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  • Medieval Marvels: Italian Dragonets August 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Marvels: Italian Dragonets

    Beach recently ran across this legend in the work of the endlessly fascinating Gervase of Tilbury, an English writer with a penchant for the impossible or failing that the improbable. There is an island in Tuscany pertaining to the domain of Count Ildebrandino, in which there are winged snakes which look like dragons. As soon […]

    Twin Countries July 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Twin Countries

    This is an idea that has been going around and around in Beach’s head for a few years, the way that certain pairs of countries seem to have a strange sense of reciprocated fascination with each other. Three examples from Europe: Ireland and Germany; France and Poland; Italy and Britain. All these pairings include an […]

    The Furthest Viking Raid June 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Furthest Viking Raid

    From the very late eighth century Scandinavians left their homelands to raid. These raiders were called vikings and historians usually capitalize the word to give us the Vikings: pagan crusaders out for money, slaves, blood and saga-glory. They began with what was close at hand, the northern islands (Shetland, Orkney etc), then they moved onto […]

    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 […]

    Perugian Witch, 1908 April 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Perugian Witch, 1908

    Perugia is a marvelous medieval city in Umbria, about half way between Rome and Florence. The following account of early twentieth-century witchcraft there was not, in itself, remarkable, but Perugia has a special place in Beach’s heart and so he hoped vainly perhaps, that someone could fill in the blanks. The great problem with Italian […]

    The Real Romeo and Juliet April 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Real Romeo and Juliet

    It is always pleasant in history to look back to the moment when something began; when the unwinding shoot starts to fracture the seed shell. It is the evening of 26 February 1511 and Antonio Savorgnan and his men are enjoying a ball at his sister Maria Savorgnan’s house in Udine (Italy), Piazza Venerio. The evening is tense. […]

    The Moro Séance #3: The Explanation March 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Moro Séance #3: The Explanation

    There has been much theorizing about what really happened at the séance. Let’s review the possibilities. The first possibility is that the séance never took place; that it was a simple legal strategy to give information to the police without having to actually implicate anyone or explain where that information came from. The second possibility […]

    The Moro Séance #2: The Protagonists March 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Moro Séance #2: The Protagonists

    In the previous post Beach introduced the Moro Seance. Here instead let’s go into more detail about the actors around the table. There were, by most accounts, twelve people including girlfriends, in the house that day but three names stand out: Romano Prodi, Mario Baldassarri and Alberto Clò. The three names were all economics professors […]

    The Moro Séance #1: The Background March 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Moro Séance #1: The Background

    On 16 March 1978 the Rome commando of the Red Brigade carried out a deadly and efficient attack on a leading Christian Democrat politician Aldo Moro. They murdered five bodyguards on the spot and carried Moro into a two month captivity that would end with this death in the boot of a car. The Moro […]

    Photo: The Four (and Ciano) at Munich February 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Photo: The Four (and Ciano) at Munich

    One of the great twentieth-century photographs. The four men who dominate Europe in late September 1938 stand side by side. On the left, looking as if he has an umbrella up his bottom, there is Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister and pioneer of Britain’s disastrous experiment with appeasement. Connoisseurs of the British national character will […]

    An Outstanding Italian Ghost Story January 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Outstanding Italian Ghost Story

    This is an Italian memory of a British traveller, it is also a rather good ghost story. The non consequality of many of the events is effective. I had the pleasure many years ago of staying for some days at San Donato, in Chianti. It is about thirty miles from Florence. The way of life […]

    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 […]

    Nine Moments When the Axis Lost the War August 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nine Moments When the Axis Lost the War

    The sequel to Beach’s seven reasons why Germany lost the Great War. 1) When Germany didn’t destroy the British Expeditionary Force: at the end of May 1940 about a third of a million British servicemen, the Empire’s entire European army was trapped in a small pocket on the northern French coast. Demoralised, with their equipment […]

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