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  • Gay Ponte Vecchio and the Office of the Night April 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Gay Ponte Vecchio and the Office of the Night

    Florence was famous in the renaissance for its relative tolerance for homosexuality. True, after one sermon by Bernardino of Siena bonfires were prepared for any ‘sodomites’ and Savonarola and his allies were also violently disposed towards homosexual citizens. However, homosexuals were not, outside of Christian rhetoric, routinely burnt and in many cases ‘the Office of […]

    Canary Slaves in the Arab World April 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Canary Slaves in the Arab World

    It is sometimes said that the furthest travelled people in the ancient and medieval world were slaves. Consider four points. First, average men and women were not foolish enough to pass beyond the frontiers. Second, when they were foolish enough to travel they often risked becoming slaves (St Patrick, Frumentius… there are many examples). Third, […]

    Bible Sandwich April 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Bible Sandwich

    Would you eat a Bible? Unless under duress probably not. However, the Bible has long been resorted to as food particularly in charms. Bede, in the early eighth century, may give us the earliest version of this idea in the first chapter of the first book of the Ecclesiastical History. Noting that snakes cannot dwell […]

    The 5 Greatest Historical Graphic Novels March 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The 5 Greatest Historical Graphic Novels

    Graphic novels must be, surely, the most underestimated genre in the modern arts: perhaps about 40% of the adult population have such strong feelings that, with the exception of Charlie Brown, they could not bring themselves to pick up a comic. This is a tragedy. There are great works out there that have been largely ignored and […]

    Macarius and the World Soul March 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Uncategorized
    Macarius and the World Soul

    Nothing like a medieval eccentric, there are so few of them: this was an age, after all, when originality was neither enjoyed nor, all too often, tolerated. How about Macarius then, allegedly an Irish monk though that name – Greek? – doesn’t seem Gaelic or the kind of name that Gaels would adopt in their […]

    Jacob of Edessa’s America March 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Jacob of Edessa's America

    Many readers of Beachcombing will know Beach’s fellow bizarrist, Esoterx, who writes fascinating posts about ancient, medieval and modern history and in Beach’s humble opinion has the best and wittiest headlines on the internet: a recent discussion of Hellenic religion was called, for example, ‘Muppet Theology’. Often Beach knows Esoterx’s sources, as the two share […]

    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 […]

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