Medieval Histories News about the Middle Ages Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:56:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bright Lights in the Dark Ages – Early Medieval Ornaments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:06:05 +0000 ‘Bright Lights in the Dark Ages’ features over two hundred stunning and extremely rare early medieval gold and precious stonework objects

Bright Lights in the Dark Ages: The Thaw Collection of Early Medieval Ornaments
by Noël Adams
GILES (October 14, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1907804250
ISBN-13: 978-1907804250


Bright Lights in the Dark Ages - The Thaw Collection of Early Medieval Ornaments  CoverBright Lights of the Dark Ages is a major new volume on early Medieval art. It features over two hundred stunning and extremely rare early medieval gold and precious stonework objects, including brooches, buckles, shields, clasps, spoons and other “grave goods”, that were interred as status symbols with their owners in burials mounds across Europe.

The new societies of the early Medieval period which developed on the periphery of the great Roman Empire – Germanic barbarians in western Europe, Sarmatian and later Alanic tribes around the Black Sea, and the eastern frontier cities bordering the Parthian Empire in Iran – were all shaped by interaction with the Roman Empire, and profoundly influenced by its material culture.

Author Noël Adams surveys the magnificent pieces that were made to advertise power and wealth in these new “barbarian” kingdoms which arose after the fall of the Roman Empire, and in doing so shows the dramatic and surprising relationship
between these “migration era” objects and later medieval art. In a volume full of wonderful images, highlights include Gothic and Visigothic imperial style brooches from modern-day Slovakia and Crimea, superb Gallo-Roman spoons and enamelled domed brooches and buckles from Northern Europe and Britain.


Dr. Noël Adams is currently Administrator and Deputy Curator of the Furusiyya Art Foundation. She publishes widely on material culture of the first millennium A.D. and has co-edited and contributed papers to the British Museum Research Publication series, most recently: Recent Research on Byzantine Jewellery (2010) and ‘Gems of Heaven’: Recent Research on Engraved Gemstones in Late Antiquity, AD 200–600 (2011). Dr. Adams has organized exhibitions at the National Trust Visitor Centre at Sutton Hoo, the British Museum, and the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.

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Learning to Die in London 1380-1540 Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:56:53 +0000 An educated awareness of death and mortality was a vital aspect of medieval civic culture. This book tells the story of how to die in London in the Later Middle Ages

Learning to Die in London, 1380-1540 
by Amy Appleford
Series: The Middle Ages Series
University of Pennsylvania Press 2014
ISBN-10: 0812246691
ISBN-13: 978-0812246698

Learning to Die in London, 1380-1540 coverTaking as her focus a body of writings in poetic, didactic, and legal modes that circulated in England’s capital between the 1380s-just a generation after the Black Death-and the first decade of the English reformation in the 1530s, Amy Appleford offers the first full-length study of the Middle English “art of dying” (ars moriendi). An educated awareness of death and mortality was a vital aspect of medieval civic culture, she contends, critical not only to the shaping of single lives and the management of families and households but also to the practices of cultural memory, the building of institutions, and the good government of the city itself. In fifteenth-century London in particular, where an increasingly laicized reformist religiosity coexisted with an ambitious program of urban renewal, cultivating a sophisticated attitude toward death was understood as essential to good living in the widest sense.

The virtuous ordering of self, household, and city rested on a proper attitude toward mortality on the part both of the ruled and of their secular and religious rulers. The intricacies of keeping death constantly in mind informed not only the religious prose of the period, but also literary and visual arts. In London’s version of the famous image-text known as the Dance of Death, Thomas Hoccleve’s poetic collection The Series, and the early sixteenth-century prose treatises of Tudor writers Richard Whitford, Thomas Lupset, and Thomas More, death is understood as an explicitly generative force, one capable (if properly managed) of providing vital personal, social, and literary opportunities.


Amy Appleford teaches English at Boston University.

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Historians on Chaucer Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:36:17 +0000 The aim of this volume is to introduce historians to the literary qualities and characteristics of one of the most famous works of Middle English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘General Prologue’ to the Canterbury Tales.

Historians on Chaucer: The ‘General Prologue’ to the Canterbury Tales
By Stephen Rigby and Alastair Minnis (Eds)
Oxford University Press 2014
ISBN-10: 0199689547
ISBN-13: 978-0199689545


Historians on Chaucer 2014  CoverAs literary scholars have long insisted, an interdisciplinary approach is vital if modern readers are to make sense of works of medieval literature. In particular, rather than reading the works of medieval authors as addressing us across the centuries about some timeless or ahistorical ‘human condition’, critics from a wide range of theoretical approaches have in recent years shown how the work of poets such as Chaucer constituted engagements with the power relations and social inequalities of their time. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, medieval historians have played little part in this ‘historical turn’ in the study of medieval literature. The aim of this volume is to allow historians who are experts in the fields of economic, social, political, religious, and intellectual history the chance to interpret one of the most famous works of Middle English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘General Prologue’ to the Canterbury Tales, in its contemporary context.

Rather than resorting to traditional historical attempts to see Chaucer’s descriptions of the Canterbury pilgrims as immediate reflections of historical reality or as portraits of real-life people whom Chaucer knew, the contributors to this volume have sought to show what interpretive frameworks were available to Chaucer in order to make sense of reality and how he adapted his literary and ideological inheritance so as to engage with the controversies and conflicts of his own day. Beginning with a survey of recent debates about the social meaning of Chaucer’s work, the volume then discusses each of the Canterbury pilgrims in turn. Historians on Chaucer should be of interest to all scholars and students of medieval culture whether they are specialists in literature or history.


Stephen Rigby and Alastair Minnis: Preface
Stephen H. Rigby: Reading Chaucer: Literature, History and Ideology
Caroline M. Barron: Chaucer the Poet, Chaucer the Pilgrim
Stephen H. Rigby: The Knight
Craig Taylor: The Squire
Anthony J. Pollard: The Yeoman
Katherine J. Lewis: The Prioress and the Second Nun
Marilyn Oliva: The Nun’s Priest
Martin Heale: The Monk
G. Geltner: The Friar
Richard Goddard: The Merchant
Charles F. Briggs: The Clerk
Anthony Musson: The Sergeant of Law
Peter Coss: The Franklin
Gervase Rosser: The Five Guildsmen
Christopher M. Woolgar: The Cook
Wendy R. Childs: The Shipman
Carole Rawcliffe: The Doctor of Physic
Ruth Mazo Karras: The Wife of Bath
David Lepine: The Parson
Mark Bailey: The Ploughman
Paul Freedman: The Miller
Nigel Ramsay: The Manciple
David Stone: The Reeve
Ian Forrest: The Summoner
Rosemary Horrox: The Pardoner
Martha Carlin: The Host
Stephen Rigby: Conclusion: Historicism and its Limits


Edited by Stephen Rigby, Emeritus Professor of Medieval Social and Economic History, University of Manchester

With the assistance of Alastair Minnis, Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of English, Yale University
Stephen Rigby was educated at Sheffield and London universities. He has published widely on social theory, medieval English social and economic history, Middle English literature, and medieval political theory.

Alastair Minnis is currently the Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of English at Yale University. Formerly he taught at the Queen’s University of Belfast, Bristol University, and the University of York. His research methodology brings together reading strategies from literary criticism and the history of ideas, and an interest in medieval philosophy and theology has informed much of his work. He is a Fellow of the English Association and of the Medieval Academy of America.

Mark Bailey
Caroline M. Barron
Charles F. Briggs
Martha Carlin
Wendy R. Childs
Ian Forrest
G. Geltner
Peter Coss
Richard Goddard
Martin Heale
Rosemary Horrox
Ruth Mazo Karras
David Lepine
Katherine J. Lewis
Alastair Minnis
Anthony Musson
Paul Freedman
Marilyn Oliva
Anthony J. Pollard
Nigel Ramsay
Carole Rawcliffe
Stephen Rigby
Gervase Rosser
David Stone
Craig Taylor
Christopher M. Woolgar

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The Long Reformation in Northern Europe Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:52:39 +0000

TUCEMEMS organizes a symposium in February 2015 on the Long Reformation in Northern Europe.

University of Turku, 21.02.2015
The TUCEMEMS project “500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation” launches a call for papers concerning the Reformation in Northern Europe. This Call functions as the first step for applications to individual fellowships of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) durable between 12 and 24 months at the Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Turku, Finland. We encourage early career postdoctoral researchers and senior researchers of various fields of humanities (e.g. musicologists, archaeologists, linguists and philologists, philosophers, historians, art historians, legal historians, and researchers of comparative literature and religion) who are applicable in the MSCA and who are interested in participating in the MSCA Call (12 March – 10 September 2015) in collaboration with TUCEMEMS to propose an original research paper for a seminar to be held in Turku on 21 February 2015.
We encourage research plans with an inter-/multidisciplinary approach. Most preferable are contributions focusing on a longue durée perspective on European reforms. The topics related to the following areas are especially welcomed:
  • material reformation (e.g. liturgical vessels, devotional objects, art and archi-tecture)
  • book and reformation (e.g. vernacular translations of the Bible and early book prints)
  • Luther and other reformers and counter-reformers in northern Europe
  • educational, social and political dimensions of the Reformation

We welcome you to participate in the seminar and kindly ask you to send us:

  • a proposal for a paper (500-word abstracts of a 30-minute paper)
  • a short CV (max. 4 pages including your most relevant publications)
  • a two-page research proposal for a working period in Turku with a clear indication of why TUCEMEMS would be the best host institution for your research regarding the reformatory movements in Europe.
If the paper proposal is accepted, we ask the contributors to prepare their final papers in a clear relation to their complete research plan and present it in the Symposium on 21 February 2015.
The working language of the seminar is English. The application deadline is 15 December 2014. All proposals will be reviewed by the TUCEMEMS board which will select 8 to 10 candidates to the symposium. The programme of the seminar includes keynote lectures by David Gaimster, Director of The Hunterian, University of Glasgow and Sabrina Corbellini, Rosalind Franklin Fellow, University of Groningen, esteemed scholars on material culture and languages of Reformation and/or Counter-reformation. Candidates should ensure that they fulfill the conditions of eligibility and send their proposal with additional documents mentioned above by e-mail to mmonor[at]
TUCEMEMS will offer the participants accommodation and cover legitimate travel expenses. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 19 December 2014.
For information and questions regarding the CFP and the Call for MSCA (  ), please contact Professor Kirsi Salonen (kilesa[at] or Dr. Tuomo Fonsén (tuofon[at]
A brief description of the TUCEMEMS project “500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation”
The Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (TUCEMEMS) is a multidisciplinary centre funded by the University of Turku. It promotes interdisciplinary and cross-cultural studies of topics from Late Antiquity to the eighteenth century. The Centre aims at facilitating medieval and early modern studies at the University especially by coordinating international collaboration and encouraging interdisciplinary debate.
In 2014 the TUCEMEMS initiated a large research project related to the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017. Within this project, we study the Reformation from a wide multidisciplinary perspective. The project does not only concentrate on the Lutheran Reformation proper, but we are interested in reform movements within a long time frame: from the medieval reformatory actions aiming to change the Catholic Church up to the post-Lutheran movements. The project examines, for example, themes as the perception of Luther in course of time, the role of Luther as well as other reformers and counter-reformers, vernacular translations of the Bible, reformatory writings, music, arts and architecture, and the educational, social and political dimensions of the Reformation as well as material culture. The geographical focus of the project is in northern Europe but special attention is paid to the reformatory activity in Finland and in particular in the City of Turku.
The TUCEMEMS project “500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation” is carried out in national and international cooperation with ecclesiastical, academic and other institutional cooperation partners such as the City of Turku and the Evangelic-Lutheran Church of Finland. By providing new information in the form of lectures, exhibitions and other activities, the project benefits everyone interested in the Reformation: scholars, students, and the general public.
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Law and Language in the Middle Ages Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:32:16 +0000 The relationship between law and legal practice in a linguistic context will be the theme for the series of conferences on medieval law sponsored by Carlsberg

Law and Language in the Middle Ages
Royal Academy, Copenhagen, Denmark 10.09.2015 – 11.09.2015

We are happy to announce the upcoming interdisciplinary conference on medieval legal history and therefore invite colleagues whose research touches upon aspects of law and language in the Middle Ages to submit proposals for papers of 20 minutes’ duration. A title and an abstract of 200-250 words should be sent by e-mail to one or more members of the organising committee (see e-mail addresses below).

Keynote Speaker will be Prof. Bruce o’Brien from The University of Mary Washington

Deadline for proposals is 1st February 2015.

The final programme will be published soon thereafter. All proposals and presentations should be in English. The papers will be published.

Suggested thematic strands are:

The relationship between law and legal practice in a linguistic context, the similarities / dissimilarities in terminology and practice, the problems and possibilities of translating laws from this region into modern English or other modern languages, ‘Germanic’ legal language, law and language in the North Sea area, the relationship between Latin and vernacular in the legal texts, adoption and application of legal language in other domains. The list is by no means exhaustive and other proposals touching on the main theme of law and language are most welcome.

The conference is held at the Royal Academy for Science and Letters, H.C. Andersens Boulevard 35, in the centre of Copenhagen

Registration fee for non-speakers will be € 100 or 750 Danish Kroner payable upon arrival at the conference. The fee includes lunch on Thursday and Friday, the conference dinner on Thursday, and the closing reception on Friday, and all drinks and snacks. Speakers are of course exempt from paying the conference fee.

Please use the registration form which will be available on the conference web page in winter 2015: . Deadline for non-speakers’ registration is 1 September 2015. The Academy lecture room can only contain a limited number of participants so please do not hesitate to register.

The conference is sponsored by: the Carlsberg Foundation

and Ingeniør, kaptajn Åge Nielsens Familiefond

If you have any queries, or want to submit a proposal, please feel free to use any of these addresses: Helle Vogt (, Jenny Benham ( or Per Andersen ( ).

The Organising Committee:

Helle Vogt, associate professor, The Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen

Jenny Benham, lecturer, Cardiff School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University

Per Andersen, professor, The Department of Law, University of Aarhus


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Medieval Thought Experiments: Poetry and Speculation in Europe, 1100-1450 Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:21:42 +0000 The aim of this conference is to consider how intellectual problems were approached – if not necessarily resolved – through the kinds of hypothetical enquiry found in poetry and other kinds of fictive texts.

CfP: Medieval Thought Experiments: Poetry and Speculation in Europe, 1100-1450
New College, Oxford, 13.04.2015 – 14.04.2015

Keynote speakers: Prof. Vincent Gillespie (Oxford), Prof. John Marenbon (Cambridge)

In the high and late Middle Ages, fictional frameworks could be used as imaginative spaces in which to test or play with ideas without necessarily asserting their truth. The aim of this conference is to consider how intellectual problems were approached – if not necessarily resolved – through the kinds of hypothetical enquiry found in poetry and other kinds of fictive texts. We hope to encourage an exploration of the relationship between poetry and speculation and the medieval understanding of speculatio, and we use the anachronistic term ‘thought experiment’ to provoke particular debate around two related questions:

(i)     to what extent can hypothetical and speculative texts be understood as ‘experiments’, as frames within which ideas can be tested rather than necessarily asserted?

(ii)  how far can speculation be understood not merely as an intellective process, but also as something affective and sensitive? In this respect we draw on both meanings of the medieval Latin experientia: not just ‘experiment’, but also ‘experience’.

We welcome papers that consider why a writer might choose a fictional or hypothetical frame to discuss theoretical questions, how a text’s truth content is affected and shaped by its fictive nature, or what kind of affective or intellectual work is required to read a speculative text. We hope that this conference will explore what happens to theoretical truth-claims in a wide range of hypothetical texts – allegorical dream-visions (such as the Romance of the Rose or Piers Plowman) as much as philosophical dialogues (such as those of Peter Abelard and Ramon Llull).

This conference aims to bring together scholars working across the spectrum of medieval languages and academic disciplines, including (but not limited to) literary studies, intellectual history, philosophy, and theology.

Papers may wish to consider some of the following questions:

  • Kinds of Meaning. How do fictional frames generate meaning, and how is this influenced by genre, mode, or context?
  • Space. What rules govern the imagined spaces of medieval thought experiments, and what issues do spaces raise?
  • Truth and lies. How are philosophical fictions used, abused, or condemned? When is it acceptable to lie in order to arrive at truth?
  • Imagination and intellect. What kinds of knowledge are accessible via different mental faculties?
  • Speculatio, speculum. specula How is the act of speculation represented or described in medieval texts, and how does this relate to the senses, in particular to sight?

Please submit abstracts for papers of up to 20 minutes in length to by 10 November 2014.

The registration fee for this conference will be £60, with an optional dinner in New College on the Monday evening at an additional cost (to be confirmed).

Please note that there will be a small number of travel bursaries available for graduate students and early career researchers giving papers at the conference (up to a value of £200). When you submit your abstract, please state if you would like to be considered for a travel bursary.

Enquiries can be directed to the organizers at

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Continuity and Change in the Birgittine Order Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:41:42 +0000 The latest in the series of Birgitta conferences will take place at Dartington Hall in Devon, England, 21-24 July 2015

Continuity and Change in the Birgittine Order
(Syon Abbey 1415-2015)
Dartington Hall, Devon, 21.07.2015 – 24.07.2015

The Birgittine order, over its more than six centuries of existence, has seen many changes: periods of growth and decline, expansion and retrenchment, patronage and persecution; individual houses have been suppressed and restored, declined, revived, relocated, and finally closed; the Birgittine vine has put out new branches, some of which have taken, and some not. And all this against a backdrop of religious, political, and social upheaval and change, that has not always remained safely in the background.
Are there any constants? The office, perhaps, or the habit, the rule (or rules?!), the spirit of the saint herself … something intangibly, indefinably Birgittine? Is Birgittine identity about adherence to an essence or ideal, or something that is worked out in practice? Is the idea of charism useful, or an obstacle to historical analysis?

Such questions come into focus sharply this year, when England’s house of Birgittines, Syon Abbey, celebrates the six hundredth anniversary of its foundation by King Henry V in 1415. Those six centuries have seen dramatic fluctuations in fortune, and as many as twenty changes of abode, from the abbey’s medieval heyday by the Thames in Middlesex, through suppression under Henry VIII, restoration by Queen Mary, exile in the Low Countries and France, a two-hundred-year sojourn in Portugal, the return to south-west England, late twentieth-century downsizing, and closure of the convent in 2011. Rule and constitutions have been reinterpreted and rewritten; the office has been sung in Latin, abandoned for the Roman breviary, restored in Latin, and translated into English. The community has seen kingdoms rise and fall; lived through war, fire and earthquake, and responded to the councils of Konstanz, Trent and Vatican II.

The latest in the series of Birgitta conferences will take place at Dartington Hall in Devon, England, 21-24 July 2015.

Proposals for papers of 20 minutes duration will be welcomed by the organisers Eddie Jones and Claes Gejrot by the deadline of 15 January 2015. The language of the conference will be English. We are equally interested in proposals on Syon Abbey, other Birgittine houses, or the order as a whole. Papers need not engage directly with the question of ‘continuity and change’, though this will be an advantage if we are over-subscribed. Recognising that the period has so far been under-explored, we will be particularly pleased to hear proposals that look at Birgittine experience since 1800.

Contact-information at the website

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Early Medieval Monasticism around the North Sea Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:36:52 +0000 CFP for Conference in Kent on Early Medieval Monasticism in the North Sea Zone

Early Medieval Monasticism in the North Sea Zone: New Research and Fresh Perspectives
University of Kent, Canterbury, 24.04.2015 – 26.04.2015

2015 marks the conclusion of a major AHRC-funded campaign of excavation at Lyminge, the first archaeological investigation to provide a detailed account of the origins and development of a royal monastery in the kingdom of Kent. The results shed light on many themes central to the interpretation of early medieval monastic foundations in their contemporary contexts.

The aim of the conference is to contextualise the results of this research by bringing together an international body of scholars to examine the theme of early medieval monasticism in the North Sea Zone from a variety of archaeological, historical and cross-disciplinary perspectives.

Sessions include: ‘Power and Place: the Politics of Monastic Foundation’, ‘What did Monasteries Look Like? Architecture and Layout’, and ‘Production, Consumption and Surplus: Monasteries as Economic Central Places’. The conference will conclude with a round table discussion to identify priorities for future research and opportunities for new scholarly collaboration. There is an optional excursion to Lyminge and other local sites on Friday afternoon followed by a keynote address by Professor John Blair and a wine reception.

Among confirmed speakers are:
Justine Bayley (London), John Blair (Oxford), Rosemary Cramp (Durham), Rosamond Faith (Oxford), Zoe Knapp (Reading) Elizabeth Lorans (Tours), Mark McKerracher (Oxford), Tomás Ó Carragáin (Cork), David Petts (Durham), Thomas Pickles (Chester), Gabor Thomas (Reading), Dries Tys (Brussels), Ian Wood (Leeds), Barbara Yorke (Winchester).

Conference registration fee is £42 which includes lunch and refreshments. The optional field trip to Lyminge is £10 per person. Please go to for details and registration. Please contact with inquiries.

This conference is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and project partners Kent Archaeological Society.

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Blessed Louis Thu, 20 Nov 2014 09:01:05 +0000 The hagiographical myth of Saint Louis compared to the image, which he himself floated, has for a long time been at the centre of a scholarly dispute. In her generous work, Gaposchkin has shown that even the hagiographers did not agree

The Making of Saint Louis: Kingship, Sanctity, and Crusade in the Later Middle Ages
By M. Cecilia Gaposchkin
Cornell University Press 2008
ISBN-10 0801445507
ISBN-13 978-0-8014-4550-7

Blessed Louis. The Most Glorious of Kings. Texts Relating to the Cult of Saint Louis of France.
By M. Cecilia Gaposchkin (Ed) and Phyllis B. Katz (Transl)
University of Notre Dame Press 2012
ISBN-10: 0268029849
ISBN-13: 978-0268029845

The Sanctity of Louis IX
Early Lives of Saint Louis by Geoffrey of Beaulieu and William of Chartres
Translated by Larry F. Field
Edited by M. Cecilia Gaposchkin and Sean L. Field
Cornell University Press 2013
ISBN-10 080145137X
ISBN-13 978-0-8014-5137-9

The making of Saint Louis by Gaposchkin coverOn August 11, 1297 Pope Boniface VIII canonized Louis IX of France as a confessor of the church. He was the last medieval king to be treated to this honour. Before this solemn event a carefully planned process had taken place, perhaps starting already with the first written account of the death of Saint Louis in Tunis, where he according to his brother died in a hair-shirt on a bedspread on the floor covered in ashes (as did St. Martin of Tours in AD 397 in and after him all proper saints in spe). After this his bones were boiled down in wine, wrapped in sumptuous silk and transported back to France, where he – minus his entrails and heart – was laid to rest in St. Denis among his forebears (his innards being left in Sicily at Monreale.)

There is no doubt that the sanctification of Blessed Louis was the result of a carefully laid plan by the family of the French king, which involved a number of parties. This process comprised the writing of the first vita by his Dominican confessor, Geoffrey of Beaulieu, as well as careful inquiries into Louis’ sanctity by another ecclesiastic and later Pope, Simon de Brie. Around 1275 – 80 yet another vita by William of Chartres was composed. Finally in March 1283 the formal inquest was initiated. At this inquest friends and relatives were called to testify. However the official sanctification was delayed until it was politically interesting for Rome to offer it as part of a set of concessions. It took nevertheless nearly another decade before the solemn translation of part of his relics from St. Denis to Sainte-Chapelle. At the same time other parts of his remains were packaged and presented to those religious institutions, which had been founded or furthered by Louis.

Blessed Louis by GaposhkinAlready at that time the grand liturgical machine had been spewing out the solemn texts needed to celebrate this new and shining French Saint. These texts together with sermons constitute a series of special witnesses, which the Cecilia Gaposchkin has made it her specialty to analyse.

Already in a ground-breaking book from 2008 she demonstrated how the different religious institutions used these religious genres to develop different images of the way in which Louis had behaved saintly. “Louis personified different values to different constituencies, institutions and individuals, in ways that were motivated by the religious and spiritual ideals of the later Middle Ages”, she writes (p. 243). In her detailed and very acute readings of some hitherto unused texts – liturgies and sermons – she demonstrates how for instance the Franciscans focused on his piety and active devotion, while the Capetian Royal family stressed his image as the most Christian King combining royal sanctity and sacral kingship (the title of chapter 4).Sanctity of Saint Louis Gaposchkin cover

However, through these different ways of unpacking a saint to the wider public, she also demonstrates how complicated it was to construe these different images. As an undercurrent in the life of Louis was never just his piety but also his masterful play-acting as a noble knight and crusader. The different constituencies might have tried to “market” their different sets of ideas about how to get a grasp of the saintly Louis. In reality he seems to have had a rather more complex personality. In the end this was probably his passport into a long and very complex story as the – at the same time – both Royal, French and Christian saint par excellence. Even today his legacy is the subject of political spin, when the French Royalists note with glee that one of their scions, the Count of Paris, was present at the official opening of the exhibition occasioned by the 800-anniversary of his birth.

This is a very generous book insofar as it not only presents the reader with an introduction to types of texts not often sourced. She also demonstrates how to use these texts as well as presents the reader with bountiful snippets.

Finally in recent follow-ups she has edited some of the more central texts in two companion volumes, where both the Latin texts and careful translations have been made available for the student. These are a real treat.

Karen Schousboe


Cecilia Gaposchkin received her Ph.D. from Berkeley in 2001. She works on late medieval French cultural history, and has published on the intersection between politics, kingship, and representation. Her first book, The Making of Saint Louis (IX) of France: Kingship, Sanctity and Crusade in the Later Middle Ages, was published with Cornell University Press in 2008 (paperback ed. 2010). She is also the author of Blessed Louis, The Most Glorious of Kings: Texts relating to the Cult of Saint Louis of France (Notre Dame: 2012), and, with Sean Field and Larry Field, The Sanctity of Louis IX: Early Lives of Saint Louis by Geoffrey of Beaulieu and William of Chartres (Cornell: 2014).  She is now working on a devotional history of the crusades, tentatively entitled “Crusade, Liturgy, Ideology, and Devotion: 1050-1400.” She also serves as the Assistant Dean of Faculty for Pre-Major Advising.

]]> 0 Saint Louis – a Biography by Le Goff Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:13:11 +0000 The research took more than ten years before Le Goff could finish his magnum opus, a biography of Saint Louis (1214 – 1270). Today it is a classic

Saint Louis
By Jacques Le Goff (transl. by Gareth E. Gollrad)
Notre Dame University Press 2009 (French ed. 1996)
ISBN: 978-0-268-03381-1

The research took more than ten years before Le Goff could finish his magnum opus about Saint Louis (1214 – 1270). Today it is a classic

jacques le goff saint louis coverUnder the leadership of Fernand Braudel and together with Georges Duby, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Philippe Aries, Jacques le Goff worked his whole life to expand the inheritance of Marc Bloch and the Annales School in general. Part of this inheritance consisted of an emphatic resistance against the traditional history of politics as formed by heroes of a bygone time. Social, economical and cultural history were the mainstay of this tradition until the 80es, when the fashion for historical anthropology hit international academia. To say the least, biographies were for a long time considered anathema.

Nevertheless Jacques le Goff became fascinated by this idea – probably inspired by the work of Ladurie on Montaillou – that it might somehow be possible to get closer to at least some historical individuals of the past. Apart form some minor biographies we possess two: one on Saint Francis of Assisi and another one on Saint Louis (both from the 13th century). It is the last, which will continue to stand.

It is a remarkable book. It opens up with a traditional narrative of the life of Louis. However, we soon learn that the work is not a traditional biography per se. Le Goff obviously organises even this part – the introductory narrative – as a thematic exercise as seen for instance in such chapters as “The King and the Towns” or “The Flemish Inheritance”. None of this is a series of traditional historical stepping-stones whereby we can put one thing on top of another. This is – in spite of the obvious lack of a complete scholarly edition of the registers, charters and documents– a fascinating introduction to French history of the 13th century.

However, from the second part the plot thickens: Le Goff raises the question whether Saint Louis existed at all? Or rather, were their different images of the saintly king, which were passed around during his lifetime as well as afterwards? Who was this man in the eyes of the mendicant hagiographers, the mirrors of princes or the foreign chroniclers? And not least, who was the man in the eyes of his long-time seneschal and friend, Joinville? Did these portraits differ? Or were they nothing but shifting mirrors covering up a faint shadow?

In the end this question is answered by a historian, who keeps digging from ”the outside to the inside”: What were the gestures of this king? How did he move around? What did he like to eat? And what did he eat? How did he speak? What forms did his religious devotion take? In short: what did his daily life look like? And finally: how would we, Le Goff and his readers, have experienced this man, might we but meet him in the streets or sit in his garden and enjoy a hearty laugh? At the end of the book, Le Goff is insistent: yes, we might in fact get to know him somewhat and not just only on the surface.

This is a masterly wrought biography written with the explicit desire to “meet the man”. Thus In the end Le Goff also confesses that he wished he might dream of the man as Joinville did, when he around 1300 discovered that he was not to have even a tiny relic of a bone to kiss in remembrance of the man he had served so diligently most of his life. A fact, which Joinville compensated for by dreaming that his king came and stayed with him at his small castle:

“Now I must tell you some things about Saint Louis, which will be to his honour, and which I saw in my sleep. It seemed to me then, in my dream, that I saw him in front of my chapel at Joinville, and he was, I thought wonderfully gay and light of heart; and I, too, was happy to see him in my castle, and I said to him: Sir, when you leave, I will entertain you in a house I have in a village of mine called Chevillon. He answered me with a laugh: My lord of Joinville, by the faith I owe you, I have no wish to leave this place soon”.

The biography by Le Goff has been characterised of being too prone to conflate the hagiographical myths on one hand with on the other hand the shadowy outline of what seems to have been the identity of “Saint Louis” as he understood it himself. This may be. Perhaps some corrections may even be appropriate as archival digging lets us get nearer to the more detailed acts and deeds of his work as king.

In the end, however, this biography of Saint Louis is not easily pushed aside. It is simply a very good read…


Saint Louis – a Man with a Hair-Shirt

Saint Louis – Catalogue with an introduction by Jacques Le Goff

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The Sainte-Chapelle and the Construction of Sacral Monarchy Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:15:12 +0000 New book presents Sainte-Chapelle in Paris as much more than a revered architectural and artistic masterpiece. It was also the crucible of the ideas of sacral monarchy forged in 13th century Paris

The Sainte-Chapelle and the Construction of Sacral Monarchy

Royal Architecture in Thirteenth-Century Paris
By Meredith Cohen
Cambridge University Press 2014
ISBN: 9781107025578


In the 12th century the French King Philip August initiated a remarkable building program. His legacy were the standard French medieval castles with an archetypical quadratic layout with at least four towers in the corners and thick walls protecting stone halls inside as well as a nearly impenetrable donjon. This was foremost an extremely functional form of architecture which came to dominate the countryside as well as Paris, where the first Louvre was built on this formula. This Louvre was constructed right on the Northern outskirts of the medieval city of Paris, which he also fitted with a magnificent wall. Thus he combined both banks of the city an encouraged a marked immigration of what was busily being turned into a royal center of national importance. Vestiges of the wall may still be found around the city.

sainte chapelle meredith cohen cover 2014However, the legacy to his grandson, the future Saint Louis, was not only a series of functional castles but also rather full coffers, which he at a later stage was able to use to forge a somewhat different architectural vision of what royal power was all about. As opposed to his grandfather the role Louis IX chose to fulfil was that of a saintly king and less that of a secular ruler. His inspiration was found in the streets of Paris where the new style – the more delicate Rayonnant – was being developed at the same time as the new form of mendicant piety evolved as a city phenomenon.

In a new book about the construction of the idea of the sacral French monarchy the medievalist and art-historian Meredith Cohen follows this shift in artistic expressions through the oblique and unknown corners of medieval Paris. But she also and perhaps more specifically demonstrate how this inspiration was used to forge the Sainte-Chapelle, which in the general opinion may perhaps be the foremost example, but which is here considered as so much more than just a new archetypical edifice.

This is done by carefully analysing the building, its architecture, artistic embellishments and its spatial context at the front of the Palais de la Cité. But she also touches upon the complex liturgical performances, which were ordained by the king in his foundational charters as well as the way in which these liturgies and their artistic and architectural setting might be “read” as a continuous lesson in Sacral Monarchy. As such Sainte Chapelle did not only echo the royal and episcopal chapels elsewhere in Byzantium and Europe, it also presented itself as the temple of Solomon with Louis playing at being the new David – or rather David reincarnated as that the peculiar fusion of Christ and St. Francis, which was such an important part in the self-configuration of the king and future saint.

This book offers us thus a tour de force around the architecture, the artistic programme, the spatial layout, the liturgical construction and the practical use of the building of Sainte Chapelle. However, it also offers us so much more, not least an important sideways comment to the central question of whether Saint-Louis was his own construct (as Le Goff was the opinion of) or whether he was a later hagiographical myth. Although we do not know to what extent the king was involved in formulating the actual artistic programme, it seems safe to believe that he was not critical of it. He seems to have moved whole-heartedly into it, thus laying the foundation for what was to become the so very “French” idea of a Sacral Monarchy.

Meredith Cohen is naturally very careful in her conclusion, where she writes that “whether royal architecture was a conscious form of propaganda, can only be debated” (p. 199). But she also writes that “Louis throughout his whole life was acutely aware of his image”. We may add that neither is there a reason to believe that Louis was not acutely aware of the central role, which Sainte Chapelle was called to play as the crucible of sacral Monarchy; at least not after having read this commendable exposé thereof.

Karen Schousboe


  • The making of a royal city: Paris and the architecture of Philip Augustus
  • The Sainte-Chapelle: Parisian Rayonnant and the new royal architecture
  • The architecture of sacral kingship
  • Private, public, and the promotion of the cult of kings
  • Louis’ later patronage in Paris
  • Appendices.


Meredith Cohen is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. She specializes in the art, architecture, and urban development of high medieval Europe, particularly in France and England. She has published articles on the Sainte-Chapelle, the Court Style, medieval Paris, nineteenth-century restoration, and the historiography of Gothic architecture. In addition, she has edited a series of interdisciplinary volumes on medieval history and culture. In 2010, she curated an exhibition (with Xavier Dectot) on medieval Paris at the Musée national du Moyen Âge. She has received fellowships and grants from the British Academy, the Châteaubriand Foundation, the Société des Professeurs de Français et Francophones d’Amérique, the Whiting Foundation, and UCLA for her research. Cohen is the founder and was the first president of the International Medieval Society of Paris, an interdisciplinary scholarly society based in Paris.


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Saint Louis – Catalogue of the Exhibition in Paris 2014 Wed, 19 Nov 2014 10:44:02 +0000 In connection with the grand exhibition in Paris celebrating the 800-anniversary of Saint Louis, a large and beautiful although unhandy catalogue has been published.

Saint Louis.
By Pierre-Yves le Pogam and Christine Vivet-Peclet (Eds)
Editions du Patrimoine Centre des monuments nationaux 2014
ISBN-10: 2757703412
ISBN-13: 978-2757703410


Saint Louis - catalogue coverThis is a real coffee-table book, obviously meant to be perused during lazy afternoons in winter-time. In this sense, the book lives up to one of the characteristics of the life and times of Louis IX. If people could afford it – and the French royal family obviously could – exquisite and delicate art was at their fingertips in the form of incredibly detailed ivory sculptures, glazed windows and not least covers and illuminated manuscripts. Now we can peruse renderings of all these delicacies for the paltry sum of €45.

Such embellishments really needs to be seen close up in order to be fully enjoyed. However, this was of course the privilege par excellence of royals and nobles at that time.

Thus, this style was already in the 19th century dubbed “the Rayonnant” in order to separate it from the early Gothic architecture, which was characterised by its focus on scale and space. As opposed to this the style of app. 1240 – 1350 was more concerned with the decorative motifs embellishing the surfaces. One should thus imagine that royalty and nobles in the 13th century were intensely occupied by securing their privacy.

In fact, the opposite seems to have been the case. it is apparent that Saint-Louis was personally occupied with opening up this magical world to the common people. This was done through a deft manipulation of architecture, liturgy, music, space and not least the body itself.

The present catalogue invites the reader to step into this magic world by considering both the staging of the saintly body of the king as well as the settings, which he was responsible for creating while performing his grand idea of being both a king and a saint.

A barefooted Saint Louis carries the Crown of Thorns  to Paris and installs it at Sainte Chapelle
A barefooted Saint Louis carries the Crown of Thorns to Paris and installs it at Sainte Chapelle

Of course its has been intensely debated to what extent Saint Louis himself was responsible  for the construction of this janus-faced myth; and to what extent it was his hagiographers who after his life built the myth. However, there is no doubt that both the exhibition and the catalogue share the view with Jaques le Goff – who wrote a remarkable biography in the 90s – that the king was personally responsible and that he was an accomplished director as well as actor on this scene.

In the catalogue (as well as in the exhibition) we are thus presented with a movement from the 19th century paintings, which represent the full-blown romantic myth through a discussion of how the saint was canonized in the end of the 13th century. From here we are presented with a series of studies focusing on the construction of the royal myth through the deft manipulation of the particular myth of saint Louis through portraiture and how he personally was responsible for reorganising the presentation of his dynasty in their sepulchral cathedral of Saint-Denis. To this is also added a short presentation of how Saint-Louis moved through the landscape as a penitent sinner or when he together with his family barefooted carried the crown of Thorns and other relics into Paris in 1348 in order to lay it to rest in the Sainte Chapelle which he had been the main instigator of. This jewel-box, which was in fact used as a public “text” teaching the sacred character of kings to the people, is of course also dealt with in the catalogue, where we are given examples of the delicacy of the original glazed windows.

Finally the end of the catalogue gives a presentation of what role the Royal Kingdom of Jerusalem played in the minds of Saint-Louis and his contemporaries. Unfortunately the catalogue does not present the recent 3D reconstructions of the Saint Chapelle and royal palace on the Île-de-France, which are exhibited at the end of the exhibition. This is a shame since this would have opened further up for an understanding of the medieval understanding of what was private, personal and public. The borders were obviously quite different for saint Louis, who opened both his garden and his royal chapel to the public for them to see the fusion of the royal and celestial spheres for themselves.

Although condensed, it is a delightful publication, which carries the experience of getting close to the man beyond January 2015, when the exhibition closes. However, the Catalogue is also in the usual unhandy form, unfit for reading at your leisure in the evening. Photos are exquisite, although they might more conveniently have been made accessible on a dedicated website. (The argument appertaining to copyright is not applicable as many of the photos are already owned by the French National Institutions and museums and as such belong to the State, which might just make a political choice and make those available and pay for the rest). And then of course the language is prohibitive for many. Saint-Louis is a key figure when it comes to get a grip on France in the High Middle Ages. It would have been nice to see the relevant French authorities at least acknowledge that tourists to Paris comprise non-native speakers with a wish to know more, when mounting such an impressive exhibition

Karen Schousboe


  • Introduction:
    Et le rire le roi – by Jacques Le Goff
  • Du saint à L’homme, parcours d’un mythe à rebours:
    L’image de saint Louis dans la peinture au XIXe Siècle By Frédéric Lacaille
    La canonisation de saint Louis by André Vauchez
    De l’image des rois à l’image du roi. By Pierre-Yves Le Pogam
    Le sacre de saint Louis. By Patrick Demouy
    Saint Louis et la mémoire royale à Saint-Denis. By Damien Berné
    Saint Louis, roi pelerine, roi croisé. Les peregrinations de Louis IX dans le royaume de France. By Pascale Thibault
  • Du royaume terrestre à la Jèrusalem celeste
    La Sainte-Chapelle: Fondation et liturgie. By ètienne Arnheim et Ghislain Brunel
    La Sainte-Chapelle: architecture et décor. By Pierre-Yves le Pogam
    Le Vitrail à la Sainte-Chapelle. By Françoise Perrot
  • La Quéte de Jerusalem
    “Pour la garde et pour l’honneur de la foi chrétienne”. Saint Louis et la fortification des ville en Terre sainte. By Jean Mesqui
    Entre le Livre et l’épée. La Bible du roi tout en imgaes comme expression d’un i´déal politique. By Yves Christe
    La splendour de ‘art de la cour de saint Louis. By Pierre-Yves Le Pogam
    Dépouillement et expressivité. By Pierre-Yves Le Pogam
  • Notices – Numbered Catalogue of exhibited items
  •  The catalogue also includes a table with the most important dates of the reign of Saint Louis, a family tree, two maps and a unfortunately highly selective bibliography.


Louvre holds a reliquary crown probably made in the Liège in Vallée de la Meuse 1260 -1280. Beneath the crystals it holds a number of diverse relics, amongst which is a thorn from the Crown of Christ. It is commonly called “the crown of Saint Louis”. However it is believed to have been made for a statue as a reliquary crown and not for his personal use. Whether or not Saint-Loui gifted the crown himself to the Dominicans in Liège, is disputed (the crown has no. 81 in the catalogue)


Review of the exhibition

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Louis IX – a Man with a Hairshirt Tue, 18 Nov 2014 18:41:02 +0000 Louis IX (1214 – 1270) was an intriguing man. This year France celebrates his 800-year anniversary with a very important exhibition in Paris
Crown of Thors is presented to the Faithful in Paris in March 2014
Crown of Thors is presented to the Faithful in Paris in March 2014

The bare facts are easy to present: Louis IX became king of France in 1226 when he was 12 years old. During his rather tumultuous youth, his mother, Blanche of Castille, governed, dealing with a series of baronial rebellions as well as putting an end to the Albigensian crusade against the Cathars.

Bequeathed with filled coffers he twice embarked on crusades, which both ended pitifully. During his first crusade his army was defeated and he and his men ended up in Egyptian captivity. After his release and having negotiated a peace-treaty, he spent four years in the Middle East trying to rebuild the defences of the Crusader.

After his return to France he worked to heighten the general law and order in his kingdom. He also aspired to fulfil his role as the exemplary Christian prince furthering religious institutions all over France. He is remembered as the king, who famously acquired the Crown of Thorns as well as other holy relics from Byzantium, to which end he had a spectacular shrine built: the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. Nearing the end, he embarked once more on a crusade. However, in Tunis, he became ill and died. Already in 1297 he was declared a saint by Pope Boniface VIII.

The biography of Le Goff

Sainte Chapelle flagellation
Sainte Chapelle flagellation

In 1996, the great French Historian, Jaques le Goff (1924 – 2014) published a huge biography of one of the arguably towering figures of the 13th century: the saintly French king, Louis IX.

In the book he told us how he originally started out on the project in order to find out whether it was at all possible to write a personal history of a man, who lived more than 700 years before. However, in the conclusion he wrote about, how the man grew upon him as he began over a ten-year period to collate all the little bits and pieces.

Well aware of the less than amiable traits like his support of the inquisition, his persecution of Jews, his crusading fervour and his masochistic traits, le Goff nevertheless fell victim to what he in the end came to see as a very charming man: A man who also laughed, loved his friends, enjoyed fresh fruit and liked to sit down in the garden while carrying out his business; and a man who was also genuinely generous towards the poor, the infirmed and the feeble and obviously more than fired by the special penitentiary form of mendicant piety, which was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi.

The biography of William Chester Jordan

Image autorisée à Clarisse Deubel free-lance par Clarisse Deubel Detail de l'image :  Numéro d'oeuvre : RMN8497 JPEG - 2048X3072 pixels  © RMN (Musée du Louvre) / Réunion des Musées Nationaux
Box of Louis IX © Clarisse Deubel © RMN (Musée du Louvre)

However, this rounded picture was less obviously also written to salvage the man from the fate of the American historian, William Chester Jordan, who in another biography from 1979 had described the saintly king as an utterly conflicted and immature man torn between on one side his tendency to asceticism and on the other side his mother, his royal obligations as a crusader and the appertaining lifestyle, which he was obliged to parade; all this leaving him with what has been characterised as a near schizophrenic pattern of behaviour and inducing him after his failed crusade to suffer penitential floggings by his confessor. (Today historians so inclined would probably claim he suffered a borderline personality; psychiatric diagnoses have changed since the 70s!).

The biography of Jean de Joinville

Premier évangéliaire de la Sainte Chapelle. Paris, vers 1230 et vers 1240-1248. Parchemin, H. 0.36 ; L. 0.26 m. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France. Ms Lat. 8892. © BnF
The Cover of the Evangeliary from Sainte Chapelle © BNF

It would be utterly denigrating of the work of Le Goff’s to claim that it was foremost written to recapture the fame of a medieval French hero, who par excellence was always thought of as the first “sun-king”. The biography was obviously also written to leave us with a paradigmatic example of how to write biographies of people long dead; as such it has obviously inspired scores of other historians of which perhaps it makes especially sense to mention the biography of one of the main royal competitors of Louis IX: Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor (by Abulafia).

However, there is no doubt that Le Goff in the end fell victim to one of the most charming medieval texts, we posses: the biography, which the seneschal and old friend of Saint Louis, Jean de Joinville, wrote about the life of the king in 1309. Here the reader gets a series of delightful vignettes of life with a (perhaps not so saintly) king – in short: a man of blood, sweat and tears.

In the end, this is the man, which is at the centre of a series of very French exhibitions in Paris, Angers and Aigues Morte in 2014. It is perhaps in view of this fitting that one of the very last texts of Le Goff may be found in the introduction to the catalogue published in connection with the Paris exhibition and in which he (once more) tells us that St. Louis was a man who loved a good laugh…

The Exhibition in Paris

Anyone wishing to experience the life and times of Saint Louis is of course obliged to visit both the Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame at the Île de la Cité. Here the king lived, whenever he was not crusading or touring his kingdom and it was here he had his main edifice built, his royal chapel called Sainte Chapelle, which was a remarkable compact Gothic edifice designed to hold all the relics, which he had acquired from Byzantium via Venice. Amongst these was of course the piece de resistance, the Crown of Thorns, which today is held at Notre–Dame together with some relics of the saint himself: his bloody shirt and his scourge. His celice or hair-shirt is kept at St. Aspais in Melun.

Chemise or shirt of St. Louis
Chemise or shirt of Saitn Louis. below can be seen the hair shirt

While the Crown of Thorns is not exhibited at the Concierge this autumn (it returned briefly to the Sainte Chapelle for a religious celebration in March 2014), the shirt, scourge and hair-shirt has been lent to the exhibition and takes pride of place after a parade of romanticising paintings from the 19th century. This is obviously an exhibition inviting the visitors to reach behind the myths and as such the shirt and the penitential instruments are soon followed up by box of Saint-Louis, which is dated to 1236 and from Limoges. It was here the celice was originally kept together with some bones reputedly said to stem from the cask of bones, which was carried back from Tunis by his brother. The main part was of course buried at St. Denis; however pieces were distributed to diverse institutions and apparently l’Abbaye de Notre Dame du Lys received a portion. However, the casket is earlier than the 14th century and medievalists have pondered whether the casket, which is now in the Louvre, was originally donated to the Abbey of Maubuisson, which received the heart of his mother as a gift in 1253.

This is not the place to mention all the exhibited treasures one after the other. However, special notice should be paid to the beautiful illuminated manuscripts, some of which are very seldom at view. One especially evocative manuscript is the so-called psalter of Blanche de Castille and Saint Louis (Biblioteque de l’Arsenal ms.1186 Rés), which it is believed the child learned to read from.

Ivory stauette of the Virgin from the 13th century- Louvre - © Réunion des musées nationaux (RMN).
Ivory stauette of the Virgin from the 13th century- Louvre – © Réunion des musées nationaux (RMN).

Pride of place though are the exhibits from the Sainte Chapelle: the beautiful cover of the Evangeliary, which miraculously survived the revolution, the lovely Virgin with child made of Ivory and not least several fragments of the original painted glass windows, which were first pitifully destroyed or sold off during the revolution. Later they underwent heavy-handed restoration as did the Chapel itself. But here – for the first time in more than 150 years they are on show. To this should be added fragments of the originally carved glory, which was hack to pieces by the angry mobs after 1789.

This is not a large exhibition. Only 129 pieces are on show, and some of those belong to the category of bland 19th century historicised paintings so beloved by the French bent on resurrecting the pre-revolutionary royal glory. But it is an enormously important exhibition, because it shows fragments of the artistic and visual world, which surrounded Louis IX and his family and entourage. As such it complements the two biographies mentioned above as well as a number of recent more specialised publications. Well worth a visit!

As opposed to this bonanza the exhibitions at Angers and Aigues Morte seem less important. One presents a newly found glazed window plus some more 19th century brick-a-brack. The other invites the visitor to take a walk along the ramparts and read the story of Joinville and the first 7th crusade. However, this walk is also possible next year…


Saint Louis 800
La Conciergerie, île des Paris 08.10.2014 – 11.01.2015


As part of the Exhibition at the Concierge it is possible to see a number of 3D reconstructions of Medieval Paris . These are exhibited at the end of the exhibition in the Conciergerie


Saint Louis - catalogue coverSaint Louis.
By Pierre-Yves le Pogam and Christine Vivet-Peclet (Eds)
Editions du Patrimoine Centre des monuments nationaux 2014
ISBN-10: 2757703412
ISBN-13: 978-2757703410

jacques le goff saint louis coverSaint Louis
By Jacques Le Goff
University of Notre Dame Press 2009 (French edition. Folio Histoire 1996)
ISBN-10: 0268033811
ISBN-13: 978-0268033811

Louis IX: The Challenge of the Crusade: A Study in Rulership
by William Chester Jordan
Princeton University Press 1979
ISBN-10: 0691052859
ISBN-13: 978-0691052854

Chronicles of the Crusades (Penguin Classics)
By by Jean de Joinville and Geffroy de Villehardouin
Penguin Classics 2009
ISBN-10: 0140449981
ISBN-13: 978-0140449983


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Troubadours and the Crusades Tue, 18 Nov 2014 11:22:00 +0000 The songs of the troubadours and trouvères include scores of original sources that bring to life medieval, up-to-the-minute responses to the crusades. Now original source material is being made available

The crusades have left a profound and disturbing legacy in inter-cultural and inter-faith relations nationally and worldwide. They continue to be of compelling interest and relevance to students, scholars and the wider public, with crusading rhetoric alive in the global political discourse transmitted daily in the media. The songs of the troubadours and trouvères include scores of original sources that bring to life medieval, up-to-the-minute responses to the crusades.

A four-year Anglo-Italian project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK, will allow academic researchers and teachers, school-teachers, students, and any interested member of the general public to access and exploit the original source material represented by these medieval songs (see background and texts), in the light of a number of research questions:

  • What did the secular public in the Middle Ages think of the crusades?
  • How far did they accept, influence, participate in, resist or challenge the Church’s crusading propaganda?
  • How far were they inspired by the idea of holy war?
  • How were their attitudes affected by the Albigensian crusade, launched against troubadour lands in the South?
  • How did they face the repeated failures of crusading efforts as time went on?
  • What light do the songs shed on particular crusades, and what do they add to our knowledge of them?
  • What regional differences do they reflect?

At present it is possible to access 20 Old French and 123 Occitan texts in scholarly editions, with translations and historical notes: more are on the way. Anyone are welcome to copy them for use in research or teaching, or maybe for such creative purposes as setting them to modern music: it’s up to the reader. The site also contains sung performances of ten Old French and two Occitan songs sung by Francesco Carapezza, and spoken performances by Gérard Gouiran of another thirteen, all Occitan: if you’ve ever wondered how to pronounce medieval Occitan here’s a chance to hear it from the best possible source. Francesco has also recorded an interesting talk on the music of these songs and his approach to performance.

The project has just launched a poetry competition aimed mainly, though not exclusively, at schoolchildren on the subject of ‘Crusade’, which can be treated in any way (details on the project website). The closing date is 28 February 2015, and a few entries have already come in.

Liam Lewis, a graduate student of the Warwick French Department, is running a medieval music group. One of their last year’s rehearsals is on youtube; they have a new blog this year and are hoping to perform some medieval songs in the Arts Centre foyer in the last week of term (end of November – first week of December), and a concert in the New Year.


Troubadours, trouvères and the Crusades

The project is accompanied by a dedicated blog – Crusade Lyrics

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Power and Sainthood Sun, 16 Nov 2014 14:01:12 +0000 A new book about the Swedish saint, Birgitta, investigates how Birgitta went about establishing her power and authority

Power and Sainthood
by Päivi Salmesvuori
Series: New Middle Ages
Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN-10: 1137398922
ISBN-13: 978-1137398925


Power of SainthoodBirgitta of Sweden (1302/3-1373) was a mother, visionary, counsellor to a king, inventor of her own rule, saint, and one of the best known medieval women in history. As a wife and a mother of eight children, the Swedish noble lady Birgitta was an atypical candidate for sanctity. Yet, only 18 years after her death, in 1391, she was declared a saint by the Pope and became a role model for many late medieval mothers and widows.

Power and Sainthood investigates how Birgitta went about establishing her power and authority. Palvi Salmesvuori argues that the crucial factor was her successful performance of her sanctity.


Päivi Salmesvuori is Adjunct Professor in General Church History and Gender Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She has specialized in issues pertaining to gender, power, and religion. She is co-editor of the book Finnish Women Making Religion: Between Ancestors and Angels.

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Cosmas of Prague: Narrative, Classicism, Politics Sun, 16 Nov 2014 13:40:56 +0000 Cosmas of Prague: Narrative, Classicism, Politics’ explores new ways in which to study medieval historical writing. It analyzes the oldest history of a Slavic people written by a Slav.

Cosmas of Prague: Narrative, Classicism, Politics
by Lisa Wolverton
The Catholic University of America Press 2014
ISBN-10: 0813226910
ISBN-13: 978-0813226910


Cosmas of Prague coverCosmas of Prague (Czech: Kosmas Pražský) (c. 1045 1125) was a priest, writer and historian born in a noble family in Bohemia. Between 1075 and 1081, he studied in Liège. After his return to Bohemia, he became a priest and married Božetěcha, with whom he probably had a son. In 1086, Cosmas was appointed prebendary (canonicus) of Prague, a prestigious position. As prebendary he also travelled through Europe on official matters. However, his fame rests on his magnus opus, Chronica Boëmorum or ‘the Chronicle of Bohemians’.

‘Cosmas of Prague: Narrative, Classicism, Politics’ models new ways to study medieval historical writing. It analyzes this, the oldest history of a Slavic people written by a Slav.

Some scholars read Cosmas as a mere annalist, others as a fanciful narrator only partially reliable as a source of historical data, and still others as a panegyrist of the Premyslid dynasty and an exponent of Czech national identity. However, close reading of his text reveals Cosmas to be a fierce critic of the prevailing political order, indeed of all political orders per se. Rather than apologizing for or pandering to the dukes of Bohemia, Cosmas holds before them and their magnates a harsh mirror in which their deplorable deeds are exposed; yet by thisvery act he exhorts them to change, and thus to work for the broader benefit of the community instead of for petty, personal gain.

Recovering this vision of contemporary Czech society requires doing justice to Cosmas’s craftsmanship: it means holding his text up to a prism, rotating and continually re-reading his vibrant prose through a series of different faces – gender, narrative, mythmaking, classicism, territory, power. The result is the first work to treat Cosmas’s text on its own terms. It finds that the wisdom of the ancient past proved directly and immediately relevant to the politics of the medieval present.


Lisa Wolverton is associate professor in the Department of History, University of Oregon.

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