Friday, September 04, 2009

Cardiff hosts medieval conference and exhibition

Two events begin today in Cardiff that will be of interest to medievalists - a conference on Military Orders at Cardiff University, and an exhibition entitled "Medieval Wales: Some Crusade Stories" at the National Museum of Wales.

The fifth international conference on Military Orders takes place from September 3-6, 2009. The theme for this year's conference is The Military Orders: Politics and Power. Featured speakers include:

Helen Nicholson, "The Military Orders in Wales"

Karl Borchardt, "Politics and Power: Some New Thoughts on the Origins of the Crusades and the Military-Religious Orders"

Victor Mallia-Milanes, "Towards the End of the Order of the Hospital: Two Venetian Views"

Another 64 papers are also being given during the conference, focusing on a wide variety of topics including the activities in military orders in places such as Portugal, Italy and Eastern Europe.

Click here for more information about the conference.

Those attending the conference will be among the first to see a new exhibit opening at the National Museum of Wales. Medieval Wales: Some Crusade Stories in the Origins gallery explores some of the events and attitudes to the Holy Land and Crusades, from a Welsh perspective. It begins today and goes until early January 2010.

The highlight of this exhibition is a rare thirteenth-century copy of Gerald of Wales book Journey through Wales , in which he describes Archbishop Baldwin’s tour in 1188 to gather recruits for the Third Crusade.

This manuscript, on loan from the British Library, has not been in Wales for more than 20 years. A National Museum spokeswoman said the display would show the link between Wales to the Holy Land during the crusades.

Speaking with the BBC, Welsh historian Huw Pryce described how Gerald of Wales, "uses this journey to recruit troops around Wales to pick on all sorts of accounts of what had happened in these places in the past or in recent years.

"It includes quite as lot of miraculous material, as you'd expect from Gerald being a churchman. In one example, he talks about a church in mid Wales where there was staff, a relic belonging to St Garmon, which was meant to have miraculous properties to cure tumours providing you offered a penny. The story is of someone who only offered a halfpenny and his tumour only went down half way. And then later he found another halfpenny and the tumour went completely.

"There are all sorts of descriptions of Wales and the Welsh as well. You could say this was the first book written about Wales as a subject, it's an early travel book."

The exhibition also includes a second work by Gerald of Wales, namely De Principis Instructione (‘On the education of a monarch’), which is also devoted to the Crusades and the fate of the Holy Land. This is a unique surviving copy written in Latin, possibly in Wales, in the 1300s.

Other items that can be seen include coins and art work from the Crusader States. Click here for more information about the exhibition.