Medieval Histories News about the Middle Ages Sun, 29 Mar 2015 17:33:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Being Medieval – Archaeology, Society and the Human Experience Sun, 29 Mar 2015 17:20:10 +0000 SMA ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2015:

Being Medieval: Archaeology, Society and the Human Experience

Being Medieval SMA conference posterThe Society for Medieval Archaeology’s 2015 conference will consider the experience of the Middle Ages – The focus is on what the material, biological or built remains can tell us from a social perspective. Speakers will address the issues of recognizing the experiential, the nature of society, inclusion, exclusion and transformation. They will explore what archaeology can tell us about economic or social changes, difference, life experience, expectation, life course or desires and disability.

Proposals for papers should be sent to Dr Duncan Sayer at ( and will take the form of a hundred-word summary that, if accepted, may be used in the conference programme. If you have any questions please contact Liz Roberts at – for academic queries contact Duncan Sayer at

The closing date for the receipt of proposals is Monday 3rd July 2015.


Society for Medieval Archaeology

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Palmesel Sun, 29 Mar 2015 15:20:19 +0000 The use of a statue of a donkey in connection with Palm Sunday is mentioned for the first time in the 10th century. This was in Augsburg. Hope was to achieve absolution for one’s sins by pulling the ass along.

The procession on Palm Sunday with the blessing of palms or other greenery is documented from Jerusalem in Late Antiquity. This tradition was according to the Sacramentary from Bobbio adopted in Europe from the 7th century and onwards. But it was first from the end of the 10th century that the use of a statue of a donkey is mentioned. This is found in the vita of St. Ulrich of Augsburg († 973), which tells us how the saint went from the Cathedral to the church of St. Afra, from where he led a procession back with people waiving Palms and following a wooden sculpture of a donkey.

On that day at dawn [Ulrich] used to come to the church of St. Afra, if he had not already spent the night there. He would sing the mass of Holy Trinity and bless the palm branches and various other foliage. The with the gospel book, and crosses and banners, and with the image of the lord seated on an ass [cum effigie sedentis domini super asinum] with the clergy and a multitude of people carrying palm branches in their hands, and with chants composed in honour of that same day, he proceeded with great splendor to the hill called Perlach. There with everything beautifully done, the choir of canons came to meet him, as well as the citizens, who had remained in the city, and those from the surrounding towns, who wanted to join them there in imitating the humility of the children and the rest of the people who [long ago] strewed the way of the Lord with palm branches and their own clothes. After this, the holy man preached to everyone a most suitable sermon about the Lord’s passion, often weeping himself and by his tears causing many others to weep. When his ermon was finished, everyone came to the Cathedral Church praising God and there celebrated mass with him. Afterwards they all went home. [1]

The first notice about the use a living donkey is from 970 and Bamberg. The hope was to achieve absolution for one’s sins by pulling the animal along.

Palmesels were wooden life-size statues showing the donkey, which Jesus rode on in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, as it was recorded by both Mark, Matthew, John and Luke. Often these donkeys were fitted out with life-size statues of the blessing Christ. It was considered bad taste to have someone “ride” the donkey, thus impersonating Jesus. Usually they were placed on wheels and drawn through the countryside as can be seen in a video of the Palmesel procession in Thaur

At least from the beginning of 13th century we know that local churches had natural-sized donkeys sculpted to be used in local processions. (The oldest one  dated to c. 1200 is kept in Berlin) 10 are from the 13th to 14th century, while the rest are late medieval. The tradition was widespread in Germany, Holland and Belgium.

More than 190 medieval palmesels are said exist in museums and private collections. 84 are listed in Europeana, although very few a graced with photos


Palmesel im Zeppelinmuseum in Friedrichshafen. Foto- Daderot
Palmesel Seeschwaben, um 1500 basel
Basel ca. 1500
Niederbayern_ Bode Museum Andreas Praefcke
Hechingen_Hohenzollerisches_Landesmuseum_ Christus auf dem Palmesel.  Holz, farbig gefasst um 1380 Herkunft- Poltringen. Foto- Wuselig
Hechingen ca. 1380


[1] Wooden Christs on Donkeys (Frequently on Wheels). A short history of the Palmesel in Germany, Italy and Bolicia.
By Max Harris, University of Wisconsin
Unpublished paper

Über den Palmesel





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The Entry into Jerusalem in Medieval York Sun, 29 Mar 2015 11:15:14 +0000 When staging the Entry into Jerusalem, Medieval York simply turned into Jerusalem in the eyes and minds of the audience and performers
Micklegate bar in York
Micklegate bar in York

Palm Sunday was in a late medieval context seen as an important opportunity to invigorate the believers through the deft handling of a set of multisensory liturgies and artifacts. This is evident from a recent trend in interdisciplinary studies of the evidence from chronicles, musical liturgies, processionals and church murals depicting the scenes from mystery plays and of course the texts of the mystery plays, themselves.

Especially poignant are the studies currently being conducted by Tamara Haddad in connection with her thesis on The York Corpus Christi Cycle and Site-Specific Performance. In it she has examined the role of the choices of location in connection with the actual performance throughout the Medieval City of York. More specifically she recently published an overview of that part of her work, which deals with the Entry into Jerusalem, performed by the Skinners. Even though the Mystery Plays were traditionally performed at the time of the festival of Corpus Christ, the research is pertinent to our general understanding of the role Passion Plays had in the religious life in a late Medieval Context.

As is known, the plays were ‘wagon plays’, which means that the stages for the plays were built on carts pulled around the City along with all the actors and props. The carts stopped at different places (called ‘stations’) and the actors performed their plays. What Tamara Hadding is exploring are the many ways in which the exact location of the “stations” where chosen in order to instill a specific sense of place into the audience.

“A site-specific performance relies on the relationship between memory and topography”, she writes, “exploring how the history of a locale can be conveyed to the audience through a dramatic act.

By looking at the medieval performances of the York Corpus Christi Play as site-specific, she is demonstrating how York’s topography and the daily uses of the sites along the pageant route enriched the audiences’ reception of the play.

In particular, she explores the visual presence of Micklegate Bar as an aide-memoire through which Jerusalem is superimposed on York in a performance of the Skinners’ Entry into Jerusalem at the first playing station.

Other factors such as staging and the presence of weekly medieval markets are also considered, including how the presence of the city’s Common Clerk at the first stopping place mimics Zacheus’ role in the pageant.

In this way the performance was enriched by the specificity of York’s topography while the play recalls the memories present in the stopping places to enhance the performance.”

In the eyes and in the mind of the audience and performers, the city of York simply ended up as the City of Jerusalem. Wonder whether thats the case today.


Locating the Drama: Micklegate Bar and the Skinners’ Entry into Jerusalem
By Tamara Haddad

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The Entry into Jerusalem Sat, 28 Mar 2015 11:22:16 +0000 With more than 4445 pieces and 12500 photos, the Gothic Ivories Project has become a very important resource for medievalists. We celebrate the intiative by presenting a recently recorded Diptych with Scenes from the Passion of Christ from Sarnen in Switzerland

The production of ivory objects flourished to an extraordinary extent in the Gothic period, especially in France: delicate statuettes, minutely carved diptychs and triptychs, mirror backs and wonderful caskets with secular scenes have survived in collections allover the world. For a long time the last comprehensive survey was from 1924 and listed 1300 pieces, but it was always apparent that hidden masterpieces – as the one we show today – can be found in obscure collections all over the world.

Since 2008 a group of art historians under the auspices of the ‘Gothic Ivories Project at The Courtauld Institute of Art’ has succeeded in cataloguing more than 4445 pieces and has uploaded more than 12500 photos. This website is thus a unique and generous way to allow for the study of these delicate pieces of art, which are often kept away in unknown treasuries in far-away corners of Europe; and – if exhibits – protected by silly old-fashioned rules of photo-restrictions.

Recently more pieces were added to the website: Carvings from the Galleria Estense in Modena, the National Museum of Victoria in Melbourne, the Deutsches Elfenbeinmuseum in Erbach, a diptych in the Benediktiner-Kollegium in Sarnen (Switzerland), and many more.

The Passion of Christ from Sarnen

Passion of Christ Gothic Ivory Diptych from Sarnen in Switzerland 1330. Source 'Gothic Ivories Project at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London
Passion of Christ Gothic Ivory Diptych from Sarnen in Switzerland 1330. Source ‘Gothic Ivories Project at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

One of these pieces, which the recent additions help to bring to our attentions is a diptych with scenes from the Passion of Christ.

Originally the diptych belonged to the Abbey of Muri in the Canton of Argau, near Basel in Switzerland, founded in 1018. At the suppression in 1841, it was brought by the monks to the Benediktiner College in Sarnen, which is now part of the Muri-Gries monastery in South Tyrol in Italy (successor to the old monastery). Apparently the diptych is not exhibited and cannot be studied without special permission. It has not been possible to locate any references to the piece on the website of the present owner. Without the help of the Gothic Ivories Project we would simply not know of this beautiful piece.

The diptych measures 11 cm x 8,6 cm, is extensively guilded and with later polychromy. It dates to around 1330 and was probably made in Germany.

It shows a series of scenes from the passion:

  • The raising of Lazarus in the presence of his sisters, Martha and Mary with Lazarus wrapped in a shroud.
  • The Entry into Jerusalem with Jesus riding on the foal of the she-ass.
  • Betrayal with the Kiss of Judas). Christ restores Malchus’ ear, cut by saint Peter. Death of Judas hanging in tree.
  • Cruxifixion with the Virgin and John the Evangelist
  • Deposition with the Virgin holding Christ’s arm and Joseph of Arimathea holding Christ’s body. Below a man with pincers is removing the nail from Christ’s feet. To the side is saint John the Evangelist.
  • The three Holy Women at the Tomb, with an angel seated on the tomb and three soldiers asleep.
  • Last Judgement with Resurrection of the Dead and Christ in Glory. Angels are shown holding Instruments of the Passion (nails). The Virgin Mary and saint John the Baptist are kneeling


Gothic Ivories Project at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

The Abbey of Muri-Gris

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Local Saints in Scandinavia Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:12:45 +0000 There is a clear link between the celebration of local saints and the ecclesiastical administration, which emerged in Scandinavia in the 12th century

In Scandinavia local cults of saints played important roles in the formation of the emerging ecclesiastical structures, which developed in the period between AD 1000 – 1200. However, the development of cults and dioceses did not follow the same pattern in Denmark and Sweden. The Danish church sought to promote its saints officially. The Swedes were less interested in proper canonisations.

This is one of the results of a new doctoral thesis, which presents a comparative study of all the 23 local saints, which were at the centre of cults in both ecclesiastical provinces. It provides a comprehensive Scandinavian perspective, which has been missing in previous research on saint cults in Europe.

These early saint cults served several purposes. First of all the cults supported the Christianisation, which took off in Denmark from around AD 1000 and a bit later in Sweden. But it was also a way to confirm a series of “new” holy places, reflecting the wish of more or less local magnates to secure powerful central places.

Strängnäs, Uppsala and Vaxjo in present day Sweden are examples of sacred sites whose legitimacy was strengthened by a saint. In Denmark important local sites were Haraldskilde near Ringsted and Vestervig.

Knut Lavard from Vigersted Church, Denmark
Knut Larvard was contestant to the Danish throne. He was murdered in Haraldsted, where a local cult soon developed around a sacred spring.

These saints were often people who had lived on the site, such as Helena of Skövde, Botvid of Södermanland, Thøger of Vestervig and Margaret of Roskilde. They were important role models for the population in areas newly Christianized. All were considered to have performed miracles, which were recorded in their vitae. Some saints were martyred while others were canonized for their good deeds. For instance Helena of Skövde was known for her effort to collect money for local church-building.

However, Sara Ellis Nilsson shows that Denmark was very early on interested in papal canonization; this suggests the Church of Denmark had stronger ties with the Holy See.

In Denmark a holy person had to be canonized by the Pope, to be officially celebrated in the Church. This was not a necessary precondition in Sweden, she says. Another difference was the very early royal cult in Denmark from after 1086. The Swedes did not get their “royal saint” until 80 – 100 years later; and then he was seriously contested and never formally canonised.

Her research on local cults has at times looked like pure detective work. She has had to use a wide variety of sources – extant vitae, registrations of feast days in calendars, traces in ecclesiastical art etc. Of special importance has been fragments of the medieval church records, which after the reformation were used for bindings. A hundred years ago historians began the work of registering these fragments. Now there is a digital catalog of the Swedish fragments.

List of multilocal saints:

Multilocal cults:

  • Thøger of Vestervig. Denmark † ca. 1070
  • Kjeld of Viborg, Denmark † 1150
  •  Knud the Holy, Danish King, † 1086, canonized 1100
  •  Knud Lavard, Royal Danish Duke, † 1131, canonized 1169
  •  Margarete of Højelse/Roskilde, Denmark † 1176
  •  Wilhelm of Æbelholt, Denmark, French Augustinian † 1203, canonized 1224
  •  Erik Plovpenning, Danish King † 1250
  •  Eskil of Tuna, Strængnæs in Sweden, missionary bishop † ca. 1069
  •  Botvid of Södermanland, Sweden 11th century
  •  Elin of Skövde, Sweden 12th century
  •  Sigfrid of Växjö, Sweden † ca. 1045
  • Henrik of Turku, Finland 12th century
  •  Erik the Holy, Swedish King, † ca. 1160

List of multilocal cults

  • Liufdag of Ribe, Denmark, 10th century
  • Niels Knudsen of Aarhus, Danish Prince, † 1180
  • Anders of Slagelse. Denmark † ca. 1205
  • Magnhild of Fulltofta in Scania (present-day) Sweden † 1228
  • David of Munktorp. Sweden, 11th century
  • Nicolaus of Edsleskog, Sweden, 12th century
  • Eric peregrinus, Sweden 10th- 11th century
  • Ragnhild of Tälje, Torger of Strand and Torgils of Kumla, Sweden, very local cults.
  • The special case of Olav the Holy of Norway, † 1030.

The thesis focuses on the character of the cults and their geographical and temporal presence and not the saints per se. Accordingly the dates here are just provided as a guide to readers of this introduction. It is debatable whether some of the cults even built on the legacy of living people.

Creating Holy People and Places on the Periphery.

A Study of the Emergence of Cults of Native Saints in the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Lund and Uppsala from the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Centuries
By Sara E Ellis Nilsson
PhD at University of Gothenburg. Faculty of Arts
Date of Defence 20.02.2015
The dissertation is in English


Holy people have been venerated in various forms by all religions and ideologies throughout history. Christianity is no exception with the development of the cults of saints beginning shortly after its formation.

By the time Christianity reached Scandinavia, saints’ cults had been fully integrated into the Roman administrative structure. The new religion brought with it institutions, as well as religious practices. This thesis examines the cults of native saints that arose in Scandinavia during the Christianization of the region. It compares the Ecclesiastical Province of Lund, established in 1103, and the Ecclesiastical Province of Uppsala, established in 1164.

The focus on these two provinces is partly based on their, at times, unequal relationship. The study aims to explain the underlying reasons for the establishment of new cults of saints in connection with the development of an ecclesiastical organization. The primary source material is comprised of liturgical manuscripts and fragments, iconography and diploma.

Due to the relative lack of early medieval sources from Scandinavia, the surviving parchment fragments provide an especially valuable resource for research into Scandinavian medieval society. They can reveal the importance of cults of saints for those who promoted them.

The first part of this study presents the native saints whose cults are believed to have been established before the year 1300 and places them in categories developed in previous research. The analysis of the geographical spread of cults of native saints in the Lund and Uppsala provinces reveals that the type of saint has no bearing on the spread of the cult.

The second part examines and compares the rise of cults of native saints and their place in the early liturgy in each bishopric in the two provinces.

The study concludes that the right conditions and permanent central ecclesiastical institutions were required before new cults could be created, especially on an official level with a feast day and liturgy. Although all cults played a key role in conveying ideology and creating a permanent holy landscape on the Christian periphery, their later use in the legitimization of ecclesiastical and secular institutions differed in the two provinces.


Local Cults of Saints Had a Role in Christianisation


Haraldsted Chapel, where Knud Larvard was killed during Christmas 1131


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The Reinterment of Richard III Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:33:16 +0000 Early on Leicester Cathedral appointed a Liturgy Committee to come up with a plan for the reinterment of Richard III. The result has now been revealed.
Prayerbook of Richard III
Prayerbook of Richard III resting on a cushion during the service

In a sense it was never complicated. Any Christian Church is of course familiar with carrying funeral, memorial or reinterment services through with dignity and honour. We need closure and the church has provided this since Easter AD 33. And even if reinterments are not carried through that often, they do happen; for instance this was the case after the two World Wars, when the remains of soldiers in some instances were brought back to be reinterred in family vaults etc.

However, in this case matters soon got complicated. It stands to reason that the most natural thing would have been to have Richard III, an anointed king, laid finally to rest in Westminster next to his wife and with the proper honour and dignity accorded to him by for instance the presence of the full Royal Family (the Queen); one might even have taken the effort to have his coffin wrapped in a proper copy of his standard and decorated with St. Edwards Crown from 1661, said to have been made from the melted gold of the original crown (which Richard wore at his coronation).

What happened was, of course, that city councillors, MP’s from the greater region of Leicester and other interested parties worked tirelessly to keep his remains “at home”. It was soon obvious that a substantial sum of future tourism income had glinted in the future; something, which also dazzled the good people of York, who tried on the way to catch the prize.

As was foreseen from the beginning, though, Leicester caught the plum. Very early on in the process leading up to the reinterment of Richard III, Leicester Cathedral accordingly appointed a committee to oversee the actual service accompanying the remains to his final resting place in the Chapel of Christ the King just behind the sanctuary. The goal was obviously to have as dignified a reinterment service as possible, mixing medieval and modern elements in a thoughtful blend.

Today the world – or at least that part, which had access to the live transmission at Channel 4 – had the chance to witness, what a millennium of carefully worked out order and liturgy may provide as sustenance and help, when called upon.

Away were the stumpy pall and the tacky “medieval” crown, which had covered the coffin during the last few days, when more than 25.000 people had passed before Richard III lying in repose.

Instead we were treated to a Cathedral full of sombre people, standing in attendance while the coffin was carried solemnly up the nave, where the present Duke of Gloucester afterwards poignantly placed Richard’s prayerbook on a stool behind it; that prayerbook, which it is believed was with Richard in his tent at Bosworth. Right after this we were treated to a exquisite piece of medieval chant, Psalm 114 accompanied by In Paradisum, which is the antiphon traditionally sung as the dead person is carried to the grave. And then afterwards we had a proper sermon by the Bishop of Leicester and the final laying to rest of the man by the Archbishop. After which followed some more music now modern in the setting. The full programme can be perused at leisure here

In no way does this foreshortened presentation of the actual liturgy pay tribute to the massive work, the committee obviously had to carry out. However, looking from afar there is ground for congratulations. This was no invention of tradition, but rather a careful worked out variation on an ancient theme.

Well done!

Karen Schousboe


 Channel 4 

The Reinterment of King Richard III – Provided by the official website on King Richard in Leicester

Leicester Cathedral: Service of Reinterment of the remains of King Richard III by the grace of God King of England and France and Lord of Ireland.


The Music at the Reinterment of Richard III

Book of Hours of Richard III


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Planctus – Death and Apocalypse in the Middle Ages. Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:11:21 +0000 A new recording of Spanish medieval lamentations presents us with a haunting sound appropriate for Easter

Planctus Capella de Ministrers coverIn the Middle Ages a number of important musical compositions and elements were eschatological in tone as well as form. This macabre theme was reflected in a vide variety of music – laments, dances of the death, responsories, antiphons etc. The most important of these pieces of poetry cum music was of course the Dies Irae, probably written by Thomas of Celano in the 13th century, who is also known for having authored the first vitae of St. Francis. But also the laments or ‘dirge’ ususally known as a type of ‘planctus’ was widespread.

In this fascinating new Spanish recording of Medieval Music for the Dead, a number of such lamentations with a Spanish origin have been released in time for Easter 2015. The music is performed by the Capella de Ministrers, which has been led by Carles Magraner since 1987. The music was recorded in November 2014 at the University of Valencia in the Capella de la Sapiència del Centre Cultural la Nau.

The cover shows a detail from the Descent from the Cross by Roger van der Weyden, at present celebrated with an exhibition at Prado in Madrid.

The CD or the MP3-files are available at the website of the Capella de Ministers

Ove Juul Nielsen

Planctus. Muerte y apocalipsis en la Edad Media

CDM 1536
Conductor: Carles Magraner
Text: Maricarmen Gómez
Sound: Jorge García Bastidas (dbc estudios)


  • Elisa Franzetti, soprano
  • Gabriel Díaz, contratenor
  • Miguel Bernal, tenor
  • Tomás Maxé, Alt
  • Carles Magraner, viola and director
  • David Antich, flute
  • Manuel Vilas, harp
  • Ignasi Jordá, small organ
  • L’ Almodí Cor de Cambra, choir


  • Requiem æternam (GT 669)
  • Ples de tristor. Planh que fe Guiraut Riquier del sehnor de Narbona
  • Misa de Barcelona. Kyrie
  • Audi pontus, audi tellus (Códice de Las Huelgas)
  • De profundis (GT 673)
  • Sol eclypsim patitur. Planctus por el óbito de Fernando III el Santo
  • Dies irae (LU 1810)
  • Clangam, filii (Sequentia planctus cigni)
  • Domine Iesu Christe (GT 674)
  • Mentem meam ledit dolor. Planctus por el óbito de Ramón Berenguer IV
  • Misa de Notre-Dame de Kernascléden. Sanctus
  • Media vita in morte sumus (Defunctorum prosa)
  • Agnus Dei (LU 1815)
  • Ir tanczer und spranczer (Danza de la muerte)
  • Lux æterna (LU 1815)
  • In paradisum (LU 1768)


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The Music at the Reinterment of Richard III Wed, 25 Mar 2015 11:54:32 +0000 Medieval and modern music will be mixed at the Reinterment Service of Richard III on Thursday, the 25th 2015

A few years ago Alexandra Buckle discovered a unique description of the rites used for the Reinterment of the Earl of Warwick in 1475. This liturgical manuscript called for six antiphons and seven psalms plus other musical elements sung over a period of two days.

Antiphons are short, elaborate musical items set up as responsories to psalms. These two items would be sung by the two semi-independent choirs place on each side of the quire or choir of a medieval church. To specific psalms were linked specific antiphons. As an example the antiphon ‘Omnis Spiritus’ (‘Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord’) was linked with ‘Laudate Dominum’ or psalm 150, also known as the Praise Psalm, which has inspired countless composers throughout the ages (Mozart’s rendering being one of the most cherished).

At the service for Richard III the full package will unfortunately not be realised as the 15th century liturgy prescribed. Instead a short and modern version has been prepared, lasting 50 min.

Two Anthems

Tacuinum Sanitatis Casanatensis (14th century)One musical element will be a reworked anthem based on Psalm 150.

This piece has been composed for the Reinterment service by Dr. Philip Moore from York based on an earlier setting of Psalm 150 – ‘O praise God in his holiness’ – from 2007.

The new anthem will incorporate the medieval antiphon “omnis spiritus”. This would have accompanied the psalm in medieval liturgies. The composer has also added parts for the same instruments as the Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weair, has used in her new arrangement of the National Anthem, which will also premiere at the same service. One element has been the inclusion of four horns.

According to an interview with the Cathedral Director of Music Dr Christopher Ouvry-Johns one of the most difficult parts of planning the music, was to find a proper setting for the psalm, which is possibly the most joyful and exuberant of all the psalms, and which was part of the authentic liturgy used in 1475. But “while Christian belief in life after death means that there is rightly an element of hope in the service, it was important that this shouldn’t eclipse the solemn and dignified nature of the occasion”, he says and adds that

‘While the lively rhythms of the main body of the piece conjure up images of celebration, even dancing, the inclusion of the antiphon ‘Omnis spiritus’ from the Bangor Pontifical (a 14th-century manuscript) at the start and at the end of the piece puts that celebratory atmosphere in an appropriate context. Indeed, what could be more appropriate for the 21st-century burial of a medieval monarch than a 21st-century composition incorporating medieval music?’ he says.

The Medieval Sound

The liturgists, who have planned the reinterment have obviously tried as best they could to straddle the more than 500-year gap between the death of Richard III and his reinterment in Leicester. And true it is: had the committee opted for staging an “authentic” reenactment of a reinterment anno 1475, it would in the end still have ended up as kitsch.

But it might be nice to try an imagine the original sound of such an event.

Thus, when Alexandra Buckle discovered the manuscript with the description of the medieval ritual from 1475, she was as a musicologist somewhat disheartened by the fact that the text did not include actual notations, but only short titles referring to the antiphons, psalms etc. Nevertheless, she decided to find notations in manuscripts from the same period and fell upon the Bangor Pontifical, a medieval manuscript copied in east Anglia in the early 14th century, but still in use in Bangor in mid 15th century.

With the help of this and other sources, she was able to get the new College Choir to perform a tiny bit.

Anyone interested in the authentic sound may check it out below.


Recreating Richard III’s Burial

How to Rebury a King. Blog by Alexandra Buckle

Princely Reburials in the 15th Century
With links to the work of Alexandra Buckle


Music performed at the re-interment of The Earl of Warwick by the New College Choir in the Chapel at New College



Music for Henry V - coverMusic for Henry V & the House of Lancaster
Performed by The Binchois Consort, Andrew Kirkman (conductor)
Hyperion 2011

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Magna Carta Website Tue, 24 Mar 2015 11:08:15 +0000 A lovely and inspiring website invites us all to discover the history and legacy of one of the world’s most celebrated documents, the Magna Carta

British Library is currently hosting an important exhibition on Magna Carta, which has been organised in connection with the 800-year anniversary in 2015. Now a dedicated website, with literally gigabytes of information about the document, the history behind and its aftermath. Her you may find

  • articles by distinguished contributors such as Shami Chakrabarti, Dan Jones, Geoffrey Robertson, and Joshua Rozenberg
  • illustrated descriptions of the items on display in Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy
  • a range of teaching resources for use in primary and secondary schools
  • a series of videos, including talking heads such as William Hague and two animations narrated by Terry Jones

The website is sure to fire up the imagination of visitors both before and after a trip to the Library in the northern part of Central London and nicely complements the books and catalogues, which have been published in connection with the exhibition.

However, the site is obviously set up primarily to help teachers and students to understand this foundational text, which has come to play such a seminal role in the self-understanding of the British. With no proper constitution apart from the sum of those laws and principles, which make up the body politic of the United Kingdom, the British obviously have to look way back to find the roots of their special way of life. This is a complicated matter to teach students, because it constitutes a challenge to teach a long and complicated history rather than explicate a foundational text, such as is possible in European countries with constitutions. Here – for instance in Germany and Scandinavia – the latest edition of the foundational text can simply be placed in front of pupils inviting them to become familiar with the carefully crafted worldview, which emanates from the text. In Britain teachers have to explain a convoluted story with basically no beginning and no end, except of course there is “sanctified” beginning: The Magna Carta and its aftermath in the 13th century, the first parliament.

But teachers need help – hence this magnificent website, which presents a very fresh and inviting introduction to what is in fact a very convoluted history for children (and grown-ups) of all ages.


Magna Carta. Discover the history and legacy of one of the world’s most celebrated documents


Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy
96 Euston Road

Magna Carta Explained for Small Children

Magna Carta Explained for youngsters and grown-ups



Magna Carta

Magna Carta – a Sacred Heritage

Magna Carta 800

Four Magna Cartas


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Vestment From the Time of Richard III Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:41:18 +0000 A priceless vestment believed to be from the royal wardrobe of King Richard III will be worn by Cardinal Vincent Nichols when he celebrates Requiem Mass for the soul of the 15th century monarch

Ushaw College vestment or "Westminster Vestment"The chasuble, known as the Westminster Vestment, is part of the heritage collection of Ushaw College, the former Catholic seminary at Ushaw Moor, near Durham. There is a tradition that it was worn by the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey during the reign of King Richard, who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. This tradition was conveyed through the Walton family, who gave the vestment to Ushaw in 1867.

Scholars have expressed the view that its embroidery is the same described by the inventories of the royal wardrobe of Richard III and that it dates from the third quarter of the 15th century.

The Westminster Vestment is an example of Opus Anglicanum (English work), the rich, complex and beautiful works of ecclesiastical embroidery for which England was famous during the Middle Ages. Works of Opus Anglicanum were important export articles.

Ushaw College vestment or "Westminster Vestment" frontIt has been made from velvet cloths of tissue linked together with silver-gilt brocading thread, with figures cut from coloured silks and then attached to a golden background.

The chasuble depicts the Crucified Christ with the Roman soldier Longinus expressing his belief that Jesus is the “Son of God”. It features depictions of St Nicholas, St Catherine and St Pancras, the teenage Roman martyr whose relics were brought to England by St Augustine of Canterbury.

Ushaw College vestment or "Westminster Vestment" - St. CatherineThe vestment, which may have been seen by King Richard himself, will be worn at at Mass by Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales celebrated in the Catholic Church in leicester on Monday 23 of March 2015.

At yesterday’s compline in the Cathedral in leicester Cardinal Nichols gave a short homily pointing out that Richard III was “a man of prayer, a man of an anxious devotion. In a surviving prayer, we hear him pleading with God for the protection of the Archangel Michael and for deliverance from his enemies.” Cardinal Vincent Nicolas sporting the chasuble at the Rquiem Mass of Richard III from: Leicester MercuryTo this he added that “we pray for him today just as those who prayed for him at the time of his death in 1485, those whose hearts were not filled with the vengeance of victory or the hatred of an enemy. Among those who prayed for him then was the community of Franciscan Friars, so nearby here, who surely buried him with formal prayer even if also in haste.”


Cardinal to wear vestment ‘from wardrobe of King Richard III’

Cardinal Nichols Prays for repose of Richard III and his soul

The full homily given at the coffin of Richard III at compline 22.03.2015

Hundreds of worshippers pray for the soul of King Richard III at Holy Cross Priory


Richard III

Richard III – His life and Times

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Book of Hours of Richard III Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:25:41 +0000 Rumour has it this Book of Hours of Richard III accompanied him to Bosworth. This week it will be present in Leicester Cathedral during the reinterment

The last night in the life of Richard III he camped with his army at Bosworth. Rumour had it afterwards that he slept fitfully and had horrid dreams of the fires of hell: “ The King, so it was reported, had seen that night in a terrible dream, a multitude of demons apparently surrounding him, just as he attested in the morning, when he presented a countenance, which was always drawn, but was then even more pale and deathly” (The Crowland Chronicle Continuations, 1459-1486, edited by Nicholas Pronay and John Cox, printed for The Richard III and Yorkist History Trust by Alan Sutton Publishing, 1986, pp 180-181).

Much ink has been spilt over this account: was the king devastated by his conscience and in fear of his mortal sins, was he dreading death or just suffering from a flue? Or was this a fantasy elaborated by the anonymous chronicler of the battle of Bosworth. We shall (in all probability) never know… What we can know is however, that the king had mass celebrated before he went into battle and that he presumably carried a personal prayer-book with him top help him in his daily devotions. At least it is thought that he kept in his tent a very specific Book of Hours, which is now preserved in the Library of Lambert Palace.

“Lord Jesus Christ, deign to free my, your servant King Richard, from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed…hear me, in the name of all your goodness, for which I give thanks, and for all the gifts granted to me, because you made me from nothing and redeemed me out of your bounteous love and pity from eternal damnation to promising eternal life” (Personal prayer of Richard III)

Book of Hours of Richard III - detailThe quality of the book in question as well as its later history  seems to make this plausible. First of all it is highly unlikely that the king carried one of the more luxurious tomes, he inherited from his brother Edward IV, on a military campaign into the English Countryside. He is more likely to have brought his customary – and more ordinary – daily prayer book. This specific book was made in 1415 and contains prayers, which indicate that it was designed for a priest. Later it was adapted for King Richard III by addition of a long personalised Latin prayer. Obviously it was a prayer book, which he was accustomed to use in his personal devotions. After the battle, the prayer book was presumably gifted to the new Queen Mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, probably as a trophy. She cannot have used it extensively as she according to Eamon Duffy did not scratch out the name of Richard III systematically, though she did write a small poem on the back fly-leaf indicating her ownership. Also her own private Book of Hours is kept in the British Library dedicated to her family history.

The personal prayer of Richard III was for relief from afflictions, temptations, grief, sickness etc. However, especially he petitioned here for protection against his enemies and for his reconciliation with them. This prayer has been studied extensively by Jonathan Hughes, who believes that this prayer offers a unique insight into the “individualistic and idiosyncratic” piety and devotional psychology of not only the king but Late Medieval people in the grip of a protracted civil war. However, his conclusions has been criticised by Eamon Duffy, who has pointed out that the specific Ricardian prayer – apart from some details – may be found in a series of other prayer-collections of that time and even later, where they mimick the general tone of the many psalms in the Psalter used in connection with the office for the Dead (Dirige). A very detailed – and hence more balanced – view has been offered in the edition of the Prayer Book by Anne Sutton and Livia Visser Fuchs. This study explores the manuscript and the Prayer’s text as well as presents a full translation of the so-called “prayer of Richard III”.

As is customary the book is illustrated. The image which forms part of the frontispiece shows the annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The initial “portrays Mary wearing a blue robe (a colour suggesting purity and traditionally associated with her) kneeling at a desk draped in scarlet. Her hands are held in a posture of prayer and she appears to have a prayer book open before her, all of which can be seen to suggest her piety and openness to the angel’s message. The angel Gabriel is also portrayed kneeling, and looking up towards Mary, a posture which points to the reverence due to her as well as her special vocation to become the mother of Christ. On her head Mary is wearing a wreath of flowers, which can be seen to allude to her traditional title of ‘Queen of Heaven’.” (Quoted from the text presented by the Library of Lambeth Palace)

The Hours of Richard III
Anne F. Sutton (Author), Livia Visser Fuchs (Author)
Sutton Pub Ltd (1990/2000)

The Religious Life of Richard III: Piety and Prayer in the North of England
Jonathan Hughes
Sutton Publishing Ltd 1997

Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570
Eamon Duffy
Yale University Press 2011


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Richard III unwilling participant in undignified pantomime Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:54:00 +0000 Pageant, feast, show? Judging from the media’s comments on the on-going reburial of Richard III, it seems appropriate the Queen of England has kept her distance to what has obviously turned into a gaudy event filled with disrespect.

We should all be grateful to Phillipa Langley, who dedicated such a great effort to hunt him down. Primarily, though, we should be grateful to the archaeologists, who succeeded in actually discovering the forgotten grave of Richard III in the carpark in Leicester. Afterwards, careful and meticulous exploration of everything from the surroundings of the grave, the bones themselves plus the DNA and other types of advanced archaeological analysis obviously helped enormously in our understanding of what it meant to live as a king in the late 15th century as well as the historical events surrounding his life, his short reign and his death. We now know decidedly more about the crucial events leading op to the Battle of Bosworth than we did before. There is reason to be thankful.

Richard III being carried into Leicester cathedral
Richard III being carried into Leicester Cathedral. Source: King Richard In Leicester

Afterwards, however, we have witnessed a series of decidedly tasteless happenings surrounding the where and how of his reburial. To name but a few: parliamentarians and city councils have fought over the tourist income, Catholics and Anglicans over the proper liturgy and so-called descendants of this or that lineage have had their field day in the High Courts of London.

Luckily the end is nigh. A few days ago the bones were carefully wrapped in soft Yorkish wool and laid to rest in a coffin, which appropriately enough had been made by Mr. Ibsen, a skilled carpenter and a descendant of the sister of Richard III (it was his DNA, which helped identify the remains).

Yesterday, however, this coffin was paraded through the cold and bleak countryside from across the battle site of Bosworth outside Dadlington, through the streets of Leicester and into the Cathedral, where a Roman Catholic service was held. Thursday the re-interment will take place at an Anglican Service.

There is probably nothing wrong with the liturgical setting of the re-interment as such. Carefully crafted by the clergy at a major Cathedral we can hopefully rest assured that it will be a job done properly. Neither is there anything odd about the remains laying in repose for a couple of days in order to give the good people of Leicester a chance of being part of the closure to this remarkable story. It is also a nice touch that the Catholic/Anglican issue was solved in such a dignified manner.

However, there is everything wrong with traipsing around the countryside with a coffin full of old bones, accompanied by people dressed up in more or less authenticated medieval garb mimicking a medieval burial procession.

After he had been killed in battle, his body was stripped of its armour and clothes, slung across a horse and in the process mocked by a vicious knife-wound in his buttocks. This the archaeologists have confirmed. Afterwards he was exhibited in Leicester Town Hall before he was crudely laid to rest in a hastily dug grave in the nearby friary.

Once again, history seems to repeat itself with the man subjected to countless indignities.

Where is the honour in that?

Karen Schousboe


King Richard in Leicester


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Medieval Synagogue in Trani Fri, 20 Mar 2015 18:23:15 +0000 The medieval Scolanova synagogue in Trani was built in the 13th century, but confiscated around 1380 and used as church. In 2006 it was returned to the Jewish community. It recently reopened after a lengthy period of restoration

Trani is a beautiful small city off the East Coast of Southern Italy. Although known from the Peutinger Atlas as a somewhat prominent destination, Turenum, it did not figure as a town until the 9th century, even though impressive Langobardian remnants of a wall remains. However, from the 10th century and onwards it played an important role as a thriving commercial centre, not least due to its large Jewish population, which flourished in the 12th and 13th century. During this period Jewish merchants, weavers, dyers and textile workers as well as money-lenders and local farmers constituted an important part of the local community. Especially the dying of silks was a legally circumscribed monopoly.

There is no doubt that the Jews – before the persecution started in the late 13th century – were regarded as an important and well-integrated part of the city and that their community contributed to the overall wealth of the city. At the same time a flourishing intellectual milieu grew up around a number Jewish talmudists and rabbis, foremost Rabbi Isaiah da Trani (c. 1180 –c. 1260). But it also created a favourable situation for a significant building spree, the remains of which may still be enjoyed in the ancient Jewish Quarter in Trani.

The Giuadecca

The Guadecca in Trani
The Guadecca in Trani

The Jewish quarter, located up to the harbour, was protected by two gates, one of which – the southern gate – is still extant. However, it was never walled, hence it was not a ghetto but a guiadecca. This is one of the reasons why architects and historians, who have studied the quarter in detail, believe that there were no significant hindrances in the daily interaction between Christians, Jews and Muslims in Trani until the late 13th century; such as the laws of Frederick II (1194 – 1250) also set the scene for.

One important feature of the Quarter were a number of extant medieval palaces, which witnessed to the wealth of the Jews at that time. It is believed that there were perhaps between two or three of these grand houses inside the quarter. One such is the Palazzo Lopez, with a spacious courtyard wherefrom a staircase leads to a series of rooms, some of which have a magnificent view over the harbour. On the ground floor were a series of vaulted storerooms.

The same pattern, although on a much lesser scale, can be found in the rows of medieval houses around and behind the Great Synagogue. Here the ground floors opened up to the street and witnessed to a thriving community of artisans and tradesmen of all sorts. With each floor holding two rooms adequate living quarters seem to have consisted of a vaulted cellar, a commercial of industrial ground floor and a spacious two- or four-room apartment above.

Central to the Guidecca were four medieval synagogues, which served the community (or distinct parts of it) up until ca. 1300, when all four were converted into churches, renamed and and rebuilt:

  • Santa Maria in Scolanova (Scolanova ia Judeo-Italian for “New Synagogue”)
  • San Leonardo Abate (little of the original building remains)
  • San Pietro Martire (later demolished)
  • Santi Quirico e Gioveta (Since renamed Sant’ Anni in Trani) . This was once the Scolagrande Synagoge. Today it holds the local Jewish Museum, part of the Diocese Museum

Of these four synagogues, two has disappeared, while two are presently functioning. Of these two, the Scolanova, was never basically altered. After WW2 it was empty and disused and in 2006 it was simply desacralized as a church and returned to its original use.

Today this synagogue is used by a community consisting of a mixture of descendants of Anusin (forcibly converted Jews) and Neofiti (Crypto-Jews) from all over Puglia. A tiny local Jewish community exists in Trani itself, which is formally connected with the Jewish Community in Naples. It was from Naples in 2007 Torah Rolls were formally presented to the Scolanova, the synagogue, which recently reopened after the medieval building had undergone a series of repair-work including cleaning and treating of the interior walls and the exterior facade as well as repairing the roof, which had presented signs of possible impending collapse.

According to Jewish Heritage Europe, the slocal Jewish leader Cosimo Yehudah Pagliara has expressed that “further repairs and renovations are planned”. These, he said, will include construction of a bimah and women’s gallery in wood and removal of an altar that was placed during a restoration of the building in 1981.

The Medieval Scolanova

The Scolanova Synagogue In Trani. Source Wikipedia
The Scolanova Synagogue In Trani. Source Wikipedia

There must have been synagogues in Trani before the 13th century, since the first synagogue mentioned, was the Scolanova.

This synagogue was a simple building with thick limestone walls pierced by narrow slits, through which sparse light flowed into the long nave. Access to the synagogue was originally found via an arched portal in the ground floor. Nowadays a high staircase leads up from the street. The synagogue faced Jerusalem and was probably built ca. 1200.

Inside on the far end was the Aron Kodesh, with the holy arch and the cabinet for the Torah. This niche still retains the jamb for the wooden shutters and hinges, which were carved into the wall. After the conversion into a church, a Byzantine icon of Mary and Child was painted in the background of the niche. For antiquarian reasons this has not been removed; however, at a daily basis it is covered by a curtain with a Menorah.

There are no traces of the original bimah, the pulpit for the rabbi and the cantor

On top of the synagogue it is believed there might have been a women’s gallery, while the ground floor may have contained a separate miqweh.

Behind this synagogue was a house, which might have been used as a Talmudic study centre and perhaps living quarters for the rabbi and his students. This might also have been the place where the matzot was baked.

The Medieval Scolagrande

Around 1246 – 47 the local community decided to invest in a more grandiose meeting place, the so-called Grand Synagogue. While the earlier Scolanova might have been inspired by synagogues in Spain or Northern Italy, this new and more grand edifice was obviously inspired by Byzantine churches or the corresponding Islamic mosques. With its cupola and its main hall, which was almost perfectly square (11.5 x 12.2 meters) the parallel is obvious. On the inside, the dome, which is lit up by windows placed high up, gives a sense of the greatness, the architect and his patrons tried to achieve. However, from the outside it was obviously built in a manner designed not to “outshine” the Christian churches in the city.

Proud, though, they were. On the southern wall of the synagogue the community placed a marble stone with a Hebraic inscription. As translated by Bertagnin, the text sounds:

Tablet with dedicatory inscription in Hebrew from Trani. Source Wikipedia“In the year 5007 after the Creation, this sanctuary was built by a minyan and friends. With a lofty and splendid dome and a window open to the sky and new portals for enclosing it. And a pavement and benches for seating the leaders of the prayer, so that piety would be watched over by the One who dwells in the glorious Heavens.” [1] 

Until 2009 this building was basically left lying around as a ruin. Now, however, it has been carefully restored and turned into a small museum, which tells the story of Jews in Trani.

The Dissolution of the Jewish Community

In the beginning of the 13th century the Jews in Trani experienced a period of remarkable growth, both economically and culturally. There is no doubt that part of this flourishing was due to the favourable laws and regulations, which had been set in motion by Frederick II. Part of this had been the royal decree banishing the Dominicans – the inquisitors – from his realm. However, in the second half of the 13th century the Kingdoms of Sicily and Naples were taken over by France, more specifically by Charles of Anjou (1227 -1285), the brother of Louis the Saint. This opened up for a remarkable series of events, which culminated in the mass conversion of between 6000 and 8000 Jews from all over Southern Italy in 1292.

The feast for St. Nicolas the Pilgrim in Trani. Source: Wikipedia
The feast for St. Nicolas the Pilgrim in Trani. Source: Wikipedia

Behind this mass conversion was obviously a set of economic incentives, which had caught the Jews between a hard rock and a stone; in this case the local Archbishops and the royal religious interests. The point was that Jews by tradition were the “property” and “responsibility “ of the king, his to exploit and tax as he saw fit. The Archbishop on the other hand was dependant on the income from primarily the local fairs often held in conjunction with local feasts. It stands to reason that trade carried out in a Jewish home was to the Bishop not nearly as directly lucrative as that which took place at the open stalls of the traditional feast of St. Nicholas the Pilgrim (to name just one local fair). Thus the King may have had a direct interest in keeping the Jewish population ship-shape in order to be able to continue to milk the cow. This, however, was not carried out directly. Instead the right to tax the Jews had very early on been farmed out to the Archbishop. Already in 1155 the Archdiocese in Trani had acquired the right to protect and tax the Jews. This meant that the Archbishop  was directly dependent on the continuous reproduction of the Jewish Community as such, while successive kings, on the other hand, might occasionally be more interested in opening up for the activities of the Dominicans and their Inquisition. The king’s inflow of money was primarily dependent upon the fiscal income collected by the Archbishop. He could afford to show religiously fervor. Paradoxically, the Archbishop did not have this option.

It is not quite easy to determine what exactly lay behind the mass-conversion in 1292. However, it is safe to maintain that what went on was a mixture of local pogroms instigated by the Dominicans and fiscal harassment in general. What is known is that at some point a large segment of Jews apparently decided to convert. Indirectly this had the consequence that the Archbishop critically came to loose a significant part of his income. In order to protect this, the newly converted Jews were simply placed in a separate cultural category and given a special status as “Novus Christiani” or “Nofitis” (Christiani Novelli or Neofiti). As such the former “Jews” continued to be open for  exploitation and occasional religiously inspired examinations, whenever those in charge felt the need. It is remarkable, though, that serious persecutions were nearly absent from c.1340 – c.1460 and that participation in the communal affairs was a secure part of the obligation and rights of the “neofiti” post 1465. For a short period in the second half of the 15th century they even seem to have succeeded in defining themselves more as “noble merchants” than Christiani Novelli. Scheller, who has studied the history of this group in detail, have found that they practiced intensive endogamy. Neofiti married other Neofiti and that they continued to live in the old “Jewish Quarter” until at least the beginning of the 15th century. Interestingly enough it is those two cultural factors, which the Inquisition complained about in 1311 and 1343 – cultural in-marriage and spatial segregation. Both were claimed to fester “heretical wickedness” [2]

However, at the end of the 15th century even this precarious situation came to an end, when the Kingdom of Naples was reduced to a province in the Spanish Kingdom, which from 1503 was governed by Ferdinand the Catholic and Isabella. As is well known they sought to cleanse Spain of not only Muslims but also Jews. This project was imported into Southern Italy. In the whirlwind of pogroms, which followed, even the “New Christians” were renamed “marrani” and expelled with reference to their inherent “evil nature”. Obviously it was complicated to refer to them as non-Christians. The reason given, was that they were “unnatural Christians”. Large contingents fled to the North (or wherever some modicum of peace may be found). However, many stayed behind and fought it.

Post Script

At some point in the 1930s a Hungarian scholar (and Jew) by the name of Ernõ Munkáczi ended up in Southern Italy, where he began to explore the Jewish heritage in Naples and elsewhere. The result was a book with the title: Der Jude von Neapel (The Jew from Napoli), which was originally (1939) published in Hungarian. A German translation was published in 1940 in Zürich. This book was presumably originally thought to be a historical and artistic exploration of Jewish heritage. However, it ended up as a decidedly testimony to his own mystical experiences in Trani. In his book he simply wrote how he traveling along the Adriatic Coast ended up having deep mystical experiences of the life and times of his fellow Jews. About his visit to Trani he writes:

“In the evening, after I had lodged in my simple and cheap lodgings, I found my way into the Giudecca. It lies only a few minutes from the centre of the city. Deeply moved I went through the ancient gate, which leads into Via Giudea, the main street in the ancient Jewish Quarter. A wonder of history! Four hundred years has gone by, where no Jews have lived here and more than five hundred years since the famous synagogues where changed into churches; nevertheless, the Jewish Quarter stands nearly intact with its high, snowy white houses, its narrow passages and small piazzas… looking upon the people, who went around their business in the streets and looking at their faces, I could not help myself: do they have any inkling about their heritage at all?…” [3]

It seems not: If a tourist here in 2015 should happen to consult the official tourist guide – Viaggare in Puglia – in order to get a sense of place of Trani and surroundings, he or she is told about the Cathedral, the Castle, the Villa Communale and the church in the centre of the town, Maria Colonna. Further, visitors are guided to take a look at the impressive harbour. However, no mentioning of the Jewish Quarter nor its impressive heritage can be found ( in fact, searching for “Jew” on the website yield no links at all!)


[1] Bertagnin 2003, p. 39. A minyan is the quorum of ten males of thirteen years or older, which is required to fulfil the necessary religious obligation in order for the community to count as fully functioning.

[2] Scheller 2009, p. 417ff.

[3] Scheller 2013, p. 359 – 60


Synagogue in Trani, Italy reopens after refurbishment


Sinagoga Trani

A Mediterranean Jewish Quarter and its Architectural Legacy: The Giudecca of Trani, Italy (1050 -1550)
By Mauro Bertagnin, Ilham Khuri-Makdisi and Susan Gilson Miller
In: TDSR – Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review 2003, Vol. 16, No. 11 pp. 33 – 46

Die Stadt der Neuchristen: Konvertierte Juden und ihre Nachkommen im Trank des Spätmittelalters zwischen Inklusion and Explosion
By Benjamin Scheller
Walter de Gruyter 2013

The Materiality of Difference: Converted jews and their descendants in the Late medieval Kingdom of Naples
By Benjamin Schiller
In: The Medieval History Journal 2009, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.405 – 430.


Dancers outside the 13th century Scolanova synagogue in Trani, during the Lech Lecha Jewish culture festival, September 2012. © Ruth Ellen Gruber

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The Unruly Mystic – Film about Hildegard of Bingen Fri, 20 Mar 2015 10:02:34 +0000 The Unruly Mystic is an inspirational documentary telling the story of St. Hildegard of Bingen

the unruly mystic - film about Hildegard of Bingen - PosterSaint Hildegard of Bingen evokes a calling, that sweet spot of creativity that we all yearn to play in, which is also spiritual in nature. She is venerated for her widely recognized impact on today’s theologians, artists, musicians, doctors and educators. She is indeed the unruly mystic. Her story, as told through those her life’s work has inspired, invites us all to embrace the connection between God, Nature and Art.

This documentary filmed by Michael E. Conti is the story of a powerful muse who invites us to create magic in our own lives by letting the ordinary touch the divine. Included are insightful interviews with Benedictine Sr. Lydia from the Abbey of St. Hildegard, Germany; Professor Beverly Mayne Kienzle at the Harvard Divinity School; Lynn Maxwell, a world-class mezzo soprano on her one-woman Hildegard show; Doctor Wighard Strelow’s healing work at the Hildegard Center in Allen Bach, Germany; and American Episcopal priest and theologian Matthew Fox.

In a presentation of the background for the film, the director, Michael Conti, writes how he fell in love with a 12th century saint: “It all started two years ago when I decided to take my first ever pilgrimage to the Rhineland. I took a 10-day retreat which was billed as a Birthing Vision, coinciding with spring equinox in the Rhineland, and the opportunity to immerse into the Light and Greening Power of Hildegard. The result of that retreat was for me the start of a film entitled The Unruly Mystic which is a prescriptive documentary of how I as the filmmaker reaffirm my life’s work when I fell in love with a 12th century Saint. It is a journey that has now taken me to Germany several more times, and given me to the opportunity to meet artists, writers, musicians, theologians and doctors around the world that have found their life changed by Saint Hildegard.”

The Unruly Mystic
Producer and director: Michael Conti
105 min


The Unruly Mystic


 The Unruly Mystic – Trailer


hildegard-scivias-codex-vision-croppedHildegard of Bingen declared Doctor of the Church…

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Into the Ocean Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:49:12 +0000 With Into the Ocean, Kristján Ahronson makes two dramatic claims: that there were people in Iceland almost a century before Viking settlers first arrived c. AD 870, and that there was a tangible relationship between the early Christian “Irish” communities of the Atlantic zone and the Scandinavians who followed them

Into the Ocean: Vikings, Irish, and Environmental Change in Iceland and the North

by Kristjan Ahronson (Author)
Series: Toronto Old Norse-Icelandic Series (TONIS) (Book 8)
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division 2015
ISBN-10: 1442646179
ISBN-13: 978-1442646179


Into the Ocean: Vikings, Irish, and Environmental Change in Iceland and the North  CoverThat Gaelic monasticism flourished in the early medieval period is well established. The “Irish School” penetrated large areas of Europe and contemporary authors describe North Atlantic travels and settlements. Across Scotland and beyond, Celtic-speaking communities spread into the wild and windswept north, marking hundreds of Atlantic settlements with carved and rock-cut sculpture. They were followed in the Viking Age by Scandinavians who dominated the Atlantic waters and settled the Atlantic rim.

With Into the Ocean, Kristján Ahronson makes two dramatic claims: that there were people in Iceland almost a century before Viking settlers first arrived c. AD 870, and that there was a tangible relationship between the early Christian “Irish” communities of the Atlantic zone and the Scandinavians who followed them.

Ahronson uses archaeological, paleoecological, and literary evidence to support his claims, analysing evidence ranging from pap place names in the Scottish islands to volcanic airfall in Iceland. An interdisciplinary analysis of a subject that has intrigued scholars for generations, Into the Ocean will challenge the assumptions of anyone interested in the Atlantic branch of the Celtic world.


  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Illustrations, Tables and Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Nineteenth-Century Legacies: Literature, Language and the Imagining of the St. Lawrence Irish
  • Chapter Two: A Fruitful Conversation Between Disciplines
  • Chapter Three: Pabbays and Paibles: Pap-Names and Gaelic and Old Norse Speakers in Scotland’s Hebridean Islands
  • Chapter Four: Seljaland, Vestur-Eyjafjallahreppur, Iceland
  • Chapter Five: Dating the Cave
  • Chapter Six: Three Dimensions of Environmental Change
  • Chapter Seven: The Crosses of a Desert Place?
  • To Conclude
  • References


Kristján Ahronson is Lecturer in Archaeology at Prifysgol Bangor University in Wales.

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The Anglo-Saxon Chancery Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:38:50 +0000 The Anglo-Saxon Chancery: The History, Language and Production of Anglo-Saxon Charters from Alfred to Edgar

By Ben Snook
Series: Anglo-Saxon Studies
Boydell Press (March 19, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1783270063
ISBN-13: 978-1783270064


The Anglo-Saxon Chancery CoverMore charters survive from Anglo-Saxon England than texts of any other type. In a society in which the ownership of land was fundamental to status, wealth and power, the charters which gifted and guaranteed landholdings were crucial not only as legal documents but also as instruments of political power. As responsibility for their production was increasingly centralised at the royal court in the ninth and tenth centuries, charters also became vehicles for royal and religious propaganda, reflecting the dynamic and creative culture of tenth-century England.
Through an analysis of the extraordinarily sophisticated Latin in which these documents were written, this book demonstrates the literary ambitions of their draughtsmen (who may certainly be considered as Anglo-Latin literary authors in their own right), and also sheds light on the political ideologies of Anglo-Saxon England’s most powerful and enigmatic kings and churchmen. Most tantalising of all, perhaps, is the fact that the language of royal charters, which may preserve some of the very words uttered by the king, provides an unparalleled view of the mechanisms by which the developing kingdom of England was governed. Not only does it indicate the increasingly sophisticated bureaucracy of an administratively advanced state, but it also reveals an atmosphere of literary and cultural attainment, emanating directly from the king’s court, as rich as any in the early medieval Insular world.


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Brave New World: the Charters of Alfred and Edward
  • 3  Æthelstan
  • 4  ‘Æthelstan A’
  • 5  Turbulent Priests: Dunstan, Cenwald and Oda
  • 6  Back to the Future: Edgar and ‘Edgar A’
  • 7  Conclusion
  • 8  Appendices
  • 9  Bibliography


Ben Snook teaches History at the Godolphin and Latymer School, London. He is the author of several articles on Anglo-Saxon history and literature.









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