‘Bright Lights in the Dark Ages’ features over two hundred stunning and extremely rare early medieval gold and precious stonework objects

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


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

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

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


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

An educated awareness of death and mortality was a vital aspect of medieval civic culture. This book tells the story of how to die in London in the Later Middle Ages

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Chaucer's prioress from the Ellesmere Manuscript

21. November 2014

Historians on Chaucer

The aim of this volume is to introduce historians to the literary qualities and characteristics of one of the most famous works of Middle English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer's 'General Prologue' to the Canterbury Tales.

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

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

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

  • a proposal for a paper (500-word abstracts of a 30-minute paper)
  • a short CV (max. 4 pages including your most relevant publications)
  • a two-page research proposal for a working period in Turku with a clear indication of why TUCEMEMS would be the best host institution for your research regarding the reformatory movements in Europe.
If the paper proposal is accepted, we ask the contributors to prepare their final papers in a clear relation to their complete research plan and present it in the Symposium on 21 February 2015.
The working language of the seminar is English. The application deadline is 15 December 2014. All proposals will be reviewed by the TUCEMEMS board which will select 8 to 10 candidates to the symposium. The programme of the seminar includes keynote lectures by David Gaimster, Director of The Hunterian, University of Glasgow and Sabrina Corbellini, Rosalind Franklin Fellow, University of Groningen, esteemed scholars on material culture and languages of Reformation and/or Counter-reformation. Candidates should ensure that they fulfill the conditions of eligibility and send their proposal with additional documents mentioned above by e-mail to mmonor[at]utu.fi.
TUCEMEMS will offer the participants accommodation and cover legitimate travel expenses. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 19 December 2014.
For information and questions regarding the CFP and the Call for MSCA (http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/h2020/calls/h2020-msca-if-2015.html  ), please contact Professor Kirsi Salonen (kilesa[at]utu.fi) or Dr. Tuomo Fonsén (tuofon[at]utu.fi).
A brief description of the TUCEMEMS project “500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation”
The Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (TUCEMEMS) is a multidisciplinary centre funded by the University of Turku. It promotes interdisciplinary and cross-cultural studies of topics from Late Antiquity to the eighteenth century. The Centre aims at facilitating medieval and early modern studies at the University especially by coordinating international collaboration and encouraging interdisciplinary debate.
In 2014 the TUCEMEMS initiated a large research project related to the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017. Within this project, we study the Reformation from a wide multidisciplinary perspective. The project does not only concentrate on the Lutheran Reformation proper, but we are interested in reform movements within a long time frame: from the medieval reformatory actions aiming to change the Catholic Church up to the post-Lutheran movements. The project examines, for example, themes as the perception of Luther in course of time, the role of Luther as well as other reformers and counter-reformers, vernacular translations of the Bible, reformatory writings, music, arts and architecture, and the educational, social and political dimensions of the Reformation as well as material culture. The geographical focus of the project is in northern Europe but special attention is paid to the reformatory activity in Finland and in particular in the City of Turku.
The TUCEMEMS project “500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation” is carried out in national and international cooperation with ecclesiastical, academic and other institutional cooperation partners such as the City of Turku and the Evangelic-Lutheran Church of Finland. By providing new information in the form of lectures, exhibitions and other activities, the project benefits everyone interested in the Reformation: scholars, students, and the general public.

The relationship between law and legal practice in a linguistic context will be the theme for the series of conferences on medieval law sponsored by Carlsberg

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

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

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

Deadline for proposals is 1st February 2015.

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

Suggested thematic strands are:

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

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

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

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

The conference is sponsored by: the Carlsberg Foundation

and Ingeniør, kaptajn Åge Nielsens Familiefond

If you have any queries, or want to submit a proposal, please feel free to use any of these addresses: Helle Vogt (helle.vogt@jur.ku.dk), Jenny Benham (BenhamJ@cardiff.ac.uk) or Per Andersen (pa@jura.au.dk ).

The Organising Committee:

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

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

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


Saint Louis leading the crusade

20. November 2014

Blessed Louis

In a recent book Gaposchkin demonstrates how the Royal Family, the Franciscans and the Cistercians manipulated the hagiographical myth of the blessed Louis

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Louis IX (1214 – 1270) was an intriguing man. This year France celebrates his 800-year anniversary with a very important exhibition in Paris

Crown of Thors is presented to the Faithful in Paris in March 2014
Crown of Thors is presented to the Faithful in Paris in March 2014

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

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

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

The biography of Le Goff

Sainte Chapelle flagellation
Sainte Chapelle flagellation

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

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

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

The biography of William Chester Jordan

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

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

The biography of Jean de Joinville

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

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

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

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

The Exhibition in Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


The songs of the troubadours include scores of original sources that bring to life medieval responses to the crusades. Now original sources are available

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Birgitte gives the rule to her order

16. November 2014

Power and Sainthood

A new book about the Swedish saint, Birgitta, investigates how Birgitta went about establishing her power and authority

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