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  • In Search of Medieval Pain February 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    In Search of Medieval Pain

    First, a small rider. Beach would prefer to spend ten minutes in the company of medieval artists, than two hours in the company of the Renaissance ‘masters’. However, he has recently been disappointed in a search for pain among his favourite twelfth-, thirteenth- and fourteenth-century painters. In his naivety he thought that crucifixion scenes and […]

    How Gerbils Killed Millions February 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    How Gerbils Killed Millions

    One of the most exciting areas of plague research in the last year has been the question of what transmitted the Black Death from central Asia into the distant but well populated margins of Euro-Asia in the fourteenth century. The answer which has been patly trotted out for over a hundred years now is that a rat […]

    Flesh-Eating Icelandic Elves February 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Flesh-Eating Icelandic Elves

    [Brian Froud image?] About a month ago Beach ran a post describing a fairy ritual from early medieval Iceland, albeit one recorded in a twelfth-century life (see link for precious comments by Lief). Here is another example of an Icelandic work recording religious fairy lore. This is from Kormáks saga, a difficult to date work […]

    The Violent Deaths of Scottish Kings February 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Violent Deaths of Scottish Kings

    Readers may remember that Beach has recently been messing about with royal statistics. The exercise is a simple one. If you happen to be born into a royal dynasty between the year 1000 and 1700 and have the great misfortune to become king or queen what are the chances that you will die by violence? […]

    European Kings: the Most Dangerous Job in the World? February 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    European Kings: the Most Dangerous Job in the World?

    Last week’s silly post on royal tennis deaths and flashbacks from Game of Thrones got Beach thinking. We all die, but if you were a European monarch what were the chances that someone would kill you? The weekends are short so Beach limited himself to England. From 1000-1700 there were 43 monarchs: obviously there is some […]

    The Game of Dead (French) Kings February 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Game of Dead (French) Kings

    Tennis, one of the most dangerous games ever created, at least if you are a royal… Beach does not have the exact figures for how many royals ruled Europe from 1000-2000 but an approximate calculation brings up 1200. Of those twelve hundred three died from tennis, a small amount admittedly, a mere quarter of a percent, […]

    Goodbye Constantinople February 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Goodbye Constantinople

      ***Some might like to listen to the very topical Strange History theme song while reading this, thanks to Chris S for the tip*** The night of 28 May 1453 the Emperor of Byzantine, Constantine, ‘the eleventh of his name’, went for a ride with his friend, George Sphrantzes, on the city walls of Constantinople, […]

    Green Children of Woolpit 5: Parallels January 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Green Children of Woolpit 5: Parallels

    Beach must start with apologies. He promised four posts on the green children but he was not able to contain himself. Here, then, is a fifth dreamt up in the outer rings of fever in the last couple of days (flu now been ravaging for a week). Beach set himself a simple question: to what […]

    Green Children of Woolpit 4: Why Bean Stalks? January 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Green Children of Woolpit 4: Why Bean Stalks?

    The fourth and final post on the green children of Woolpit and this time the mystery of the beans. First, William: ‘Cum ergo inedia iam paene deficerent, nec tamen aliquid ciborum, qui offerebantur, attenderent, forte ex agro contigit fabas inferri, quas illico arripientes, legumen ipsum in thyrsis quaesierunt, et nihil in concavitate thyrsorum invenientes amare […]

    Green Children of Woolpit 3: Why Green Skin? January 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Green Children of Woolpit 3: Why Green Skin?

    Of the green children of Woolpit William of Newburgh writes: Ex his fossis tempore messis, et occupatis circa frugum collectionem per agros messoribus, emerserunt duo pueri, masculus et femina, toto corpore virides, et coloris insoliti, ex incognita materia veste operti. John Clark translates this, in his recent brilliant essay, as: ‘Out of these ditches, at […]

    Green Children of Woolpit 2: The Mysterious Source X January 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Green Children of Woolpit 2: The Mysterious Source X

    Any historical problem is based on sources and with the mystery of the Green Children of Woolpit there are three sources to be reckoned with. There is William of Newburgh, there is Ralph Coggeshall and there is, Beach is convinced, Document X, a now lost work that both writers drew upon. However, before getting to […]

    The Green Children of Woolpit 1: All Hail John Clark! January 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Green Children of Woolpit 1: All Hail John Clark!

    The green children of Woolpit is one of the most fascinating stories to come out of our medieval records. Two children, coloured green, without any knowledge of English and with unusual dietary requirements turn up in a pit just outside a Suffolk village. They are adopted by the local lord, one dies and the other […]

    Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age? January 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age?

    Exciting article by Finbar McCormick from 2009, one that somehow passed Beach by, ‘Struell Wells’, The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (2009), 45-62. FM begins with a careful description of a nineteenth-century Irish water shrine, the Struell Wells (Downpatrick). This shrine is credited through St Patrick with the power of curing. Crowds would […]

    Tamils in Sumatra: An Inscription January 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Tamils in Sumatra: An Inscription

    Inscriptions come in many shapes and sizes from graffiti scratched in Romanesque churches, to the huge stone book of Gal-Potha in Sri Lanka, to the panel recalling the first Chinese Christians. However, in Beach’s endless quest to hunt down the bizarre he recently stumbled upon this classic. It was found in Sumatra and was put up […]

    Fighting Sea Monsters with Vinegar in Medieval Iran December 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fighting Sea Monsters with Vinegar in Medieval Iran

    One of the joys of ancient and medieval geographies are the small ethnographic details that sound strange, but that might just possibly be based on fact. The following comes from the works of Chang De, a thirteenth century ambassador and informant for a famous Chinese work, The Record of an Embassy to the Regions of […]

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