Thursday, April 30, 2009

Medieval scholar awarded Fulbright Fellowship

Mark S. Weiner, Professor of Law and Sidney I. Reitman Scholar at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship to teach and undertake research at the University of Akureyri, Iceland, for the fall term of the 2009-2010 academic year.

As a Fulbright Scholar, Weiner will teach an intensive course on U.S. constitutional law and conduct research for his new book on the transformation of clan identity and the development of the rule of law. Professor Weiner, a member of the Rutgers-Newark law faculty since 2001, is an award-winning legal historian and author. His first book, Black Trials: Citizenship From the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), was selected a 2005 Silver Gavel Award winner by the American Bar Association. His latest book, Americans without Law: The Racial Boundaries of Citizenship (NYU Press, 2006), received the President's Book Award from the Social Science History Association.

The first chapter of Professor Weiner's new book will likely focus on Iceland, whose history provides a valuable case study of the relation between legal development and clan identity. Many of the country's popular medieval Sagas concern law and the legal process and, Weiner explains, generally law plays as central a symbolic role in Icelandic national identity as the Constitution does in the United States. He is especially interested in the medieval legal history of the island and the contemporary popular historical consciousness of that legal past.

The Fulbright Program is the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world, supported for more than 60 years through an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress and by the people of partner nations. The program - working with universities, schools, binational Fulbright commissions, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector - actively seeks out individuals of achievement and potential who represent the full diversity of their respective societies and selects nominees through open, merit-based competitions.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Relics, by John Desjarlais

Kishwaukee College issued the following news release:

Kishwaukee College English and journalism instructor John Desjarlais' novel, Relics, is being reissued by Thomas Nelson Publishers in June. "The story of Relics is strikingly relevant today," Desjarlais says, "especially given the West's engagement with militant Islam. Besides, a story with danger and romance never goes out of date."

Relics is set in France and Crusader Palestine in the year 1250 and follows Jean-Michel D'Anjou, a young knight who rushes into a burning cathedral to rescue the relics but fails. He emerges from the blaze with an image of a cross singed on his sleeve - a divine sign, the bishop says, that the knight is to seek relics to replace those lost in the fire. Jean-Michel journeys with a mysterious troubadour and a wandering scholar to Palestine where he becomes entangled in a fanatic's plot to assassinate King Louis IX of France.

The Bookstore Journal said, "Desjarlais' descriptions of medieval life and times are realistic and complete. Relics will provide hours of enjoyment." The Christian Library Journal described Desjarlais' writing as "polished, liquid and glowing. He has a sure hand when it comes to historical detail. His research is obvious but never comes across as an intrusion into the story. Just plain good storytelling."

Desjarlais is a former producer with Wisconsin Public Radio. In addition to being a long-time Kishwaukee College faculty member, he is a member of Mystery Writers of America. He is also listed in Who's Who in Entertainment and Who's Who Among America's Teachers. Desjarlais' other books include The Throne of Tara, set in Dark Age Ireland, and a contemporary mystery, Bleeder, due for release by Sophia Institute Press in August 2009.

Relics (trade paper, 320 pages, ISBN 0-8407-6735-8, $14.95) can be ordered in any bookstore, purchased online through, or directly from the publisher by calling toll-free 800-251-4000.

Two Medieval Saints Created by Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict created five new saints on Sunday, including Portugal's national hero Nuno Alvares Pereira, a medieval warrior-friar credited with securing Portugal's independence from Castile.

The pope told pilgrims at the canonization in the Vatican that the 14th-century nobleman had shown that "in any situation, even of a military and warlike nature, it is possible to act and live out the values and principles of Christian life."

His canonization has been the subject of much excitement among Roman Catholics in Portugal, with exhibitions about his life drawing large crowds, biographies published and the launch of a commemorative postage stamp carrying his portrait.

The Portuguese Bishops' Conference drew comparisons between the 1383-1385 crisis of succession in Portugal and the current global economic crisis "stemming from a vacuum of moral values," citing the saint's example of sobriety and sharing of wealth.

"We want this to be an anti-crisis celebration. We want the canonization to be a sign of hope," friar Francisco Rodrigues, who led the canonization effort, said earlier this week.

Born in 1360 and appointed Constable of the Kingdom at just 24, his 6,500 Portuguese troops defeated over 30,000 Castilians in the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385 to quash Castilian claims on Portuguese lands, bringing about two centuries of peace.

The richest man in Portugal, Alvares Pereira gave up all his titles and wealth to become a friar in the Carmo Convent he had built in Lisbon, spending his last years in prayer and penitence under the name Friar Nuno of St Mary.

Long venerated in Portugal and its former colonies, there were attempts to canonize him at least as long ago as the 15th century and he was beatified in 1918. But it took a miracle attributed to him in 2000 -- believers say he intervened to cure a woman's eye burned by boiling oil -- to culminate the process.

The other saints created included early 14th-century Sienese aristocrat Bernardo Tolomei, who died along with 82 monks of his order while helping victims of the Great Plague of 1348.

Three 19th-century Italians -- the priest Arcangelo Tadini and two women, Geltrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli, who took vows of chastity and founded congregations of nuns -- were canonized for helping the poor and their dedication to prayer.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Florence, Italy to host exhibition about Shobak Castle

22 April 2009
ANSA - English Media Service

One of Italy's top cultural events will go on show in Florence this summer, exploring a Middle East flashpoint region at the time of the Crusades.

Opening in mid-July, the exhibit will showcase over 100 artefacts unearthed during a 20-year archaeological project by Florence University.

The focal point of the show is Montreal Castle, known as Shobak in Arabic and Shawbak in Italian, located in a Jordanian section of the Great Rift Valley.

Clinging to the side of a rocky mountain, the castle was built in 1115 by the French Crusader Baldwin I of Jerusalem during his expedition to the area.

The castle had collapsed into a heap of ruins by the time the Italian-Jordanian archaeological project began there 20 years ago but the excavations have revealed it was once the heart of a strategic region between the two great powers of Egypt and Syria.

The artefacts pulled from the rubble have made this one of the most fascinating large-scale sites in the Eastern Mediterranean, offering experts considerable insight into trade and life at the time.

The castle was strategically located on the pilgrimage and caravan routes between Syria and Arabia, giving it control of all local commerce.

After a two-year siege ending in 1189, the European occupants were ousted and the castle fell into the hands of Saladin as part of the successful Muslim campaign he led against the Crusaders.

Although the focus will be on Montreal Castle, the exhibition will also explore the region's history at the time of the Crusades through finds unearthed at Petra.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, the Jordanian site is internationally renowned for its wealth of rock-cut architecture.

Organizers of the exhibition, a joint project with Jordan's Department of Antiquities, said they had deliberately decided to limit the number of pieces on display in order to spotlight finds of particular significance.

The selection comes from a number of sources: the Florentine archaeological mission in Jordan, Jordanian national museums and international excavations in the area.

There will also be a small but important contribution from Florence's collection of Islamic art. Among the items on display will be column decorations in the shape of elephants, pottery, effigies and utensils, as well as a key inscription from the Roman settlement of Augustopolis, uncovered just 18 months ago.

The exhibition is entitled 'Da Petra a Shawbak. Archeologia di una frontiera' (From Petra to Montreal Castle. The Archaeology of a Border Region') and is on show at Palazzo Pitti from July 13 until October 19.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Latest Medieval Journals

Here are the list of medieval articles from recent journal issues:

Art History - Volume 32 Issue 2 (April 2009)

Regarding the Spectators of the Bayeux Tapestry: Bishop Odo and his Circle,
by T. A. Heslop
Abstract: The entourage of Bishop Odo of Bayeux contained successful entrepreneurs and talented scholars. There was much to interest both groups in the Bayeux Tapestry which he commissioned. The Norman invasion of England is shown as a major logistical exercise for which the principal model was Caesar's invasion of 54 bce. Like the Romans, the Normans became successful colonists and farmed the land. The Tapestry also has epic qualities, recalling the poetic 'histories' of antiquity, especially Virgil's Aeneid, which provides parallels for episodes and incidents in the Tapestry also found in the written accounts of the Norman invasion. The rhetorical nature of history itself, ideally vivid, allusive and yet truthful, was receiving critical scrutiny at the time as part of a self-conscious revival of classical narrative styles.

Early Medieval Europe - Volume 17 Issue 2 (May 2009)

The magic of early medieval ritual
by Christina Pössel
Abstract: Whether, and how, we ought to study early medieval rituals has been much debated recently, including in the pages of this journal by Geoffrey Koziol and Philippe Buc. This paper is intended as a contribution to this debate, and argues that rituals' written or spoken interpretations are not a simple rendering of the ritualized actions' 'meanings' in words and must therefore be analysed separately, not conflated with the possible effects of performance. Ritualized acts thus had two loci: the short-term experience of the embodied performance, and the long-term struggle over interpretation in speech and writing, both of which need to be explored with appropriate methodologies. Whilst the textuality of our sources thus needs to be taken seriously, it is proposed that we can also say something about the possible or even probable characteristics of early medieval ritualized acts as the medium of bodily postures and gestures used for demonstrative public interations between power holders.

The Vita Columbani in Merovingian Gaul
by Alexander O'Hara
Abstract: This paper considers the evidence for the dissemination of the Vita Columbani. Using a number of seventh-century texts as well as the Vita itself, it proposes that the Vita Columbani had a wider dissemination in Merovingian Gaul than has hitherto been acknowledged. It suggests that the Vita was not merely confined to monastic and ecclesiastical circles, but was also intended for a royal and aristocratic audience closely linked to the Columbanian communities.

Bede on the Britons
by W. Trent Foley and Nicholas J. Higham
Abstract: This paper addresses the many facets of Bede's portrayal of the Britons in the Historia ecclesiastica, first by illustrating his attempts to cast the Britons generally in the role of usually villainous biblical types and then by examining his often more positive portrayal of certain Britons and British groups independently of those types. His recommendation of certain British Christians as saints to be imitated as well as his conviction that God has not abandoned them to perdition exempts him from the charge of being unqualifiedly anti-British. Nevertheless, his singular stereotyping of them among all the peoples of Britain reveals an especial virulence not easily explained by his biblically informed world-view.

The significance of the Carolingian advocate
by Charles West
Abstract: This article argues that ninth-century advocates in the Frankish world deserve more attention than they have received. Exploring some of the wealth of relevant evidence, it reviews and critiques both current historiographical approaches to the issue. Instead of considering Carolingian advocates as largely a by-product of the ecclesiastical immunity, or viewing advocacy as a Trojan horse for a subsequent establishment of lordship over monasteries, the article proposes a reading of ninth-century advocacy as intimately linked with wider Carolingian reform, particularly an interest in promoting formal judicial procedure.

The Economic History Review - Volume 62 Issue 2 (May 2009)

Villeinage in England: a regional case study, c.1250–c.1349
by Mark Bailey
Abstract: Between 1200 and 1349, villeinage was not prominent in Suffolk, and, even in those places where it was locally significant, many of its exactions were lightly enforced. The gap between the theory and practice of villeinage was maintained by custom, although this article emphasizes both the importance of regional custom and its mutability. The relative insignificance of villeinage here has two main implications: first, villeinage cannot have caused any crisis of agrarian productivity before the Black Death; and second, its subsequent dissolution cannot have been the prime mover behind the transformation of the landholding structure and the emergence of agrarian capitalism.

Historical Research - Volume 82 Issue 216 (May 2009)

The earliest Norman writs revisited
by Mark Hagger
Abstract: This article revises the view set out by David Bates in 1985 that writs were seldom used in the duchy of Normandy in the period up to 1135. It reconsiders and re-evaluates how writs, writ-charters and charters should be characterized and provides some definitions for these documents. The article then goes on to consider the method of production of writs and writ-charters in or for Normandy, and what these acts can tell us about the public structures and administration of the duchy in this period.

History: Journal of the Historical Association - Volume 94 Issue 314 (April 2009)

In the Wake of Mantzikert: The First Crusade and the Alexian Reconquest of Western Anatolia
by Jason T. Roche
Abstract: The main aims of this article are threefold. It initially seeks to address two popular misconceptions frequently found in crusade histories and general histories of the Byzantine empire concerning the Turkish invasion and settlement of western Anatolia after the battle of Mantzikert in 1071. The article maintains that blurring the distinctions between the Seljuk Turks of Ransūm and the tribes of pastoral nomads or rather transhumants who came to be known as Türkmens or Turcomans is incorrect. The oft-repeated assumption that the Seljuk Turks of Baghdad oversaw the Turkish conquest of Anatolia is addressed when tracing the unstructured nature of the Turkish migration and the subsequent lack of unity amongst the invaders. After providing the context of the Turkish settlement in western Anatolia, the article throws new light on the relative ease with which the armies of the First Crusade traversed the Anatolian plateau and Byzantine forces compelled the speedy capitulation of Turkish towns and territories along the western coastal plains and river valleys of Anatolia in 1097 and 1098 respectively.

History Compass - Volume 7 Issue 2 (March 2009)

A New Trumpet? The History of Women in Scotland 1300–1700
by Elizabeth Ewan
Abstract: In comparison to the field in many other countries, women's history in Scotland is a relatively new area of research. This is especially true for the history of late medieval and early modern women. Although some work appeared in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Scottish women's history did not really develop as a field until the 1980s, with most work on women before 1700 appearing in the last two decades. Several recent studies have taken a biographical approach, but other work has drawn on the insights from research elsewhere to examine such issues as work, family, religion, crime and images of women. Scholars are also uncovering women's voices in their letters, memoirs, poetry and court records. Because of the late development of the field, much recent work has been recuperative, but increasingly the insights of gender history both in other countries and in Scottish history after 1700, are being used to frame the questions which are asked. Future work should contribute both to a reinterpretation of the current narratives of Scottish history, and also to a deepening of the complexity of the history of women in late medieval and early modern Britain and Europe.

Surveying Recent Literature on the Arabic and Persian Mirrors for Princes Genre
by L. Marlow
Abstract: The study of the medieval Arabic and Persian 'mirror for princes' literatures in many respects resembles that of the similarly abundant literatures produced in Byzantium and the Latin West. In earlier scholarship, the predominant approach was that of the history of ideas, and scholars tended to focus on depictions of the ideal ruler and other aspects of the 'political thought' expressed in the mirror literatures. A secondary area of interest concerned textual transmission within and across these literatures. More recent scholarship has continued to develop and refine these established approaches, and has also developed new directions of research. Notably, several scholars have explored the Sitz im Leben of individual mirrors, and have studied their meaning and significance in the historical settings in and for which they were composed. Certain recent publications have highlighted the flexibility of mirrors, the multiple purposes they often served, the range of perspectives represented by their authors, and the importance of authors' choices of language and genre in shaping the composition and reception of their works.

Muslim World - Volume 99 Issue 2 (April 2009)

Enacting Justice, Ensuring Salvation: The Trope of the 'Just Ruler' in Some Medieval Islamic Mirrors for Princes
by Erik Ohlander
No Abstract

Winterbourne Medieval Barn to open itself to artisans

Winterbourne Medieval Barn, which was built in 1342, is being revitalized and will soon start hosting local craftsmen on its site. Located in Gloucestershire, the barn is set to become a skills centre where traditional skills, such as carpentry, weaving and pottery can be taught and displayed.

The Winterbourne Medieval Barn Trust has received permission to rebuild six craft units in outbuildings and is starting efforts at luring local artisans to set up their shops on the historical site.

Richard Spalding, Chairman of the trust said in an interview with the Gazette Series: "We aim to breathe new life into the barn. We want to get the place working again. It will never be a working farm again because most of the land has been sold off but we are looking to create a centre for rural regeneration. We are turning full circle thinking of the local potential of growing things and resources, which more and more people are interested in during the current climate."

The barn itself was thought to be the largest of its kind when it was built in 1342 by the De Bradeston family, who owned neighbouring Winterbourne Court. It was used to store wheat and barley and for cider production.

"Every other barn like this one collapsed, for whatever reason, but because of the grade 1 soil here, this barn stayed standing," said Mr Spalding.

Several years ago, the site was sold to developers who were interested in turning it into housing, but it has since been put into a trust and restored by the local communuity.

The barn will also host the first Winterbourne Medieval Fair on Saturday, June 27. Re-enacters will help set the scene for a traditional craft and food fair with fun for all the family.

Other events include heritage open days in September, a harvest day in October and a talk by church historian Sally Badham on the Bradestons at Winterbourne Church next month.

For more details about this historic site, see the website for the Winterborune Medieval Barn Trust.

Monday, April 20, 2009

World's top teaching award in Medieval Studies goes to Richard K. Emmerson

Professor Richard K. Emmerson, the chairman of the Department of Art History at The Florida State University and an internationally renowned scholar on the Middle Ages, has garnered the 2009 Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies award from the Medieval Academy of America.

Worldwide, only one recipient of the distinguished honor is named each year by the Academy, which is the largest professional organization in the world devoted to medieval studies. About a third of its members are from outside the United States. This is the first time that a Florida State faculty member has won the Excellence in Teaching award.

"It is a great honor on an international scale not only for Professor Emmerson but also for our university and its College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance," said Sally McRorie, dean of the college. "It is noteworthy that Emmerson was nominated by no fewer than three of our graduate students in art history, and that additional letters of support came from among the foremost scholars and teachers in the field of medieval studies."

Emmerson, who also holds a courtesy faculty position in the Department of English, is the former executive director of the Medieval Academy of America. In the three decades since earning his Ph.D. at Stanford University, he taught at Georgetown University, Harvard University, Tufts University and Western Washington University (where he chaired the Department of English) prior to joining FSU´s faculty in 2006. His acclaimed interdisciplinary research has focused on apocalyptic themes in medieval art, drama and poetry and on illustrated manuscripts, primarily from England and France, from the 13th through 15th centuries.

"As a widely recognized medieval scholar, Emmerson has helped to enhance significantly the national reputation of Florida State´s art history department," McRorie said. "Moreover, the acknowledgment from scholarly peers worldwide of his great passion for teaching is a marvelous addition to his academic credentials. Sometimes scholars can become so immersed in their research and administrative and other leadership duties that they may become less directly dedicated to students and great teaching. But Rick clearly has maintained a strong and effective dedication to all aspects of his role, from teaching to research and service."

In 2008, Emmerson was the keynote speaker to more than 3,000 scholars at the 44th meeting of the International Congress of Medieval Studies. In 2007, the Council of Editors of Learned Journals named Emmerson "Distinguished Editor" for his work editing Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies from 1999 to 2006. He has served as the deputy director of Fellowships at the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is the incoming president of the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society.

Emmerson has written nearly 40 articles and essays that have appeared in academic journals and scholarly collections and, so far, had six books published, including his first (1981) and best-known book, Antichrist in the Middle Ages: A Study of Medieval Apocalypticism, Art, and Drama. He now has been contracted as the editor of the new Dictionary of Medieval Civilization that is slated for publication in three or four years by Cambridge University Press. The huge reference work will involve about 175 scholars and 1,300 pages of text.

"Professionally, this teaching award means a lot to me because when I came to FSU in 2006 to chair the Department of Art History I switched disciplinary fields," Emmerson said. "My Ph.D. is in English, and in the past I have chaired an English department, so it is especially gratifying to be recognized in my new discipline. This honor means a great deal to me personally because the graduate students who nominated me, on their own and in confidence, invested the substantial time necessary to create the nomination file."

"The Department of Art History at Florida State is very lucky to have excellent students in our graduate program, many of whom concentrate on medieval art history," Emmerson said. "This facilitates excellent seminars and mutual support among students and thus makes our program in this area one of the very best in the nation."

Time Gate - the Prisoner of Knaresborough Castle

An innovative group from Knaresborough is launching a new computer game on Friday which virtually reconstructs the ruined Knaresborough Castle and restores it to it's medieval glory.

The game, Time Gate - the Prisoner of Knaresborough Castle, was launched at the castle earlier this month, as part of the Courthouse Museum's seasonal reopening.

Visitors will be able to virtually travel back to the year 1325 and play the game for the first time. They will also be able to enjoy a virtual tour of the Norman castle as it would have been 700 years ago when it was built by King John.

Renaissance Knaresborough, a council community group, came up with the idea two years ago, after they saw computer modelling being used on Channel 4's Time Team programme

They decided it would be a good way to open up historic buildings to the public and managed to secure funding for the project from the council.

The group, which aims to improve the town, then enlisted a team of creative pupils from King James's School, Knaresborough, to help design the challenges, title and logo used in the adventure game.

The group sought help from Harrogate Borough Council Museum and Arts who provided historical information about the castle, whilst Steve Manthorp, who has worked on similar projects, gave technical support.

Diane Taylor, audience development officer at Harrogate Borough Council, said that the pupils had all worked really hard and it was great achievement for them. She said: "Time Gate is the fantastic result of a lot of hard work by many parties. It means that Knaresborough Castle can be imagined as it would have been in its heyday and will help visitors understand the historic importance of this site. It will also allow access for those who cannot physically visit all of the site. We also hope that it will encourage young people to visit the castle, through offering access via this computer adventure game. It has been great to work closely with these different organisations and particularly develop a relationship with King James's School."

Lateral Visions from Liverpool then undertook the making of the computer version of the game and Knaresborough Lions funded the duplication of it onto CD-ROM.

The game will be available to play and to buy for £5 at the Courthouse Museum. Any money raised will go to Renaissance Knaresborough.

Recovery begins in L'Aquila after its Earthquake

The historical area of medieval L'Aquila, devastated by an earthquake earlier this month, will be rebuilt as quickly as possible, Abruzzo region President Gianni Chiodi said last week.

Chiodi told a television news show that by October or latest by November, comfortable lodgings will be found for the homeless who are currently housed in tent camps.

The civil protection department has done an "amazing job" in handling the first phase of the emergency, said Chiodi, stressing that the second phase will involve finding "more comfortable" lodgings for those camped out in tents or hotels on the Abruzzo coast.

"The third phase will be reconstruction of L'Aquila's historic centre and planning a series of initiatives for the city's future, including its role as a university centre, new industrial activities and revitalising businesses," he said. "There was widespread recognition for the way the first phase (of the emergency) was handled. We've got to be just as good with the second and third phases."

A 100-strong culture ministry team yesterday began a full inventory of churches, historic buildings and their contents in the Italian region of Abruzzo, after rescue workers called off their search for survivors of the devastating earthquake.

A culture ministry official said that at least 500 historic churches had been damaged or razed to the ground. "We are now shifting paintings, confessional booths and other objects from damaged churches to a depositary to start restoration work," said Anna Maria Reggiani, regional director for the ministry.

Augusto Cicciotti, an architect working with the ministry team amid the collapsed buildings in L'Aquila, said restoration costs could reach euros 100 million. Culture minister Sandro Bondi said restoration work would be "gigantic".

Damaged churches in L'Aquila include Sant'Agostino, the dome of which collapsed onto a government office housing the city's historical archive. The removal of rare documents, including the 13th century charter granting city status to L'Aquila, began yesterday.

Cicciotti cited the recovery of the 700 year old bones of Pope Celestine V from the damaged church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio as hugely important, while Reggiani said she hoped the city's churches could be restored as they were.

Meanwhile, a team from the culture ministry was set to recover medieval manuscripts from the rubble of L'Aquila's state archives following Monday's earthquake.

The prefecture that housed the archives was completely flattened by the cupola of the next door 18th-century Baroque church of St Augustine in the disaster.

The culture ministry said the operation will involve recovering around four kilometres of shelves of manuscripts, books and rare documents, which will be taken to the state archives in the Abruzzo town of Sulmona for safe-keeping.

Early Medieval mount found in Yorkshire should stay in the UK, says Culture Minister

British Culture Minister, Barbara Follett, has placed a temporary export bar on an unusual animal-shaped copper alloy mount found in North Yorkshire. The discovery is very significant and is likely to be a product of Viking activity and perhaps evidence of links between Dublin and York. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the mount in the United Kingdom.

The cast copper alloy mount takes the form of an animal with splayed legs and a projecting head, seen from above. This animal outline is filled with multiple levels of animal decoration: each of the animal's four splayed legs are themselves heads, interlacing snakes form a central square field, and between these are further beasts, skilfully adapted to the varied spaces available. The reverse of the mount is undecorated and has three complete lugs for attachment. The smooth, semi-circular -shaped edge is likely to have fitted a second, correspondingly-shaped mount. The mount measures 67 mm long x 43 mm wide x 14 mm high (including lugs on reverse), and weighs 49.6 g.

The Minister's ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the mount is of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of Insular art and archaeology. Insular style is a fusion of Germanic and Celtic art styles of early medieval Britain.

The mount, which is in the form of an animal dates from the 8th or 9th century AD. The mount may originally have been intended for a horse's harness, although the unusually large lugs on the back suggest that it could also have been set into a wooden object such as a shrine. Each of the four splayed legs are also in the shape of animal heads, and the body is decorated with further animal motifs, adapted to fit the spaces available. The mount retains much of its original gilding and the details of its complex and unique design survive perfectly. There are other similar mounts in the national collections of Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia but none of comparable quality or of this spread-eagle design is known from an English find spot.

Dr Catherine Johns, Reviewing Committee member, said: "The unique form, unusually complex design motifs and unmodified condition mark this mount as the best of its type. It is also of outstanding research significance as there is much to be learned about the function, manufacture and detailed iconography of this class of object."

The decision on the export licence application for the mount will be deferred for a period ending on 13th June inclusive. This period may be extended until 13th September inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the mount at the recommended price of GBP 52,281.37 is expressed.

Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the mount should contact the owner's agent through:

The Secretary
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council,
Wellcome Wolfson Building
165 Queen's Gate
South Kensington
London SW7 5HD
Telephone 020 7273 8270

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Medievalist among new Carnegie Scholars

Hussein Anwar Fancy, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, has been named as one of 24 new Carnegie Scholars for his work on the trade of military soldiers between Christian and Islamic states during the Middle Ages.

Professor Fancy and the other scholars were selected for their compelling ideas and commitment to enriching the quality of the public dialogue on Islam. The award comes with a two-year grant of $100 000.

Professor Fancy offers a novel perspective on religious violence in the Middle Ages that challenges and redirects contemporary debates about tolerance. His research will center on a virtually unknown history of the Crusades in which thousands of Muslim and Christian soldiers were traded to serve in kingdoms of the other faith: Christian soldiers in service of North African sultans and Muslim soldiers in service of Catalan kings. These curious exchanges paradoxically reinforced religious violence, rather than acting to diminish them. Fancy argues that the language of tolerance, grounded in assumptions about medieval religion, has impeded both the understanding of the historical past and the mitigation of conflict. His work will examine unpublished archival material from the 13th century in an effort to bring to light rules and limits to the use of violence in the context of the Crusades and jihad across the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa.

His upcoming publications include: "Smuggling Lives and Forging Captives in the Medieval Mediterranean," and “The Last Almohad: ‘Abd al-Wahid b. Abi Dabbus in the Kingdoms of the Crown of Aragon (1262-1289)".

The Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian said, "We are cultivating a diverse scholarly community spanning a range of disciplines with the expectation that their voices will help Americans develop a more complex understanding of Muslim societies here and throughout the world--revealing Islam's rich diversity. Only through vibrant dialogue, guided by bold and nuanced scholarship, can we move public thinking into new territory."

The 2009 Carnegie Scholars are drawn from a number of disciplines. This year's awardees include:

An art historian offering a nuanced understanding of the role of contemporary mosques in the construction of modern Muslim identity.

A historian tracing the little known story of how Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers opposed dominant, negative views of Islam.

An economist exploring how pilgrims, following their return from Mecca, have an increased desire for peace and tolerance--toward fellow Muslims and non-Muslims.

A historian offering a comprehensive account of U.S.-Iran relations beginning during the time of the American colonies.

Patricia L. Rosenfield, who leads the Carnegie Scholars Program said,"America's discourse on Islam will benefit from the Scholars' enthusiastic quest to transform complex information into useful, structured knowledge. Their superb scholarship is often daring, always accessible and truly public." Rosenfield said that emerging and
established scholars alike are encouraged to orient their writing and speaking beyond purely academic audiences.

Medieval Gatehouse of Selby Abbey discovered

A medieval gatehouse has been discovered near Selby Abbey, in Yorkshire, during work on redeveloping the town's market area. The gatehouse was demolished in 1792, and was once linked to the main door of the Abbey by a long corridor. It stood on the outer wall of the Abbey which, it is believed, once extended out nearly as far as where the market cross is today.

Archaeologists have been working on site since the end of last week to piece together the evidence discovered. They have found foundation stones for the main archway supports to the gatehouse while construction work on other parts of the site continued during the excavations around the gatehouse, through close cooperation between the archaeologists and construction contractors.

On-Site Archaeology is carrying out the excavation work. Berny McClusky, the archaeological project officer, said: “This is quite a significant find in that it gives us a clear indication of where the outer wall and main gateway to the Abbey once stood. We know that the tower was demolished in the late 18th century as part of a major redevelopment of the town centre. We also knew roughly where the building was, but didn’t expect the foundations to be as intact as they are. We’re been recording what we’ve found. The next stage is to make sure the finds are protected before they’re covered over again as part of the work to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. We’ve been working in partnership with the contractors to make sure that our excavation works have little impact on the overall project.”

Councillor Mark Crane, the leader of Selby District Council, said: “Time for archaeological excavations has been included in the overall construction timetable so this work hasn’t impacted on delivery of the project. Selby Abbey has always been a hugely important part of the local community and one of the key aims of the Renaissance project is to enhance the environment around this grand building so it remains a focal point for the town. Supporting our heritage in this way will help to bring in new visitors and new investment in the long-term, which ultimately supports businesses in the area too.”

Historical Dictionary of Medieval China

Dr. Victor C. Xiong, professor of history at Western Michigan University, has written an 856-page installment to a series of historical dictionaries on ancient civilizations and historical eras.

The book, titled Historical Dictionary of Medieval China, was published this past December by Scarecrow Press Inc. and fills an urgent need for a standard reference tailored to the interest of Western academics and readers.

Xiong is director of WMU's East Asian Studies Program and has written extensively on medieval China. He focuses on Chinese history and archaeology, especially the Sui Tang period with an emphasis on urban, social and cultural history.

A WMU faculty member since 1980, Xiong is an ongoing participant in numerous excavations of early Chinese sites under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Archaeology.

He has presented his work around the world, most recently at the Institute for Chinese Studies at Oxford University in England, where he was invited to give a lecture on "Liu Zhiji and Medieval Chinese Historiography." He also has given a presentation on "The Rise and Fall of Sui Yangdi" at the Stanford University
Center for East Asian Studies.

Xiong was editor of Early Medieval China, an annual published by the Early Medieval China Group, a professional organization. In addition, he wrote Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty: His Life, Times, and Legacy, published in 2005 by SUNY Press, and Sui-Tang Chang'an (583-904): A Study in the Urban History of Medieval China, distributed in 2000 by the University of Michigan Press.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Medieval Studies program at Queen's University facing suspension

The Medieval Studies program at Queen's University in Canada is one of 40 programs that could be suspended and stop accepting new students.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Queen's faces a 20% cut to its budget, one of many post-secondary institutions in Canada that has seen a significant loss in revenues as a result of the economic recession. On March 26th the Faculty announced that one proposal they are considering is "to suspend admissions to the degree types that have had fewer than 25 students enrolled over the past several years, and explore ways to restructure the offerings so as to be more efficient." The Medieval Studies program usually has between six and a dozen students enrolled in any given year.

Other programs facing suspension include German, Spanish, Statistics, Computing and Chemistry. The statement from Queen's University that all of these programs could be suspended "unless they can be restructured to be sustainable, given current resources. This will require rethinking what courses are required, who would teach them, and when they would be offered."

Scott-Morgan Straker, Faculty Coordinator for the Medieval Studies program, explained in an interview with that he hopes this program will survive any cuts, and notes some of its special circumstances:

"The Medieval Studies program does not run any of its own courses: it relies entirely on courses that the participating departments (English, History, Classics, and Philosophy) are already committed to providing for their own concentrators. It therefore costs the Faculty nothing in terms of additional resources, so no monetary savings could result from its suspension. The only program costs that I'm aware of are my time (when I offer advice and assistance to students in the program) and very occasionally that of the Undergraduate Chairs of the participating departments (if they need to intervene to get students into the courses that they need).

"The Dean of Arts and Sciences states that the impulse behind reducing the number of degrees offered by the Faculty is the desire to promote efficiency. It seems to me that Medieval Studies already embodies that kind of efficiency, because it allows students to recombine course offerings that are already there, in order to do something (namely, to focus on a historical period in an interdisciplinary way) that they wouldn't otherwise be permitted to do. I have represented the program to the Dean in this light, so I hope my input has some influence on the decision that ultimately gets made."

Last month, students and faculty at Queen's University held a rally on their campus to protest the proposal. Alistair MacLean, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science said, "“I fully understand why people are upset about it. Some programs are under threat...Queen’s students are very engaged and passionate about what they’re doing. I don’t disagree with their aims. I have limited resources. I have the job to try to make it happen.”

Dr. Straker noted that the high demands and low profile of the medieval studies program make it difficult for them to attract students, but for those students in the program they are united by "their uncommon love for the period and its culture, history, and languages, and their commitment to their studies. There is no paradigmatic medieval studies student: they all come to the field under different influences, and bring different skills and interests to their work. I believe that they've all found something valuable in the Medieval Studies program, so I'm determined to keep it alive for the small number of students to whom it appeals."

Video reports on the L'Aquila Earthquake

The ruined Renaissance town of L'Aquila remained a ghost town on Wednesday as rescue workers' hopes of finding more survivors were fading. But a few people have braved the aftershocks in the earthquake-struck city -- both locals seeking to recover belongings, and onlookers who have come to witness the destruction first-hand.

Survivors of the Italian earthquake are escorted to what remains of their homes to retrieve personal belongings.

Damage to medieval landmarks in L’Aquila severe

Italy appealed for international assistance to restore historic churches, palazzi and other monuments damaged by this week's earthquake in the Abruzzo region, warning it will take years and millions of euros to repair the treasures, if they can be saved at all. The Italian government has already committed 30 million euros already for early operations alone, such as securing the buildings.

Maurizio Galletti, the assessore alla cultura, or culture tsar for the Abruzzo region, has made a tour of the damage to the numerous churches, and period public buildings. "It's impossible to make a real assessment of the damage," Mr Galletti said, "because so far we have only been able to inspect the buildings from outside."

Some of the important buildings are clearly beyond repair, the most striking being the regional seat of government, built in the late 19th century, which has been reduced from two storeys to one. Its sign Palazzo del Governo teeters on Corinthian columns at the front and has become a symbol of the disaster for many, not least for what it says of the failure down the ages of Italian authorities to invest adequately in public buildings of all sorts, even those that are most important. "Look at the quality of the stone," Mr Galletti remarked scornfully, pointing to the granola-like rubble heaped on the damaged pediment. "There are so many factors that can cause one building to remain standing while another collapses: poor building materials, good or bad workmanship, and also the quality of any restoration undertaken over the centuries."

But there are some reasons for hope. Another 19th century building on the piazza should, according to Mr Galletti, be structurally sound even though slabs of cement have fallen from its sides. "That's because when they restored it recently they employed re-inforced concrete columns that discharge the shock of the earthquake into the ground," he explained.

Culture ministry officials are now compiling a list of damaged landmarks in the city of L'Aquila and region. These include the duomo, whose transept has collapsed; the baroque Church of the Anime Sante, whose cupola has all but disappeared, the Renaissance San Bernardino Church, whose bell tower crumbled on top of a neighboring convent. And the building housing the region's historical archives has also been severely damaged. This is just a sampling, Galletti says.

"Abruzzo has a high concentration of monuments, starting from Roman times. This was already an important trade route in antiquity. Then there was a florid medieval period. We have major Benedictine churches. And in Fossa, a medieval Gothic church covered with unique frescos. It, too, has been seriously damaged. The entire territory has suffered unbelievable artistic destruction."

Among other buildings damaged in the quake was Abruzzo's largest Romanesque church, the 13th-century Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio, whose apse collapsed.
The Basilica, with its famed pink-and-white jewel-box façade, was the site of the coronation of Pope Celestine V in 1294 and thousands of pilgrims still flock there each year.

The cupola of the 17th-century Anime Sante church designed by Giuseppe Valadier and the bell tower of L'Aquila's largest Renaissance church, San Bernardino da Siena, were also down. The Porta Napoli, the oldest and most beautiful gate to the city, built in 1548 in honour of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was destroyed in the quake.

Churches and historic buildings in surrounding villages also suffered significant damage. The 14th century Tower of Medici, in the fortified village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, collapsed, as did the main altar of the baroque church of Sant'Angelo in the town of Celano, seat of the lords who ruled the area in the Middle Ages.
Some heritage sites in nearby towns were spared in the disaster, including the mountaintop fortress of Rocca Calascio, the highest fortress in Italy, which dates to the tenth century AD and has suffered damage in other quakes over the centuries.

Rome culture chief Umberto Croppi said a number of works by the 13th century painter Maestro di Fossa had been saved because they were on show in Rome when the church of Santa Maria ad Criptas in the town of Fossa was badly damaged in the quake.

Giorgio Croci, a Rome-based engineer and expert on ancient monuments, said the methods employed by medieval architects were a key factor in the region's damage. While ancient Roman and Renaissance builders used high-quality stone, in the medieval era builders often skimped on the quality of their materials, he said, meaning monuments from that period were less likely to stand in the event of a quake. "If you live in an ancient building, you have to employ a policy of prevention," Croci said.

Franciscan remains discovered during excavations at Marischal College

The skeletons of seven men, thought to be Franciscan friars, have been discovered during archaeological excavations at Marischal College.

The medieval remains of at least five other people have also been found during the excavations undertaken by Aberdeen City Council archaeologists in advance of the creation of the council's new headquarters.

The site is a very important historic location, not only because of the presence of Marischal College there since the 16th century, but also because one of Aberdeen's major religious houses, the Franciscan Friary, occupied the same site from the late 15th century onwards.

Walls and cobbled surfaces associated with the medieval friary have been uncovered - including parts of the early 16th century friary complex. Greyfriars Church itself survived until the early 20th century. Walls of 17th-19th century university structures have also emerged and been recorded. Numerous objects have been found during the dig, including two complete pottery vessels dating from the 15th or 16th century.

The remains of the seven adult males were excavated at the site in the last few days. They had been buried with their heads to the south-west, outside the north wall of the medieval Greyfriars Church. The burials probably date to the 15th century, as the graves were sealed by the laying of a cobbled surface above them. The first discovery was made on Friday, 27 March.

The Franciscan Friars (known as Greyfriars because of the colour of their clothing) came to Aberdeen in the 1460s and it is likely that these burials took place not long after this date. The graves had been cut deeply into the natural geology. The hands of the men were clasped as if in prayer and may have been bound into that posture with cloth, which has since decayed in the soil. These men were probably Franciscan friars and would have been buried in their habits, which were probably made from coarse wool cloth.

The bones have now been lifted and the skeletons will be cleaned and sent to Glasgow University, where human bone specialist Paul Duffy will determine the age, and stature of the men, as well as diseases and ailments from which they suffered. Paul previously studied the bones of the 1,000 skeletons found during the St Nicholas Church dig.

Archaeologists have already been able to confirm that the Marischal College skeletons are male and that at least two of the men were elderly when they died. One had very worn teeth with many gaps where teeth had been lost prior to death, suggesting a lifetime of chewing and grinding food. This man also had a very painful arthritic spine.

Fish bones found in the abdomen area of another of the skeletons reveal that the man had eaten fish not long before he died. The fish bones will be sent to an expert who will determine the species.

The remains of several other individuals were found disarticulated in the graves. At least five skulls were found suggesting that the remains of at least 12 individuals lay in the site.

Medieval gravediggers often found previous burials whilst digging graves and the bones of these individuals were back-filled in the grave with the body of the recently deceased.

The future of the Marischal College skeletons and other remains will be determined once the study has been completed.

44th International Congress on Medieval Studies

Western Michigan University issued the following press release: Kalamazoo County residents and members of the Western Michigan University community may attend the 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies for free if they register online or in person at the Miller Auditorium ticket office by April 15. Register now at

WMU's Medieval Congress is one of the world's largest annual gatherings of people interested in the Middle Ages. This year's event will take place Thursday through Sunday, May 7-10.

Despite the economic downturn, congress organizers do not expect the 2009 event to experience a downturn in attendance. Some 3,000 people showed up for last year's congress, so those interested in attending this year for free are encouraged to register before the deadline.

The event will include more than 600 sessions featuring the presentation of scholarly papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops, and musical and dramatic performances.

In addition, the exhibits hall will be filled with nearly 70 publishers, used book dealers, purveyors of medieval sundries and other vendors. There also will be some 90 business meetings and receptions sponsored by learned societies, associations and institutions.

County residents and WMU community members who do not take advantage of the free online and in-person registration options may register after April 15, but they will be assessed a $50 late fee. Those without Internet access may register by mail or fax for a nominal handling fee.

Visit WMU's Medieval Congress online to register or obtain more information. For information about registering by mail or fax, call (269) 387-8745.

For more information about the Congress, please see our special section.

Conference on Medieval Grantham

A conference on medieval and early modern Grantham, an English town in Lincolnshire, will be held from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Saturday, April 25 in the Ballroom of the Guildhall Arts Centre.

The list of speakers includes Dr Glyn Coppack, Professor Philip Dixon, Dr Beryl Lott, David Stocker and John Maddison and among the subjects to be covered are:

"The Angel & Royal Inn"
"Grantham House"
"St Wulfram's Church"
"Grantham Friars"

Another lecture will cover the intriguing tale of the Apple Cross, an elaborately carved medieval standing cross that once stood to the west of St Wulfram's Church in Grantham. It is thought to have been given to the town between 1500-1530 by Bishop Richard Fox, Bishop, who was born in Ropsley and became the founder of the King's School. The cross was demolished by Parliamentarian soldiers in 1646. The carved stone panels were taken by Edward Rawlinson who used them to decorate a chapel (later known as the Oratory) in his house near the site of the George Hotel (now the George Shopping Centre shopping centre). By 1807 it had disappeared and all trace of the carvings was lost.

The conference is being organised by Grantham Museum and the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire. The exhibition currently at Grantham Museum, "Grantham Then & Now", shows many of the buildings and structures which will be discussed at the conference.

Tickets cost £10.00 and are available from Grantham Museum or from the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire.

Tel: 01529 461499 or email:

Dog sacrifices in Medieval Hungary

An article in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior (Vol.4:2 March-April 2009) has revealed that in archaeological investigation of a medieval Hungarian village there seems to have been the practice of dog sacrifices. Researchers found in the village of Ka'na, which was inhabited from the 10th to 13th century, over a dozen dogs buried under house foundations, and ten more placed in special pits. Four puppy skeletons were found under vessels buried upside down in pits.

Márta Daróczi-Szabó, an archaeozoologist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, wrote, "although such finds appear out of place in a Christian village, their sheer presence reflects the unique role played by dogs in an unofficial popular belief system existing in parallel to formal religion at thismedieval rural settlement in Hungary.

"Dogs would have had many roles in people’s lives in a medieval Hungarian village, sometimes serving as guard dogs, herding dogs, or stray pariah dogs, scavenging near the houses and on the village roads. Their many-sided relationship with people is also reflected in finds that may be called 'sacrificial.'"

Christianity came to dominate the region after the first king of Hungary, Stephen I, began his rule in A.D. 1000. Under his reign, pagan rituals such as animal sacrifices were explicitly banned.

The fact that pagan customs such as animal sacrifice persisted for centuries side-by-side with the church is surprising, noted University of Edinburgh archaeozoologist László Bartosiewicz, in an interview with National Geographic.

"One wouldn't expect these practices in Christian times," said Bartosiewicz, who did not participate in the new study. "It's exciting to see what was sacred and profane back then. The great number of sacrifices we see [in Kana] will significantly improve our chances of interpreting what their meaning was. It's probably the find of a lifetime. I can't imagine lucking upon anything else of this scope."

The Knights Templar and the Shroud of Turin

Research suggests the Shroud of Turin -- said to be Jesus' burial cloth -- was hidden by medieval knights for more than a century, the Vatican said Sunday.

The Vatican's weekly newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said a researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives has found a document that suggests the shroud was hidden by the Knights Templar and secretly venerated for more than 100 years during the 13th century.

A similar relic is known to have been worshipped in Constantinople, and to have disappeared from there during the sack of the city by Crusaders, including Knights Templar, in 1204.

Researcher Barbara Frale told the newspaper that the missing years had long puzzled historians. The findings are based on a document which includes an account of a Templar initiation rite in 1287 of a young Frenchman, Arnaut Sabbatier.

"(I was) shown a long piece of linen on which was impressed the figure of a man and told to worship it, kissing the feet three times," said the document.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Update on the Earthquake in Abruzzo

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that two strong aftershocks, one registering 4.7 on the MMS scale and lasting for around a minute, shook buildings at 11:27 Tuesday and resulted in shaky plaster and cornices collapsing in L'Aquila. The aftershocks caused panic among survivors who had spent the night in their cars outside their homes, many of whom fled away from the buildings fearing further collapse.

Government officials also noted that between 10,000 to 15,000 buildings damaged or destroyed, and that 30 million euro has been requested by culture officials for emergency works to shore up the most important architectural treasures.

Earthquake hits medieval Italian city of L'Aquila

At least 200 people have people have killed and more than 1500 injured in the Abruzzo region of Italy after an earthquake struck near the city of L'Aquila. The earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, and has left nearly all medieval monuments in L'Aquila damaged. The bell tower of the Basilica of San Bernardino has collapsed and its apse was seriously damaged. The church of Anime Sante in Piazza Duomo no longer has a dome. The Cathedral of L'Aquila was not damaged. There are also reports on damage to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Collemaggio.

In L’Aquila, the regional capital, the earthquake caused “significant damage to monuments,” said Giuseppe Proietti, secretary general of the Italian Culture Ministry. The rear part of the apse of the Romanesque basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, much of which was restored in the 20th century, collapsed and cupolas in at least two churches in the historic center had cracked open. The Basilica, with its famed pink-and-white jewel-box façade, was the site of the coronation of Pope Celestine V in 1294 and thousands of pilgrims still flock there each year.

The third floor of the 16th-century castle that houses the National Museum of Abruzzo was also affected by the quake, though officials have not been able to verify the damage to the art collection there.

Created in 1950, the Museum unified the collections of the civic and diocesan museums as well as a private collection of paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries and includes a beautifully preserved fossilised skeleton of a prehistoric elephant found near the town in the 1950s.

The castle suffered a collapse on its third floor and is too dangerous to enter, according to Proietti. "The store rooms where damaged works are kept safe are also in areas that have collapsed or unstable," said Proietti, who added that he was gathering a team of heritage experts from other regions to help salvage the works.

The Porta Napoli, the oldest and most beautiful gate to the city built in 1548 in honour of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was destroyed in the quake.

“The situation is very serious,” but findings are at a preliminary stage, Mr. Proietti said. He added that only after firefighters and civil protection teams had concluded their rescue efforts and search for survivors would the state’s art officials be allowed to enter into the rubble-strewn cities to calculate the material losses to Abruzzo’s cultural heritage.

“Right now, getting around is impossible,” he said in a telephone interview.

Monday’s earthquake was not the first to strike the central Italian city. In 1703, a quake destroyed much of the medieval historic center, which was then rebuilt in the Baroque style, according to Alessandro Clementi, who has written several books on the history of L’Aquila, which was founded in the 13th century and had its moment of greatest socioeconomic importance in the Renaissance.

Throughout the region of Abruzzo there are reports of severe damage in several towns and cities, including:

Santo Stefano di Sessanio: the quake brought down the medieval stone Medicean tower, the symbol of the fortified hillside village.

Celano: The main altar of the Baroque Sant'Angelo Church collapsed in this town, the seat of feudal lords who ruled the Abruzzo and Molise regions in the Middle Ages.

Teramo: The quake badly damaged the facade of the church of Sant'Agostino, shifted a bell tower at the convent of San Domenico and brought down the ceiling of the church of Poggio Cono.

Paganica: The baroque church of Santa Maria Assunta in this suburb of L'Aquila was badly damaged, with chunks missing from the pale yellow structure and cracks running through it.

Loreta Apruntino: The quake brought down the bell tower on the church of St. Francis.

Goriano Sicoli: The tremblor badly damaged the facade of the Saint Gemma church, and also destroyed an elementary school.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Plymouth State University

The 30th annual Medieval and Renaissance Forum will be held at Plymouth State University April 24-25. Plymouth-area and PSU community members are invited to attend free, informative sessions on a variety of topics ranging from Alchemy, Kabbalah and Dreams in the Middle Ages to the performance of Renaissance Drama. PSU Professor Karolyn Kinane said the event will be stimulating and fun.

"Where else can you participate in a live chess match, chain mail workshops, and archery demonstrations, then stroll down the hall to learn from renowned scholars about dreams, imagination, and fantasy in the Medieval and Renaissance eras," Kinane said. "This year, outstanding students and scholars from India, Ireland, Canada and all over the U.S. will share their latest research with PSU and the Plymouth-area community."

The keynote talk by Carole Levin, Willa Cather Professor of History at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, will be on "Haunting Dreams of Women in Early Modern England" and will be held Saturday, April 25, from 1:15-2:15 p.m.

Many events are free and open to the public. Tickets are required for the following events:

Friday: Lunch celebrating 30 years of the Medieval and Renaissance Forum at PSU; Planetarium talk celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's discoveries; Ensemble Chaconne performing the Music of Shakespeare's Plays. This performance will be $12 regular admission and $9 students and seniors.

Saturday: Lunch preceding keynote talk; Medieval and Renaissance Feast featuring Roger the Jester. Kinane noted the Feast offers more than just food.

"In addition to authentic medieval and Renaissance foods, mead, and grog presented in a multi-course meal, we'll have the handwashing and knighting ceremonies and ribald entertainment from Roger the Jester," Kinane said. "This year we're also bringing a Venetian masquerade feel to the feast. Participants can decorate their own masks or draw from the batch of masks we'll provide. And as always, costumes are encouraged! It's a great way to unwind after so two days of lively intellectual exchange and debate."

Go to the Forum website for more information.

Experts unveil new Da Vinci portrait

A previously unknown portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, which shows the artist and inventor as a middle-aged man with long hair, has been found. The painting was discovered in a collection belonging to a family in Basilicata, Italy. Nicola Barbatelli, the medieval historian who found it, said tests showed that it dates to the late 15th or early 16th century, when Leonardo was alive. It will be part of an exhibition of portraits of Leonardo in Vaglio di Basilicata until August.

Medieval Islamic glass bowl fetches $2.2 million

A 650-year-old decorated glass bucket from Syria or Egypt sold for 1.55 million pounds ($2.2 million) at auction on Wednesday, around double the pre-sale estimate and 20 times what the same item fetched in 2000.

The bucket is actually a glass finger bowl, intricately gilded and decorated with colourful enamels, that dates from 14th century Egypt or Syria. It was made during the Mamluk dynasty that ruled the region from 1250 to 1517.

Passed around during meals attended by the dynasty's elite, an inscription on it reads: "I am a toy for the fingers shaped as a vessel. I contain cool water."

The last time the bucket was sold nine years ago it raised 75,000 pounds at Christie's when it was believed to have been made in France in the second half of the 19th century.

Only four other similar buckets are known to exist and three of them are in major museum collections in Cairo, Lisbon and Kassel, Germany. The location of the fourth bucket is unknown.

Despite the price paid for the medieval glass vessel at Sotheby's, it fell well short of recent Islamic auction highlights.

In October, a 1,000-year-old carved rock crystal ewer fetched 3.2 million pounds, and in April last year a 12th century key to the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest site in Islam, sold for 9.2 million pounds, then a record for an Islamic work of art at auction.

How Medieval Nuns Invented the Postcard

SUNY Cortland issued the following news release:

Using flowery calligraphy and gorgeous illustrations, medieval women copied countless words of wisdom into manuscripts, a topic medieval scholar Kathryn Rudy will discuss on Wednesday, March 25, at SUNY Cortland.

Rudy, curator of illuminated manuscripts with the National Library of The Netherlands, will give an illustrated lecture on "How Medieval Nuns Invented the Postcard," starting at 5 p.m. in Sperry Center, Room 104.

The presentation is part of the College's celebration of Women's History Month, with a series of films, speakers, workshops and art exhibitions through March 30. Presented by the College's Women's Studies Committee, the events are free and open to the public.

Rudy asserts that Hollywood versions of the Middle Ages often omit women, who were important players in the construction of medieval libraries.

"Imagine the following scene from 'The Name of the Rose': a gaunt monk in a dank monastery bends over a desk, where he is copying a volume of the Consolations of Philosophy, which will become part of a labyrinthine monastic library," she said.

Yet in the centuries before the printing press, nuns as well as monks made books by hand, she said.

"Especially in Northern Europe, women living in monastic communities probably made even more manuscripts than their male counterparts," Rudy said. "Women copied books and, despite having limited access to artistic training, made illuminations."

Rudy's illustrated lecture will show what kinds of images nuns and religious women made in the 15th century and how they used those images in new ways.

Rudy, who lives in London and The Netherlands, has held her current position with the National Library of The Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) since 2006.

She graduated from Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in history of art. She earned masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Rudy received a Licentiate in Mediaeval Studies Summa cum laude, ars sacra, from University of Toronto's Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, St. Michael's College in Toronto.

She also completed residential fellowships as the Samuel H. Kress Professor at The Warburg Institute in London; a post-doctoral fellow in the Departments of Dutch Literature and Art History, Utrecht University; and as the Andrew Mellon Fellow of the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, University of Toronto. Rudy has another underway with the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek.

She has lectured and taught around the world.

Rudy has a book forthcoming this year, Nuns' Virtual Pilgrimages in the Late Middle Ages (Turnhout: Brepols) and is the editor of several texts and the author of numerous articles.

Her lecture is sponsored by the SUNY Cortland Art and Art History Department, the Campus Artist and Lecture Series, the Cortland College Foundation, Women's Studies, and the Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies.

For more information about the presentation, contact Barbara Wisch, professor of art and art history, at (607) 753-4316 or

For more information about Women's History Month, contact Mechthild Nagel, director of the College's Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies and interim Women's Studies coordinator, at (607) 753-2013 or