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  • Richard III: Between the Bust and the Face February 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Richard III: Between the Bust and the Face

    ***Dedicated to Jround*** The excitement over the discovery of Richard III’s body has been entirely understandable: the documentaries, the articles, even an obituary in The Economist. But there at the centre of it is that reconstruction (above), which means that Richard III has now the best known of all English monarchs’ faces. How accurate though […]

    The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives February 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives

    ***Dedicated to KR who pointed Zenwards*** The story (as always) is a simple one, perhaps deceptively, perhaps dishonestly so. In 1558 in Dello scoprimento dell’ isole Frislanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda e Icaria fatto sotto il Polo artico da’ due fratelli Zeni, M. Nicolo il K. e M. Antonio (Of the Discovery of Frisolanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda and Icara […]

    The Celtic Church: A Defence of Kinds February 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Celtic Church: A Defence of Kinds

    The ‘Celtic Church’ is the phrase commonly used to describe the version of Christianity that triumphed in much of Britain and Ireland throughout the early Middle Ages, say 400-800. Historians of the calibre of Patrick Wormald (RIP), Wendy Davies and Kathleen Hughes (RIP) have argued or even railed against it. What follows is a half-hearted […]

    Viking Zombie February 6, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Viking Zombie

    A Viking zombie story from medieval Iceland courtesy of Chris from Haunted Ohio Books: thanks Chris!! Glam is an uncouth and enormous Swede who is taken on as a shepherd in a ‘haunted’ part of Iceland (Vatnsdal): he is rash enough to guard the sheep from whatever beast comes out in the Icelandic moonlight. This […]

    Henry VIII and Killing February 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Henry VIII and Killing

    Henry VIII (obit 1547) was one of the most talented individuals to have ever walked the earth. He could, in the modern world, have worked as a professional musician or singer, an Olympic sportsman, a politician, a writer or, for that matter, a successful academic (theology, philosophy?). Here was Castiglione’s dream, the perfect Renaissance man […]

    Italy’s Weird Languages February 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Italy's Weird Languages

    Italy is chaotic not just in day-to-day but also in geographical terms. The Apennines that come down from the Alps dominate most of the country and separate out the peninsula into two hundred semi-independent shangrilas. The result is that Italy has always been doomed to social, cultural and linguistic division. Italian itself, the ‘dialect’ of […]

    Inuit as an Unlikely Source for Medieval Charts January 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Inuit as an Unlikely Source for Medieval Charts

    Could you draw a perfect, to scale map of the area that you live? Close your eyes, consider the fields, the rivers and streets and then give it a go. After you’ve spent ten minutes with some coloured crayons compare your effort with a professionally produced map, contours and all. The chances are that you […]

    Love Goddess #6: All Hail Northumberlandia! January 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval
    Love Goddess #6: All Hail Northumberlandia!

    ***Dedicated to Invisible*** Part of humanity’s long flirtation with the landscape has been the idea that a given locality is a woman. While not universal this repeats itself in many religious systems and sometimes has even made its way into the modern world through placenames. So, in Britain hill, mountain and spur names frequently refer […]

    Wiccans and Fairy Shamans: Priority? January 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Wiccans and Fairy Shamans: Priority?

    In the last thirty years there have been growing numbers of men and women who have expressed a belief in fairies: for a minority of these communion with fairies has come to take on the outlines of a of religious system. We even read of ‘fairy shamanism’ and special ‘congresses’ where believers experiment with contact […]

    In Search of Exotic Blood in Europe, 1000-1900 January 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    In Search of Exotic Blood in Europe, 1000-1900

    DNA gets all over the place. We have looked before at some ‘freak’ examples from the Middle Ages, including Amerindian blood in medieval Iceland and Indian DNA in eleventh century England. But after dethroning Britain’s only Indian Prime Minister the other day Beach decided to go after easier prey, namely Europeans from 1000-1900 who had […]

    The Mysterious End of the Western Settlement January 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Mysterious End of the Western Settlement

    Imagine a Mary Celeste incident – an empty apparently abandoned ship – but extended instead to an entire land. At least one such account comes down to us and that is the abandonment of the Western Settlement in Greenland, one of the most mysterious events in European – or is it North American? – history. […]

    Into the Lion’s Mouth January 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Into the Lion's Mouth

    What do Lorenzo the Magnificent (obit 1492), Henry III of Navarre (obit 1610) and Rudolph Hess (obit 1987) have in common? Well, they were men, they were all born in Continental Europe and they also went defenceless to their enemies and somehow survived to tell the tale, hence the lion’s mouth of the title. First, […]

    Bishop Erik’s Unorthodox Trip, 1121 January 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Bishop Erik's Unorthodox Trip, 1121

    Let’s start with historical orthodoxy. From c. 950-1000 Viking Greenlanders crossed the Davis Strait and set up a settlement or perhaps several small settlements in Canada. This settlement or these settlements may or may not have been just for the summer, but the fact is that, in any case, they were shortlived. The Greenlanders simply […]

    Love Goddess #5: Agnes ‘Madonna’ Sorel January 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Love Goddess #5: Agnes ‘Madonna’ Sorel

    Jean Fouquet was the greatest French painter of the fifteenth century. He is of special interest in this blog because JF created the fifth love goddess in our series: the notorious, terrifying Madonna from the Melun Diptych, c. 1450. Thanks to Invisible for the tip. Let’s start by remembering that madonnas were everywhere in the […]

    Thirteenth-century Viking Legend in Canada? January 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Thirteenth-century Viking Legend in Canada?

    Did the Vikings believe that mythical outlaws dwelt on Canada’s Baffin Island, perhaps parallel to the outlaws of the Icelandic interior that we have looked at before on this blog? It seems unlikely given that Greenlanders – the closest ‘Vikings’ to Baffin – are not supposed by some to have visited North American after about […]

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