and perplexed over the theft of the church’s most precious relic: the preserved heart of St. Laurence O’Toole, patron saint of Dublin.

St. Laurence’s heart had been displayed in the cathedral since the 13th century. It was stored in a heart-shaped wooden box and secured in a small, square iron cage on the wall of a chapel dedicated to his memory. On Saturday someone cut through two bars, pried the cage loose, and made off with the relic.

“I am devastated that one of the treasured artifacts of the cathedral is stolen,” said the Most Rev. Dermot Dunne, the cathedral’s dean. “It has no economic value but it is a priceless treasure that links our present foundation with its founding father.”

Ireland’s national police force, the Garda Siochana, said detectives were studying hours of closed-circuit TV footage to try to identify the approximately 40 people who walked out the cathedral’s front doors Saturday morning.

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail

Religious fanatic hid overnight to steal relic of saint's heart

A religious fanatic hid overnight in a cathedral before stealing the 800-year-old preserved heart of Dublin's patron saint, church officials believe.

The 12th century preserved heart of St Laurence O'Toole -- which has been a religious focal point in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, for the past eight centuries -- was stolen from a small heart-shaped wooden box which was sealed in an iron-barred case.

The Dean of Christ Church, Reverend Dermot Dunne, said yesterday that he believes the culprit secretly hid in the cathedral before closing time on Friday evening.

It has also emerged the thief lit two candles during the night before making off with the relic the next morning.

"The vergers realised it was gone when they opened the cathedral at 9.30am on Saturday morning," he said.

"It was definitely there the evening before. They also noticed that there were two peace candles lit on the Trinity Altar. It's all very strange.

"Somebody must have hid in the cathedral overnight on Friday and slipped out first thing on Saturday morning. There was no sign of forced entry and all our doors are alarmed."

Click here to read this article from the Irish Independent

Call for increased security for church relics

Church authorities who are custodians of relics have been called on to increase their security, or temporarily remove the items, in light of recent thefts.

Raghnall Ó Floinn, Head of Collections at the National Museum of Ireland, said these incidents were worrying, and that custodians of relics might have to increase security.

It follows the theft from Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin this weekend of a wooden box in which the heart of St Laurence O'Toole had been placed almost 1,000 years ago.

Click here to read this article from RTE

See also our earlier article Medieval Saint’s relic stolen from Dublin church