Medieval Histories News about the Middle Ages Fri, 31 Oct 2014 21:33:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sweets for Souls Fri, 31 Oct 2014 14:37:01 +0000 Urban legend in USA has it that we cannot offer the children home baked goodies at Halloween (some weirdos excel in filling them with crushed glass). More is the pity since our European traditions offer a selection of medieval traditional fare

Here are the recipes for cakes of all sorts, which seem to have been part of the early celebrations of All Saints and All Souls

Le Fave dei Morti from Perugia

Fave dei Morti from PerugiaThe Broad Beans of the Dead are sometimes also called the bones of the dead (ossa dei Morti) and are made of 300 gr finely pealed and chopped almonds, 450 gr of flour, 300 gr of sugar, 5 gr of soda, 2 eggs, 75 gr of butter and the grated peel of a lemon. Optional is amaretto or cinnamon. Knead it all by hand and form it into small balls, which you flatten and into oval “beans”. Bake them at 170o C and dust with sugar.

Frutta di Martorana in Sicily

Fruit of Marzipan from SicilyFrutta de Matorana are fabulous pieces of painted candy formed out of marzipan (martorana in Sicilian) and painted in lively colors. Get the inspiration from the photo

Niflettes from Provins near Paris

Niflettes from Provins near ParisNe flete means “cry no more”. These cakes are made of tartelets filled with cream pudding made of ½ litre milk, four eggs, 100 gr sugar, 40 gr flour and 50 gr soft butter. Let the milk boil. Wisp the eggs with the sugar before adding the flour. Vigorously wisp the boiling milk – drop by drop – into the cream. Heat the cream up while wisping the butter into the mixture. Bake the filled shells at 180o for 15 min.

Castanyada in Catalonia (and all over Iberia)

Castanyada in CataloniaIn the Mediterranean the remembrance of All saints and All Souls traditionally collided with the Castanyada – the feast for the Chestnuts. One treat is thus to sample roasted chestnuts at street-vendors and bring them home to enjoy in front of a blazing fire 8or you can roast them yourselves after having cut them in the top). Afterwards the treat is topped with panellets, small round cookies made of 150 gr sweet potatoes, boiled, cooled and mashed. To this add 130 gr sugar and grated lemon. Knead it by hand with a sprinkle of water and add and egg yolk, 170 gr of peeled and grounded almonds and form it into small round balls (12 – 14). These should be rolled in pine nuts and baked for 15 min at 180o.

Serve it all with local sweet wine (Vin Santo, Port or Muscatel) and let the children sip, if you believe in teaching youngsters that moderate alcohol is not a vice; as they believe in Southern Europe, where children are “taught” to drink wine mixed with water.


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Medieval Truck-Stop excavated Fri, 31 Oct 2014 09:54:55 +0000 Where to Park your Horse? What is on the daily menu? Archaeologists have found the remains of a long-haul truck-stop near Peissen in Sachsen–Anhalt on the road between Hannover and Dresden.
Map of Krakau - a deserted village near Peissen
The location of Krakau near Peissen

700 years ago the village of Krakau near Peissen was located right on a medieval highway. Here the archaeologists have found the remains of a truck-stop, where horses could be parked and fed, while drivers dipped into the daily fare on the menu.

The archaeologists have so-far uncovered a paved “parking-lot” and the outline of several stalls. Judging from the ground-plans these seem to have been lightly built, tells Susanne Friedrich, archaeologist from the LMU (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München). “Presumably the villagers have come up with the idea of serving snacks and light meals to the passers-by; this may have generated a significant extra income”, she adds.

The truck-stop was located next to a medieval road, which has also been uncovered. Here the archaeologists have found tracks of a cart. The village was built in the 9th century in a region peopled by Slavs. The settlement existed for 400 years and was home to about 200 individuals. However in the 14th century the village was abandoned – probably due to a mixture of war, famine and pestilence.

a medieval bone button from the deserted village in Krakau near Peissen
A medieval bone button from the deserted village in Krakau near Peissen

The archaeologists have also found 15 houses with brick stone-cellars, a stone-walled well and a kiln. In addition more than 2000 stray finds have been catalogued, amongst which are Slavic ceramics, earrings out of bronzebone buttons, a spur and a silver penny. The name of the settlement “Krakau” may be found in written sources and is still used as the name of a field.

The excavation is part of a so-called rescue-dig prompted by a 37 km long gas pipeline between Peissen and Bobbau. The excavations are currently being wrapped up. It has been carried out in the regi of the Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte in Halle.


Die Mittelalterliche Wüstung Krakau bei Peissen

Imbiss für Langstrecken-Kutscher vor 700 Jahren


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Luther and the Princes Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:42:36 +0000 2015 a major exhibition on Luther and the Princes will be mounted. The idea behind the exhibition is to tell the story of the political side of the reformation.
August von Sachsen by Lucas Cranach the Jounger
August von Sachsen by Lucas Cranach the Jounger. Stadt und Bergbaumuseum in Freiberg.

The Reformation may have started when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the church-door in Wittenberg in 1517. However, without the backing of the German princes the Reformation would never have taken place. Center of this movement was the small renaissance town, Torgau, where the castle of Hartenfels was home t

o the Duke of Saxony. Here the first protestant church was built (in the chapel of the castle) and here the wife of Luther was buried.

The exhibition is mounted in the castle, which has undergone a series of restorations in the last decade.

The Reformation permanently altered not only the religious landscape of Europe but also its political map. The publication in 1517 of the 95 Theses affected every aspect of life and every section of society. Its impact was due in no small part to the Protestant princes who championed Luther’s teachings. The picturesque Renaissance town of Torgau on the Elbe, with its castle, Schloss Hartenfels, was the political centre of the Reformation. Martin Luther preached here and consecrated the castle chapel as one of the very first new Protestant church buildings. Once the residence of the electors of Saxony, Torgau is the authentic setting for the first national special exhibition to commemorate the Reformation.

On the occasion of the Luther Decade the exhibition connects this historical location with unique objects that illustrate the Reformation period. In an exhibition space measuring more than 1,500 m², it explores various aspects of the political history of the princes and their self-image during the Reformation, extending from 1515, when the plenary indulgence was proclaimed, up to 1591, when the Union of Torgau was formed. Paintings, treasury objects and ornate suits of armour, along with numerous other historical exhibits, provide a vivid impression of the interplay between politics and the Reformation and open a window on the age of confessional division.

The exhibition is organised by the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden in cooperation with the “City of Torgau. Federal President of Germany, Joachim Gauck is protector of the exhibition.


Luther and the Princes. The Public Portrayal and Self-Image of Rulers in the Age of Reformation
Torgau 15.05.2015 – 31.05.2015

Christoph of Württenberg – a Renaissance Prince in the Age of the Reformation
Stuttgart, 24.10.2015 – 04.03.2016

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Christoph of Württemberg 1515 – 1568 Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:35:09 +0000 Christoph – a Renaissance Prince from the Reformation is at the centre of an exhibition in Stuttgart 2015
Christoph of Württemberg by Abraham Hell
Christoph of Württemberg by Abraham Hell
Source: Wikipedia

Christoph of Württemberg (1515 – 1568) ruled as duke of Württemberg from 1550 and until his death. Just after his birth his father was expelled from his dukedom, and Christoph grew up at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in Insbruck; later he travelled through Europe in the entourage of his grandson Charles V.

In 1535 his father regained Württemberg. Around the same time Christoph converted to Protestantism. Accordingly he was obliged to pay a hefty sum to the emperor Ferdinand I 1550. Under his reign the entire administration of both church and state was undertaken. At the same time he rebuilt the old castle in Stuttgart, which is currently being used as the regional museum.

2015 it is 500 years since Christoph was born and a special exhibition will open in October 2015 in the castle he turned into a magnificent renaissance edifice.

The exhibition is under the patronage of Winfried Kretschmann, state premier of Baden-Württemberg, and Dr. hc Frank Otfried July, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg.


Christoph 1515 – 1568. A renaissance Prince in the Age of Reformation
Stuttgart, 24.10.2015 – 04.03.2016

Luther and the Princes
Torgau 15.05.2015 – 31.05.2015



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Ways to Cranach Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:57:01 +0000 Cranach the Younger was in his own right a remarkable painter of the reformation. This year a series of exhibitions throws a spotlight on his work.

Cranach the Elder is known as the artist, who through his friendship with Luther turned into the “visualizer” of the reformation. His son, Cranach the Younger, was also a painter. Born in 1515 in Wittenberg he continued the work of his father.

In memory of his birth in 1515 one of the major exhibitions in Germany (one of the so-called “Landes-ausstellungen”) will be mounted by Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen next summer.

It is the first worldwide exhibition, which dedicates itself to the life and work of this painter. The exhibition will open at 7 different original locations: Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Dessau, Wörlitz, Eisenach, Gotha, Weimar and Erfurt. Other places may also be included in the itinerary.


The Last supper - Cranach the Younger - Dessau
The Last supper – Cranach the Younger : The Epitaph of Joachim von Anhalt. In Dessau-Mildensee. The Man to right offering wine is believed to be a self-portrait of Cranach the Younger. Among the seated guests were Luther, Melanchton and other prominent reformators.

In Wittenberg the exhibition tells the story of the life and work of Lucas Cranach the Younger. It presents him as a facet-rich personality: as prudent head of the family, as city treasurer, intelligent mayor and an energetic entrepreneur. Above all, however, it presents the artist Lucas Cranach as a royal contractor, as painter of reformatory altars and epitaphs, as an excellent portraitist and a highly talented draughtsman. In the years of the confessional conflicts after Luther’s death he made an important contribution for the propagation of the new faith. His societal portraits show how calculated he knew to utilize his pictorial possibilities. Up to his death in 1586 Lucas Cranach the Younger led one of the largest and most productive work of art studios of Europe in Wittenberg. He was a skillful artist who understood his craft and acted in the midst of a large personal and vocational network. Great works of art from German and international collections as well as exciting medial representations convey these connections. They enable the long time overdue discovery of Cranach the Younger as a widely unknown master from Wittenberg. The exhibition is to be seen at the Augusteum, the front building of the Lutherhaus.

Cranach’s Church and the Reformation Altar

Another venue in Wittenberg is the church of St. Mary, which holds numerous original paintings of Lucas Cranach the younger. For the exhibition in “Cranach’s Church”, Cranach’s works of the Town Church St. Marien are extravagantly restored, first of all the well-known Reformation Altar, on which Lucas Cranach the Younger together with his father worked. Further important works are the epitaphs for Johannes Bugenhagen and Paul Eber, the latter better known by his title “Der Weinberg des Herrn” (“The vineyard of the Lord”). The works are considered as particularly important testimony of Reformation history. Additional elucidations and texts complete the exhibition. The Cranach Altar in the church of St. Mary in Wittenberg has recently been restored. The result will be unveiled in Wittenberg on the 31st of October.

Cranach in Anhalt

The city of Dessau was closely connected with the reformation and the Cranach family often visited the town, which lies 35 km. from Wittenberg

With the impressive epitaphs in the Church of St. John, with the famous Dessauer “Fürstenaltar“ (“Princes’ Altar”) and other major works of Cranach the Elder as well as other masterpieces of old German painting and graphics from the Anhalt Art Gallery in Dessau, the exhibition draws a multifaceted image of the background for the art of the younger Cranach.

Cranach in the Gothic House in Wörlitz

Prince Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1751 – 1817) was an avid collector of the work of both Cranach the Elder and Younger. All in all he acquired 20 works, which will be displayed in accordance with the original hanging scheme.

The Luther Portraits of the Cranach Workshop at Wartburg

Cranach the Elder - Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora
Cranach the Elder – Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora

Between 1520 and 1546 seven different graphic and painted portrait models of Martin Luther developed in the workshop of Cranach the Elder and Younger.

All these portraits served as both propaganda and documentary and were deliberately used for didactic purposes. The portrait of Luther thereby assumed a substantial function as ambassador for the reformatory program and a complete illustration of his biographical background.

The exhibition presents this typology but is also concerned with the organization of the Wittenberg workshop. Painted and graphic portraits of the monk and reformer were focal points, which were supplemented by portraits of other contemporaries. The exhibition aims to show that the Luther portrait has remained current in contemporary art up to today.

Cranach in Weimar

The focus of the Cranach exhibition in Weimar are the particular rich collection of paintings, designs, prints, graphics, book art and much as well as the unique winged altar in in the church St. Peter and Paul (Herderkirche). Completed in 1555 it represents one of major works of reformatory art. The exhibition especially explores this altar donated to the memory of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous and Sibylle von Cleve and other works from the Cranach workshop created for the Ernestinian court.

Cranach in the service of the Court and the Reformation in Gotha


Cranach in Erfurt - Let the Small children come to me
Cranach the Elder – Let the Small children come to me. Erfurt c. 1530

Within the decade of Luther the 500th Birthday of Lucas Cranach the Younger provides the opportunity to delve into the early modern period and the beginning of the Reformation. Emphasis of the prodigious special exhibition in the Herzoglichen Museum (Ducal Museum Gotha) will be the official character of the Cranach workshop in the service of the Elector of Saxony and the Reformation. The exhibition explores  how political messages of the Ernestinian dynasty and the teachings of Luther were illustrated. The extremely productive Cranach workshop developed new image concepts. By means of top-notch works from international collections the productivity and innovative strength of Cranach family will be demonstrated. An exciting look at an early form of “picture propaganda” that allows a new view of old German painting.

Controversy and Compromise in Erfurt

The museum in Erfurt highlights the pictures in the Erfurter Cathedral, which originated in 1506. In Erfurt a unique dual-confessional culture developed between town councillors and the prince bishop. This lead to a dispute carried out not only through to word and scripture, but also through “images”. The exhibition explores the theological, liturgical and culturally historical background and places them in the context of the emerging reformation.


Lucas Cranach the Younger – Discovery of a Master
Wittenberg 26.06.2015 – 01.11.2015

Lucas Cranach and the Old German Painters
Johannbau in Dessau-Rosslau, 26.06.2015 – 01.11.2015

Cranach in the Gothic House in Wörlitz
Wörlitz, 16.05.2015 – 04.10.2014

The Luther Portraits of the Cranach Workshop
Wartburg 02.04.2015 – 19.07.2015

Controversy and Compromise
Angermuseum Erfurt 16.05.2015 – 23.08.2015

Cranach in the service of the Court and the Reformation 
Gotha 20.03.2015 – 19.07.2015

Cranach in Weimar
Schiller Museum 03.04.2015 – 14.06.2015


In connection with the focus on Cranach twelve German cities have come together to develop a Cranach-Route: Kronach, Coburg, Nuremberg, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Dessau-Rosslau, Meissen, Neustadt and der Orla, Gotha, Erfurt, Schneeberg, Eisenach, Weimar.

In connection with the route a booklet has been made available:
In the Footsteps of Cranach. A Journey of Discovery.


Cranach der Jüngere 2015

Serpent and the Lamb. Cranach, Luther and the Making of the reformation
By Stephen Ozment
Yale University press 2011

The Cranach Digital Archive (cda) is an interdisciplinary collaborative research resource, providing access to art historical, technical and conservation information on paintings by Lucas Cranach (c.1472 – 1553), his sons and his workshop. The repository presently provides information on more than 1,100 paintings including c. 10,400 images and 790 pdf documents from 146 contributing institutions as well as 150 digitized and transcribed archival documents and 2,750 literature references.

Started in 2009 the project is in its second phase (2012 – 2014). In this period the cda aims to expand the existing network, to develop the shared infrastructure and to increase its content in order to build the foundations for an innovative, comprehensive and collaboratively produced repository of knowledge about Lucas Cranach and his workshop that will be significantly different from the traditional model of the single-author catalogue raisonné.

The Cranach Digital Archive is a joint initiative of the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf and Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences / Cologne University of Applied Sciences in collaboration with nine founding partner institutions, 19 associate partners and many project contributors. The project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. is the interdisciplinary research-wiki, which functions as a virtual Cranach Institute. The aim is to further research into the work of Lucas Crananch the Elder, his sons and their workshops. Another project is directed towards developing a comprehensive catalogue of their works (Corpus Cranachs).


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Popes 2017 Thu, 30 Oct 2014 09:29:37 +0000 New exhibition – Popes 2017 – is being planned in Mannheim. The point is to make room for a Catholic presence at the reformation festivities 2017. This is welcomed by high-ranking protestants involved in the other exhibitions
Luther as Monk - engraving by Cranach 1520
Luther as Monk at the time, when he was excommunicated – Engraving by Cranach the Elder 1520. Source Wikipedia

In 1517 Martin Luther famously posted his 95 theses on the church-door in Wittenberg to call for a scholarly disputation of the wrong-doings of the late medieval Catholic Church – more specifically on the “Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”, that is the practice of selling time-off in the purgatory. Unfortunately Luther also sent out of politeness a copy of the theses to the Archbishop Albert of Mainz and to the bishop of Brandenburg, his superior at that time. Although the text was formulated as a typical scholarly invitation to debate, the tone was somewhat confrontational. One example of this may be found in these 86, which posed the question: “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of Saint Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?”

Behind this initiative was at its core a theological revelation of Luther’s. In his opinion God is not someone you can wheel and deal with. God is not a horse-trader. Salvation or justification can accordingly never be anything but a free loving gift from God, received by anyone who has faith in Him.

As is well known the reformation grew out of these theses, catapulting Europe into a series of horrible wars as well as a major schism. It stands to reason that the catholic and the Protestant churches have not been able to agree upon how to write this history. While the Catholics believe the Protestant movement was schismatic from the beginning, the Protestants regard it as a necessary showdown, which served to secure the personal freedom of conscience for Christians.

Leo X - Drawing from the Chatsworth Collection
Leo X, the Pope who excommunicated Martin Luther – drawing from the Chatsworth Collection in Devonshire

Presently the Catholic and Protestant churches live their own lives, although occasionally meeting “each other” in more or less ecumenical settings while striving on the local level to find timid practical solutions (e.g. sharing church-buildings in minor villages or collaborating in order to organize more popular events like festivals, exhibitions etc.) Simmering beneath this praxis of friendly and courteous co-existence a number of discrepancies can be detected. Some of these hark back to the issues brought up by the reformation (like for instance how to understand the doctrine of justification); others have to do with how to write the church history of the events in the beginning of the 16th century, when Luther and his writings were officially banned by Rome as both heretic and schismatic, while the Protestants termed the Pope the “Anti-Christ” and likened him to the great Babylonic whore.

It is no wonder that these issues have cropped up in the last few years where Lutheran churches from all over the world are busy planning a major celebration in 2017 of the 500-year anniversary of the posting of the Theses in Wittenberg. In Germany, where the plans and festivities have been underway for more than a decade, the finale is not least consisting of a series of major exhibitions in Berlin, Wittenberg and Wartburg (to this might be added a series of earlier exhibitions for instance in Torgau in 2015).

The Vatican Response 

The question, which has of course been hotly debated inside the Catholic Church, has been how to respond to these celebrations and events.

On one hand it does not seem attractive to just ignore the festivities. This might obviously be seen as an unfriendly act. On the other hand a full reconciliation does not seem viable as long as the central theological question of how to obtain justification is basically unsolved. Do we as Christians believe that indulgencies, a certain number of “Hail Mary’s or just plain “good” deeds can placate God, and that we as human beings have a practical role as co-creators of God’s Heavenly Kingdom? Or do we believe in an almighty God who is “unmovable” by human acts (be they worthy or not), and that our role is to be participants less than entrepreneurs? Although the continuous sifting of his texts and writings have shown how nuanced his theology was, there is no doubt Luther considered this question the linchpin in his endeavour to reform the church. As do Lutherans today, who continue to consider the doctrine of justification as the “articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesia” (the article by which the church stands and falls.) But there is also little doubt that the Catholic Church has never really accepted this radical thought, although there seemed at some point in the 90es to be hope for a more enduring reconciliation.

The Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification

The Signing of the Joint Declaration in Augsburg 1999
The Signing of the Joint Declaration in Augsburg 1999

This hope built upon a long and laborious ecumenical process concerning the formulation of a “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification”. At first the result seemed filled with hope. Thus when Cardinal Edward Cassidy presented a draft of the declaration at a news conference in Rome in 1998, a central formulation was that “by grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to good works.” In the words of Cassidy the joint declaration should pave the way for a full reconciliation.

However, immediately afterwards Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict) sabotaged this text by claiming that although the level of agreement was high, the text did not affirm that all differences separating Catholics and Lutherans were simply “a question of emphasis and language”. Afterwards he assembled a small working group in Regensburg, which came up with a “reworked” text, which was presented by Cassidy in 1999 as the final text acknowledged by the Vatican’s doctrinal office. It was this text, which was later signed by both The Catholic Church and The Lutheran World Foundation. However at the general assembly of the Lutherans only 89 of 124 members voted yes. Of the 35 members, which cast their votes against the declaration a number of high-profile Lutheran churches could be counted. To this should be added that a number of renowned Lutheran theologians at the same time claimed that all Lutherans should repudiate the JDDJ, since it represented nothing but a “dishonest” reiteration of the traditional Catholic position. More than 246 professors of theology later supported a statement whereby the document was declared fundamentally wrong. It was generally believed to be nothing but a Lutheran sell-out. Later the renowned theologian, Eberhard Jüngel, published a book in which he scaldingly repudiated the declaration. What should have been a festive occasion in 1999 turned in the aftermath into a sour reiteration of an old controversy.

Justification and Freedom 2014

Recently in spring 2014 a new row broke out when a paper was published by the EKD (Evangelische Kirche Deutschland) outlining the fundamental theological questions raised by the commemoration of Martin Luther in 2017. This paper was formulated in order to stimulate local theological discussions and reflections upon the central issues in 1517. According to the introduction it is also intended as a contribution to the overall ecumenical debates, which it is hoped the celebration of the anniversary in 2017 will nourish.

Titled “Justification and Freedom. 500 years of reformation 2017” the paper was nevertheless immediately noted for its lack of mentioning “The Joint Declaration” from 1999. It was also noticed that Christoph Markschies from the Humboldt University, who was in charge of the working group behind the paper, had been one of the 246 theologians, who signed the statement against the “Declaration” in 1999. Cardinal Walter Kasper, who was active then, voiced that he felt both hurt and discouraged, while another theologian, Wolfgang Thönissen declared that in his opinion no Catholics should take part in the festivities in October 2017. However, this should perhaps be seen as a conservative reaction to the fact that the president of EKD in Germany went to Rome in April in order to personally invite the Pope to take part in the festivities commemorating the theses in October 2017. (So far no reply has come out of the Vatican.)

However, in the follow-up the authors of the paper prepared by EKD answered that the reason why they did not mention the Joint Declaration except indirectly and by allusion, had to do with the group of readers, the paper was written for: protestants with a very limited understanding of the core of the theological positions, which instigated the massive upheavals in the 16th century. The intent was to unpack the theology, not to write church history, claimed the authors in the aftermath of the public dispute.

As of now peace seems to have broken out once more, although the question until now still remained how the Catholic Church was planning to “take part”.

Popes 2017

A few days ago it appeared that the Catholic Church had finally come up with an answer to their dilemma: how to take part without seeming to condone, what was instigated by Martin Luther in 1517.

Freising Weltchronik - the flight and death in Salerno of Gregory VII
Otto von Freising “Weltchronik”: The flight from Rome in 1086 and the death of Gregory VII in Salerno. It is probable that these events in the 11th century will figure at the exhibition. Jena, Thüringer Universitäts-Landesbibliothek: Ms. Bos. q. 6, fol. 79r

The plan, which has been in the crucible for several years, is to mount a huge and impressive exhibition in Mannheim in 2017 telling the story of the “The Popes and the Unity of the Latin World”. The exhibition is being planned by the Mannheim Reiss-Engelhorn-Museum together with the University of Heidelberg and the Vatican. At a press conference in the end of October Prof. Dr. Alfried Wieczorek, Director General of the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums, emphasized the uniqueness of the project: “It is the first time that an exhibition will tell the fascinating history of the papacy from its beginnings to the Renaissance. It is also the first time that all Vatican institutions support such an exhibition project. Many of the unique exhibits will thus for the first time be shown outside the Vatican. This close relationship is also expressed by the fact that the exhibition will not only be shown here in Mannheim, but subsequently also in the Vatican in 2018.”

All in all more than 600 unique manuscripts, documents, paintings, sculptures, crafts and textiles are expected to be exhibited in the Mannheim Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums from May the 21st and up until November 1st, 2017. The exhibition will tell how Christianity rose from Jewish roots in the East of the Roman Empire to become one of the world’s great religions. Further it will tell the story of how the papacy became the spiritual and temporal authority, which characterized not only the theological development, but also the formation of the Latin West. The exhibition begins with Peter and considers the development to the beginning of the 16th century, presented in the work of outstanding popes.

Part of the project has apparently been to open the exhibition in Mannheim around the same time in 2017 as the exhibitions in Berlin, Wittenberg and Wartburg will be.

Gregory the Great - writing with a dove in his ear-
Gregory the Great writing with a dove in his ear. From: Corpus Christi College MS 389

“The date has been chosen deliberately,” says Msgr. Dr. Matthias Türk, who ads that “the anniversary should not commemorate the separation, but rather the unity of the Christian denominations. Before Catholics and Protestants went their separate ways, they shared 1,500 years of common and distinctive history”.

The project is under the direction of the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums and the University of Heidelberg. They have called for the joint “Research Centre for the History and Cultural Heritage” to life. “This close link between university and museum is a wonderful stroke of luck” as the Director of Research, Prof. Dr. Stefan Weinfurter, made ​​clear at the press conference: “It is an innovative model that has no equal in the humanities.”

The Vatican and its scientific and museum facilities promote the project in an unprecedented manner. The close partnership is also reflected in the patronage. Cardinal Koch is representing the Holy See, while the president of the parliament in Berlin Norbert Lammert who is a Catholic has agreed to act as patron. The project is supported in Germany by the Archdiocese of Freiburg and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baden. Leading scientific institutions in Germany and Italy take content to the project. These are, the Pontifical Comitato di Scienze Storiche, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), the German Historical Institute in Rome (DHI), the Rome Institute of the Gorres Society (RIG), the Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo (ISIME), the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institute (KIF) and the Department of History at the Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz. Finally the Forschungsstelle Geschichte und kulturelles Erbe (Research Centre for the History and Cultural Heritage) at The University of Heidelberg is posed to play a major role.

A Question of Church History

As is common in Germany such exhibitions are always accompanied by scientific conferences and huge scholarly catalogues complete with publications of central scientific expositions. Such a conference took place in Mannheim in October. At the end a panel discussion was opened for the public and here it was possible to gauge the mood between the two “opposing” parties.

First of all it became apparent that the plan is not to present a “counter-reformational” event; rather the intention is to present a supplement to the Lutheran exhibitions, thus opening up for the possibility for “cultural tourists” to get a deeper understanding of the pre-history of the events in the 16th century. Further it appears that high-ranking officials in the EKD (bishops and professors) are pleased to take part in this addendum to the events and exhibitions in 2017, thus furthering a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the complex history of what the Reformation was all about.

In this they agree: at the centre of the reformational movement were a number of theological questions and controversies. To understand, though, why these became so important, we need church history.

The recent addendum to the planned exhibitions in Germany in 2017 is thus widely welcomed. It is hoped that it will cover the prehistory of the Catholic Church as that of a Christian community marked by a pendulum continuously swinging between conservatism and reformations, of which the Lutheran – never mind its wide reaching impact – was but one amongst many.

This story deserves to be told.

Karen Schousboe


Die Papste und die Einheit der lateinischen Welt

Die Päpste und die Einheit der Latienischen Welt. Von Petrus zum Stellvertreter Gottes. Internationaler Koongress 16. bis 18. Oktober 2014
(Currently no information is available under the domain, but further information is promised to be made available there)

Papsttum größte Hürde für vereinte Kirche. Mannheimer Podiumsdiskussion zur Geschichte von Kirche und Papst

Wem Gehört Luther? Symposium in Berlin 23. Oktober 2014

Luther 2017


Die Gemeinsame Erklärung zur Rechtfertigungslehre. Dokumentation des Entstehungs- und Rezeptionsprozesses
By Friedrich Hauschildt (ed.) together with the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity together with Udo Hahn und Andreas Siemens
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2009

Rechtfertigung und Freiheit. 500 Jahre Reformation 2017. Ein Grundlagentext des Rates der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, 2014
Translations of the text into English and Spanish are currently in preparation.

Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith
by Eberhard Jüngel
Bloomberg 2006

A collection of links to papers, interviews etc. outlining the current debate in Germany concerning the declaration from EKD 2014


The Evangeliary of Teodelinda, an alleged gift from Gregory the Great in 603 to a Lombard Queen active in combatting the Arian leanings of the Lombards. Gregory will definitely be one of the great popes featured in Mannheim 2017.

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Head of Jeanne de Bourbon for sale Tue, 28 Oct 2014 10:32:43 +0000 The Maison de Piasa in Paris is scheduled to auction a marble head of Jeanne de Bourbon (1338 – 1378), wife of King Charles V
Jeanne de Bourbon - funeral - © BN/ Wikipedia
Jeanne de Bourbon – funeral – © BN/ Wikipedia From: Maître du Livre du sacre de Charles V

Thursday, December 11th  Piasa in Paris will auction a marble head, which probably is a portrait of Jeanne de Bourbon, wife of King Charles V. She was born at Château de Vincennes in 1338, married to the king in 1350 and crowned in 1364. She bore nine children and died two days after the birth of a daughter Catherine. As was custom her heart and entrails were buried at diverse locations. Her body, though, was interred in St. Denis, the royal necropolis just North of Paris. According to the Cronicler Froissart, the king expressed great sorrow saying that she was “his beautiful light and the sun of his kingdom”.

The head, which is up for sale is believed to date from 1370 – 80 and is attributed to Jean de Liege (c.1330 – 1381) or his workshop. Jean de Liege is especially known for his work carving effigies for the real family.

State of the Tomb of Charles V and Jeanne de Bourbon c. 1700 - by Gagnières
State of the Tomb of Charles V and Jeanne de Bourbon c. 1700 – by Gagnières © BN/CC BY-SA 3.0

The original recumbent effigy in St. Denis was destroyed during the revolution in 1789 and only a few fragments exist in Louvre. However, that of the king still exists and a comparison between the size of his head plus a comparison with that of her effigy from l’église des Célestins (where her entrails were buried) makes it probable that the head is an original part of her effigy in St. Denis; which makes it in fact a sensational find.

The head is well preserved apart from slight accidents to her nose and lip. The head with its high and bulging forehead was probably intended to be fitted with a silver crown like the original was (compare with the 18th century engraving of the original effigy). Her headdress is quite elaborate with double braids on either side leaving the visible end of earlobes. The head measures 23 cm in height, 21 cm in width and 19 cm in depth.

It was acquired by a Belgian industrialist 50 years ago and has until now remainded in his collection.





La tête du gisant de Jeanne de Bourbon, retrouvée ?

Un chef-d’oeuvre du xiv e siècle retrouvé – jeudi 11 decembre 2014 a 15 h

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Aggersborg Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:35:31 +0000 New book tells the full story of the Viking-Age Settlement and Fortress at Aggersborg in Northern Jutland from the reign of Harold Bluetooth

Between 1945 – 52 the National Museum of Denmark carried extensive excavations out at Aggersborg, the largest of the Viking Ring fortresses. Later other explorations were carried out. Unfortunately the reports were never published. For a couple of years a dedicated group of medieval archaeologists from The National Museum of Denmark as well as the University of Århus have worked diligently to amass, complete and rethink this vast material. This spring the group presented not only a report in Danish but also a translation into English of most of the Danish publication. With more than 477 pages the English edition should answer a whole lot of those questions posed by archaeologists and historians without proficiency in the “Danish Tongue” (as the Vikings used to call their language).

It is of course a complicated book to review: dense and knowledgeable it presents us with a very detailed overview of not only the location and the history of the pre-fortress settlement and the fortress itself but also a catalogue of the finds, the zoological finds plus not least the view of the editors on the purpose of the fortress.

Aggersborg 2011
Aggersborg 2011 © Dovregubben

The fortress was probably the earliest of the ring-fortresses built between AD 970 and 980 (the fifth, the most recent, is still awaiting a proper dating). It overlaid an earlier settlement consisting of an impressive amount of sunken huts connected with a couple of large farms. Perhaps it was already a royal manor at the time when the fortress was constructed on a morainic island sloping down to the Firth of Lime (Limfjorden) between the later church to the North and the medieval manor (to the South). Even though it was abandoned very quickly (20-30 years after its construction) it continued to be prominent in the landscape. Today the rampart, the ditch and the axial streets between the four gateways of the fortress can be seen in the landscape marked out for the visitor by stones. Visiting the site even today, It is evident that it occupied a strategic location controlling the traffic of ships from Norway (entering through a channel from the North) as well as ships passing through the firth (which was at that point not a firth proper, but a belt or strait of narrow water connecting The North Sea and Kattegat. Visually it would have been possible to see bonfires lit as warning from afar (p. 24).

Aggersborg was laid out within a rampart enclosing a circular area covering approximately 240m in diameter. The rampart was laced with timer and fitted with four impressive gateways, from which four axial timber-paved roads divided the circle into four quadrants. Each of these quadrants held a group of four timber-houses of the Trelleborg Type positioned symmetrically around a courtyard. All-in-all the fortress contained 48 identical timber-houses. Excavations have yielded an elaborate number of archaeological finds – pottery, jewellery, tools etc. demonstrating that the site was inhabited while in use.

As to the current understanding of the fortress the primary investigators have obviously struggled to make proper sense of not only Aggersborg, but also the other ring-fortresses belonging to the military system, of which they were obviously a part (witness their design).

It appears, though, that the current most plausible theory is that the ring-fortresses were erected as part of a defensive system developed in view of the the militant aggressions of the German emperors Otto I and II and the new forms of warfare developed in the 10th century, characterised by wintering armies. In view of this Harold Blutooth not only strengthened the border at Dannewerck near Haithabu, but also built the ring fortresses as inland defensive structures, where dues and taxes could be collected, stashed and defended. But it also explains why they were abandoned soon after. In AD 983 Otto II died and left his reign in the hands of a three-year old boy. Until 994 his mother and later his grandmother were busy defending the boy from a Bavarian rebellion as well as the incursion of Slavs across the Eastern border. When at the age of sixteen, Otto III took over the reign, he marched to Rome in order to claim the titles as both King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor. During this power vacuum the son of Harold, Sweyn Forkbeard was able to mount his consistent raids on England, which ended in the final conquest in AD 1013. During this period the need to maintain the costly defensive ring fortresses seemingly disappeared. After the year 1000 they were history. (see p. 393 ff). We know that Sweyn revolted against his father post 983. Perhaps the fight between father and son was about where to allocate the military resources of the realm – for defense against a German aggressor or as investment in a major conquest?

The present report is obviously directed at specialists. Nevertheless it is very interesting as it makes not only Aggersborg but in fact the context of all the impressive ring-fortresses accessible to an English-speaking public. This is not least pertinent in view of the present endeavours to seek World Heritage Status for the ring-fortress at Trelleborg as well as a number of other Viking sites and monuments.

It is to be hoped that the editors and authors of the volume will consider a smaller publication presenting all the fortresses and their monumental context in Jelling as well as near Haithabu in Schleswig.

Karen Schousboe

aggersborg coverAggersborg. The Viking-Settlement and Fortress.
By Else Roesdahl, Søren M. Sindbæk, Anne Pedersen and David M. Wilson
Jutland Archaeological Society
Århus University Press 2014




New Viking Ring Fortress Discovered

Viking Age Base-Camps along the Dutch Coast

Recent Research about Viking-Age Aggersborg

BOOK REVIEW: Royal Viking Fortresses



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Royal Viking Fortresses Fri, 03 Oct 2014 12:43:06 +0000 The Ring Fortresses of Harold Bluetooth represent a remarkable engineering feat of 10th century Scandinavia. New book presents the latest research

Trelleborg, Aggersborg, Fyrkat, Nonnebakken and now Vallø are five of the most intriguing witnesses to the grandeur of the Royal project of Harold Blutooth.

Although they differ slightly in terms of size and the type of fortifications (some were fitted with moats, others not), it is obvious the circular fortresses were all built to the same specifications around AD 970 to 80. It is immediately obvious that the individual fortresses functioned as parts of a larger military system. However, the exact character of this military complex and its function (s) has been heavily debated for a long time. Were they defensive structures? Meant as ports for ships going on state-sanctioned Viking raids? Or were they perhaps regarded as ready camps for fugitives?

One of the challenges in answering these questions, is that there is in fact a lot to be learned from further excavations in and around the fortresses. Some of these are being withheld as part of the general opinion among archaeologists that it pays of to let future and more clever archaeologists do the work. Other explorations have simply not been carried out as yet.

Trelleborg in Winter 2013 - small river to the left. The for tree may be seen in the back
Trelleborg in Winter 2013 – small river to the left. The for tree may be seen in the back © Medievalhistories /CC

Between 2007 – 10 a specific set of questions were raised and a number of archaeological explorations were undertaken in order to answer these. The overall question was whether it had been possible to sail up to the fortresses and to what extent this had played a part in their location.

Recently the finds from this campaign were published in a report. The overall conclusion was that yes, the fortresses had been built in close connection with central transport routes running through the landscape and that they especially had access to the central water ways of that time. Whether located on the open coast as Aggersborg or on rivers like Fyrkat and Trelleborg, it was definitely possible to sail up through the waterlogged foreland and marshy wetland. However, only at one of the fortresses (Trelleborg) has it been possible to find remains of actual handling of Viking ships. The investigation concludes by pointing to the fact that actual shipyards might have been located even further inland, where sourcing of tree was simply easier.

The results of the excavations and explorations from 2017 – 2010 were recently published. Although in Danish, there is a very extensive English summary and anyone especially interested in the warfare of the Vikings should try and lay their hands on it.

Kongens Borge - CoverKongens Borge [The Fortresses of the King]
Rapport over undersøgelserne 2007-2010
By Andres Siegfried Dobat (ed)
Århus University Press 2013
ISBN 978 87 888415 76 6


New Viking Ring Fortress Discovered

Viking Age Base-Camps along the Dutch Coast

Viking-Age Aggersborg


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The Age of the Vikings Fri, 03 Oct 2014 10:30:18 +0000 There is a sympathetic subtext running between the covers of this new book about the Vikings: please stop spreading so much nonsense in TV-series…

In the middle of this fascinating book is a vignette about a group of teens, who had been studying the life and times of the Vikings during winter-term. Come summer they were camping at Stavgard on the large island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea east of the mainland of Sweden. Local lore said that this was where the Viking chieftain Stavar had hidden his vast treasure and the plan was to “live like Vikings” for just a couple of days. Here they started bonfires, baked their bread, fished for pike and trout, smoked perch and sacrificed it to the gods in order to secure an abundant harvest, good fortune and lots of gold and silver. In the end one of the youngsters struck luck when he followed a rabbit into its hole and could fill his hand with old coins. All in all they found 1452 Viking silver coins that had been hidden around the middle of the tenth century; nearly all of them Arabic Dirhams.

Anders Winroth tells this story in the beginning of a chapter (p. 99) on “Coins, Silk and Herring”, which aims to show to the reader how the Vikings as tradesmen played a very significant role when exporting Northern luxuries – pelts, walrus-tusks, amber and slaves to the merchants from the Middle East, trading in silk, spices and other luxurious items. Thus silver drained from Western Europe was to some extent re-circulated back into the European Economy on this great Northern arc of commerce. Although some of it obviously ended up in treasure troves on Gotland, a lot was re-circulated through the Viking Emporias of Birka, Haithabu, Dorestad, York and Dublin (to name just some).

Reconstruction of interior of the great Hall in Borg at Lofoten
Reconstruction of interior of the great Hall in Borg at Lofoten © Olav Eikenes (CC-NBY-2.0)

The reason to recount the adventures of the youngsters here is not so much that Anders Winroth took part in the youngster’s camping (he must have been too young). Rather the vignette is obviously used to demonstrate how the re-enactment of the life and times of the Vikings in Scandinavia is serious business; much in the same way as is the re-enactment of the life and times of the Indians on the Great Plains of America is to American schoolchildren. Respect for the indigenous people demands that some kind of serious “correctness” is at least sought after by serious teachers and their students.

Though this is not something, which figures on the surface of the text itself, the book is thus obviously about the “Age of the Vikings” as such and not about the many myths (except when they need to be debunked).

Instead the book simply demonstrates how it is possible to tell wonderful and entertaining stories of the real lives and times of people, who lived in days long gone by, without compromising the academic standards in any way. Suffice it to tell that any reader delving into the pages will be awarded with thrilling stories of a grand Viking party in a mead-hall, how to fight with a half-a-kilo axe, how to travel far from home down the Dnieper River, how to build a ship and how many hours it took, how chieftains turned into kings and how it was to live back home on the farm in a time when Pagans and Christians had to accommodate each other. Finally we are given a careful reading of the subtle art of poetry and goldsmithing plus the story of how it all ended.

This is not to say that the book is in anyway a handbook meant for re-enactors. Not at all! For one thing it is not luxuriously illustrated. In fact I missed out some obvious illustrations for instance of the whole treasure trove from Erikstorp, demonstrating the way in which the Viking woman must have worn it. (We are only presented with a photo of part of it).

Another reason, though, is that the book is not designed nor written to fill this niche. Rather it is meant as a – highly successful – piece of “Cultural History” in the grand traditions of Scandinavian historians like for instance Hans Hildebrand and Troels Frederik Troels-Lund. The overall question, which the book raises and answers in such a learned and comprehensive way is thus what life was like for Vikings, whether pillaging, trading abroad or sacrificing to the Norse Gods? And how it all made sense to these Northerners from ca. 793 – 1066?

Anders Winroth is – although Swedish by birth – the Forst Family Professor of History at Yale University. The book is written in near-perfect English although tiny mistakes have obviously slipped through the keen eye of the copyeditor. For instance, in Swedish it is called “rista i runor”; in English it is not called “inscribe in granite” but “inscribe on granite”… but this is really just a very minor quibble.

As will be apparent now, this book is obviously where to start for anyone fed up with MGM’s “Vikings” and even remotely interested in the real story behind.

Review by Karen Schousboe

The Age of the VikingsAge of Vikings -by Anders Winroth cover
By Anders Winroth
Princeton University Press 2014
ISBN: 9780691149851 (Hardcover
ISBN: 9781400851904 (eBook)

ABSTRACT (blurb):

The Vikings maintain their grip on our imagination, but their image is too often distorted by medieval and modern myth. It is true that they pillaged, looted, and enslaved. But they also settled peacefully and developed a vast trading network. They travelled far from their homelands in swift and sturdy ships, not only to raid, but also to explore. Despite their fearsome reputation, the Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets, and even the infamous berserkers were far from invincible.

By dismantling the myths, The Age of the Vikings allows the full story of this period in medieval history to be told. By exploring every major facet of this exciting age, Anders Winroth captures the innovation and pure daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage.

He not only explains the Viking attacks, but also looks at Viking endeavours in commerce, politics, discovery, and colonization, and reveals how Viking arts, literature, and religious thought evolved in ways unequalled in the rest of Europe. He shows how the Vikings seized on the boundless opportunities made possible by the invention of the longship, using it to venture to Europe for plunder, to open new trade routes, and to settle in lands as distant as Russia, Greenland, and the Byzantine Empire. Challenging the image of the Vikings that comes so easily to mind, Winroth argues that Viking chieftains were no more violent than men like Charlemagne, who committed atrocities on a far greater scale than the northern raiders.

Drawing on a wealth of written, visual, and archaeological evidence, The Age of the Vikings sheds new light on the complex society and culture of these legendary seafarers.


1 Introduction: The Fury of the Northmen
2 Violence in a Violent Time
3 Röriks at Home and Away: Viking Age Emigration
4 Ships, Boats, and Ferries to the Afterworld
5 Coins, Silk, and Herring: Viking Age Trade in Northern Europe
6 From Chieftains to Kings
7 At Home on the Farm
8 The Religions of the North
9 Arts and Letters
10 Epilogue: The End of the Viking Age
Further Reading, Acknowledgments, Abbreviations, Notes, Bibliography, 
List of Illustrations, 


Interview with Anders Winroth on myth versus history

Anders Winroth is also the author of The Conversion of Scandinavia: Vikings, Merchants, and Missionaries in the Remaking of Northern Europe. 


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The Medieval Court of a Welsh Prince Thu, 25 Sep 2014 18:13:32 +0000 The Medieval Court of Llys Rhosyr to be rebuilt at St. Fagans

Reconstruction of the medieval court of the princes of Gwynedd, excavated a decade ago, has begun at St. Fagans, the National Museum in Wales.

In 1992 the archaeologist Neil Johnstone discovered the remains of Llys Rhosyr, one of the royal courts of llywelin Fawr, prince of Gwynedd in the 13th century. It was located in the South West of isle of Anglesey near Newborough on the way to Llanddwyn island.Llys Rhosyr from the air

The Llys Rhosur was one of the royal courts, through which the princes ruled when in residence. These ‘Llys’ were placed at regular interval in the Welsh Kingdom, each covering an administrative region, called a ‘commotes’. Llys Rhosyr was at the heart of the ‘Menai Commote’.

After king Edward I’s conquest in 1282, Rhosyr was largely abandoned. Perhaps stones and timber was removed from the dismantled court and used in his large castles. Later in 1332 the area became covered by sand-dunes, where it lay undisturbed until it was discovered in 1992.

The site has since then been partially excavated, revealing the remains of the main hall and a building believed to have housed the private apartment of the prince. The site has also yielded a number of finds like coins, pottery and other small artefacts. Much of this is exhibited at the local museum in the Prichard-Jones Institue in the nearby village.

reconstruction of llys Rhosyr at st fagansThe royal court occupied 1.3 acres, while the royal demesne is believed to have extended over the 600 acres, on which the new town of Newborough was established after the conquest. The prince’s tenants worked the land, while other peasants were responsible for the repair and maintenance of the royal buildings: the fence, the hall, the chapel and the lord’s privy and stable. These and other buildings (kilns, barns etc.) were outlined in the Welsh laws as the responsibility of the local peasants to keep and repair. Fair and markets were of course part of the regular on-goings at the Llysoedd

Although more than ¾ of the site is still waiting to be excavated it has recently been decided to spend funding on a reconstruction in the National Museum of Wales.

Reconstruction at St. Fagans

Llys Rhosyr © Menter Môn
Llys Rhosyr Photo: © Menter Môn

The complete court cannot be replicated without damage to the adjoining woodland so it is proposed that the main hall and adjacent chamber with only part of the surrounding wall should be constructed. These comprise replicas in rubble walling bonded with clay beneath thatched roofs. The hall will have a footprint 11m x 17m and the chamber 7.5m x 13m. With 9 meters high stone walls and a thatched timber roof, the building of the court will provide apprenticeships and trainee placements within the Historic Buildings Unit.

After the reconstruction the plan is to use the buildings for overnight stays so children may improve their understanding of medieval life.

The project feeds into the overall plan of Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service to focus on the Princes of Gwynedd and the places associated with that medieval dynasty as part of a development of the “ Wales Heritage project”.


 Llys Rhosy and Bryn Eryr

Application Plan for development of St. Fagans

Interpretation Plan for the Princes of Gwynedd for Cadw May 2010


Friends of Llys Rhosyr

Cae llys, Rhosyr: A Court of the Princes of Gwynedd
By Neil Johnstone
In: Studia Celtica 2000, Vol. 33, pp. 251 – 295

A Brief Report on Pen y Bryn and Aber Llys and castles of Gwynedd
By Paul Martin Remfry
Castle Studies Research and Publishing 2012

political power in medieval Gwynedd coverPolitical Power in Medieval Gwynedd. Governance and the Welsh Princes
By David Stephenson
Series: Studies in Welsh History
2014, 2. edition (1984)
ISBN-10: 1783160047
ISBN-13: 978-1783160044



 Llywelely ap Gruffud CoverLlywelyn ap Gruffudd: Prince of Wales
By Beverley Smith
University of Wales Press; 2014 New edition (2001)
ISBN-10: 1783160063
ISBN-13: 978-1783160068




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Painted ceiling in Pont-Saint-Esprit Thu, 25 Sep 2014 11:28:12 +0000 The medieval ‘Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit’ boast of a remarkable painted ceiling

The Piolenc was an old family of merchants, which lived in Pont-Saint-Esprit in the Rhone Valley from 1150 to 1763. The family is famous for its beautiful medieval house, which still stands.

This former mansion of a large family of merchants in the Rhone Valley – La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit – is a good place to get a feeling for what daily life in the 15th century was like.Guillaume de Piolenc - La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit

The family is known for having being part in a conflict with the Abbey of Cluny in the 12th century. As such it became the leader of the faction, which secured the place as part of the Royal dominion in 1301. Later the house was used as a center for royal and local jurisdiction. More precisely the house played a significant role in a royal entry in 1449. It is believed that the heraldic décor of the house was painted at that time by the owner, Guillaume de Piolenc and inspired by his Italian sojourn in Florence.

Today a Museum for Sacred Art, it is possible to see the house and enjoy the beautifully painted wooden ceiling.


La Maison des Chevaliers


Medieval Painted Ceilings in Southern France

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Lagrasse

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Capestang

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Medieval Painted Ceilings in Lagrasse Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:33:20 +0000 The small French village, Lagrasse, can boast of a remarkable treasure of medieval painted ceilings

Street in Lagrasse in Aude, FranceSouth of Narbonne in in the department Aude lies a small fortified village, Lagrasse, located right at the confluence of the Alsou and the Orbieu rivers at the foot of the Pyrenees. A charming place it can boast of an attractive market in the center, a lovely medieval bridge and any number of medieval houses in the center.

The village grew up around the Lagrasse Abbey also called Sainte-Marie d’Orbieu. It was founded in the 7th century by the Abbot of Narbonne, Nimphridius. It soon acquired land, castles, priories and land and during the 12th century it ruled over a large territory encompassing the land around Toulouse, Béziers and the County of Urgell.

In 2004 a community of canons regular moved to Lagrasse. The community lives according to the rule of St. Augustine and the canons dedicate their life to evangelization and to the development of liturgy (celebrating the Tridentine mass also called the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.

There is public access to the ancient parts of the abbey, which (partly) stems from the Carolingian times. The Abbey has undergone careful reconstruction and been excavated by archaeologists.

Medieval Paintings in Lagrasse

Poster for exhibition in Lagrasse of medieval painted ceilingsHowever, the painted ceilings in the medieval houses in Lagrasse are the real treasure. These ceilings can be found around different houses and access is not always possible. One of the most remarkable is the Maison de presbytère de Lagrasse, which has as a ceiling decorated with all the thinkable and unthinkable vices, you might imagine.

Recently an exhibition opened in the “Maison du Patrimoine de Lagrasse” (in the Presbytère) telling the story of these remarkable paintings and the exquisite vignettes. The exhibition also shows a series of painted boards from a house in Montpellier, plus presents the history behind the art-form in general. Another part of the exhibition consists of 19 boards, which were recently put up for sale by their owner. It appears some of the houses in Lagrasse are not properly protected and many are as yet not properly studied or restored.


Maison de Patrimoine de Lagrasse 

Abbaye de Lagrasse

The Medieval City

Images oubliées de Moyen Age


Medieval Painted Ceiling La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Capestang 


Medieval Painted Ceilings in Southern France



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Painted Ceilings in Capestang Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:31:37 +0000 Capestang is a sleepy village not far from Narbonne in Southern France. In the Middle Ages it belonged to the Archbishops in Narbonne.

The village lies at the bottom of a steep hill, where the local lords – le Gaucerand – had a castle. In the 12th century the archbishop from Narbonne built the castle, which still stands. During the Albigensian crusade les Gaucerand were hunted down and eliminated. This made room for the expansion of the bishop’s power. Dendrochronology has dated the great hall of the castle to between 1237 and 1279. Later in the 14th century Bernard Fargues (1311 – 1341), who was a nephew of Pope Clement V, had the great hall decorated with murals showing the heraldic signs of his family as well as those of the Archbishop of Narbonne and the King of France.Great Hall in Capastang


At that time the hall was vaulted. However in the 15th century, two archbishops, John Harcourt (1436-51) and Louis (1451-1460) capped the hall with a wooden ceiling, reducing the height of the room to 4.5 meters. At the same time the hall was divided into three minor chambers. This can be deduced from the programme of paintings, which the wooden ceiling still carries (and which is the real reason for visiting Capestang).


In its day the castle was home to the archbishop and his administration and court and it is believed to have been a cherished stop on the itinerary between the 18 castles, which belonged to the Archbishop.


However, in the 17th century the chapel was in ruins and in the 18th century the castle only served as the setting for the local court. In 1791 the castle was sold and used as a private residence. A thorough rebuilding nearly destroyed the ceiling. However in 1855 the ceiling was lowered even more and the late medieval splendour was hidden until late in the 20th century. The castle has been open to the public since 2008.

The city also boasts of an aborted collegiate church from the 13th century of which only the choir, a tower and a short aisle was finished.


Collegiate Church in CapastangOn the website it is possible to see a slideshow of all the 161 fascinating painted boards with their profusion of motives showing loving couples engaged in dancing, hunters, soldiers, dogs and grotesques.

Video about the paintings in Capestang, animated








Medieval Painted Ceilings in Le Midi

Capestang : château des Archevêques

Capestang. Histoire et inventaire d’un village héraultais
By Pays Haut Languedoc et Vignobles. Tourisme et Patrimoine


Medieval Painted Ceiling La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Lagrasse




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Medieval Painted Ceilings in Southern France Thu, 25 Sep 2014 09:39:57 +0000 Painted ceilings became all the fashion in the later Middle Ages in Le Midi reaching from Catalonia to Northern Italy

In the later Middle Ages in Le Midi it became fashionable to lower the ceilings of the great halls in palaces by installing wooden ceilings constructed with wooden beams. Usually these beams were painted in glorious colours. Often the top of the wall was at the same time painted with a frieze – as in Palazzo Davanzati in Florence – or painted wooden boards were installed as part of the decoration, as in the Stag Room in the Papal Palace in Avignon – .

However, these examples represent no more than a gentle sounding board for the real treasures still found in public and private medieval houses in Le Midi (and further North). For more than a decade a group of dedicated art historians, archaeologists, architects and conservators /have worked to uncover and present this iconographic heritage, which gives an extremely important glimpse into the daily life of merchants, prelates and craftsmen from the 14th and especially 15th century.

Doves living behind a boards of a painted ceiling

One challenge here is that the ceilings are to be found in private homes. Many are not even known to the owners themselves as the painted celings still live a hidden life behind the white or stuccoed ceilings installed when that became fashionable. A third challenge is that French Law does not protect any old medieval house nor these precious pieces of art. Owners have been known to simply pry the painted boards from the ceilings and sell them on Ebay. Accordingly much work remains to be done, as is shown be a preliminary overview, which was published in 2011. Here 28 locations are presented in detail accompanied by sumptuous photos. The generosity of the group of academics should be complimented!

One of the places, where the public may fully enjoy the vibrant colours and funny vignettes is in the archiepiscopal palace in Capastang near Narbonne. Another place is the small village, Lagrasse, where the group has its organisational headquarters and where an exhibition recently opened in the ancient presbytery, telling the story of the painted ceilings. A third place is the La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit in Nimes, where it is also possible to get a feeling for the late-medieval elite contexts of these painted treasures.

At the same time a new video has been released by the CNRS in Paris, which tells the story in detail about some recently uncovered wooden paintings in Lagrasse and elsewhere.


Cover of plafonds prints medieval paired ceilingsThe main introduction to the “Plafonds peints médiévaux” – the medieval painted ceilings – can be found in a publication from 2011, which may be downloaded from the website of RCPPM or requested by post from DRAC du Languedoc-Roussillon (5 rue de la Salle L’évêque, Montpellier) or from “RCPPM: (Post will be charged):

Images oubliées du Moyen Age. Les plafonds peints du Languedoc-Roussillon
Montpellier, DRAC, 2011

Another publication of interest may also be downloaded from the website:

Plafonds peints médiévaux en Languedoc, Actes du colloques de Capestang, Narbonne, Lagrasse, 21-23 février 2008
Études réunies par Monique Bourin et Philippe Bernardi.
Presses Universitaires de Perpignan, Perpignan, 2009, 249 p, 110 illustrations.


Association international de Recherche sur le Charpentes et les Plafonds Peints Médiévaux


Les Maisons Aux Images. Un film de Claude Delhaye, produit par CNRS 2014


Medieval Painted Ceiling La Maison des Chevaliers de Pont-Saint-Esprit

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Lagrasse

Medieval Painted Ceilings in Capestang

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New Perspectives on Medieval Scotland Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:35:29 +0000 From 1093 – 1286 Scotland became a nation, fully recognized by the rest of Europe. This book offers new perspectives on the role of literacy and the growing institutions of Medieval Scotland

New Perspectives on Medieval Scotland 1093 -1286
By Matthew Hammond
Boydell and Brewer 2013
ISBN: 9781843838531


The years between the deaths of King Mael Coluim and Queen Margaret in 1093 and King Alexander III in 1286 witnessed the formation of a kingdom resembling the Scotland we know today, which was a full member of the European club of monarchies; the period is also marked by an explosion in the production of documents.
This volume includes a range of new studies casting fresh light on the institutions and people of the Scottish kingdom, especially in the thirteenth century. New perspectives are offered on topics as diverse as the limited reach of Scottish royal administration and justice, the ties that bound the unfree to their lords, the extent of a political community in the time of King Alexander II, a view of Europeanization from the spread of a common material culture, the role of a major Cistercian monastery in the kingdom and the broader world, and the idea of the neighbourhood in Scots law. There are also chapters on the corpus of charters and names and the innovative technology behind the People of Medieval Scotland prosopographical database, which made use of over 6000 individual documents from the period.

Matthew Hammond is a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow.

Contributors: John Bradley, Stuart Campbell, David Carpenter, Matthew Hammond, Emilia Jamroziak, Cynthia Neville, Michele Pasin, Keith Stringer, Alice Taylor.Cover New Perspectives on medieval Scotland


1 Introduction: The paradox of medieval Scotland, 1093-1286

2 The Scottish ‘political community’ in the reign of Alexander II (1214-49)

3 Homo ligius and unfreedom in medieval Scotland

4 Scottish royal government in the thirteenth century from an English perspective

5 Neighbours, the neighbourhood, and the visnet in Scotland, 1125-1300

6 Cistercian identities in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Scotland: the case of Melrose Abbey

7 The language of objects: material culture in medieval Scotland

8 Structuring that which cannot be structured: a role for formal models in representing aspects of medieval Scotland

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