Sunday, May 31, 2009

Anne Latowsky awarded fellowship from NEH

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded University of South Florida Assistant Professor Anne Latowsky a $50,400 faculty research fellowship in support of her project Holy Land Fictions: Journeys to Jerusalem and Constantinople in the Medieval French Tradition. Latowsky joined the USF faculty in 2004 and specializes in Medieval French literature and its relationship to Frankish and Anglo-Norman historiographical traditions.

The NEH is an independent federal agency that supports learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities and is the largest funder of the humanities in the United States.

"Dr. Latowsky's achievement is spectacular and represents the high level of quality of her scholarship and the commitment she has for her discipline," said Ralph Wilcox, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. "NEH fellowships are very prestigious and are an even more precious commodity in these tough economic times."

Latowsky's project follows the roots of the false tales of Charlemagne's liberation of Jerusalem through six centuries of ecclesiastical documents, vernacular poems, Latin and vernacular chronicles, and images in stained glass.

"This is a great honor and a wonderful opportunity for me to bring my book to completion," said Latowsky. "I am deeply grateful to colleagues and friends here at USF who made it possible, including members of the Department of World Languages, the Florida MedievaList, and the staff of the USF Humanities Institute."

Latowsky teaches a variety of undergraduate courses in the Department of World Languages in the USF College of Arts and Sciences, as well as advanced courses in Medieval French literature, Old French linguistics and phonetics, and French civilization.

Latowsky earned her bachelor's degree in history and French from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a master's degree in French literature and a doctorate in French studies from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is multilingual, speaking and reading French at near native proficiency, with reading knowledge of Old French, as well as classical and medieval Latin, and is proficient in speaking and reading Spanish, and has reading knowledge of Italian and German.

Hotel to be built on Viking Site in Dublin

Green light given for hotel on Viking site
27 May 2009
Irish Independent

An Bord Pleanala has given the green light for a seven storey hotel on what could be an important Viking site near St Stephen's Green in Dublin city centre.

The venture at 19-22 Aungier St, Dublin 2, has been proposed by Fanagan's funeral directors and hotelier Robert Lyne. The original blueprint was for a 26m high, nine storey building, but the appeals board has sliced two storeys off the original design proposal.

Dublin City Council gave permission to demolish warehouses on the site, currently used for parking cars, and to build a 232-bed hotel. However, a report on the planning application stated the site "is one of major archaeological potential".

"The area is one of known archeological potential for Viking Age and medieval deposits relating to the early settlement at Dubh Linn," wrote consultant archaeologist Mary McMahon.

The archeological expert recommended that no construction work ought to be undertaken until an archeological assessment is carried out. The council imposed several conditions in compliance with Ms McMahon's recommendations. Its decision to grant planning approval was, however, appealed to the planning appeals board by an owner of an adjoining premises.

The approval from An Bord Pleanala stipulates that "the developer shall facilitate the planning authority in preserving, recording or otherwise protecting archeological materials or features within the site".

The developer is thus required to notify the planning authority in writing at least four weeks prior to the commencement of any site operation relating to the proposed development.

A suitably-qualified archaeologist who shall monitor all site investigations and other excavation works must be employed and satisfactory arrangements for the recording/removal of any archeological material must be made. An Bord Pleanala's decision is currently being considered by the promoters before deciding what the next move will be.

Judging books by their cover: A history of bookbinding at the Bodleian

This summer, the Bodleian Library will celebrate the art and craft of bookbinding from both traditional and contemporary perspectives with two major exhibitions:

An Artful Craft: Historic Bookbindings from the Broxbourne Library and other collections features masterpieces from two of the greatest bookbinding collections of the 20th century: the Broxbourne Library collected by Albert Ehrman (1890-1969) and the Wormsley Library formed by Sir Paul Getty (1932-2003). It also draws on other world-renowned historic collections in the Bodleian.

This exhibition treats bookbindings as piece of art in their own right, as things worthy of curiosity and admiration. It celebrates the creativity of bookbinders across the centuries and from different cultures. The exhibit will feature the extraordinary range of the craft of the bookbinder, using materials as diverse as straw, leather, wood, ivory and gemstones. It will also demonstrate how Islamic bookbinding styles influenced the way books would look in the West for over five hundred years. The display will reveal how bookbinding developed from being a craft practised by unsung individuals in the Middle Ages, to being a vehicle for artistic expression by some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections and Associate Director, Bodleian Library, said: "Bookbindings are an often overlooked aspect of our past. The Bodleian is delighted to have the opportunity to demonstrate the way bookbindings reflect major social, artistic and historical trends. We are also pleased to exhibit some of the great treasures in the Broxbourne Library - one the most important gifts to the Bodleian in recent times."

Bound for Success: Designer Bookbinders International Competition 2009 showcases 117 shortlisted submissions out of 240 entries in the first Designer Bookbinders International Competition. Entrants representing 29 countries offer highly creative and surprisingly diverse interpretations on the theme of water.

Using a variety of media, the exhibits represent a wide assortment of modern approaches to the art of the hand-bound book. An Israeli book incorporates sprinklers and irrigation tubes, a French binder uses a real bath plug in his design, whilst an Estonian binder sews his (or her) book with fishing line on perch and pike skin.

The first Sir Paul Getty Bodleian Bookbinding Prize will be awarded to the first two winners. For more information please contact: Oana Romocea, Communications Office, Bodleian Library, Tel: 01865 277627 E-mail:

Founded in 1602, the Bodleian Library is home to over 9 million volumes and a large number of manuscripts and rare printed books. It is the largest university library in Britain and the second largest library in the UK. Of its over 50,000 registered users, almost 60% come from outside Oxford, and 5,000 of these are researchers from
overseas. The Old Bodleian is also a major visitor attraction, drawing over 300,000 visitors a year. More information about the Bodleian Library and its activities can be found at The Broxbourne Library comprises of more than 2000 bindings. It became part of the Bodleian collections in 1979, when it was donated to the Library by John Ehrman, Albert's son.

The Wormsley Library is considered to be the world's most comprehensive private collection of bookbindings. Built over 30 years by Sir Paul Getty, the Wormsley Library is renowned for its important and unique volumes in unusually fine condition.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mapping Medieval Geographies

The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at UCLA is holding a conference this week on “Mapping Medieval Geographies: Cartography and Geographical Thought in the Latin West and Beyond, 300-1600.” This conference aims to promote an exchange between historians, philologists and geographers working on geographical ideas and thinking from late Antiquity to the Renaissance.

The conference was organized by Dr. Keith D. Lilley (Queen’s University Belfast) and the late Professor Denis Cosgrove (UCLA). Dr. Lilley said in an interview with that "we had begun planning the conference in 2006 following discussion that such an event was needed to bring together a wide range of scholars working on different aspects of geography and cartography, broadly across the Middle Ages, and across Europe. Few geographers are doing this kind of work themselves, so (as two geographers) we both wanted to provide a forum for exchange to flag-up this work to a geographical audience, as well as highlight to those historians working on the topic the potential of linking to current ideas and trends in historical and cultural geography."

Nineteen papers will be given over a three day period starting on May 28th, which will be held at Royce Hall at UCLA. Some of the papers include “Chorography Reconsidered: Roman Mapping Traditions in Late Antiquity and Beyond,” by Jesse Simon, and “Portraits of ‘the West’ in Arab Maps and Poetry,” by Karen Pinto. Dr. Lilley will deliver the first paper, where he says he will discuss "what it means 'to map', and how this can help us in understanding not just maps as visual representations but also as textual ones. I also make the point that medieval geography was a topic discussed by geographers in the twentieth century, but geographers have lately neglected their discipline's medieval ancestry."

The conference organizers are negotiating with Cambridge University Press on the possibility of publishing the papers of this conference in a volume. Dr. Lilley is hopeful that this will be the beginning of renewed interest in medieval geography. "There is much potential," he explained, "especially in cross-disciplinary research, whether focused on a particular map, or text, or an individual person or group - I am setting up such a project to work further on the 14th-century Gough Map of Great Britain, but the potential exists to work on, say, the geographical texts in particular archives, as Natalia Lozovsky has done, or particular themes, such as cartographic representations of Europe from Islamic and Christian medieval traditions. I hope these new areas might develop as a result of the conference."

For details about the conference, including its program, please go to:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Over-Fishing in the Middle Ages lead to Marine Declines

Marine historians will be presenting a wide range of findings about overfishing over the centuries, including from the Middle Ages, at a conference beginning today. One of their key findings is that size of freshwater fish caught in medieval times began to decrease, leading fishermen to venture out to further seas.

The Oceans Past II Conference takes place May 26-28 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. It is being organised by the Census for Marine Life. Started in the year 2000, the Census of Marine Life is an international science research program uniting thousands of researchers worldwide with the goal of assessing and explaining the diveristy, distribution and abundance of marine life.

Using such diverse sources as old ship logs, literary texts, tax accounts, newly translated legal documents and even mounted trophies, Census researchers are piecing together images of fish of such sizes, abundance and distribution in ages past that they stagger modern imagination.

They are also documenting the timelines over which those giant marine life populations declined. For example, Census scientists say the size of freshwater fish caught by Europeans started shrinking in medieval times.

Researchers James Barrett and Jen Harland (Cambridge University), Cluny Johnstone (York University) and Mike Richards (Max Planck Institute) say a shift from eating locally-caught freshwater to marine fish species occured around 1000 AD.

That's consistent with analyses of scientifically-dated fish remains and historical data from England and northwestern Europe showing smaller freshwater fish and fewer species availability in early medieval times, likely caused by increased exploitation and pollution.

Jesse Ausuel, Program Director of the Census at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, noted that a text written in Sicily in 1153 described the seas of the North Atlantic as having "animals of such great size that the inhabitants of the islands use their bones and vertebrae in place of wood to build houses. They make hammers, arrows, spears, knives, seats, steps, and in general every sort of thing elsewhere made of wood."

Marina Lucia De Nicolo of the University of Bologna, meanwhile, has established that new fishing boats and equipment invented in the 1500s made it possible to venture from coastal to deep sea fishing. The real revolution in marine fishing, she says, happened in the mid-1600s when pairs of boats began dragging a net.

Ian Poiner, Chair of the Census Scientific Steering Committee, explains "the insights emerging from this research of the past provide a new context fro contemporary ocean management. Understanding the magnitude and drivers of change long ago is essential to accurately interpret today's trends and to make future projections."

For more information about the Oceans Past II Conference and the Census of Marine Life, please visit their website at

1. One of the earliest depictions of trawling. Mosaic from the 5th century, Bizerte, Tunisia
2. Monastic records, Russia
3. Night fishing with a lamp and a net. Byzantine image from the 11th century

Jo Ann McNamara

We are sad to report the passing of Jo Ann McNamara, professor emirita of State University of New York. Her son Edmund Clingan wrote an email that she fell ill earlier this month, and was removed from life support on May 20th.

Born in 1931, Professor McNamara was highly regarded as a medieval scholar specializing in medieval women and the monastic community. Her works include:

Sisters in arms: Catholic nuns through two millennia
The ordeal of community
Sainted Women of the Dark Ages
A new song : celibate women in the first three Christian centuries
The life of Yvette of Huy
- translation

Theresa Earenfight, President of the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship commented that "her life and work were so important to all medievalists and feminists and she will be very much mourned and missed by us all."

The Department of History at Hunter College plans to have a memorial service for their former colleague in the fall.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Knowledge and Learning in the Middle Ages - conference at the University of Cambridge

The Magdalene Society of Medievalists has announced that registration has now opened for the Society's 2009 Conference entitled: Knowledge and Learning in the Middle Ages: A Conference Celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the University of Cambridge.

This one-day, interdisciplinary conference on Medieval Studies will take place on 13 June 2009 and will be held in Cripps Court, Magdalene College, Cambridge. The conference was made possible by a special grant from the 2009 Fund, which is sponsoring a number of events throughout the year celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the University of Cambridge.

The conference program includes 10 papers on Music, Literature, History and Religion, and a keynote address by Margot Fassler, entitled "Music, Memory, Technology: The Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis and St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church"

The conference will close with a banquet in the College Hall. For the full programme, including a schedule of events, paper titles and information about how to register, please visit the conference website at:

The registration deadline is 31 May 2009.

New editions of important Crusades texts in preparation

Some of the most significant historical works detailing the Crusades are being given a thorough reappraisal by historians at Cardiff University.

Professor Peter Edbury, of the School of History Archaeology is producing the first modern critical edition of the medieval narratives known as the Continuations of William of Tyre and the Chronicle of Ernoul and Bernard the Treasurer.

Together, the manuscripts provide the fullest narrative for the events from 1184 until 1277 in the territories in the Levant ruled by the crusaders, and are the most significant historical works composed in the Latin East to describe these years.

The interest of these texts lies partly in the historical information they contain, but also in their capacity to mirror the political and cultural preoccupations of the authors and the original audience.

Professor Edbury said: “There is widespread agreement that a modern, scholarly edition of the Continuations and Ernoul-Bernard is a major desideratum. The modern critical edition will include a textual apparatus, historical notes and an introductory commentary that will contain an evaluation of the historical content of these texts and reassess their literary and cultural context.

“The research will further our understanding of thirteenth-century secular perceptions of the crusades to the Holy Land and of the principalities established in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Fifty-one manuscripts of the French translation of William of Tyre dating from before 1500, forty-five of which contain Continuations, and eight manuscripts of Ernoul-Bernard have survived. To date, their sheer bulk has deterred scholars from undertaking a project of these dimensions in the past.

The edition by Professor Edbury will constitute a research tool that will contribute significantly to advancing knowledge and understanding in the fields of history, art history, French language and literature.

The research, which will start in September 2009, is funded by a £410,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Byzantine frescos from Italy recovered in Greece

ANSA - English Media Service

Two medieval frescoes looted from a tomb near Naples in 1982 and recently returned by Greece were among recovered treasures presented by Italy's art cops Tuesday.

The frescoes of two saints were recovered by Greek antiquities police in a raid on Greek art traffickers on the Aegean island of Schinoussa in 2006. Police estimate the frescos would fetch euro 500,000 on the black market.

Culture Ministry Archeology Director Stefano De Caro presented the frescoes to the press along with a pre-Ptolemaic Egyptian granite head, robbed from a Roman museum several years ago, and a sixth-century BC Etruscan vase stolen from Palermo's Museo Solinas 15 years ago.

Speaking alongside the head of the Carabinieri Police Unit for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage, General Gianni Nistri, De Caro said the frescoes were probably the most important pieces of recently recovered art.

They originally adorned the walls of one of the famous tufa chambers called Fornelle at Calvi south of Monte Cassino, site of the Ancient Roman city of Cales.

The particularly ornate chamber - many of whose frescoes are still missing - is believed to have been the tomb of 11th-century Count Pandolfo and his wife Countess Gualferada.

Because of their fragile state and conservation and security difficulties, the frescoes will not be returned to the tomb but will ''probably'' find a home, at least provisionally, in an antiquities collection recently put together at the Bourbon Reggia di Caserta, De Caro said.

Handing over the frescoes in March, Greek Culture Minister Antoni Samaras said the event marked "nother important stage in collaboration with our Italian friends and partners in the fight against art theft''.

Italy and Greece launched a joint battle some years ago to crack down on trafficking and reclaim smuggled works from museums around the world.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Caroline Walker Bynum wins Grundler Prize

Western Michigan University has awarded the prestigious Grundler Prize to a noted academic and theoretical scholar for her book Wonderful Blood: Theology and Practice in Late Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond.

The prize was awarded during the 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies, held May 7-10. It was presented to Dr. Caroline Walker Bynum, professor of Western European Middle Ages at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Bynum argues in her book that Christ's blood, as both object and symbol, was central to late medieval art, literature, pious practice and theology.

The WMU Medieval Institute organizes the on-campus congress, which is one of the world's largest annual gatherings of scholars and others interested in the Middle Ages. The Grundler Prize was established to honor the late Otto Grundler, a longtime former director of the institute.

"Wonderful Blood," published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2007, received the American Academy of Religion's 2007 Award for Excellence in the Historical Studies category. It examines the saving power attributed to Christ's blood at north German cult sites, the theological controversy such sites generated, and the hundreds of devotional paintings, poems and prayers dedicated to Christ's wounds, scourging and bloody crucifixion.

Bynum, who earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1962 and a doctoral degree from Harvard in 1969, researches the social, cultural and intellectual history of Europe from the early Middle Ages to the early modern period. Her many books have created the paradigm for the study of women's piety that dominates the field of medieval studies today.

A MacArthur Fellow and past president of the American Historical Association, Bynum previously taught at Harvard and Columbia universities and the University of Washington. In 2003 she joined the faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study, a private academic institution that is one of the world's leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry.

Only 30 percent of collapsed Cologne Archives to be saved: Czech expert

Only 30 percent of collapsed Cologne Archives to be saved: Czech expert
16 May 2009
Xinhua News Agency

Only 30 percent of the documents contained in an archive building that collapsed in early March in the western German city of Cologne will be saved, a Czech expert who helped salvage the archive told local media Saturday.

The size of the stock of the Historical Archive of Cologne, whose building collapsed in early March, is comparable with the State Regional Archive in Prague (SOAP), said Jiri Smitka from SOAP, who has returned from one of six expeditions of Czech to Cologne.

The archive collapsed on March 3 due to tunneling work for a new underground train line. Two people were killed in the accident, in which a total of three buildings fell into a hole that opened up in the ground.

Cologne's archives, one of the only collections in Germany to have survived World War II completely intact, were described as the richest municipal record collection in northern continental Europe, including decrees by emperors, lists of medieval residents and centuries of merchants' records.

The Czech archivists estimated that only 30 percent of the overall stock will be saved. A total of six expeditions of Czech archivists and restorers, who come from various archives across the country, have been sent to Cologne for the recovering work.

"The oldest document we found was from the mid-12th century, which is really unique. Who does not work in the National Archive will not come across such material in the Czech environment," Smitka said.

Karel Koutsky, from the Czech National Archive, said the oldest of collections came from 922 AD while the oldest known document in the Czech Republic comes from the late-10th century.

The collections, including hundreds of thousands of photographs, maps and documents, contained manuscripts by music composer Jacques Offenbach, Nobel Literature Prize laureate Heinrich Boell, former Cologne mayor and later German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, as well as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

"The archival stock was not affected by past disasters, such as the Thirty Years' War, the two world wars, the bombing of Cologne. Only now by this disaster," Koutsky said. Enditem

Kilmallock, Ireland to revitalize its medieval walls

Ambitious new conservation and management strategies for Kilmallock, one of Ireland’s most intact Walled Towns were unveiled earlier this month.

The reopening of the local railway station and the development of a new heritage centre in the town are just two of the many potential projects earmarked for Kilmallock as part of the town's ambitious new conservation and management strategies.

The Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Martin Mansergh, launched the Kilmallock Town Walls Conservation and Management Plan and Kilmallock Walled Town Public Realm Plan at a ceremony attended by members of the local action team, public representatives, local councillors and the public in Deebert House Hotel in the town.

Initiated by Limerick County Council under the Irish Walled Towns Network Action Plan 2006-08, the strategies are geared towards developing a greater appreciation of, and access to, the historic town walls, and boosting local tourism.

Among the potential projects and initiatives earmarked for the town is the development of interpretative facilities and looped heritage walkways and the reopening of the local railway station.

"The background to the study stressed the importance of public transport – getting to Kilmallock and moving around Kilmallock. One way of doing that is reopening the services to the railway station," explained consultant Nicholas De Jong, who oversaw the compilation of the Public Realm Plan.

"That would be a very good way of bringing people to the town and to participate in activities in the town such as sporting events. If that is the case, and the station is reawakened, then the route from the station into the town also needs to be enhanced," he added.

Another proposal is for access to the local towers.

"Everybody loves to get up a tower. If people could get up King John's Castle, Blossom Gate and the Collegiate church that would be fantastic, even a virtual tour," suggested Anne Thompson from engineering consultancy firm Gifford Ltd, who carried out the Conservation and Management Plan, in conjunction with PLB. "Having everything closed off is not helping. There are great vantage points," she continued.

Kilmallock was once regarded as one of the most strategically important towns in Ireland due to its medieval wall defences, castles, gatehouses and magnificent churches. The town walls, 70% of which remain standing today, have contributed greatly to Kilmallock’s direct involvement in almost every Irish conflict since medieval times. The fortress town was burned during the Desmond Rebellion and the local Dominican Priory was attacked and destroyed during the Irish Confederate Wars.

Commenting at today’s official launch of the plans, Sarah McCutcheon, Executive Archaeologist, Limerick County Council said, “Kilmallock was a town of considerable importance in the late medieval period, ranking as one of the main urban areas in Ireland at the time. Today it is unique in County Limerick for its range of standing medieval monuments and it is foremost among an exclusive group of Irish towns and cities, which retain their medieval defences. The Town Walls are of national significance, but their potential as a major heritage asset for the town has not been fully exploited up until now.”

She noted that the Town Walls were a finite resource requiring conservation and management so as to enhance the public’s appreciation of and access to them.

“The plans seek to provide Kilmallock with a greater sense of identity through the preservation of the Town Walls and the improvement of the local infrastructure. Once you achieve this you have a viable tourism product that will reap benefits for the people who live and work in Kilmallock, as well as the thousands of people who visit the Walled Town each year”, added Ms. McCutcheon.

The primary objective of the Public Realm Plan is to identify specific initiatives, schemes and projects that improve the town’s infrastructure with particular emphasis on its Walled Town status. The initiatives include the possible reopening of Kilmallock Railway Station, the establishment of walking loops and interpretation facilities, improvements to the existing streetscape and open spaces, and the erection of signage and visitor orientation (including artwork) at strategic locations within and on the approaches to the Town”.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Reviews of Medieval Books

The following is a list of book reviews that have come out in the last month:

Thomas N. Bisson. The Crisis of the Twelfth Century: Power, Lordship, and the Origins of European Government. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009

Nicola di Cosmo (ed.). Military Culture in Imperial China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009

Jonathan Shepard, (ed.). The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c. 500-1492. (Cambridge University Press), 2009

Edward I. Condren. Chaucer from Prentice to Poet: The Metaphor of Love in Dream Visions and Troilus and Criseyde. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008

David C. Lindberg. The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450. Second edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007

Éamonn Ó Carragáin, Carol L. Neuman de Vegvar, eds. Roma Felix: Formation and Reflections of Medieval Rome. Church, Faith, and Culture in the Medieval West Series. Burlington: Ashgate, 2007

Rosamond McKitterick. Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008

David Pratt. The Political Thought of King Alfred the Great. Cambridge University Press, 2007

Robert N. Swanson. Promissory Notes on the Treasury of Merits: Indulgences in Late Medieval Europe. Leiden: Brill, 2006

Steven Gunn, David Grummitt, Hans Cools. War, State, and Society in England and the Netherlands, 1477-1559. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007

Scott-Stokes, Charity and Chris Given-Wilson (eds. and trans.). Chronicon Anonymi Cantuariensis: The Chronicle of Anonymous of Canterbury, 1346-1365. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2008

Lewis, C.P., ed. Anglo-Norman Studies XXX: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2007. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2008

Carey, John. Ireland and the Grail. Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications, 2007

Jose Sanchez. Medieval Knights: The Age of Chivalry. Drexel Hill, PA: Andrea Press [Casemate Publishing], 2008

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Medieval Professor uncovers Crusading Families

Many academics have found their scholarly passions thanks to a professor’s influence. The same holds true for Nicholas Paul, Ph.D, assistant professor of history. Only he set out to prove his professor wrong.

“One of the great observations he made was that families played a particularly important part in dictating whether someone would go on a Crusade,” Paul said. “But he also said that, unfortunately, we don’t know how to explore this any further; that it might be impossible to access family memories.

“I thought, ‘Is this true?’ Are there any sources we can use to try to talk about what it means to be a member of a particular family? My answer to that is yes, there are. We have their family histories.”

Paul received a Fordham faculty fellowship for the year 2009-2010, and will be a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton next year. He traveled to Spain and France last summer with the help of a faculty research grant to hunt for family histories. There, he found narratives in the archives of Barcelona, Limoges, Anjou and Paris, and examined the tombs of crusaders.

“I’d look at the kind of architecture or the kind of artistic motifs worked into the churches that the families supported,” he said. “These are places where their stories and aspects of their identities are embedded.”

Paul is interested in learning how the crusading movement influenced the development of European culture. His research is not limited to those who actually fought in the Crusades.

“I’m particularly interested in how crusading traditions worked within noble families,” he said. “Many families—from Austria in the east to Spain in the west—became involved in crusading movements over multiple generations. Crusading became an aspect of nobility. In many cases, it was expected of people.”

Certain noble dynasties, Paul said, took their crusading responsibilities very seriously. They would send generation after generation into the religious wars. Paul intends to find out what the significance of this was, and how traditions arose within these families.

“For me, crusading is, in some ways, interchangeable with a lot of different things, like supporting a particular monastery or a particular political faction,” Paul said. “Crusading was clearly a tradition. I look at it and ask, ‘What is a tradition? What makes a family do something repeatedly over time?’”

The answers may lie with the aforementioned monuments or in commemorative texts chronicling generations of family history, Paul said.

“It just so happens that the genre of family historical writing starts right around the time of the Crusades,” he said. “They tell us, essentially, how they imagine what it means to go on a Crusade or what it means to have a relative go. For me, it’s not so much what they are doing when they go on a Crusade, but how they tell stories about it within the family environment.”

Through these family histories, Paul discovered that some families imagine their crusading tradition to go back several generations before what is considered to be the actual beginning of the Crusades.

“They imagine these epic legendary ancestors who went on crusade in the golden days of the past, a fictional legendary past,” Paul said. “Some histories tell quite spectacular legends about what happened to their ancestors when they were in the East.

“One of the more fantastic legends that you may see is a relative going to the East and rescuing lions, who then become his friends and fight with him. There’s an element of this that has to do with the exoticism of the East that they are imagining—this place where there are wild animals that they would otherwise never come across. They weave that story into the tradition of the family; it becomes part of who they are.”

The stories were told as entertainment, Paul said, but also as instruction to the young. This sparks another research angle.

“I’m interested in literacy and how a family in the 11th and 12th centuries might pass on these stories,” he said. “Do they know them from sources that are written down? We have what a family chaplain or a local monk writes down from the family history. Is the monk’s version meant to be more instructive and more educational than the story they might tell around the fire?”

As with many academics at Fordham, Paul will continue to delve into his research, which means he will continue to read the stories of crusading families. It’s work that just might tell us something about ourselves.

“We are who we are, members of a particular family or group, based on what we hear, what the people around us tell us and what we tell each other,” he said.

Scholar Delves into Medieval Cardinal’s Obsession with Hunting

The Fordham Medieval Studies Program closed out its 2009 Spring Lecture Series with a look at one of the odder figures from 16th-century Italy.

Ippolito I of Este, a cardinal who lived from 1479 to 1520, never really took his religious duties seriously, and instead, spent an inordinate amount of time hunting, according to Enrica Guerra, Ph.D.

From early on, Guerra said, it was obvious that something was amiss with Ippolito, who was sent by his parents, Ercole I of Este and Eleonor of Aragon, to be schooled from 1487 to 1492 in Hungary at the court of Beatrice of Aragon, his aunt. As an example, Guerra cited a correspondence from his teachers to his parents:

Once he comes back from school he never rests, but he never tires himself out. And he has a natural tendency toward religious custom and toward humanistic studies.

“We cannot know if these words reflect reality or not,” Guerra said. “Although Ippolito surely attended school and religious functions, it is hard to believe that he did this with the passion that is described in these letters. The ambassadors and the men of Ippolito’s court could not write about his weak bent for studying since he was under the care of his aunt, for whom they worked.”

In fact, efforts to shield Ippolito’s parents from his dalliances with the bow and arrow were for naught, and he felt compelled to explain himself:

You wrote to me you have heard about the inconveniences created by my hunting and killing chicken and geese, and I am sorry that you are worried about this because it is against my desire to give you pain. But I would like you to know that what you were told is not so bad because it has just happened only one time and I gave an order to pay for the dead animals at double their value.

“Nine days after this letter of Ippolito, Ercole’s answer arrived,” Guerra said.

Believing this had happened just one time, we passed over it; but again we have heard, on many occasions, that you continue your hunting in this way and it seems very bad behavior and we cannot allow you to continue it.

“It seems like Ippolito did not care about his behavior, and the title of cardinal was unimportant to him compared to his passions,” she said. “The cardinals were like princes in the Roman Church. That is why the reaction of Ercole seems strange. He was like an old father who is not able to understand that he was living in a new period, and continued to act as if it were 20 years earlier.”

Ippolito’s obsessions did not seem to bother his brother, Alfonso, who became duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio after their father’s death in 1505.

Like Alfonso, Ippolito joined the Cambrai League, which was created to fight against the Republic of Venice. His actions were instrumental in a victory over the Venetian fleet in a battle in Polesella in 1509.

Stationed alongside the River Po, Ippolito’s artillery forces waited until just before dawn, when the river raised the Venetian ships to the level of the embankment. When they attacked, the result was devastating; their forces sank two ships immediately.

“It seems that Ippolito had forgotten the chicken and geese to turn his attention to something that was more important for the duchy of Ferrara,” Guerra said. “The Battle of Polesella represents the height of military achievement by Ippolito.

“It is too early to say how Ippolito’s love for hunting and weapons may have influenced his political and ecclesiastical life, because there are still too many sources that I must analyze,” she said. “But it can be said that Ippolito’s religious activity was not impressive.”

Guerra, a medieval fellow at Fordham and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Ferrara, delivered the presentation, “A Mania for Killing Geese and Chickens: The Life of the Cardinal Ippolito of Este” on April 20.

Scotland begins renovation project for Castles

A major project to identify castles and tower-houses which could be suitable for future restoration and development to drive economic investment and tourism to Scotland during the current climate, was announced by Culture Minister Michael Russell on May 3rd at newly restored Barholm Castle.

The initiative, being taken forward by Historic Scotland and the first of its kind to be prepared by the Scottish Government, aims to encourage financial investment in and refurbishment of Scotland’s built heritage during the economic downturn. It will also provide advice on process, good practices and exemplars of similar projects in the past with the aim of re-using and revitalising existing buildings.

Michael Russell said: “The restoration of carefully selected Scottish castles and tower-houses will contribute to a sustainable approach to ensuring that Scotland’s historic buildings play a role in the economic development of this country. Investment in such projects, whether it’s to create rented apartments, a hotel – a great opportunity within the tourism industry - or another commercial enterprise will merge the rebuilding of Scotland’s economy with innovative new ways to manage our heritage. These castles can also make good homes.

“We are tasked with preserving our country’s great architectural and natural heritage for future generations. Although management of the historic environment is a complex issue we, at the same time, should encourage investment and restoration for renewed use where that offers the best chance for a building’s sustainable future. Encouragingly, new uses for such buildings are varied and can prove, at this time of financial difficulty, to be economically beneficial.”

The main aims of the project are:
  • The preparation, maintenance and publishing of an online register of castles and tower-houses which demonstrate the characteristics that would enable a successful scheme for restoration to be developed
  • A guide to castle and tower-house restoration drawing on Scottish exemplars, showing best practice and acting as a resource pack for prospective owners and developers
  • A publication outlining the history of castle and tower-house restoration in Scotland
  • Identification of exemplary projects based to allow further development of craft-skills, best practice and public understanding of the history of Scottish castles and tower-houses, their conservation and/or their restoration
Michael Russell added: “There is a long and successful tradition of castle restoration in Scotland and I fully believe there is potential for more. I know we can make the process of gaining consent and taking forward such projects – where restoration is appropriate and viable - effective and transparent as possible.

“Scotland’s historic environment is something the country should be especially proud of and should celebrate. It is part of our culture, communities, education, and, in the Year of Homecoming, is integral to tourism. Furthermore, we must understand that heritage is part of the future including developments and economic growth. This initiative will contribute to that goal.”

John Brennan, owner of Barholm Castle who showed the Minister around the recently restored project, said: “Today’s announcement is a welcome step for anyone who has the desire to restore a ruined castle. My wife and I fell in love with Barholm Castle and we were determined to find a means to restore it. The journey of purchasing, applications, grants and the works themselves can be a long and complex process. Castle restoration needs expertise, time and funding and we were grateful for the financial help which Historic Scotland gave us.”

“The Castle Initiative by Historic Scotland will provide people with guidance, advice and the expertise which is needed for castle restoration to become a more transparent, flexible and ultimately more successful process which will encourage more people to make the move towards restoration in Scotland.”

Historic Scotland has begun the first phase of the project, which is to carry out an audit of prospective buildings suitable for the list and to discuss the inclusion of buildings with their prospective owners. The launch of the preliminary list is expected by June 2009.

Local craftsmen to work on Lindisfarne Priory

Local craftsmen from North Shields have been commissioned by English Heritage to save one of the nation’s most important Anglo-Saxon sites from the harsh effects of the weather. Local materials and expertise have been combined to secure Lindisfarne Priory, a place of pilgrimage for more than 1300 years, from further decay.

Lindisfarne Priory is one of the nation’s favourite historic sites. It is situated on Holy Island, which attracts more than 500,000 visitors a year. The Priory’s dramatic position on the isolated island leaves it exposed to the trials of the weather. Over the years this has resulted in the decay of evocative carved and decorated stonework. However, using Northumberland quarried stone, the local craftsmen have now carried out vital work to protect the Priory from further weather damage.

Ray Stockdale, English Heritage Technical Manager said, “During the early 1920s a process using cement was carried out on the masonry at the Priory. The cement retained rainwater which resulted in an accelerated weathering process. By cutting out and replacing the cement with a more traditional lime mortar, we are allowing an escape route for the rainwater and returning the masonry back to its original condition. This is essential work to reduce the rate of decay, it also emphasises English Heritage’s continued support for traditional building skills as part of the North East Heritage Skills Initiative.

Kevin Dunn, Stonemason Supervisor for Historic Property Restoration, North Shields, said : “This was a really interesting project. We used local red sandstone from the nearby Doddington quarry. It is awe-inspiring to be working on a historic structure that was built all those years ago and is still standing as a national icon.”

English Heritage Project Manager, Steve Garland said, “The Priory is exposed to the worst of the wind and rain which, along with other weathering processes, all contribute towards damage to the masonry work. Repair work has now been carried out to some of the architectural features of the priory. This is the first phase of a long term consolidation process focusing on securing the future of Lindisfarne Priory by using the skills and materials right on its doorstep.”

New Insights into the Medieval Construction of Charles Bridge in Prague

Builders of Prague's Gothic Charles Bridge used modern methods
12 May 2009
CTK (Ceska Tiskova Kancelar)

The builders of the 14th century Charles Bridge in Prague used modern methods that are only ascribed to their present-day colleagues, Richard Prykril, from the Natural Sciences Faculty of Charles University, said in a lecture today.

He said this is proved by the research into the bridge in which he has participated since 2002. The construction of the bridge was ordered by King of Bohemia and Roman Emperor Charles IV (1316-78). The foundation stone was laid on July 9, 1357.

The reconstruction of the Gothic bridge decorated with some 30 statues of saints mainly in Baroque style, one of the major landmarks of the capital, was launched last August and it is to be completed in mid-2010.

Prikryl said medieval builders used to add additional agents to the mortar of the masonry that fills the bridge's interior by which they improved its quality.

Similar procedures were used by ancient Rome builders but scientists have believed to date that these technological skills disappeared with the fall of the Roman Empire.

"We maintain that there is no 1000-year-long gap in knowledge, but that it was a very carefully guarded know-how of construction works," Prikryl said, pointing to the Charles Bridge masonry.

He said scientists were surprised by the quality of the masonry. "They created a masonry whose properties are similar to modern construction materials which we describe as light construction concretes," Prikryl told CTK.

Such material is light, but at the same time firm. Prikryl said one cubic metre of Charles Bridge masonry weighs only about 1850 kilograms, but it lends great stability to the bridge.

Glass windows at St Winnow Church being restored

Expert restoration work for historic stained glass
13 May 2009
Cornish Guardian

A team of experts has been restoring the nationally treasured historic stained glass windows at St Winnow Church before an important inspection by guildsmen. Stained glass conservators are a dying breed - the number of people trained in the craft is only in the hundreds in this country. The four craftsmen from the Holy Well Glass Workshop in Wells are staying in Lostwithiel while they work to restore the window in all weather.

Director Dan Humphries said: "There are three Cornish churches that have been found to be fitted with this 15th century glass and St Winnow is one of them. It is an extremely beautiful church and very distinctive and the glass is knock-out. We are doing a process of isothermal glazing which protects the glass and stops condensation settling inside. We are fitting one light of the four which make up the window - it's going to take us a while as we are cleaning all the glass. The medieval glass is particularly precious."

The team examined the glass in situ and then a detailed plan was drawn up and lots of photographs taken. The window was removed and fixings examined. Back at the workshop in Somerset, it was dismantled to be cleaned and conserved under a microscope and then releaded.

The team had to be extremely careful not to wipe away the 15th century paint, which can be so easily lost forever. Dan added: "We are cleaning 150 years worth of Victorian glass too and we have got to be really careful. We are working really hard to get this light finished in time for the visit from the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Stained Glass. It's one of the ancient Livery Companies of the City of London, founded as Guilds to protect the interests of medieval glass-makers and regulate standards. This project is down to the local community raising the money and applying for grants - it's wonderful that it has finally been realised."

The east window of the Lady Chapel has been described by Steve Clare - owner of Holy Well Glass as "undeniably beautiful yet possessing a naïve and architecturally regional quality, yet some of the figures are remarkably sophisticated".

Steve also said the depictions of the Virgin suggested the glass assembled in this window was collected from several windows in the church. The window today is 60% original glass dating from the 15th century, to 19th century work with the St George figure "remarkably" well preserved.

The window is cited as being of national significance in the book English Stained Glass by Painton Lowen. The project, expected to cost up to £35,000, is due to be completed by the end of the summer.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Day 3 and 4 at International Congress on Medieval Studies

Our video report on Sunday from the International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Other blogs that have posts about the congress - a good list of them can be found at Unlocked Wordhoard.

Interview with Lisa Carnell

Our interview with Lisa Carnell, Coordinator of the International Congress on Medieval Studies. We discuss the 2009 congress, which just finished, and about preparations for the next congress.

You can read Lisa's post about the Weblogs and the Academy session here.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Friday, May 08, 2009

Archaeologists find ‘lost’ church

Lampeter archaeologists have discovered a ‘lost’ Medieval church near the village of Swyddffynnon, Ystrad Meurig.

The church was discovered by staff and students of the Department of Archaeology during a two week field project in April. The foundations of the church were revealed by a geophysical survey of an empty field near Ty Mawr Farm since no remains are visible above ground. The church is believed to be Capel y Groes, a Medieval church last recorded on maps in the 1840s, and the investigations will continue through the summer.

Historical research undertaken as part of the Strata Florida Landscape Project directed by Professor David Austin and Dr Jemma Bezant has revealed that Swyddffynnon was the site of a medieval village, granted to Strata Florida Abbey in 1165. Dr Bezant explained that the church was probably a grange chapel built by the monks who went on to develop the village as a grange centre.

The field project has also revealed an enormous number of other archaeological sites that have never before been recorded. This includes two possible prehistoric enclosures, two Bronze Age burnt mounds, house platforms, ruined buildings, trackways and quarries. The team also investigated the site of a medieval corn mill at Ty Felin in the village.

The new information generated by the project will be entered onto the Historic Environment Record database which is managed by Dyfed Archaeological Trust. In partnership with the University, the Trust will conduct a full-scale survey of Cors Caron along with the farms and villages that fringe the bog. "We would like to thank the Countryside Council for Wales along with all the locals and landowners who have been very supportive of this project and would encourage more people to get involved during the summer," added Dr Bezant.

Day 1 at the International Congress on Medieval Studies

Peter Konieczny and Dana Cushing discuss some of our observations on the first day of the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University.

There are several bloggers who have already posted about their experience so far at the medieval congress, including:

Tom Finan

Jeff Pinyan

The Rose Garden

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Call for Papers: Imbas Medieval Conference

Imbas: The National University of Ireland, Galway, Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Medieval Conference, November 13-15th 2009.

We would like to invite all postgraduate students of medieval studies to Imbas, an interdisciplinary medievalists’ conference being held in the Moore Institute at NUI Galway from November 13-15th 2009. This conference welcomes delegates at all stages of their research from all areas of medieval studies including language, history literature, art, archaeology and philosophy. The theme for 2009 is Alliances. Delegates are encouraged to view the theme as a broad suggestion rather than in any way restrictive.

Papers might deal with but are not limited to such topics as:

Religious, political and military alliances
Relationships between cultural institutions
Commerce and economics
Rebellion and heresy

A selection of papers will be published in our new established peer-reviewed journal, Imbas: The Journal of the National University of Ireland, Galway Postgraduate Medieval Studies Conference. This journal will be made available via our website and open-access journal databases. All panels will be recorded and made available as podcasts. The committee are also delighted to offer a number of travel bursaries to delegates on a competitive basis. Further information is available on our website and on the conference blog,

Abstracts of 250 words for a twenty-minute paper (with ten minutes allowed for questions) should be submitted by October 9th 2009. Abstracts can be submitted to or forwarded to Imbas/Grace Windsor, Dept. of English, National University of Ireland, Galway, College Rd, Galway.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

First video update from the International Congress on Medieval Studies

This is our first video report from Western Michigan University about the International Congress on Medieval Studies. The congress officially starts tomorrow, and we hope to bring you daily updates.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

44th International Congress on Medieval Studies begins Thursday

More than 3,000 scholars and others interested in the Middle Ages from around the world will gather in Kalamazoo for Western Michigan University's 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies Thursday through Sunday, May 7-10.

Sponsored by the University's Medieval Institute, the congress will feature over 600 sessions of scholarly papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops, and performances. The exhibits hall, annually a crowd and community favorite, features the displays of over 70 book publishers, used book dealers, and purveyors of medieval sundries.

"Attendees will find more than the usual cornucopia of intellectual delights, social possibilities, and shopping temptations," says Dr. James Murray, director of the Medieval Institute. "It's a veritable spring harvest of delights."

Congress sessions address all aspects of the period and the ways the Middle Ages are reflected in life today, including art and science, politics and economics, chivalry and royalty, warfare and peace, spirituality and daily life, church and state, diplomacy and travel. To examine the period, scholars use material remains and all sorts of written records, from laundry lists to epic poetry.


This year, as always, academic sessions are planned around the impact and meaning of such classic medieval literature as "Canterbury Tales," "Beowulf" and the tales of King Arthur. Other sessions focus on how medievalism has influenced today's popular culture, as evidenced by J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, modern films like "A Knight's Tale" and "Nottingham." Still other sessions are focused on how issues of modern importance-from urban planning and judicial development to nutrition and domestic violence-were reflected in the writings, records and public life of medieval times.

This year marks the 900th anniversary of the death of King Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile, the self-proclaimed "emperor of all Spain." The occasion will be marked by a series of sessions devoted to the culture of the Iberian peninsula in his time, as well as to his legacy.

Special events

Special plenary lectures on Friday and Saturday morning address "Fictions of Conduct in Medieval France" and "Michael of Rhodes: A Venetian Seafarer and His Book." Evening events include screenings of films on medieval themes, a display of reproduction textile and dress items, and a video gaming workshop.

Also in connection with the congress, Cincinnati-based Catacoustic Consort will present a concert at 8 p.m. Friday, May 8, in the First Baptist Church, which is located at 315 W. Michigan Avenue in downtown Kalamazoo.

"Catacoustic's gifted and energetic music director, Annalisa Pappano, has chosen a program of music from the court of Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg," says Murray. "Featuring a viol consort and a tenor vocalist, the concert will recreate the sound of a German musical evening of the early sixteenth century."

In addition to the daily academic sessions, scholars from around the world use the congress as an opportunity to convene annual meetings of many of the world's premier medieval studies organizations. Each day of the congress includes membership meeting of groups such as the Early Book Society, the Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages and De Re Militari: The Society for Medieval Military History. at the Congress

The editors of will also be attending the congress, where we will be conducting video interviews with congress participants, and doing daily video blogs reporting on events in Kalamazoo.

Friday, May 01, 2009

30th Annual Medieval Forum held at Plymouth State University

The campus of Plymouth State University hosted its 30th annual medieval forum on April 24th and 25th. "Dreams, Imagination, and Fantasy" is the theme for the this year's event which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

The forum is a multidisciplinary exploration of the Medieval and Renaissance period with academic analyses of the period and demonstrations of music, games, and other activities. The forum was an event were local Medieval scholars could discuss research and attend academic panels. Also, some student organizations partook in the different ceremonies held throughout the weekend.

The forum's opening was marked with a procession from Rounds Hall to the Hartman Union Building, led by the members of the PSU Medieval Society wearing medieval garb and carrying banners to the Fireplace Lounge for the opening addresses.

PSU Professor Emeritus Robin Bowers read a passage from Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," which spoke of springtime pilgrimages.

The passage was followed by a reading of a welcome poem written by Poet Laureate Phil O'Mara. O'Mara was unable to attend and different parts of the poem, written in the vein of Chaucer about scholars gathering for the forum, were read by different people.

"Having an event like this is part of what a university does," said PSU President Sara Jayne Steen, adding that the forum was "a grand dream" of interdisciplinary scholarship.

"It was not a fantasy because people who cared turned it into a reality," she said.

Steen said she has taught Medieval and Renaissance studies and some of the professors allowed her to sit in on and teach a few Medieval Studies-related classes at PSU. She also spoke of the work of keynote speaker Carole Levin.

"We're talking about education in its largest and truest sense," Steen said.

Sessions including discussions and the reading of academic papers took place at the forum as well as a bladesmithing demonstration by Tyler Borror and the Ensemble Chaconne with Pamela Dellal performing "Measure for Measure: The Music of Shakespeare's Plays."

The PSU Medieval Society put on a human chess match on the lawn in front of the Hartman Union Building and will hold a chainmail workshop and longbow demonstration today. Society members also sold chainmail jewelry and accessories as well as other items made by members.

The Medieval and Renaissance Forum is a major event for members of the Medieval Society. Members will provide general assistance throughout the weekend.

On the 30th anniversary of the forum, members spoke of the importance of keeping the tradition going. The first Medieval Forum was held in 1980 and has continued every year since. About 100 people attended the welcoming ceremony on Friday. Most were from the New England region, but some gathered from as far away as Colorado to attend the forum.

After the welcoming ceremony, participants were free to attend the different workshops held through out the day. Most of the topics revolved around the literature and social conditions of the day.

While the forum was academic in nature, PSU's Medieval Society helped to make the forum more animated.

"We completely decorated Rounds," Dana Nevins, senior Criminal Justice major and Medieval Society member said. The Medieval Society also held events relevant to Medieval pastimes and sponsored a live chess match on the Alumni Green on Friday.

The Medieval presentations continued through Saturday evening. The weekend culminated into a feast on Saturday night. "This is last event of the two day event," Matt Rolph, Associate Director to the Medieval and Renaissance Forum said.

About 150 people attended the final dinner. Those in attendance were encouraged to dress in medieval attire. The dinner was held in Heritage Commons, which was a change from past years.

Doune Castle in Scotland

Monty Python has made a permanent return to Doune Castle. Terry Jones, who co-directed comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is the voice of the new audio guide introduced this week.

Much of the movie was filmed at Doune and it has been a place of pilgrimage for fans ever since, with HS having hosted a series of Python-themed events there in the past.

Mr Jones, who has presented a number of documentaries on subjects including Roman and Medieval life, said he was delighted to be part of the project. “I have very fond memories of Doune Castle, it’s a fascinating place and the setting is absolutely spectacular. It’s lovely to be involved with the castle again and to have the chance to introduce visitors to its history. The audio guide is designed to give people a real sense of the castle’s social history – what it was actually like to live there in the Middle Ages,” he said.

Jennifer Webster, HS interpretation officer, said: “We were really delighted when Terry Jones agreed to take part. His links to the castle through Monty Python and the Holy Grail and all the work he has done to popularise history on TV made him absolutely ideal. The guide brings out the Medieval social and architectural history of Doune Castle. It looks at the people who were behind its construction, and what life would have been like there. We are really pleased with the results and hope that visitors will enjoy it for many years to come.”

The audio guide is included in the standard ticket price for the castle. Doune Castle is 10 miles north west of Stirling off the A84. Tickets are £4.20 for adults, £3.20 concessions and £2.10 for children. Telephone 01786 841742.

The castle was built in the 14th century for Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, who ruled all of Scotland while King James I was held captive in England. After Robert’s death the castle, and the regency of Scotland, passed to his son Duke Murdoch.

In 1424 the king returned. Not long after Murdoch was arrested and executed along with his sons – James I believed the duke and his father had done too little to secure his release. Doune Castle was confiscated by the Crown and was used as a royal hunting lodge.

Medieval Manuscript Videos

Dr. Christopher de Hamel of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, discusses the medieval view of religion, natural history and the known animal kingdom. This manuscript was an exhibit at the "Medieval Imagination Exhibition" at the State Library of Victoria in 2008, which featured illuminated manuscripts from Cambridge in the UK, as well as from Australia and New Zealand .

Dr. Stella Panayotova, Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, discusses the artwork in a 15th century Dutch family Bible. This bible was an exhibit at the "Medieval Imagination Exhibition" at the State Library of Victoria in 2008, which featured illuminated manuscripts from Cambridge in the UK, as well as from Australia and New Zealand.