Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Knights" rob medieval festival in France

A gang of thieves dressed as knights and armed with a sword and an axe robbed the organisers of a medieval festival in northeast France Monday and made off with 20,000 euros ($25,000), police said.

The theft took place in the early hours of Monday as organisers were counting revenues from the festival in Bitche, near France's border with Germany, a spokesman for regional police in Lorraine said.

"According to witnesses, there were three or four individuals, masked and wearing medieval attire," the spokesman said.

Click here to read this article from AFP

See also the French article: Bitche : hold-up d’un autre temps à la fête médiévale

Rome's Colosseum leaning precariously

The ancient Colosseum of Rome, where gladiators fought for their lives, is slanting about 40 centimetres lower on the south side than on the north, and authorities are investigating whether it needs urgent repairs.

Experts first noticed the incline about a year ago and have been monitoring it for the past few months, Rossella Rea, director at the 2,000-year old monument, said

Rea has asked Rome's La Sapienza University and environmental geology institute IGAG to launch a study on the phenomenon, with investigations to be concluded in a year.

Click here to read this article from Canada.com

Monday, July 30, 2012

Libor scandal is no match for its medieval precedent

A new study of the foreign-exchange market in the Middle Ages, conducted by the University of Reading’s ICMA Centre, has documented a medieval system of exchange-rate manipulation similar to today’s.

That system also led to public outcry, a parliamentary investigation and the impeachment of a famous financier.

A major aim of financial innovation throughout history has been to circumvent regulations and restrictions placed on the industry. In the Middle Ages, an important obstacle was the religious disapproval of usury -- the charging of interest or “making money from money.” Dante condemned the usurer to the lowest level of the seventh circle of Hell. To avoid the “taint of usury,” medieval financiers developed various methods of disguising interest within other transactions.

Click here to read this article from Futures

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tears of the Fallen – short film examines the effects of war from medieval times

In an upcoming short film, the sad realities of war are examined in the Middle Ages. Tears of the Fallen is currently in production, and tells the story of a aftermath of a 15th century battle, a war ravaged soldier meets a peasant woman searching for her warrior son.

Directed by David L. Anderson, the film is scheduled to be released this fall and will be shown at film festivals. Anderson hopes that the short-film will generate interest into making a full-length feature.

Anderson also wrote the screenplay. He says, “it was my own concept that I came up with. Having a love for the medieval culture and having worked on other medieval-style film projects, I came up with this story in where I wanted to express my creativity and deep personal faith.”

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Christian Vikings - Christian burials in Denmark dated to 9th century

Danish Archaeologists have been busy digging around the old Cathedral in Ribe for several years. Here lies a cemetery, which was abandoned about 1050. The sensational character of the find has however more to do with the fact, that the earliest graves have been dated to around 850 – more than a 100 years before Denmark was officially Christianised according to the famous rune-stone of Harold Bluetooth in Jellinge.

All in all the archaeologists believe there were between 1500 -2000 graves in the cemetery of which at least 60 (and probably 75) belong to the earliest phase. The dead persons have been buried in a number of different types of caskets made of wood, one of which may even have been a small boat. However, the graves are all pointing towards East and no grave-goods have been found. Strontium analysis has shown that the buried persons grew up locally.

Click here to read this article from Medieval Histories

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Going, going... Bid to stop medieval documents going under hammer

Medieval documents taken from the Canterbury Cathedral library will be auctioned off unless academics can raise enough money to buy them back. The University of Kent and Canterbury Cathedral campaigned together to stop the removal of 300 books and manuscripts from the Mendham Collection by The Law Society. 

Nineteenth century clergyman Joseph Mendham formed the 5,000-strong collection, which details early tensions between Catholics and Protestants. It has been in Canterbury since 1984, attracting academics and researchers from across the world. The Law Society said they needed to sell the documents to raise much-needed cash and have given the university and cathedral until November to submit a bid to reclaim the collection.

 Spokesman Emma Alatalo said: "In these challenging times, we can no longer justify the ongoing cost of maintaining the collection, which despite its great value to academics does not form part of an archive useful to our members. We owe it to our members in these hard-pressed times to get the very best price that the market can offer."

Click here to read this article from Kent Online

See also Manuscript collection in danger of being broken up, sold off

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

15th century Italian banking records discovered in London manuscript

A rare accounting document, half-concealed beneath a coat of arms design, has revealed the activities of Italian bankers working in early 15th century London, decades before the capital became a financial powerhouse. The discovery was made by economic historians at Queen Mary, University of London.

Among the pages of a bound collection of traditional English crests held at the London College of Arms – the headquarters of British heraldry – are several papers belonging to a book of debtors and creditors for Florentine merchant-banking company, Domenicio Villani & Partners.

The coats of arms are estimated to have been painted in 1480, during a time when good quality paper was scarce and anything that was available was re-used.

The banking records, only half-covered by the design, date from 1422-24 and hint at the extensive trade in wool and other commodities produced in Britain during the era.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Medieval £540k manuscript The Laws of Hywel Dda goes on display

One of the first medieval manuscripts to be written in Welsh will go on display for the first time in more than 200 years.

The 14th Century pocket book, The Laws of Hywel Dda, was bought at auction by the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, for £541,250 earlier this month.

It is believed the book was taken to America by Welsh settlers in the 1700s.

The manuscript will be exhibited at the at the National Library's Hengwrt Room.

It was sold by the Massachusetts Historical Society of Boston.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

See also Hywel Dda treasure comes home

See also National Library of Wales purchases Laws of Hywel Dda manuscript for £541,250

Monday, July 23, 2012

Medieval demons found at Norfolk church

A set of grotesque and unique medieval carvings has been rediscovered at a church in the Fens after being forgotten for hundreds of years.

The discovery of 12 demons in the roof of the nave at St Clement’s Church, Outwell, has sparked calls for the relics to be preserved for posterity and made more accessible to parishioners and visitors.

The carvings were found by Dr Claire Daunton, a historian at Trinity Hall, Cambridge while studying equally unique stained glass in the church.

Because of the light entering the roof area of the nave, the carvings are almost impossible to see clearly but she suspected they were quite extraordinary-early 15th century examples of a type of carving found in some European churches – they appeared to have been carved the wrong way round with the evil demons apparently overcoming each of the smaller apostles.

Click here to read this article from EDP24

Stealing History: Nothing is sacred to Britain’s metal thieves

For years the Haworth Parish Church in Yorkshire has withstood every onslaught, from the driving Pennines rain to thousands of tourists wanting to visit the final resting place of Charlotte and Emily Bronte. But one thing it couldn’t survive: The metal thieves who repeatedly stripped its roof in the night.

This week the church is surrounded by scaffolding, as a $2-million renovation begins with workmen removing Westmoreland slate tiles from the roof. They don’t have to remove the lead flashing and gutters, because those were taken by thieves in three daring raids over the past two years. With the lead gone, the rain poured in and the church began to rot from inside.

The Haworth Church, formally called St. Michael and All Angels, is particularly high-profile, but it’s merely an emblem of a much wider problem sweeping Britain during a time of rising metal theft. In a country so rich in heritage, how do you keep robbers from stealing history?

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail

Friday, July 20, 2012

More on medieval bras – new details on 15th century find

The discovery of female undergarments from the 15th century is making international headlines. Now more details are being released by the University of Innsbruck.

The archaeological research was carried out at Lengberg Castle, East Tyrol, Austria, beginning in July 2008, when a renovation project for the medieval castle was stated. During the research a vault filled with waste was detected in the south wing of the castle in a room on the 2nd floor. The fill consisted of dry material in different layers, among them organic material such as twigs and straw, but also worked wood, leather – mainly shoes – and textiles.

The building history, as well as investigations on construction techniques and the archaeological features heavily suggested a dating of the finds to the 15th century, when another level was added to the castle by order of Virgil von Graben. The reconstruction is mentioned by Paolo Santonino in his itinerary, who also gives us a short description of the castle and mentions the reconstruction and the consecration of the castle chapel by Pietro Carlo (1472–1513), Bishop of Caorle, on October 13th 1485. The vault spandrel was most likely filled with waste during the addition of the 2nd storey as isolation or to level the floor.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Medieval Arabic manuscripts, East India Company papers, to go online

The British Library and Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development have unveiled an ambitious partnership to transform people’s understanding of the history of the Middle East, and the region’s relationship with Britain and the rest of the world.

The £8.7 million project was announced this morning at the British Library’s flagship building in St Pancras, London. Its plans will digitise more than 500,000 pages from the archives of the East India Company and India Office, in addition to 25,000 pages of medieval Arabic manuscripts – all of which will be made freely available online for the first time.

The digitisation will take place over the next three years at the British Library, in close cooperation with the new Qatar National Library, and much information will be available in both Arabic and English. Once live, the site will also offer users the opportunity to add their own Gulf-related stories and memories, enabling them to contribute to the online resource, whether by sharing images of mementoes and old photographs, or by recounting the stories their grandparents once told them. In this way, historical items from living memory will be added to the archive of items dating back several centuries.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

All Saints North Street church to be restored to 15th century form

Restoration work has begun at one of York’s finest medieval churches to return a chapel to the way it was almost 600 years ago.

Officials at All Saints North Street want to restore the Lady Chapel to the form it took in 1421, when a hermit-like “anchoress” in the church had seven famous visions of the Virgin Mary.

The church plans to replicate a 5ft 10in statue of Mary, which was larger than the average female height for the time, and to recreate the original tiled floor pattern, based on surviving fragments and old church records. The originals have worn and been lost over time.

Wardens have already found medieval oyster-shell paint pots and a coin that has yet to be dated and professional archaeologists began excavation work yesterday.

Click here to read this article from the York Press

How a Medieval Friar Forever Changed Finance

Consider some headlines from the past week. China announced its gross domestic product had slowed to a three-year low of 7.6 percent in the latest quarter. The International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecasts to 3.9 percent for 2013. And Citigroup Inc. announced its net income was down 12 percent.

The system that generates these 21st-century accounting figures -- the numbers that run our nations and corporations -- was first codified by a Renaissance friar named Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli. He was at one time more famous, as a mathematician, than his collaborator Leonardo da Vinci.

Pacioli is remembered today, if he’s remembered at all, as the father of accounting. He wrote the first mathematical encyclopedia of Europe, which made two critical contributions to modern science and commerce: It was the first printed book to explain Hindu-Arabic arithmetic and its offshoot, algebra, and it contained the first printed treatise on Italian accounting.

Click here to read this article from Bloomberg 

Three Kingdoms' Tomb Holding Warrior Discovered

About 1,800 years ago, at a time when China was breaking apart into three warring kingdoms, a warrior was laid to rest.

Buried in a tomb with domed roofs, along with his wife, he was about 45 years old when he died. Their skeletal remains were found inside two wooden coffins that had rotted away. Archaeologists don't know their names but, based on the tomb design and grave goods, they believe he was a general who had served one or more of the country's warring lords, perhaps Cao Cao and his son Cao Pi.

His tomb was discovered in Xiangyang, a city that, in the time of the Three Kingdoms, was of great strategic importance. Rescue excavations started in October 2008 and now the discovery is detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Chinese Archaeology.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Medieval lingerie? Discovery in Austria reveals what really was worn under those tunics

A recent discovery in an Austrian castle has revealed that bras existed back in the 15th century. It is among dozens of new textile artifacts that seem to have been preserved by a lucky accident, which will give historians a much better understanding of late medieval fashion.

The research, led by Beatrix Nutz of Innsbruck University, examines a room that was discovered in the south wing of Castle Lengberg in 2008. Evidence shows that the room was sealed off in the late 15th-century, and its dry conditions helped preserve organic material such as twigs and straw, as well as worked wood, leather (mainly shoes) and textiles.

In a paper given last year at the North European Symposium on Textiles, Professor Nutz explains that hundreds of textiles were discovered, some of which were clothing in very good condition. She said, “amid them were several nearly complete linen bras and fragments of corselettes, some rather coarsely made others more elaborately decorated with plaited borders and sprang worked parts. One of the bras even has a rather modern look.”

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Monday, July 16, 2012

Alexander the not so Great: History through Persian eyes

Alexander the Great is portrayed as a legendary conqueror and military leader in Greek-influenced Western history books but his legacy looks very different from a Persian perspective.

 Any visitor to the spectacular ruins of Persepolis - the site of the ceremonial capital of the ancient Persian Achaemenid empire, will be told three facts: it was built by Darius the Great, embellished by his son Xerxes, and destroyed by that man, Alexander.

 That man Alexander, would be the Alexander the Great, feted in Western culture as the conqueror of the Persian Empire and one of the great military geniuses of history.

 Indeed, reading some Western history books one might be forgiven for thinking that the Persians existed to be conquered by Alexander.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

French city wants British Crown jewels for centuries-old ‘state crime’

A French city that produced generations of English kings is demanding the British Crown jewels as compensation for a 15-century execution that ended the Plantagenet line. In a petition that the mayor of Angers, in the Loire Valley, intends to send to Queen Elizabeth II, the killing of Edward Plantagenet is called a “state crime” that ended three and a half centuries of reign.

 “The legacy of the Plantagenets must return to his heirs and the Crown Jewels of England must return to the Angevins,” reads the petition, which is hoping to garner 800,000 signatures. The House of Plantagenet produced such famous monarchs as Richard the Lionheart and Henry V. The line ended with Edward Plantagenet, whose death came during a murky and brutal time in English royal history. 

Edward Plantagenet’s father was the brother of King Richard III and his cousin, Edward of Middleham, was the royal heir. But after his father was executed for treason and his cousin died, making Edward the last legitimate male of the line, the 10-year-old was named heir. That designation was revoked upon the death of his aunt, Queen Anne.

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail

Click here to visit the Facebook Page: Pétition Plantagenêt

Writer wants Johnny Depp to play “his” Robin Hood

Best selling historical novelist Angus Donald from Tunbridge Wells is now on the fourth volume of his series concerning the exploits of Robin Hood.

 Warlord is set in 1194 and sees Richard the Lionheart in Normandy engaged in a bloody war to drive the French out of his continental territory. Using the brutal tactics of medieval warfare – siege, savagery and scorched earth – the king is gradually pushing back the forces of King Philip of France.

 By his side are Robert, Earl of Locksley, better known as the erstwhile outlaw Robin Hood, and Sir Alan Dale, his loyal friend, and a musician and warrior of great skill. Donald’s Outlaw series has become a fixture in the best seller lists and gained great reviews.

His Robin is charismatic and a great leader, but a much more complex man than is usually portrayed with a far darker side – not really a “merry man” in any shape or form.

Click here to read this article from Kent News

Click here to visit Angus Donald's website

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival a muddy affair

Organisers of Tewkesbury Medieval Festival had more than one battle on their hands at the weekend. Fields off Gloucester Road, where the annual re-enactment of the 1471 Battle of Tewkesbury takes place, were so damp due to the wet weather that it caused a host of problems.

 But Saturday and Sunday's displays went ahead thanks to the determination of the festival organisers. Spokesman Steve Goodchild said: "It was very squelchy and on Saturday the traders had to be towed out on to the field."

 Crowd numbers were down, with Mr Goodchild saying about 15,000 people attended the festival, less than on the normal turnout of 20,000.

Click here to read this article from This is Gloucestershire

Click here to visit the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival website


Friday, July 13, 2012

Medieval castle to be built in Austria

The Austrian town of Friesach will be home to a new medieval castle, to built using construction methods from the period. The project, which is being called a unique cooperation combining sustainable tourism and science, is expected to take thirty years and will involve work by a number of Austrian historians.

Medieval castles are regarded as buildings of particular stability: Even after 1,000 years, many have successfully withstood the ravages of time. Making the most of a construction site, where a castle is being constructed using medieval methods, historians are critically examining the existing knowledge about tools and materials, in an effort to gain new insights.

Click  here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Friday the 13th Phobia Rooted in Ancient History

This Friday some people will be so paralyzed with fear they simply won't get out of bed. Others will steadfastly refuse to fly on an airplane, buy a house, or act on a hot stock tip. It's Friday the 13th, and they're freaked out.

"It's been estimated that [U.S] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do," said Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.

Among other services, Dossey's organization counsels clients on how to overcome fear of Friday the 13th, a phobia that he estimates afflicts 17 to 21 million people in the United States.

Symptoms range from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. The latter may cause people to reshuffle schedules or miss an entire day's work.

When it comes to bad luck of any kind, Richard Wiseman—a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, England—found that people who consider themselves unlucky are more likely to believe in superstitions associated with bad luck.

Click here to read this article from National Geographic

Archaeologists seeking to raise £10,000 to search for lost grave of Richard III

Philippa Langley on behalf of the Archaeological Search for Richard III, is asking for pledges in order to raise £10,000 for a dig to search for the lost grave of Richard III.

Click here to read the full article from Medievalists.net

A Time of 'Incredible Violence': Historian Gives Readers Glimpse of Medieval Life

In a SPIEGEL interview, British historian Ian Mortimer discusses the often brutal reality of everyday life during the Middle Ages, the violent excesses of the time, his lively approach to writing historical tomes and his need to empathize with the subjects he is covering.

At one time, historian Ian Mortimer, 44, was an ambitious student at the University of Exeter. But, frustrated after his exams, he moved back to the remote village of Moretonhampstead in Devon, in southwestern England. He started a family, bought a house and built a bell tower.

For years, he raged against all the academics who torment their audiences with "boring and tedious" treatises. But then he started writing his own books.
Since Mortimer doesn't like to travel and hasn't boarded an airplane in years, it might seem odd that his best-known work is essentially a travel guide. In the book "The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England," Mortimer explains what travelers would expect if they were catapulted back to the Middle Ages in a time machine. Instead of writing about famous battles, kings and wars, he describes how it smelled in the narrow alleyways, what kinds of meals the people cooked in their crooked houses, and how they washed their backsides.

The response has been tremendous. Readers and critics alike are enthralled by his unconventional historical prose, and universities are recommending his trip into the Middle Ages as basic reading for young history students.

Click here to read the interview with Ian Mortimer from Spiegel

Click here to read our interview with Ian Mortimer

Click here to learn more about The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Amazon withdraws controversial Caravaggio book

The lavishly illustrated two-volume e-book , 'Young Caravaggio – One hundred rediscovered works', went on sale on Amazon just days ago and was available for download to Kindles.

But the book, which contained 1,000 images of Caravaggio's work and the supposed "new" drawings, was abruptly withdrawn from Amazon's website on Tuesday, with the title crossed out and a blank space where the cover of the book had been displayed.

Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, the art historians who wrote it, claimed to have found 100 previously unrecognised sketches and drawings by the Baroque master after sifting through an archive of art work held by a castle in Milan.

Click here to read this article from the Telegraph

Descendants of Alexander the Great’s army fought in ancient China, historian finds

A recent article is examining the possibility that a contingent of soldiers from the Mediterranean fought at the Battle of Talas River in 36 BC, but instead of being Roman forces, new research suggests they may have been descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great.

 Christopher A. Matthew’s proposes this idea in his article, “Greek Hoplite in an Ancient Chinese Siege”, which appears in the latest issue of Journal of Asian History. It re-examines a theory put forward more than 70 years ago by Homer H. Dubs, in which the historian believed that Roman legionaries were serving as mercenaries in a city besieged by Han Chinese nearly 2,000 miles to the east of Roman territory. When the city fell, these men were captured and take east and eventually settled in a town on the fringes to the Han Empire.

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

‘Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries’ comes to New York this fall

The Jewish Museum in New York will be featuring over 60 medieval Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin manuscripts this fall as it presents a new exhibition based on works found in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries will be running from September 14, 2012 through February 3, 2013.

 Included will be the splendid Kennicott Bible as well as two works in the hand of Maimonides, one of the most prominent Jewish philosophers and rabbinic authorities. This presentation showcases a selection from the Bodleian’s superb holdings within the larger context of the history of medieval Christian Hebraism – the study by Christian scholars of the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic sources, which first received full expression in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. As Protestantism took hold in the sixteenth century, Hebraist trends resurged, sparking interest in the collecting of Hebrew books, and propelling the formation of the Bodleian’s outstanding Hebraica collection.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Early Islamic site discovered in Jordan

Recent conservation work at Qusayr ’Amra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 85 kilometers east of Amman, has revealed the name of the Umayyad prince who commissioned the construction of the building. The conservation work is being conducted by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, the Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro in Rome, and World Monuments Fund. The site is a small building dating to the Umayyad period and is known for its mural paintings.

Gazelle and wild donkey hunts, dances, musicians, court scenes and allegories, and zodiac symbols are all painted on interior surfaces. The inscription, which previously could not be read due to accumulated dirt and previous unsuccessful cleaning attempts, is an invocation to Allah beginning with the formula “Allahumma aslih al-Walid ibn Yazîd” (“Oh God! Make al-Walîd ibn Yazîd virtuous”). This inscription was painted in white above a window in old Kufic alphabet without any diacritical dots. Sections of the three-line inscription are still being translated.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Saturday, July 07, 2012

China's earliest wine unearthed in tomb

Liquid inside an ancient wine vessel unearthed in Shaanxi province is considered to be the earliest wine in China's history, archaeologists told Xinhua Thursday. The wine vessel made of bronze was unearthed in a noble's tomb of the West Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC - 771 BC) in Shigushan Mountain in Baoji city.

 The liquid is likely the oldest wine discovered in China, said Liu Jun, director of Baoji Archaeology Institute, who is in charge of the project. The vessel, one of the six discovered in the tomb, could be heard to contain a liquid when it was shaken, Liu said.

Click here to read this article from the Xinhua News Agency

Medieval Jewish Cemetery Discovered In Oxford, England

According to a BBC report , a Jewish cemetery from the Medieval Period has been unearthed under the Rose Garden, near the Oxford Botanic Garden by historian Pam Manix, who made the discovery while researching the archives of Magdalen College in Oxford. A new memorial stone will be erected at the historic site to commemorate Oxford’s Medieval Jewish community.

 The cemetery was established outside the city in accordance with both Jewish law and Christian doctrine. Although it was originally located close to where Magdalen College stands today, the burial ground later moved across the street to an area that currently houses the Oxford Botanic Garden.

 “Their story is little known and pinpointing the location is an important historic breakthrough,” Dr. Evie Kemp from Oxford Jewish Heritage told the BBC.

Click here to read this article from The Algemeiner

Future Saint as Medieval Superhero

In Siena's Pinocateca Nazionale museum, four chairs have been placed in a row in front of Simone Martini's Altarpiece of Blessed Agostino Novello (c. 1328). Presumably, this is to give viewers in what is perhaps the best art-museum bargain in Europe—five euros ($6) for a gander in relative solitude at a trove of great Sienese art—a chance to relax and really ponder what is, in my opinion, the museum's masterpiece.

 Martini (b. 1284) was one of the most prominent figures in the "Siena school" of painting which, according to conventional art history, was less connected to the beginning of the Italian Renaissance and more an early part of something called "International Gothic"—which began in the 14th century and ended early in the 15th century—and was inferior to the rational, perspectival realism (what we generally refer to as "naturalism") of the larger, neighboring city of Florence. Sienese painting waxed mystical, went in for out-of-proportion figures in physically jumbled (but narratively quite coherent) spaces, and specialized in crisp juxtapositions of colors often so subtle that it's hard to find names for them.

 In 1315, Martini completed a huge fresco of the Maestà (the Virgin and Jesus being admired by all the saints) in the Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall of Siena's experiment in democratic government that lasted about 70 years before the Black Death killed more than half the city's population in 1348. After finishing his fresco, Martini went off to Naples and didn't return to Siena for a decade. When he did, the city had grown precipitously to a population of 50,000 (it's all of 54,000 today), and the Augustinian order of monks was ready to commission an altarpiece for its beloved future saint, Agostino Novello.

Click here to read this article from the Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Former church caretaker arrested for the Codex Calixtinus theft

A former caretaker of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, along with his wife, son, and another women, have been arrested by Spanish police n connection with the theft of the Codex Calixtinus, an important 12th-century manuscript.

 The manuscript has not yet been recovered, but police believe that they will soon find it. The Director General of Police, Ignacio Cosido, said in an interview, ”I think we’re in the right direction to solve the case. The investigation is ongoing, but the main objective is to find the Codex.”

 The police have also recovered €1.2m in cash, eight other copies of the Codex as well as other manuscripts (“of great value”) that had disappeared from the cathedral, and other church documents.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Europe turns to corporate sponsors to preserve treasures amid financial crisis

The once-majestic 17th-century Palazzo Manfrin, one of this city’s most important architectural sites, is falling apart. Its white neoclassical facade is crumbling, several wooden doors are splintering, and its floor-to-ceiling frescoes have faded from age and water damage.

The dire condition of the building has catapulted it to the top of the local government’s list for restorations. But after multiple rounds of cuts to its budget, there simply isn’t enough money.

So this year, local leaders made a painful decision. They put the palace up for sale.

Two years into Europe’s financial crisis, which has governments slashing spending in a bid to tame runaway debts, the region is facing a cultural calamity for which there is no emergency bailout fund. Historical buildings, churches, monuments, bridges, barracks, archaeological ruins and other sites are disintegrating from neglect. Local governments, desperate to find a way to preserve these sites before it is too late, are making up for budget shortfalls by hanging ads, selling usage rights and, in some cases, putting the structures themselves on the market.

Click here to read this article from the Washington Post

The Palio banishes Siena’s woes – for a day

On high, in Siena town hall, the 14th-century fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti portrays the pestilent consequences of bad government – and the ordered society which good government produces. There is no doubt about which is ahead.

Down in the city, though, the bad presently wins. The council cannot pass a budget; a state-appointed commissioner has replaced the mayor, as prime minister Mario Monti has replaced Silvio Berlusconi at the head of the Italian government.

The university, among Italy’s best, is broke. The bank that claims to be the oldest in the world – Monte dei Paschi Di Siena, Italy’s third largest, founded as a pawnshop in 1472 – lost €4.7bn last year and had to get state aid.

But in the square outside the town hall, Siena’s resilience is on noisy display. The Palio has come – not to town, but welled up from its ancient guts, marching out of 17 contradas, the medieval divisions of the city, older than the Monte dei Paschi and more solvent. Their names are Duck, Wave, Panther, Tower, and they surround their citizens’ lives.

Scotland prepares to show off its medieval heritage

As the movie Brave draws in big crowds around the world, Scotland is set to take advantage of this new attention to showcase its medieval heritage. Two important exhibits will be taking place next year at the National Museum of Scotland, while construction is underway to create a visitors centre at the site of the Battle of Bannockburn.

Earlier this month the National Museum of Scotland announced that it will be holding two special exhibitions in Edinburgh, entitled Vikings and Mary Queen of Scots.

Vikings (1 February – 26 May 2013) explores the perceptions of the Vikings as warriors, explorers, pirates and merchants. The exhibition gives fascinating insights into death rituals, the power of mythology and the symbolism of the Viking ships, their crafts and workmanship and also their domestic lives. Among the objects on display will be spectacular jewellery and metalwork, textiles, glass, bone, amber and religious artefacts.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Islamist fighters in Timbuktu continue destruction of city’s mausoleums, heritage

Muslim extremists continued destroying the heritage of the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu on Monday, razing tombs and attacking the gate of a 600-year-old mosque, despite growing international outcry.

The International Criminal Court has described the destruction of the city’s patrimony as a possible war crime, while UNESCO’s committee on world heritage was holding a special session this week to address the pillaging of the site, one of the few cultural sites in sub-Saharan Africa that is listed by the agency.

The Islamic faction, known as Ansar Dine, or “Protectors of the Faith,” seized control of Timbuktu last week after ousting the Tuareg rebel faction that had invaded northern Mali alongside Ansar Dine’s soldiers three months ago. Over the weekend, fighters screaming “Allah Akbar” descended on the cemeteries holding the remains of Timbuktu’s Sufi saints, and systematically began destroying the six most famous tombs.

Click here to read this article from the Washington Post

Oar walking, underwater wrestling and horse fighting – historian examines the sports and games of the Vikings

Playing ball games is an activity played by children around the world. While today’s parents might worry that their sons and daughters might get scrapes and bruises, in the Viking world such a game could end with an axe being driven into an opponent’s head.

This detail comes from a new article, ‘What the Vikings did for fun? Sports and pastimes in medieval northern Europe’, which was published last month in the journal World Archaeology. In it Leszek Gardeła of the University of Aberdeen uses saga accounts and archaeological evidence to see what men, women and children from Scandinavia and Iceland amused themselves with during the Viking-era, and found that their were several popular pastimes.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Kalamazoo Diaries – new play takes on the crazy world of the International Congress on Medieval Studies

Medievalists might be cringing or laughing until they cry soon, as a new play is in the works that takes a look at one of their most famous gatherings: the International Congress on Medieval Studies.

 About seventy people got a first look at The Kalamazoo Diaries earlier this week in Toronto, Canada, when a reading of the play was staged in order to get audience feedback. The play is a sometimes serious, but often hilarious satire on what happens at International Congress on Medieval Studies, an annual conference that brings together up to 5000 medievalists to Kalamazoo, Michigan.

 The Kalamazoo Diaries is written by Natalie Fingerhut, who attended her first congress in 2006 when she began working for University of Toronto Press. Natalie calls it “the most absurd experience she has ever had,” and found it ripe material to create a satirical take on the medievalist sub-culture.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net