jump to navigation
  • Is St Francis’ Horn Egyptian? April 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Is St Francis' Horn Egyptian?

    A medieval ivory horn is pictured with two mysterious wooden rods, which look like nunchaku, but were actually ‘silence sticks’, banged together before a sermon. The horn is kept at Assisi among the most precious relics of St Francis (obit 1226), because this horn, says tradition, was brought back by Francis from Egypt as a […]

    St Thomas and the Meretrix April 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    St Thomas and the Meretrix

    This is one of the great scenes from Catholic hagiography. St Thomas of Aquinas has just been kidnapped by his own family and locked up in a room with a naked woman. OK, yes, yes, we can backpedal a moment…. Thomas was born to a noble Campanian clan and as a younger son, the youngest […]

    For the Birds? Francis and the Feathered Tribe March 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    For the Birds? Francis and the Feathered Tribe

    This brilliant illustration is from Hark The curious episode when St Francis preaches to the birds is one of those famous (everyone knows it) but little read (well have you?) experiences in western hagiography. Today Beach tracked down an English translation from this site and more importantly the Latin from Thomas of Celano, Francis’ first […]

    Praying a Child to Death March 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Praying a Child to Death

    This is particularly strange case from 1893. We are in the far north east of England, but in an urban area and not one particularly associated with witchcraft. Difficult to interpret this in any way: mental illness does not work (easily) because there were two miscreants. Help gratefully received. At the South Shields Police Court, […]

    Sister Trouble: The Sacrifice March 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sister Trouble: The Sacrifice

    Apologies for this one. But there is so obviously a good Roald Dahl short story to be had here, the tale needs to be shared. A murder has just been committed at Fontchristiann, near Briancon, France, under very extraordinary circumstances. Two sisters, named Marie and Catherine Ollagnier, aged 45 and 47 respectively, lived together in […]

    Frederick II: Medieval Multiculturalism? January 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Frederick II: Medieval Multiculturalism?

    Frederick II stands as one of the most fascinating figures of the Middle Ages. Not the least interesting aspect of his personality was his entirely unmedieval attitude to God and to matters religious, perhaps partly a result of his upbringing in a still residually Muslim Sicily: he had a disconcerting habit of acting like an enlightenment […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #4: Waldensian Cats November 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #4: Waldensian Cats

    Another in our description of the cult of hate for medieval cats. The following text is anonymous and appeared in a fourteenth-century hand in MS Cotton Julius D, xi, fol. 84 r. It is short and it entitled Errores Valdensium, the Errors of the Waldensians. The Waldensians, for the uninitiated were a Christian sect that […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #3: Dominic’s Cat November 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #3: Dominic's Cat

    Looking at medieval cat hating Beach came across this reference, from Etienne of Bourbon (again ran into the story in that wonderful book of Barillari, Protostoria della Strega, the translation though is not hers). We are no longer with the cat in a sabat. But this has to be one of the best demon descriptions of […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #1: The Rope Cat November 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #1: The Rope Cat

    The black cat has been visited before on this blog: particularly the question of luck and cats. In three special posts we want to visit the question of why black cats came to be so hated in many parts of Europe. Here is one of the most interesting early texts, which comes from Walter Map, […]

    Fat Virgin Mary in the Lost Provinces September 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fat Virgin Mary in the Lost Provinces

    In 1871 Prussia (on its way to becoming Germany) seized by force and then won by negotiation Alsace and Lorraine, an act that secured their Rhine territories and that arguably led to two world wars: the lost provinces would cost millions of lives. ‘What flag flies over Strasburg?’ asks a nineteenth-century politician returned from the […]

    Dead Babies and Creature and Vitalis September 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dead Babies and Creature and Vitalis

    You are reading through a medieval or early modern English record and you come across the name Vitalis or alternatively Creature, as you will from time to time. Two random examples. Vitalis, son of Richard Engaine, and Sara his wife, released his manor of Dagworth in 1217 to Margery de Cressi. 1550, Nov 5. Buried […]

    Unlucky Minister and Fishing Boats September 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Unlucky Minister and Fishing Boats

      Priests and monks have long considered to be unlucky in European folklore. If you met a priest in 1400 walking down a Derbyshire or Pyrenean road you would straight away do something to ward off bad luck: touch wood, your testicles etc etc. Priests and monks understandably got quite testy at being treated as albatrosses, […]

    Waldensian Courage, Waldensian Blood September 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Waldensian Courage, Waldensian Blood

    In a recent post Beach looked at the extraordinary survival of the Waldensians, a courageous proto-Protestant sect, which  managed to weather the full rage of the Church in the Alps between France and Italy. The history of the Waldensians is a long catalogue of courage and atrocity: the courage of the Waldensians and the violence of the […]

    The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy August 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy

    Imagine this. You wake up one morning in 1216 and say ‘to hell with it’. You walk into the local square of piazza stand on an upturned wheelbarrow and talk to your neighbours about the cosmos. Perhaps you’ve learnt that Christ married Mary Magdalene and had twins; or that the angels are worms in universal […]

    Horse God in Early Modern Cornwall! June 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Horse God in Early Modern Cornwall!

    In 1595 a Spanish raid on Cornwall in South-western England took place under Captain Carlos de Amezola. Amezola landed his men at Mount’s Bay and burnt several ships, churches and hundreds of houses in Penzance, Newlyn, Paul and Mousehole, some of the most westerly English settlements. This small act of warfare was, of course, absolutely […]

    Page 1 of 712345...Last »