Medieval Histories News about the Middle Ages Mon, 01 Sep 2014 20:33:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:22:54 +0000 CFP: Concilium Lateranense IV. Commemorating the Octocentenary of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215

On Monday 30 November 1215 in the Basilica of St John Lateran, Innocent III brought the first assembly of the whole Church since the Council of Chalcedon (451) to a rousing finale by summoning all the delegates to unite in faith and by issuing Ad Liberandam, an encyclical calling for a crusade to liberate the Holy Land. This Council, fourth in the Lateran series but the twelfth ecumenical gathering of the Church in the Western tradition, included the five patriarchs or their representatives, together with more than one thousand bishops, abbots and other dignitaries, both ecclesiastical and secular. At each of the three plenary sessions held on 11, 20 and 30 November respectively, Innocent preached a set-piece sermon whilst, behind the scenes, delegates debated such major issues as who was more worthy to lead the Empire and how to contain the Albigensian heresy.

The accounts of eyewitnesses to the Fourth Lateran Council reveal that Innocent’s consecration of Santa Maria in Trastevere and celebrations for the anniversary of the dedication of the Vatican Basilica served not only to emphasize the history, majesty and ritual of the Church but also offered a welcome respite from the intensive discussions in the Lateran Palace. The Fathers of the Council promulgated seventy decrees, covering topics as diverse as heresy, Jewish-Christian relations, pastoral care and Trinitarian theology as well as ecclesiastical governance. Monks and secular clergy were to be reformed, the nascent mendicant orders welcomed to the Church and diocesan bishops instructed to implement far-reaching conciliar decisions across Christendom.

Eight hundred years on, Lateran IV still stands as the high-water mark of the medieval papacy, its political and ecclesiastical decisions enduring down to the Council of Trent whilst modern historiography has deemed it the most significant papal assembly of the Later Middle Ages. In November 2015, we have a unique opportunity to re-evaluate the role of this Council in the reform of the universal Church. Taking an inter-disciplinary approach, we shall investigate how its decisions affected the intellectual, cultural, social and religious life of the medieval world. We particularly encourage individual papers from disciplines such as art history, theology, canon law, crusade studies, literature and from those who work on relations between Jews and Christians, which we hope will broaden current interpretations of the events of the Council, their subsequent importance and long-term impact. Alternatively, three-paper session proposals on a common theme will also be most welcome.

Papers may be delivered in English, French, German, Italian or Spanish but must be limited to 30 minutes. Abstracts of no more than 200 words with all the necessary contact details should be sent no later than 1 November 2014.

On the committee are: Peter Clarke, (Southampton) Chair; Danica Summerlin (München) Secretary;
Brenda Bolton (London); Barbara Bombi (Kent); Maureen Boulton (Notre Dame);
Christoph Egger (Wien); Damian Smith (Saint Louis); Lila Yawn (Rome)

Please direct any questions to



Further information may be found at the dedicated website,

A description of the council may be found at a website where a list of the Constitutions from 1215 may be found

A part translation may be found here at the Medieval Sourcebook, which also directs to some editions



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Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror Mon, 01 Sep 2014 11:27:56 +0000 Philippe Buc is publishing a new book in 2015 on holy war, martyrdom and terror


In 2015 Philippe Buck, professor at the University of Vienna, will be publishing a new book with the title: Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence and the West, ca. 70 C.E. to the Iraq War (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015). Interested may get a first glimpse of this book and its Longue Durée perspective in a paper from 2007: Some thoughts on the Christian Theology of Violence, medieval and modern, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution.

We need this long historical perspective right now with ISIS raising the banner of the Caliphate and the spectre of the Mahdi in the Middle East and Putin waging war in Ukraine on behalf of Holy Mother Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. Please speed the publication up…

Afficionados of Phillippe Buc will know him from his magisterial book on “The Dangers of Ritual: Between Early Medieval Texts and Social Scientific Theory.” (University of Pennsylvania press 2009)

Cannot wait? There is a possibility this autumn of listening to Philippe Buc lecturing




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Anglo-Saxons – Peaceful or Barbaric? Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:01:42 +0000 The Anglo-Saxons were according to differing political agendas either peaceful immigrants or barbaric warriors. But what were they really? New research brings us perhaps closer to an answer

Around 410 the Romans officially abandoned Britain and withdrew across the cannel. Traditionally this vacuum was believed to be filled with a wave of barbarian incursions of foremost Angles, Saxons and Jutes pressuring the locals – the Britons – into either slavery or migration if not downright killing them in precursor to something akin to Rwanda. This was the official edition of the truth as presented by the few precious more or less contemporary historical sources – foremost Gildas and later Bede. This version was generally accepted until the 1980s.

Contrary to this archaeologists and revisionist historians have of course laboriously worked to show how much more fluid and complex the story was.

  • This was not a story of cultural destruction: Roman lifestyle did live on, although in highly contained pockets and less urban settings.
  • Britons were not wholesale ejected from their former homeland, but continued to live on and farm the land in the traditional manner.
  • The Angles and Saxons were not alone: Frisians were amongst them. And anyway their “ethnic identity” was a later construct established through what became known as the process of ethnogenesis.

All-in-all a paradigm of catastrophe and wholesale cultural destruction was exchanged with a more “friendly” whiggish perspective on the so-called “English Settlement”. In this it was believed that Saxons, Angles and Britons took peacefully part in a new post-Roman multi-cultural society built through commerce, agrarian innovations and the gradual re-Christianization taking place after 597. In late 20th century England, where large contingents of immigrants had to be accommodated, the political agenda was obviously not to reflect upon the cultural consequences of any large-scale import of “others” with an alien culture and religion. Accordingly this was here as elsewhere in Europe denied to have taken place in the 5th and 6th centuries. (It was the same period in which the Vikings turned into peaceful merchants and tradesmen, who only occasionally were tempted by the odd outlying monastery!)

In the 21 century, however, we are right now witnessing millions of Syrian and Iraqi fugitives trying to reach safe havens away from the terror carried out by a group of max 10.000 combat troops aroused by the rhetoric of ISIS. Financed through extortion rackets and slavery they are inflaming young radical warriors from Birmingham to Mosul and bathing responsible politicians in cold sweat.

Does it sound familiar? Whatever the answer to this question is, it has increasingly become obvious that the Anglo-Saxon academic pendulum has swung back again.

Thus a spat of recent articles and books tries once-again to tackle these difficult questions: What was the real character of the “English Settlement”? How many immigrants did it take to implement the Anglo-Saxon cultural take-over of England? And what happened to the Britons?

Cultural hegemony acchieved through small-scale immigration and acculturation

The more traditional view is presented by the authors, Nicholas J. Higham and Martin J. Ryan, of (an otherwise splendid book on) The Anglo-Saxon World. Following a thorough examination of the available sources – onomastic, archaeological, archaeogenetic and paleobotanical – the authors conclude that “on balance scientific approaches tend to favour an “English Settlement” characterised as much by acculturation as migration, and with a majority of the population indigenous.

They believe that the cultural impact of a small a group of well-armed erstwhile pirates, later mercenaries and finally conquerors were able in a time of crisis (post AD 400) to amass huge amounts of Roman silver and other wealth, thus bolstering a cultural and socio-political hegemony over a group of indigenous people hitherto held in contempt and in slavery by their former masters, the Romans. The reasons for limiting the immigration to minor cadres of Angles and Saxons are that so-far archaeo-genetic studies have not been able to prove a shift in the composition of the population (although the authors admit, that evidence of this is still scarce). Other evidence is the peculiar form of organisation of the life of the Angles and Saxons centring on the mead-halls of minor chieftains holding on to their local power-positions through the “invention” of an Anglo-Saxon heritage and tradition held in unison with their compatriots and perhaps kin-group and not least visualized in their elaborate furnished burials from AD 550 and onwards. This decentralised mode of organisation helped to impregnate localities with this new and attractive way of life thus inducing the locals to forget everything including their mother tongue.

Massive Immigration

Opposed to this is the view presented by the archaeologist Heinrich Härke in a recent article in a book written on “Altertumskunde” published in connection with the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Reallexicon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. This article represents the latest summation of his more critical thinking as it has been voiced over the years. An English summery of his thinking may be found in an article published in Medieval Archaeology.

Reacting against the general idea of “immobilism” and “wanderungsfeindlichkeit” exposed by the indigenous Anglo-Saxon scholars of the 20th century, he is a great believer in the evidence presented by the new studies of DNA and stable isotopes. In a series of careful reflections he comes to the conclusion that the post-Roman population of Britain was around 1 mill people. Analyses of the Y-chromosoms of the present-day population indicates a presence of an influx of immigrants with a Frisian, German and Danish ancestry between 24.4 – 72.3 %. This study must for a number of reasons be considered highly tentative (part of this influx may represent “vikings” and questions remains about the impact of mutations of chromosoms etc.); these reservations are shared by Higham and Ryan. However a study of isotopes from the burials at West Heslerton and other as yet unpublished studies demonstrates that the percentage of immigrants was between 17 and 20 % in these localities. According to Härke this fits very well with an analysis of the percentage of warrior-graves in Anglo-Saxon burial fields compared to the number of male graves without weapons. A preliminary survey of 47 cemeteries, with some 1500 male graves were analysed in detail, comparing the archaeological, artefactual and biological data of burials with and without weapons. This analysis has shown that 47% of all male graves were fitted with weapons. A conservative evaluation by Härke is that 20 % of buried males may have belonged to the group of “warriors” indicating an influx of Anglo-Saxons of about 200.000.

The Boat from Nydam, AD 310 -
Boat from Nydam, AD 310 – 320. From: The Musuem at Schloss Gottorp, Schleswig, Northern Germany

Is that at all viable, asks Härke and answers yes! Insofar as the influx might have come over a long time-period (and that is demonstrated by the gradual development of burial-customs), 200.000 people over a period of 100 years equivalate a yearly influx of 2000 persons and between a 100 and 200 yearly transports across the channel using ships like the Nydam-Boat or Sutoon-Hoo. Though Härke does not mention it, it is a fact that precious though the Nydam-boats are, they are “loners”. Excavations of the many Viking-boats in Roskilde have shown how diverse the types were. Further it does not take much imagination to believe that some of these Anglo-Saxons were able to sequester Roman ships (fitted with sails) and enslave their captains. There was without doubt a continuous to-and-fro across the channel – even in the darkest moments of the “Dark Ages”.

Finally Härke mentions a third point, which may have had an impact. If the Britons were considered non-persons by both the Romans and later the Saxons, as Higham and Ryan also believes, it is highly unlikely that they were able to reproduce at the same rate as the more favoured ruling classes. Scientists have talked about an apartheid – system and what it might have contributed to the gradual cultural takeover.

In conclusion Härke states that the specific cultural profile of Anglo-Saxon England came about through a complicated process of ethnogenesis fostered by the cultural interplay between 100.000 and 200.000 immigrants from Southern Denmark, Northern Germany and Friesland and the indigenous Britons, who between 500 and 600 gradually became subsumed and enculturated to the way of life and worldview of their superiors. He believes that this process was at an end around 700.

So what were the Anglo-Saxons? Peaceful Immigrants or Barbaric Warriors? The reader is hereby cordially invited to revisit the question and ponder it in view of what is happening in Syria, Iraq and Libya right now. As is well-known, the past is a foreign country and “good” to think with.

Karen Schousboe


The Anglo-Saxon World
By Nicholas J. Higham and Martin J. Ryan
Yale University Press, New Haven and London 2013, pp. 70 – 111

Die Entstehung der Angelsachsen
By Heinrich Härke
In: Altertumskunde – Altertumswisseschaft – Kulturwissenschaft: Erträge und Perspektiven navn 40 Jahren Reallexocon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. RGA-E-Band 77, pp. 429 -458.
De gruyter 2012, Berlin and Boston.

Anglo-Saxon Immigration and Ethnogenesis
By Heinrich Härke
In: Medieval Archaeology 2011, Vol. 55 No. 1 pp. 1-28


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Hagiography in Carolingian Lombardy Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:07:13 +0000 Hagiography was a popular form of literature used to promote local political interests in Carolingian Lombardy

Carolingian hagiographies from Lombardy functioned as vigorous and highly competitive forms of pleading and political PR. According to new research they constituted a coherent group with a limited range of sanctity models. However a marked preference for the local martyrs and bishops from their local regions reveals a highly competitive milieu, wherein local bishops tried to further their diverse agendas in a shifting political landscape. In this the praxis differed from North of the Alps where the promotion of a cult and the translation of relics required royal or imperial approval. Down South it was if not a free-for-all, at least highly entertaining way of at least trying to keep some sort of independence from the encroachment of neighbours.

Nowhere was this more apparent in the on-going fight between Pavia – the former capital of the Lombard kingdom – and Milan, the new religious centre in the Carolingian kingdom south of the Alps. This meant that the scriptoria of bishops came to act as the local production sites par excellence, while the large royal monasteries up North of the Alps were playing that role. Both, however, took part in the general movement of correction, “the cultural movement that was meant to ensure the successful integration of the Roman and Christian empire reborn under Charlemagne”, writes Giorgia Vocino in a highly entertaining article, recently published in “Early Medieval Europe” (2014)

Under the aegis of the saints. Hagiography and power in early Carolingian Northern Italy
By Giorgia Vocino
In: Early Medieval Europe 2014, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 26–52


In the transition from the Lombard to the Carolingian period, hagiography came to play a fundamental role in the strategies of legitimation and representation of the episcopal churches of the regnum Langobardorum. This article gives an overview of the features, choices, tastes and models of sanctity characteristic of Italian hagiography, against the background of local contexts and political competition. It demonstrates that in the territories under Frankish rule, hagiography represented a chief instrument in the hands of the ecclesiastical elites to shape and use the past in light of the concerns of the present.


Georgia Vocino, Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften

The article builds on the dissertation of Giorgia Vocino: Santi e luoghi santi al servizio della politica carolingia (774-877): Vitae e Passiones del regno italico nel contesto europeo (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia 2010). The thesis can be downloaded from


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Landscape Changes in Central Italy Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:14:38 +0000 From 200 BC to AD 1300 the landscape at the Etruscan Coast in Central Italy changed from forest to maquis and back again.

Long term analysis of charcoal-deposits from 200 BC to AD 1300 explores how the landscape at The Etruscan Coast in Central Italy changed from forest to maquis and back again. The reason was changing patterns of human interaction with the land and its resources and not changes in climate, concludes a team of scientists and archaeologists in a recent article.

Human-derived landscape changes on the northern Etruria coast (western Italy) between Roman times and the late Middle Ages
By Gaetano Di Pasquale, Mauro Paolo Buonincontri, Emilia Allevato, Antonio Saracino  and Mauro Paolo Buonincontri, University of Naples Federico II, via Università
In: The Holocene. Published online before print August 20, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0959683614544063


Anthracological studies - studies of wood charcoal from archaeological sites in order to develop an understanding of the ways in which communities used the plants and trees around them – has been carried out in three sites located on the Tyrrhenian coast of central Italy, ancient northern Etruria. More precisely the following places:

The analysis spans the period between the Roman Republican Period and the Late Middle Ages (200 BC–1300 AD).

The integrated comparison of charcoal data from 2456 samples from the three different localities with regional pollen and micro-charcoal data available from elsewhere in northern Etruria shows that the changes in vegetation were completely independent of climate. Instead they were connected to the economic and social dynamics, which characterise the history of this part of Central Italy.

In the beginning Quercus ilex forests progressively retracted from 3rd century BC in favour of open maquis scrubland. This reflected the growing human impact of Romanisation characterised by intensive agriculture and livestock grazing. The transition from maquis to deciduous Quercus forest at the end of the Roman Period from AD 450 – 550 and lasting until AD 800 – 900 is related to economic and cultural factors characterised by the abandonment of land. Finally between AD 1000 -1200 the vegetation cover shifted once again towards open maquis scrubland. At the same time re-settlement took place, as evidenced by intensive orchards. Charcoal data also showed that the expansion of olive and chestnut trees in central Italy first became prolific from AD 1000 and not in the Roman Period.

This means that extensive cultivation of chestnuts and olives has very recent origins and should be attributed to the introduction of a feudal system and the later political organism of the medieval towns.



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Gerald of Wales Wed, 27 Aug 2014 11:08:28 +0000 CFP: New Perspectives on Gerald of Wales: Texts and Contexts

Gerald of Wales is the topic for an interdisciplinary congress at Harvard in from 10.04.2014 – 11.04.2013

Gerald of Wales, also known as Giraldus Cambrensis or Gerald de Barri, is one of the most widely referenced authors of the twelfth century, and an important source of information for life in the insular medieval world. Much of his work, however, remains understudied, with scholarly focus usually limited to his works on Ireland and Wales, while his religious and other writings remain almost untouched.

Recent scholarship on the complete manuscripts of his works by Catherine Rooney at the University of Cambridge, however, as well as recent studies on his ethnographic writings and the vernacular transmission of his work, has opened up new possibilities and renewed interest in his life and writings, including several forthcoming new editions.

This conference seeks to bring together scholars of Gerald of Wales from around the world, considering this remarkable writer in his own right, both in the context of the twelfth century and throughout the later Middle Ages, stimulating new dialogue and allowing a platform for new work in the future.

This conference invites papers on any aspect of Gerald’s writing, especially welcoming new approaches to his religious writings; the transmission of his work in manuscript, including the construction of stemma; his relationship to other writers of the twelfth century, whether scholastic, historical or otherwise; his relationship with the Angevins; and the legacy of his reception in vernacular languages.

The conference will be hosted by Harvard University’s Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures and the Standing Committee on Medieval Studies.

We are pleased to announce that our plenary addresses will be given by Robert Bartlett (University of St Andrews) and Huw Pryce (Bangor University).

Robert Bartlett is the author of the seminal work Gerald of Wales, 1146-1223 (1983). He is also very well-known for The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change, 950-1350 (1993) as well as his extensive research on medieval cults of saints and English history from the conquest to the fourteenth century. His most recent works include a survey of Christian saints’ cults Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation (2013)  and the Wiles Lectures, The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages (2008). He can also be seen on the recent BBC documentary The Plantagenets (2014).

Huw Pryce has published widely on the history and historiography of medieval Wales. His works on Gerald of Wales include the seminal articles ‘Gerald’s journey through Wales’, ‘In search of a medieval society: Deheubarth in the writings of Gerald of Wales’ and ‘A cross-border career: Giraldus Cambrensis between Wales and England’. His recent books, The Acts of Welsh Rulers 1120-1283 (2005) and J. E. Lloyd and the Creation of Welsh History: Renewing a Nation’s Past (2011), have been very well-received. He is co-editor of Boydell & Brewer’s monograph series Studies in Celtic History as well as the Welsh History Review

Potential presenters should submit an abstract of no more than 250 words to by 31 October 2014. Presentations should be no more than 20 minutes in length.

Read more at the website of the conference New Perspectives on Gerald of Wales: Texts and Contexts


gerald of Wales a voiceGerald of Wales: A Voice in the Middle Ages
By Robert Bartlett
Tempus 2006
ISBN-10: 0752440314 ISBN-13: 978-0752440316

The Manuscripts of the Works of Gerald of Wales.
A palaeographical study of the manuscripts of the works of Gerald of Wales (c. 1146-1223)
By Catherine Margaret Rooney (Thesis). Full text available
Cambridge 2005

The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) by Gerald of Wales,
By Betty Radice and Lewis Thorpe (Eds.)
Penguin Classics 1978
ISBN-10: 0140443398
ISBN-13: 978-0140443394

The History and Topography of Ireland (Penguin Classics)
by Gerald of Wales (Author),
John O’Meara (Translator, Introduction)
Penguin Classics 1983
ISBN-10: 0140444238
ISBN-13: 978-0140444230

Gerald of WalesThe Autobiography of Gerald of Wales
by H. E. Butler (Editor, Translator)
Boydell and Brewer 2005
ISBN-10: 1843831481
ISBN-13: 978-1843831488

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European Society for Environmental History Wed, 27 Aug 2014 09:50:36 +0000 The European Society for Environmental History promotes the study of environmental history in all academic disciplines

ESEH aims to:

  • encourage the study of European environmental history in a comparative perspective;
  • foster communication among environmental historians across Europe, and with colleagues elsewhere;
  • promote the further institutional development of environmental history within secondary and tertiary education;
  • promote the research and use of environmental history in academic programmes;
  • strengthen the crucial link between environmental history, all policy-making, and the general public.

Although it does not focus exclusively on the Middle Ages, it nevertheless cuts across a wide range of geographical areas and historical periods. The Society is worth a closer scrutiny for anyone interested in the history of medieval climate, environments, landscapes or settlement patterns.

In order to achieve these goals ESEH has developed a range of activities since its inception in 1999. The society publishes

Along with the American Society for Environmental History, ESEH co-ordinates H-Environment, an internet discussion forum that keeps subscribers posted about events and issues related to the field.

ESEH also organises biannual conferences at which scholars from all over Europe and the world gather to share their work. Since 2001 ESEH has held six successful conferences in St. Andrews, Prague, Florence, Amsterdam, Turku and Munich. In 2009 ESEH was a member of the consortium hosting the 1st World Conference of Environmental History, 4th to 8th August 2009 in Copenhagen. The 2015 ESEH Conference will be held in Versailles, France. Further information about past and future conferences and the summer schools the Society regularly organizes can be found on the Events page.

Finally ESEH maintains this web site to provide resources and news for scholars and others interested in environmental history.

The Society aims to stimulate dialogue between humanistic scholarship, environmental science and other disciplines. It welcomes members from all disciplines and professions who share its interest in past relationships between human culture and the environment.

The Society invites archaeologists, historians and other scholars to explore the site and learn more about environmental history and the activities of ESEH.


Sheep taking shelter during a flood in Schleswig-Holstein – © Mathias-Königschulte

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Monasteries and the Environment Wed, 27 Aug 2014 09:35:45 +0000 CFP: Monasteries and the Environment –
ESEH Conference in Versailles 30.06.2015 – 03.07.2015

We intend to submit one or two panels on “Monasteries and the Environment” for the ESEH conference in Versailles, France (30.06.2015 – 03.07.2015). The conference will take place at the University of Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines.Papers contributing to the mentioned subject would be very welcome. You will find more information about the planned panel in the abstract below.


Chantal Camenisch, PhD
University of Bern, Institute of History
Section of Economic, Social and Environmental History (WSU)
Länggassstrasse 49
CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland

We invite you to send your abstract (200 – 300 words, including the name, title, affiliation and email address of the presenter(s)) before the 20.09.2014 to

ESEH is an acronym for The European Society for Environmental History

Further information on the ESEH 2015

The overall theme for the conference is Greening History: Studying the Environment across Disciplines, Past, Present and Future.


From the Early Middle Ages through the Modern Period, monasteries have played an important role in European environmental history. Depending on their religious order, the monks sought places in the wilderness near forests or floodplains. Monks cleared forests to obtain cultivated land, and they established field rotations systems. Therefore, monasteries shaped landscapes. Fish ponds were maintained in these places in order to feed the monks during lent. To maintain these fish ponds, elaborate techniques of water use were established and, for the purpose of food production and gaining medicine, the monks planted vegetables and herbs in gardens.


In addition, monasteries were places where the written tradition survived during the Migration Period and in the Early Middle Ages. The monks wrote chronicles on everything important to the monasteries where they lived, including weather anomalies and natural disasters. Later they wrote weather diaries. Written evidence of the perception of nature and the environment have also survived from the early Middle Ages.

This panel aims to trace the activities emanating from monasteries that led to changes in the environment and includes all continents and all epochs, in effort to answer the following questions: What were the reasons for the many interventions into the environment? Which methods did the monks (and nuns) apply for that purpose? How did the monks understand nature and the environment through the centuries? What sources can be used for researching these topics?

Possible topics include but are not limited to

-        Deforestation and land reclamation by monasteries

-        Concepts of landscaping used by different orders

-        Maintenance of gardens in monasteries

-        Maintenance of fish ponds

-        Techniques of water use

-        Innovations and techniques in land use

-        Forest exploitation by monasteries

-        Natural disasters and hazards hitting monasteries

-        Weather observations in monasteries

-        Resource conflicts

-        Perception of environment and nature in monasteries


Channel, originally constructed by the Cistercians at Esrum in Denmark after 1151 © Medieval Histories - Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License

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Managing Hadrian’s Wall Sat, 23 Aug 2014 14:10:36 +0000  “Hadrian was the first to build a wall from sea to sea, 80 miles long, to separate the Romans and the barbarians…”

In AD122 a major construction project was initiated by the Roman emperor Hadrian. Though it is not the longest surviving part of the Roman imperial frontier, nor the best surviving, it continues to hold sway over our imagination. North were – according to the Romans – the blue-painted barbarians in Caledonia. South was civilisation represented by armies, well laid-out forts, baths, temples, statuettes of gods, olive oil, wine and literacy. North were damp forests, peaty bogs, impenetrable mountains and wild-mannered “others”.

This wall (for which different plans were laid) ended up with a 2.5 m thick x 6 m. high wall built of stones. In front was a ditch 9 meters wide and 4.5 meters deep. Behind the wall was another ditch, the vallum, which is poorly understood. Every 8 km. was a fort interspersed with watchtowers. Until around AD 400 the wall continued to play at least some role in the overall defense of Britain against the Northerners.

However,  very early on the wall was also turned into a major tourism attraction. Soon souvenirs were produced in the form of small pans decorated with depictions of the wall and the names of the forts. Later renaissance scholars travelled to the wall in order to explore the geography and layout, while others excavated it in order to produce the vast scholarly literature, which amasses to more than 6000 titles and which continues to grow.

Vindolanda Museum
An important feature of the development of Hadrian’s Wall has been the “new” museums along the wall: here at Vindolanda

In recent years another aspect of the wall has been developed in view of its UNESCO status: the management of the wall as a tourism magnet. The overall question is of course how to both protect and manage the archaeological remains, while at the same time cater for the masses of visitors traipsing up and down the fragile wall in their search for the ultimate selfie (greetings from “me” at “wall”). A new book considers this question in a series of detailed essays, exploring the many dimensions pertaining to the management of a site, which in 2013 attracted 3.5 million staying visitors and brought the substantive sum of £880 million into the local economya remarkable feat in view of the challenges and conflicts, which are created by the very diverse ownership of the site, some of which runs directly through people’s private gardens. In fact more than 50 organisations and 700 private owners belong to the group of “shareholders”. And then there are all the “stakeholders”: archaeologists, conservators, biologists, geographers, tourism agencies etc.

An important new book chronicles this development – or rather transformation – of the management of Hadrian’s Wall, which has taken place since the 90s. Well worth a read!

Managing, Using, and Interpreting Hadrian’s Wall as World Heritage
Springer Briefs in Archaeology

By Peter G. Stone and David Brough (Eds)
Springer: New York, Heidelberg, Dordrecht, London 2014
ISSN 1861-6623
ISSN 2192-4910 (electronic)
ISBN 978-1-4614-93509
ISBN 978-1-4614-9351-8 (eBook)


Managing Hadrian’s Wall in the Twenty-First Century
Prof. Peter G. Stone
Pages 9-13

ABSTRACT: This chapter puts the management of Hadrian’s Wall into a wider professional, academic and chronological context. It identifies a number of strands—the creation of English Heritage with a remit to be more entrepreneurial than its government predecessors, a growing academic concern over the misappropriation of heritage for commercial and political ends and a professional acceptance that heritage management required a particular skill-set—that converged about the same time as Hadrian’s Wall was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This new context created a new set of tensions and issues involved in conserving remnants of the past in the present—and in particular how such sites might contribute in a number of different ways as active components of the contemporary landscape. The chapter then outlines the range and scope of the rest of the book and how it relates to these tensions and issues.

The Archaeology, History and Significance of Hadrian’s Wall
By David J. Breeze, Royal Archaeological Institute, London, UK
Pages 15-20

ABSTRACT: This chapter describes the importance of Hadrian’s Wall in the context of Roman frontier studies. It summarises what we know about the history of the Wall and how our understanding has developed over several generations and, crucially, what key research questions have been identified for future work.

The Management Context
Christopher Young
Pages 21-32
ABSTRACT: This chapter introduces the concept of World Heritage for those readers who may be unfamiliar with the World Heritage Convention and its ideals. The chapter touches on the UK Government’s approach to World Heritage and, in particular, on how its sees its responsibilities towards World Heritage Sites and their management.

The Need for a Management Plan and the 1st and 2nd Plans
Christopher Young
Pages 33-45

ABSTRACT: Chapter 4 outlines the pressures to develop, and antecedents of, the first iteration of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site Management Plan. Simplistically, this 1st Plan was a conservation management plan, drafted and delivered by archaeologists, that was nevertheless ‘cutting edge’ as it alluded to broader interest in the World Heritage Site—for example, education and tourism. The chapter charts the reaction to the 1st Plan and discusses how the, often hostile, reactions to that Plan led to the development of the Management Plan Committee, and, then, the 2nd Plan was drafted with greater participation from stakeholders representing a wider range of interests.

Hadrian’s Wall Tourism Partnership
Jane Brantom
Pages 47-61

ABSTRACT: This chapter summarises the work of the Hadrian’s Wall Tourism Partnership (HWTP). HWTP was initiated in the mid-1990s by the Northumbria Tourist Board with an aim to ‘bring economic, social and environmental benefits to the area around Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site through the promotion and development of sustainable tourism, education, arts and community initiatives linked with the Roman frontier’. The Partnership was given a huge boost in 2000 when it was successful in a bid to the European Union’s (EU) Single Regeneration Budget for a 5 year project around the theme ‘Enterprise and Enrichment’. The project was delivered through six areas of work: Presenting Hadrian’s Wall; Hadrian Means Business; Roving Romans; Marking the Wall; and Access and Sustainable Transport.

Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail and the World Heritage Site. A Case Study in Heritage Access Management
David McGlade
Pages 63-77

ABSTRACT: The Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail opened in 2003 as part of a network of 15 National Trails in England and Wales. These are long distance routes for walking, cycling and horse riding through some of the finest landscapes in the country and the 84 mile Hadrian’s Wall Trail takes walkers along the riverside route in urban Tyneside, through farmland in Tynedale and the grazing upland section dominated by the Whin Sill escarpment before gradually descending to the rich pastures of Cumbria and finally the salt marsh of the Solway Estuary. The development of the Trail was contentious as archaeologists and other conservationists resisted its construction citing concerns that large numbers of walkers would have a damaging impact on the archaeological and natural value of the World Heritage Site. Although these concerns still persist, a robust management regime has protected the monument and natural environment while attracting large numbers of long distance walkers who provide a significant contribution to the local economy. The National Trail project has been cited as a world-leading example of sustainable heritage access management.

The Hadrian’s Wall Major Study and 3rd Management Plan
Prof. Peter G. Stone
Pages 79-87

ABSTRACT: The 2nd Management Plan (2002–2007) identified ‘the contribution which the World Heritage Site and its setting can make to the local economy’ as an issue for further study. The economic importance of the World Heritage Site was further underlined in the work carried out by the Hadrian’s Wall Tourism Partnership’s Single Regeneration Budget ‘Enterprise and Enrichment’ project. As the latter drew to a close, the two relevant Regional Development Agencies commissioned a ‘Major Study’ to look into the potential of Hadrian’s Wall to contribute to the economic regeneration of the North of England. While the Major Study led to the creation of Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd (HWHL—see Chap. 9), the chapter suggests that much more could have been achieved. Alongside these developments, the Management Plan Committee (MPC) produced the 3rd (2008–2013) Plan which was originally drafted by six interest groups. The management of the Wall took a major step forward again, however, in that, supported by HWHL, the interest groups became responsible for delivering the action plans they developed while drafting the Plan.

The Management of Hadrian’s Wall 2006–2012
Linda Tuttiett
Pages 89-100

ABSTRACT: The three main recommendations of the Major Study were (a) that if suitable investment were made in the Wall, and in particular in its infrastructure, presentation, and interpretation, the World Heritage Site (WHS) had the potential to make a significant contribution to the economic regeneration of the North; (b) that the interpretation along Hadrian’s Wall needed to be both more differentiated (with different sites concentration on different stories) and more integrated (see Chap. 11); and (c) that in order to manage such investment a new body, with an overview of the whole Wall, would be needed. A number of partners, including the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), English Heritage, and Natural England, contributed new, or transferred existing, funding to this organisation and Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd. (HWHL) was created in 2006. HWHL became successful in attracting and unlocking funds from a variety of sources and, despite the dismantling of the RDAs and other reductions in government spending, its successor body, the Hadrian’s Wall Trust, is now continuing to build upon that success.

Hadrian’s Wall as World Heritage: The Museums
Lindsay Allason-Jones
Pages 101-113

ABSTRACT: Over the last hundred or so years, a number of museums have grown up along the length of Hadrian’s Wall. Most of these are based at major sites (forts) along the Wall and house collections deriving from that particular site and its hinterland (e.g. museums at Maryport, Vindolanda, and Chesters). Others are not immediately linked to the remains of a site (e.g. those in Carlisle and Newcastle). Some are managed by independent trusts (e.g. Maryport and Vindolanda), some by local organisations (Arbeia and Segedunum) and others by national agencies (e.g. Chesters and Housesteads). This chapter traces very briefly the development of these museums and their integration into the management of Hadrian’s Wall as a whole.

 Managing Interpretation
Genevieve Adkins and Nigel Mills
Pages 115-125

ABSTRACT: The perception of visitors to Hadrian’s Wall identified in the Major Study was that all sites along the Wall presented the same interpretation of the Roman Army and Roman Frontier. Some did it better than others, but once one site had been visited, there was little point for the general visitor to spend time or money visiting more sites. The visitor spend in the region was therefore much less than it could be if visitors decided to stay and visit more than one site. This perception was reiterated in a more detailed work carried out by Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd (HWHL). On the basis of this work, HWHL developed an Interpretation Framework for the whole Wall that allowed sites to develop their own interpretation set within a broader framework that both widened and enhanced the interpretation, thus encouraging visitors to spend more time in the region.

The Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site
David Brough, John Scott
Pages 127-135

ABSTRACT: This chapter charts the creation and development of the serial transnational World Heritage Site across different sections of the Roman imperial frontier. It falls into three parts: (a) the development of the original concept for the transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire (FRE) World Heritage Site to its creation in 2005 and subsequent development; (b) the wider context of serial transnational Sites within World Heritage; and (c) the issues relating to the management of the FRE World Heritage Site as it exists at present.

The Transformation of Management on Hadrian’s Wall… Ask not what World Heritage Can Do for You…
Peter G. Stone

ABSTRACT: This chapter draws the story of the recent management of Hadrian’s Wall to a close. It notes not only the incremental changes in approach to the management plan, which have developed a collective management approach—the major investment in the site—but also a sense of a missed opportunity with respect to the involvement of the Regional Development Agencies. The chapter ends with a challenge to all World Heritage Sites to not only accept the positive aspects of being inscribed as a World Heritage Site but also to work on how they can contribute to helping UNESCO fulfill its own wider goal of attaining world peace.


The one place to get up-to-date information about the wall and its surrounding sites before a visit is the website: Hadrian’s Wall Country



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Hadrian’s Wall Trust Sat, 23 Aug 2014 13:24:50 +0000 The ancient wall faces a very modern threat from government cuts

Until 2006 Hadrian’s Wall suffered from a year-on-year slow decline in the number of visitors. However, in 2006 an independent organization – what was later known as the Hadrian’s Wall Trust – was established to oversee both maintenance and management of the site. Since then, the Wall has seen an increase in visitor numbers of 60 %. As many as one million visit one or more of the 12 wall-museums, while 3.5 million visitors stay overnight in the vicinity of the wall contributing £880 million to the local economy. All-in-all local tourist-offices supply 1.2 million visitors with information.

This growth has without doubt been the result of a concerted effort to coordinate the management of the Wall and develop the collaboration between the more than 50 organisations and 700 owners, which either have a stake in this business or have to live with people wandering through their private gardens or fields.

The fulcrum in all this has without doubt been the “Hadrian’s Wall Trust”, which has spent the last 8 years inspiring and cajoling all these shareholders and stakeholders into envisioning a concerted effort to harvest this growth to their own benefit as well as that of their local communities.

Nevertheless the Trust had to close its doors last week. Originally it operated with a budget of £1.66 Million. However, last year the government abolished the Central Regional Development Agencies, which had contributed the major funding. The final blow came last March: the Trust expected £122,000 from English Heritage but was told it would get £20,000 a year for the next two years. Then Natural England cut its funding by 45 per cent.

The maintenance of the wall itself and its natural tendency to crumble under the weight of the people walking the walk will perhaps not suffer. English Heritage is scheduled to take over this part of the job-description from the ten employees at the Trust. However, many projects will perhaps lack a continuous inspirational impetus. Who, for instance, will oversee the continued development of the Hadrian’s Wall Country Locally Produced Scheme? Who will labour in order to secure funding for such fascinating projects as the major excavations at Roman Maryport intended to enhance our knowledge of this superb example of a Roman coastal fort and civilian settlement?

The answer is: English Heritage in collaboration with the Hadrian Wall’s Tourism Partnership, responsible for the website: Hadrian’s Wall Country. But is this enough? And further: If it ain’t broken, why fix it?

The cuts come in an austere climate where English Heritage and other organisations have had their budgets cut as well as been asked to slim their organizations. However, it does seem odd to destroy the nest of such a golden goose. It reveals there is a serious lack of respect for the organizational framework needed to manage the cultural tourism of the future.


The history behind the development of Hadran’s Wall as a managed World Heritage Site has recently been told in a brand new book, published by Springer: Managing, Using, and Interpreting Hadrian’s Wall as World Heritage

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Medieval Royal Lifestyle Sun, 17 Aug 2014 10:37:03 +0000 Analysis of the bones and teeth of Richard III has uncovered a fascinating story of his changing lifestyles

A recent study by the British Geological Survey, in association with researchers at the University of Leicester, has delved into the bone and tooth chemistry of King Richard III and uncovered fascinating new details about the life and diet of Britain’s last Plantagenet king. The study, published in Elsevier’s Journal of Archaeological Science indicates a change in diet and location in his early childhood, and in later life, a diet filled with expensive, high status food and drink. These findings feature for the first time in a Channel 4 documentary on Sunday 17th August at 9pm.

Isotope analysis of bone and tooth material from King Richard III has revealed previously unknown details of his early life and the change in his diet when he became King two years and two months before he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth. The research examines the changes in chemistry found in the teeth, the femur and the rib; all of which develop and rebuild at different stages of life.

Isotope measurements that relate to geographical location, pollution and diet (strontium, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon and lead) were analysed in three locations on the skeleton of Richard III. The teeth, which form in childhood, confirmed that Richard had moved from Fotheringay castle in eastern England by the time he was seven. The data suggest that during this time he was in an area of higher rainfall, older rocks and with a changed diet relative to his place of birth in Northamptonshire. By examining the femur, which represents an average of the 15 years before death, researchers show that Richard moved back to eastern England as an adolescent or young adult, and had a diet that matched the highest aristocracy.Medieval Banquet

The third location, the rib, renews itself relatively quickly, so it only represents between 2 and 5 years of life before death. Data from the isotopes in this bone indicate the greatest change in diet. Although an alteration in the chemistry between the femur and the rib of Richard III could indicate relocation, historical records show that Richard did not move from the east of England in the 2 years prior to his death when he was King. As such, this chemical change is more likely to represent a change in diet relating to his period as King. The difference suggests an increase in consumption of freshwater fish and birds, which were popular additions to royal banquets at the time and included birds such as swan, crane, heron and egret. In addition, the bone chemistry suggests he was drinking more wine during his short reign as King and reinforces the idea that food and drink were strongly linked to social status in Medieval England; perhaps even more specifically the royal lifestyle.

Dr Angela Lamb, Isotope Geochemist and lead author of the paper says “The chemistry of Richard III’s teeth and bones reveal changes in his geographical movements, diet and social status throughout his life.”

Richard Buckley from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services and lead archaeologist in the Richard III dig, said: “This cutting edge research has provided a unique opportunity to shed new light on the diet and environment of a major historical figure –Richard III. It is very rare indeed in archaeology to be able to identify a named individual with precise dates and a documented life.

“This has enabled the stable-isotope analysis to show how his environment changed at different times in his life and, perhaps most significantly, identified marked changes in his diet when he became king in 1483. “

The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society. The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society.


Multi-isotope analysis demonstrates significant lifestyle changes in King Richard III
By Angela L. Lamb, Jane E. Evans, Richard Buckley, Jo Appleby
Journal of Archaeological Science 2014


Richard III

Richard III – his Life and Times

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Ulfberht Swords Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:06:45 +0000 Were Ulfberht Swords made in Fulda?

More than 170 Early Medieval Swords have been found with the trade-mark: +Ulfberht+ (or +Ulfberh+t) engraved in the fine pattern-welded blade. Although some have been identified as sloppy counterfeits, the real thing was obviously a fabulous piece of work. They were stable, weightless and particularly lethal. Different specimens have been dated to a period covering more than 2 – 300 years. Although differing spellings have been recorded it was obviously a very powerful brand! But where were they made? One key to answering this conundrum is the cross, which frame the inscription of the name. Such crosses were generally only used in signatures belonging to abbots, bishops and other prelates governing specified jurisdictions. The most credible answer is that the crosses signified Ulfberht as a “sword master” belonging to a monastery, bishopry or other religious centre. A recent find of a 10th-century sword in the river Weser near Grossenwieden by the city of Hessich Oldendorf may bring us even closer.

Ulfberht Sword found in the river Weser
Ulfberht Sword found in the river Weser

A careful study by the chemist Robert Lehman of the lead in the handle of this sword points to the mines in the Taunus region between the Rhine, Lahn and Wetterau. This again points to the monastery of Fulda, where it is known there was a highly proficient smithy in the 9th and 10th century, producing arms for the local military contingents. Another possible production site may have been Lorsch. It has for some time been a hypothesis that the original Ulfberht swords with their Carolingian inscription of a Frankish name punctuated by crosses were made in one or more of these religious centres. Now, it seems, we are closer to pinpointing an origin of these swords, which have been found all over. The recently found sword from Weser is the first to be treated to a tomographic investigation, whereby a three-dimensional image of the sword’s body structure has been constructed by computer from a series of plane cross-sectional images. This has shown that the sword underneath the so-called blood fuller was only 3 mm. thick. The sword was made of iron approaching the high quality of modern steel, which has astounded scientists and archaeologists.

Recently National Geographic produced a documentary demonstrating the process. The point is that modern steel is produced by melting the iron at 1510 C, thus cleansing it for impurities. Afterwards it is fortified through adding carbon. In medieval smithies such high temperatures were not possible to get at. Hence the smith had to continuously pound the metal, which was preferably so-called “crucible steel” (wootz steel ) imported from India and Arabia.

Map of distribution of Ulfbehrt Swords.
Map of distribution of Ulfbehrt Swords. The reason so many have been found in Scandinavia is due to the fact that they are found as part of grave-goods. Source: Anne Stalsberg

The documentary, entitled “Secrets of the Viking Sword” interviews a modern blacksmith, Richard Furrer from Wisconsin. He is characterised as one of the few modern smiths who are able to make a sword approaching the quality of the medieval “ulfberht” swords. In the film it is demonstrated how Furrer spent several days forging a sword similar to Ulfberht with the use of the technology that the medieval blacksmith may have used. In the end he succeeded in recreating one of the legendary swords.


Ein legendäres Schwert aus dem frühen Mittelalter


Secrets of The Viking Sword Ulfberht Documentary


Herstellung und Verbreitung der Ulfberht-Schwertklingen. Eine Neubewertung.
By Anne Stalsberg
Zeitschrift für Archäologie des Mittelalters 2008, Vol. 36, pp. 89 – 118
English version may be accessed here: The Vlfberht sword blades reevaluated. Mikko Moilanen, On the Manufacture of Iron Inlays in

Sword Blades: An Experimental Study.
Fennoscandia Archaeologica 2009, Vol. 26 pp. 2009, 23-28

Viking Age Arms and Armor Originating in the Frankish Kingdom
By Valerie Dawn Hampton, Western Michigan University
In: The Hilltop Review: Vol. 4: Iss. 2, Article 8

The ‘Living’ Sword in Early Medieval Northern Europe: An Interdisciplinary Study
By Susan Elaine Brunning Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). 2013

The Role and Status of the Smith in the Viking Age By Timothy Carlisle MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow. 2013


Viking Warfare

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Pontefract Castle Wed, 13 Aug 2014 12:51:27 +0000 Pontefract Castle secures Heritage Lottery Fund investment of over £3million

Wakefield Council has received a confirmed grant of £3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for Pontefract Castle’s Key to the North project, it was announced today.

The money will allow parts of the castle not seen by the public since 1649 to be opened up. This will include the Sally Port, Swillington Tower, restored Victorian paths and three viewing platforms, two of which will be fully accessible.

The project aims to improve the visitor experience at the castle by carrying out conservation work, which will take it off English Heritage’s ‘At Risk’ register. The work will also restore and extend the Arts and Crafts barn to provide improved learning facilities, a shop and a café.

Pontefract Castle
Reconstruction of Medieval Pontefract Castle

Cllr Les Shaw, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “We are delighted that the HLF is supporting our work at Pontefract Castle with this grant. The money will help put Pontefract on the map for tourists, building on what is an already popular site, and will certainly bring wider economic benefits into the town. The castle is significant not just in our district’s history, but in the country’s history as the site of the death of King Richard II and a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil Wars. How amazing to think that we can open up parts of this immensely important building not seen for hundreds of years. I’m sure people from all over the district and beyond will be keen to join in with one of the events made possible by this extra money and experience a piece of thousand-year-old history.”

Fiona Spiers, Head of HLF Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Pontefract Castle has had a long and varied history, ranging from the murder of a king, through civil war sieges to the cultivation of licorice. HLF is really pleased to be able to invest this money in conserving and rejuvenating the site, helping to tell the important role the castle has played in events that shaped the country. We were particularly impressed by the passion and support local people have shown for this project which will hopefully lead to many more visitors discovering the charms and history of the castle.”

The money will enable a comprehensive programme of learning activities and events to be delivered, and there will be opportunities for the public to join in the delivery with a volunteer programme offering four different styles of work opportunity. Additional funding for the £3.5million project is from English Heritage and Wakefield Council.


Pontefract Castle lies within the historic heart of Pontefract in West Yorkshire. It has a long and colourful history and has frequently been at the centre of national events, acting as a Royal residence, centre of local administration and prison. There are many key stories to tell, from the building of the first timber castle in the 11th century - a motte and bailey castle - to its deliberate destruction in the 17th century. The first 200 years after the conquest in 1086 it was owned by the ‘De Lacys’ descendants of Ilbert de Lacy, a follower of William the Conqueror. During this period it was built in stone, gradually growing into a huge castle. It was under the tenure of the de Lacys that the magnificent multilobate donjon was built. Edward I called Pontefract ‘The Key to the North’ and Richard II was imprisoned and later murdered in the castle, inspiring Shakespeare to immortalise the castle as a “bloody prison”:

Pomfret, Pomfret! O thou bloody prison,
Fatal and ominous to noble peers!
Within the guilty closure of thy walls
Richard the second here was hack’d to death;
And, for more slander to thy dismal seat,
We give thee up our guiltless blood to drink (From: Shakespeare: Richard III)

During the Wars of the Roses (1454-85) Pontefract Castle was used as a Lancastrian stronghold. Later in the 16th century Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard was reportedly found with her lover in the castle’s Royal Apartments, and during the English Civil Wars (1642-1651) the Royalist castle underwent three Parliamentarian sieges before being demolished on the request of the townspeople of Pontefract in 1649.

Since then, Pontefract Castle has been used as a place for liquorice cultivation and later as a romantic ruin and pleasure garden, complete with tennis courts and ornamental rose gardens.

The castle is now managed by Wakefield Council on behalf of the Duchy of Lancaster and is open to visitors free of charge, throughout the year.


Press Release




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Cujus Regio – Medieval Border Regions Tue, 12 Aug 2014 11:14:56 +0000 Cujus Regio aims at a synthesizing analysis of a group of contested regions within Europe and how they came about.

The regions chosen represent a morphological, typological and historical variety of territorial entities. They will allow a comparison of the cohesive and disruptive forces that shaped regions in the period from ca. 1200 until the present day. The project is part of the EuroCORECODE programme of the European Science Foundation.

The selected regions, studied as Individual Projects are:

  • Guelders/Lower Rhine region (present day Dutch-German border region)
  • Portugal
  • Livonia (app. Estonia and Latvia)
  • Transylvania (Romania)
  • Silesia & Upper-Lusatia (Polish-Czech-German border) (The first publication is out in 2013) LINK
  • Bohemian-Luxemburg crown lands (Czechia-Luxemburg)
  • Schleswig-Holstein (German-Danish border)
  • Catalonia

These regions are spread over Europe and differ in size, social and ethnic composition, geographical position and geophysical disposition. The project follows the development of the regions from the 12th century when regional clustering becomes apparent, through its maturing and its interaction with the (mainly) supra-regional state, until the end of the Ancien Régime. On top of this, it evaluates the ways in which over the last two centuries – roughly since the Congress of Vienna (1815) – these regions acquired new meaning. It will build upon existing regional studies, apply a common methodological framework, and add fundamental analysis of (unedited) primary sources to lead to a better understanding of regional cohesion and dynamics.

Contact Leader is:

Professor Dick De Boer Faculty of Arts University of Groningen Dutch Research School for Medieval Studies Groningen, Netherlands Email:


Cujus Regio An analysis of the cohesive and disruptive forces determining the attachment and commitment of (groups of) persons to and cohesion within regions Cuius Regio? Ideological and Territorial Cohesion of the Historical Region of Silesia (c. 1000-2000) (one of the first publications coming out of the interdisciplinary research project)

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Medieval Silesia Tue, 12 Aug 2014 09:05:07 +0000 Silesia is a region situated in the borderland between present-day Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. New book tells the story.

During the Middle Ages it constantly shifted allegiance.  It is an example of a borderland territory, whose historical development was substantially influenced by various cultural traditions.

A recently published collection of articles - Open Access – represents the output of the first stage of research on the history of the region of Silesia, conducted under the patronage of the European Science Foundation as part of the project Cuius Regio (An analysis of the cohesive and disruptive forces determining the attachment and commitment of (groups of) persons to and cohesion within regions).

Cuius Regio? Ideological and Territorial Cohesion of the Historical Region of Silesia (c. 1000-2000)
Vol. 1. The Long Formation of the Region Silesia (c. 1000–1526)
By Lucyna Harc, Przemysław Wiszewski, Rościsław Żerelik, and Mateusz Goliński, (Eds)
Wrocław, 2013
ISBN 978-83-927132-1-0


Silesia is one of the regions analysed in the project. It is an example of a borderland territory, whose historical development was substantially influenced by various cultural traditions.

Silesia Now
Silesia Now – Source: Wikipedia

Silesia’s borders and national affiliation changed over time, both when it was a hereditary possession of noble houses and after the rise of modern nation-states. The first known states to hold power there were those of Greater Moravia at end of the 9th century and Bohemia early in the 10th century. In the 10th century Silesia was incorporated into the early Polish state, but it later broke into independent duchies, coming under increasing Czech and German influence. In the 14th century it became a constituent part of the Bohemian Crown Lands under the Holy Roman Empire, which passed to the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy in 1526. To a large degree Silesia represents a common type of European border regions to which also belongs regions like Alsace-Loraine and Schleswig-Holstein. Like these regions Silesia became early on a contested region between what later became Germany and its neighbours (Polish Silesia was among the first regions invaded during Germany’s 1939 attack on Poland).

The primary goal of the research on the Silesian history has been to determine the factors that led to disintegration and subsequent re-creation of the region, as there are arguments indicating that the history of the local community has been – and continues to be – the product of a dynamic process, whose course has not been solely determined by the factor of its constant existence within the limits demarcated by the borders of the 16th-century Kingdom of Bohemia.


The book contains a number of articles outlining the specific history of the region in the later Middle Ages:

Geographical Characteristics of Silesia
By Gerard Kosmala

This article contains basic geographical information about Silesia, useful as a starting point for further historical analysis. Silesia is a region in central Europe located within the borders of several nations. At different times in its history it has been part of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. The rough outline of the relief of Silesia was formed in the Paleozoic Era, finally reaching its ultimate form in the Cenozoic Era. The same holds true for both the Sudetes as well as the entire tectonic foreland, which was shaped by a glacier. Silesian land has always been rich in mineral resources such as building rocks, coal and copper, although only a few of these can be found in real abundance. The terrain’s shape results from the general structure of the hydrographical network which, with the exception of the eastern frontiers, is symmetrical, with the Odra river, flowing from the south-east to the north-west, as the axis of symmetry. Reservoirs have been built along many rivers for both energy-related and retention purposes. Due to the total absence of lakes, these reservoirs are the largest

zybowcowa hill in lower silesia
Zybowcowa hill in lower Silesia

bodies of water in Silesia. The temperate, transitory climate with an annual average rainfall of 600–700 mm and average annual temperature of 8 °C results in conditions which are favourable for vegetation. Considering the abundance of fertile land one can easily understand why the agricultural scenery dominates the landscape. This, along with the development of industry at the base of the Sudetes and in the South-Eastern part of Upper Silesia, is the reason for the relatively small amount of woodland areas. Silesia is an area, which has been deeply transformed by human activity. The dominant landscape is culturally harmonious, with the exception of industrial districts, which often represents more long-lasting or even irreversible scars.

Whose region is it? A few words on a certain research project and Silesian history
By Przemysław Wiszewski

Silesia is an example of a borderland territory whose historical development was substantially influenced by various cultural traditions. The primary goal of the research on the Silesian history was to determine the factors that led to disintegration and subsequent re-creation of the region, for there are arguments indicating that the history of the local community has been – and continues to be – the product of a dynamic process whose course was not determined solely by the factor of its constant existence within the limits demarcated within the 16th-century Kingdom of Bohemia.

The formation of Silesia (to 1163). Factors of regional integration
By Stanisław Rosik

Silesia took shape as a distinct region along with the development of state and church structures under Piast rule. The formation of these structures led to the dissolution of tribal relations. During this process, the central indicator of regional identity, the name (which belonged to the cultural legacy of barbaricum) acquired two new meanings, one territorial by nature and another new, which was far removed from its original, ideological sense. Cultural interpretation has led the Ślęża mountain, a source of myths and an essential part of both many legends and of the landscape, to undergo a similar transformation. In the period under consideration the influence of a so-called anthropo-regional structure reaching back to prehistoric times on the structure of settlement is noticeable. When compared to the tribal era, the period of early state formation of the Piast monarchy saw the increased significance of the Odra river as an axis for the establishment of administration in both the state and Church. The region’s integration progressed around its centre, located in Wrocław. The division of the Piast state into various territories after 1138 halted this process. The resulting divisions broke up regions formerly belonging to one diocese, and likely those previously belonging to one province as well. Of significance for the formation of the region during the second half of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries was the restriction of the meaning of the term “Silesia” to the latter-day Lower Silesia, as well as the definition of its regional identity by territorial authorities rather than that of Wrocław. This was a reference to a naming convention, which was as old as the Ślężanie tribe. Silesia as a region thus became an undeniable fact of the social and political life of the fragmented Poland. The extension of Silesian territory to the upper part of the Odra river occurred only in the 15th century.

The administrative structure of Silesia as a determinant of legal and constitutional cohesion (12th–15th century)
By Marcin Pauk and Ewa Wółkiewicz

An analysis of crucial legal and systemic issues indicates that the most important aspect in the formation of Silesian regional cohesion was the ‘transformation’ that took place in the 13th century, including the reception of German law and the institution of the self-governing municipality. The main factor determining the functionality of administrative and judicial structures was the proceeding territorial fragmentation. In the 12th century the provincial comites, appointed by the principes, as well as the Bishops of Wrocław, performed the function of intermediaries between Silesia and the rest of the monarchy. After 1163, the Silesian dukes concentrated on the particular needs of their territorial dominions that were taking shape. These were sometimes also used as power bases for carrying out state-wide political interference. Hence initiatives were undertaken for the purpose of consolidating the duchies in their administrative and economic dimensions. In this innovative socio-systemic mechanisms were introduced such as the establishment of new towns, constructions of castles and administrative reforms of both the Castellans and Weichbilds; To this should be added the promotion and migration of foreign knights into the region. Yet another breakthrough took place when the Silesian duchies fell under either the direct or feudal dominion of the Bohemian Crown. As the House of Luxembourg was not interested in the creation of centralized institutions and did not interfere in internal relations between the duchies, institutional differences deepened. Unification policies took shape only within individual duchies, with the limitations of such policies. The focus on short-term solutions was evident. Attempts to make the administrative structures uniform were rare. Rapid changes in the feudal fragmentation also proved a hindrance to unification activities. Remaining within a unified Church structure and single political organism was, however, a cohesive factor.

Did Silesia constitute an economic region between the 13th and the 15th centuries? A survey of region-integrating and region-disintegrating economic factors
By Grzegorz Myśliwski

This article constitutes an attempt to answer the question of whether Silesia, aside from being a distinct historical region, was also a distinct economic region. The author starts with Robert E. Dickinson’s theory of economic regions, the basic assumptions of which are shared by contemporary researchers of regional economies.

Madder or Rubia Tinctora,
Roots from madder or rubia tinctora,

Economic resources, the similar economic policies of Silesian rulers in the 13th and 14th centuries, high levels of urbanization in comparison to neighbouring regions and the centralizing capacity of Wrocław are considered to be the forces which bound together Silesian as an economic region. Factors retarding the economic cohesion of Silesia has been analysed as well. Those included natural disasters, invasions, internal strife, criminal activity along trade routes and a crisis in the mining industry beginning in the middle of the 14th century. Beginning with the final years of the 13th century, Silesia stabilized as an economic region containing Upper Silesia, Lower Silesia and Opava. This was not, however, a perfect cohesion, as Lower Silesia was economically superior to the other regions, which themselves had strong ties to Lesser Poland. Despite that, the crisis that took place from about 1350 until 1450 did not break the economic bonds between these three constituent elements of Silesia. In comparison to every historical and economic region on its borders, Silesia was distinguished by its advanced gold mining industry, the export of a red dyeing agent (madder) as well as the highest number of cities with a population of between 3,000 and 14,000. Further distinct properties of the Silesian economy are noticeable when contrasted with other historical regions.

Region-integrating or region-disintegrating? The social groups of medieval Silesia examined in the context of their political activity (from the last decades of the 12th century to the 15th century)
By Przemysław Wiszewski

Henry VI
The mausoleum of the Silesian Duke Henry IV Probus is in the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew in Wroclaw

Did the political and social elite of the Odra region engage in intentional and coordinated activity in the period from the latter part of the 12th century to the latter part of the 15th century? Or did they, after being forced by external factors to take such action, continue to coordinate their activities after these external factors ceased to be operative? Yet another question is whether the members of this political elite considered the notion of a unified, territorial unit called “Silesia” in their activities? Various political undertakings of the Odra region’s elite in the Middle Ages makes a unified model of the formation of regional unity unfeasible to establish. Joint political actions undertaken by the dukes continued to foster an awareness of Silesia’s unity despite their and their courts’ tendency to focus on the importance of their particular duchies. The dukes, via conventions and confederations, focused their activities on building a sense of regional community. However, despite extensive cooperation on various issues, which crossed the borders of individual duchies, separatist tendencies were still visible in the latter part of the 14th and early 15th centuries. Silesian society, forged through the political activities of its elite, was by nature a network, which reacted dynamically to influences from its external environment. At times the structure may have hardened, although its members valued their local identity at least as greatly as their regional one.

The multi-ethnic character of medieval Silesian society and its influence on the region’s cohesion (12th–15th centuries)
By Przemysław Wiszewski

From the end of the 13th century the number of German settlers rapidly grew in what had been a mostly Polish-speaking community of Silesians. Piotr Górecki indicated that the presence of newcomers from Germany in the Piast realm led to an assimilation that did not involve the complete adoption of the norms of one ethnic group by another. On the contrary, those involved in these relations acknowledged the differences between the two groups. At the same time, in order to avoid conflict it was important to gain knowledge about the other group, thus enabling the stable coexistence of the two communities in the same territory. However, this well-proven hypothesis leaves open the question of how this dynamic process affected regional cohesion. Did it lead to the strengthening of local communities by forcing their members to focus on cooperation in the local context, ignoring the broader regional setting? Or did it perhaps, on the contrary, foster the need to mediate between groups of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds stretched beyond local boundaries? Dynamically changing ethnic relations in Silesia between the 13th and 15th centuries had a mixed impact on the cohesion of the regional community. But this diversity ultimately strengthened the sense of the region’s separateness from its neighbours. A common administrative framework set up in the 15th century did not, in the eyes of contemporaries, overshadow the specificity of the multi-ethnic, multilingual and inter-ethnic relationships within Silesian society. These were perceived as unique when contrasted with similar phenomena taking place in neighbouring countries. At the local level, the possibility to make reference to the situation in the region as a whole when resolving ethnic conflicts sustained awareness of the importance of this regional dimension to the proper functioning of the local community. This was not a static system. Silesians demonstrated diverse perceptions and attitudes towards multi-ethnicity and the impact of this phenomenon on the cohesion of various communities operating within the region was diverse as well. A presentation of these phenomena in the context of time and in the pragmatic perspective of the sources describing them, paves the way for a new approach towards Silesian multi-ethnicity as a dynamic phenomenon, which did not necessarily take one course throughout the entire territory.

The cultural identity of medieval Silesia: the case of art and architecture
By Romuald Kaczmarek

The cultural identity of architecture and visual arts of the Middle Ages in Silesia can be analysed in the following frameworks: 1.) The distinct formal features of local artwork; 2.) The specific content expressed through it. Macro factors (the type of materials and their availability) are important in architecture, as are architectural patterns and styles. It appears brick buildings, with sandstone used for details, were the most frequent type of architecture. In the 14th century distinct and formal patterns of style in architecture took shape (such as the basilica form of town churches), as was the case with detailed construction and aesthetic solutions applied to walls and vaults. Factors shaping the specific nature of Silesian art were the influence of dominant styles (initially from the Czech state, later southern Germany, including Nuremberg), political contexts (affiliation with the Bohemian Crown) and religious ones (mostly the selection and popularity of patron saints).

Regional identity in Silesia (until 1526)
By Wojciech Mrozowicz

St. Hedwig from Vita beatae Hedwigis
Saint Hedwig of Silesia with Duke Ludwig of Legnica and Brieg and Duchess Agnés. Made in the Court workshop of Duke Ludwig I of Liegnitz and Brieg (Polish, 1364 – 1398). Vita beatae Hedwigis. Source: The Getty

During the search for factors constituting proof of the existence of a Silesian regional identity in the Late Middle Ages, the author analyses the process of formation and functioning of common traditions. Among the contributing factors analysed is the name Śląsk/Silesia and the process through which it entered the collective consciousness. The Piast dynasty played a significant element in fostering this tradition through its attempts to preserve their memory, primarily within historiographical works. Saint Hedwig of Silesia (d. 1243) was of particular significance to this dynasty; her cult changed from dynastic into regional, when she became the patron saint of Silesia. In Silesian tradition Piotr Włostowic (d. circa 1151) is another very important figure; his literary and historiographical prowess allowed him to rise to the status of regional hero. The local Church was also significant in the forging of regional identity. The actions it undertook for the purpose of preserving and strengthening knowledge about the Bishops of Wrocław, is indicated by such sources as the bishop catalogues which were widespread in Silesia. Much attention has also been paid to the regional discourse present within chronicles and other publications; in the Late Middle Ages these became the main platform for expression of regional issues. Analysing the particulars of some events, the author has indicated the tangled paths to the formation of a Silesian regional identity. This was primarily the result of the far-reaching ethnic changes taking place in Silesia at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries, alongside with the influence of cultural traits imported from bordering regions.

Many communities, too little community? Conclusions on the analysis of region-integrating forces in Medieval Silesia
By Przemysław Wiszewski,

The contents of this volume may disappoint those readers who would wish to find simple answers to traditional questions about the moment at which the Silesian region came to life and the role played in it by different social groups. The results of research performed by historians prove that these questions are in fact anachronistic. The authors reject the deterministic concept of the region’s evolution from a polycentric community to a monocentric (with Wrocław as its capital city) unit of state and Church administration. Indeed, phenomena, which are typically recognized as elements in this process, are highlighted, but also understood in a new way. The picture of the region provided in the course of research has been very dynamic. The authors’ aim was not to discover the nature of phenomena taking place within ‘the region’, but rather to determine the true number of the many “regions” subsumed and co-existing at the time, in order to examine the dynamics and factors behind the constantly changing affiliations of their members as well as to shed light on how the community was affected by top-down political decisions. A continuous interplay of various factors, among which the connection of political and economic elites with the traditions of local duchies was of pivotal importance, meant that although Silesia would undoubtedly prove a durable entity, at the end of Middle Ages an understanding of its past, present and future as a region remained far from certain.


Cujus Regio
Cuius Regio aims at a synthesizing analysis of a group of regions within Europe. The regions chosen represent a morphological, typological and historical variety of territorial entities. They will allow a comparison of the cohesive and disruptive forces that shaped regions in the period from ca. 1200 until the present day. The project is part of the EuroCORECODE programme of the European Science Foundation.

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Princely Reburials in the 15th century Fri, 08 Aug 2014 17:38:06 +0000 Designated chapels for reburials became a fashionable trend in the 15th century. Recently a text was discovered outlining the liturgy used for the re-interment of Richard Beauchamp in 1475

The trend to re-bury ancestors in new and splendid chapels and surround them with both material and immaterial memorials grew to unsurpassed heights in 15th century Europe. New research explores this trend in an English context. In connection with this work a hitherto lost description of the rites performed in connection with the reburial of Richard, Earl of Warwick in 1475 has been discovered and presented. This rite is also debated in connection with the reburial of Richard III, to which the medievalist, Alexandra Buckle is a consultant.

‘Entumbid Right Princely’: The Re-Interment of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and a Lost Rite
By Alexandra Buckle
In: In the Yorkist Age: Proceedings of the 2011 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. by Hannes Kleineke and Christian Steer.
Donington 2013


Medieval royals and nobles lived itinerant lives and accordingly faced death in far-flung places. Often this resulted in a second burial or re-burial in designated churches. Such reburials are known of from the Early Middle Ages.

However, in Late Medieval England (as elsewhere in Europe) an explosion in the construction of designated chapels, new foundations of chantries, perpetual masses etc. was the result of a steadily growing preoccupation with the justification through amassing indulgencies. Often these reburials and foundations were costly, while construction of the appropriate setting took a long time to carry through.

Currently this trend is explored by Alexandra Buckle, who recently recovered a hitherto forgotten text with the rite, which was used at the reburial of Richard, Earl of Warwick in 1475.

Richard De Beauchamp (1382–1439), the13th earl of Warwick, was a high-ranking English Nobleman and military commander. He saw his first military action at the age of 21 in Wales, where he was made knight of the Garter after the battle at Shrewsbury.

In 1408 he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, returning back through Russia and Eastern Europe. During these travels he gained a reputation for chivalry by vigorously taking part in sportive events on the continent. After his homecoming in 1410 he was appointed a member of the royal council. The following years saw him heaping a series of honours, foremost his role as guardian of the infant Henry VI of England. Later life was filled with fighting in France in the Hundred Years’ War. In 1437 he was appointed lieutenant of France and Normandy, which caused him to spend his last two years of his life in France. He died in Rouen in April. However, according to his will, he had endowed the Collegiate Church of St. Mary in Warwick with money to pay for the construction of a new chapel. In 1437 his body was transferred back from Rouen and reburied there, while the building went under way. For a series of reasons it took 39 years before he was finally laid to rest in an alabaster tomb, embellished with a spectacular bronze effigy sculpted by William Austen of London and gilded and engraved by Bartholomew Lambespring, A Dutch Goldsmith.

The Beauchamp Chapel, St Mary's Church  Warwick © YM Pictures
The Beauchamp Chapel, St Mary’s Church Warwick © YM Pictures

At his reburial a specific rite was followed. Alexandra Buckle, who has written a detailed exposé on the liturgy involved, recently discovered the written text outlining this. According to her research the reburial took place on the 27th of December 1475 at the same time as the consecration of the new chapel. It is plausible that the reburial took place with the Duke of Clarence and his sister-in-law, the queen in attendance. Whether the royal family as a whole spent Christmas at Warwick that year needs further study.

At the re-interment the bones were first lifted from the grave and placed in a container. Probably standing in the nave where they were sprinkled, censed, covered with a pall and carried into the choir. At this point it is not quite known, whether the casket was kept there for the night attended by a vigil (until the 28th of December) or whether the reburial took place immediately afterwards. This is the most reasonable timetable, since the events were taking place during Christmas and the chapel had to be consecrated before it could receive the remains of the earl. (This was in itself a long and complicated rite).

Whatever the schedule, the text provides rubrics for ten prayers “plus seven psalms, six antiphons, and various choral items, such as the Kyrie Eleison”, writes Alexandra Buckle (p. 408). Unfortunately no music notation is found.

This reburial rite was obviously a long service, but even so it cannot have been the only liturgical undertaking that day. Alexandra Buckle presents two different timetables for these events and lets the reader make the choice. Whatever the exact schedule, it appears the procession, requiem and actual burial must have been squeezed into a day otherwise heavily packed with Christmas celebrations. The 27th is in the Julian Calendar the day for the celebration of the feast for St. John the Evangelist as well as the commemoration of the martyred St. Stephen. The 28th was the day commemorating the Holy Innocents (the children murdered in Bethlehem).

Both days were thus already packed with a series of daily as well as festive services and masses.

No wonder they needed a bishop to supervise the solemnities.


 Alexandra Buckle is Lecturer in Music at St Anne’s College and St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She is currently on the committee for the reburial of Richard III.


Fit for a King? The Architecture of the Beauchamp Chapel
By Linda Monckton.
In: Architectural History 2004, Vol. 47, pp. 25-52

‘Fit for a king’: music and iconography in Richard Beauchamp’s chantry chapel
By Alexandra Buckle
In: Early Music, 2010, Vol. 1: pp. 3 – 20

Richard Beauchamp’s Funeral Car
By Julian Munby
In: Journal of the British Archaeological Association 2002 , Vol. 155 No. 1, pp. 278-287

The Medieval Chantry Chapel: An Archaeology
By Simon Rufey
Boydell Press 2007



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