Friday, January 30, 2009

Jacques Dalarun visits St.Bonaventure University

Noted Medievalist Visits SBU's Franciscan Heritage Program
28 January 2009
Targeted News Service


St. Bonaventure University issued the following news release:

St. Bonaventure University's Franciscan Heritage Program at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy, welcomed world-renowned medievalist Jacques Dalarun, who taught a guest class on Monday, Jan. 26, at Umbra I, via dei Priori.

Dalarun, senior researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, was previously director of the Medieval Department at l'Ecole francaise de Rome, as well as the Joseph A. Doino Visiting Professor of Franciscan Studies at the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University (2004-2005). Dalarun, the author of numerous books and articles, is one the world's foremost authorities in medieval and Franciscan studies. Among his better-known English-language titles are The Misadventure of Francis of Assisi (2002), Francis of Assisi and the Feminine (2007), Francis of Assisi and Power (2007), Robert of Arbrissel: Sex, Sin, and Salvation in the Middle Ages (2006), and "The Umbrian Legend by Thomas of Celano" (2007).

He led students in a discussion of the autograph letter of Francis of Assisi to Brother Leo, one of the few extant texts from the hand of Francis himself, which is housed in the Duomo at Spoleto. Students will have an opportunity to see the text themselves when they visit Spoleto later in the semester.

The Franciscan Heritage Program is a semester-long study abroad program at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy, open to all students from schools affiliated with the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities.

For further information, contact Michael Chiariello (mchiarie@sbu.edu) or visit www.sbu.edu/italystudy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Upcoming Medieval Conferences

Sailing the Western Sea: The Atlantic Ocean in a Medieval Perspective - March 28, 2009 at Pennsylvania State University

30th Annual Medieval and Renaissance Forum - April 24-25, 2009 at Plymouth State University

England’s Wars, 1272-1399 - July 20-22, 2009 at University of Reading

Gascon Rolls - Important medieval records to go online

From Oxford University:

The most important unpublished records of the Hundred Years War, the Gascon Rolls, will be made available to academic researchers and the general public, thanks to a project led by Oxford.

Academics from Oxford are collaborating with the University of Liverpool and King’s College London on the initiative and have been funded almost three-quarters of a million pounds by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The National Archives and The Ranulf Higden Society are also co-operating in the project.

The Hundred Years War is a significant era of history, which ended after a massive defeat by the French of an English army on a battlefield at Castillon, near Bordeaux. This terminated three hundred years of English rule in southwest France and the end of England’s rule as a continental European land power.

Dr Malcolm Vale, of St John’s College, said: "The history of the old emnity between England and France today still arouses interest and, in some quarters, passion. Its origins lay in the Middle Ages, and some parts of the story have not yet been fully told. One phase of the conflict - now known as the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) - was provoked and fuelled by English claims to hold overseas territories, particularly the duchy of Aquitaine. This research project aims to make available the most important unpublished documentary source for that war, its prelude, course and aftermath so we can arrive at a better understanding of how and why relations between the two countries deteriorated, leading to a century-long conflict. Its consequences have resonances even today - in, for example, the Joan of Arc story and the mythologies, which have grown up around it on both sides of the Channel. This project will make an important contribution to international scholarship and to the history of a region of France with which British connections have always been close."

There are 113 unpublished manuscripts, covering the years 1317 to 1468, which are currently held in the National Archives in London. They contain copies of letters, grants and many other documents mostly written in Latin, and will be published in English summaries in on-line and printed form. The work of the project will be highly innovative producing a resource which will include on-line indices, a search function and the facility to view both images and text within a highly sophisticated and interconnected framework. It is expected to take three years to complete the project.

Dr Vale is the project’s director, and Paul Booth, of the University of Liverpool, co-director. They will work with two post-doctoral researchers, from Oxford and Liverpool, to read, translate, and summarise the entries on the rolls. The Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King's College London will develop the technical framework.

Finally, The Ranulf Higden Society, a group of experienced, independent researchers, will produce a full edition (text and translation) of the roll for 1337-38, which covers the outbreak of the Hundred Years War.

Ancient Coins




Old money vs. new money? We are not talking about social status, but about ancient coins. Coins from the Roman Empire, Byzantine Era, and Alexandria, are invaluable for the stories and history they can convey of an ancient time. Richard Pearlman, specialist in ancient coins, talks with Dan Borsey, of WorthPoint, at the Baltimore Coin and Currency Convention about his collection of ancient coins.

Researchers find Moors used powdered animal bones to strengthen walls close to Alhambra Palace

Researchers find Moors used powdered animal bones to strengthen walls close to Alhambra Palace
By CIARAN GILES
16 January 2009
Associated Press Newswires


A chance discovery of a medieval clay oven has revealed that Moorish architects used powdered animal bones to protect the walls of fortresses close to the Alhambra Palace in southern Spain.

The finding represents the first evidence of powdered bones being used in protective coats, or patinas, in Moorish architecture, said Granada University geologist Carolina Cardell, who headed a yearlong scientific research project at the site.

"We know this method was used in Greek, Roman and Celtic structures, but this is the first report of it in a Moorish building," Cardell told The Associated Press.

Cardell's team's findings were published Wednesday in the U.S. journal Analytical Chemistry. The discovery began when archaeologists restoring a 13-foot (4-meter) rampart a short distance from the Alhambra stumbled across the remains of a clay oven beside a pile of bones and ashes.

The wall was built sometime between 1333 and 1354 by Moorish ruler Yusuf I, who also constructed a key section of the Alhambra Palace complex. The palace is the architectural jewel near the city of Granada from which Moorish caliphs ruled most of Spain until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled them in 1492, ending 800 years of Muslim rule. The palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist attraction.

Suspecting the find had something to do with the wall's coating, the archaeologists asked Cardell and her colleagues at the city university's mineral and petrology department to investigate. The team first found that the oven -- estimated to have measured some 22 square feet (2 square meters) -- had operated at temperatures of around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 Celsius).

"This was far higher than the temperature normally used in firing ovens, so it was obvious they used it for something else," Cardell said.

Traces on the oven's brickwork revealed hydroxyapatite, a mineral that is the main component of bone. Bones must be heated at high temperature in before they can be powdered. The scientists then used a series of ultra-sensitive detection methods and found the same substance on the wall.

"The bone powder would have strengthened the wall's coating better than any other substance," Cardell said.

Cardell said there is evidence that the bone powder, mostly from pigs, may have been used in other Moorish structures in the area but so far there is nothing to indicate it was used in the Alhambra itself.

Rievaulx Abbey tiles to be protected from winter weather

video

The York Press reports that the medieval floor tiles at Rievaulx Abbey, near Helmsley, North Yorkshire, are being protected from winter weather using a grass turf. Watch the video above for details.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Medieval canals in Northern Italy to be reopened

Canal cruises into past prove Shakespeare was right
Richard Owen Rome
12 January 2009
The Times

Italy is to reopen medieval and Renaissance inland waterways so that tourists can travel over 500 kilometres (300 miles) by boat from Lake Maggiore to Venice via Milan.

This summer engineers will start clearing eight kilometres of canals from the southern end of Lake Maggiore at Sesto Calende to Somma Lombardo. Alessandro Meinardi, of the Navigli Lombardi (Lombardy Canals) company, which is overseeing the project, said that the aim was to make navigable the whole of the 14th-century 140-kilometre stretch of waterways from Locarno in Switzerland to Milan.

The restored canal system would eventually link up with the River Po, winding its way to Venice by way of Pavia, Piacenza, Cremona and Ferrara.

Whereas the waterways used to transport goods, they would now enable visitors to take "the slow route" to Venice, "drifting past the Italian Renaissance landscape". The billion euros (£886 million) project aims to revive what was once a main transport artery, as confirmed by casual references to Milan in Shakespeare's plays as an inland port.

Some have assumed that Shakespeare was demonstrating ignorance of Italian geography by referring to ships at Milan in plays such as The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Tempest. In The Tempest Prospero says that at Milan "they hurried us aboard a bark, and bore us some leagues to the sea".

Francesco Rusconi Clerici, a Milanese engineer, said the first part of the route was originally used to transport marble from quarries at Candoglia in the Val d'Ossola in

Piedmont to build Milan's Gothic cathedral, the Duomo, which was begun in 1386. The trip, using horsedrawn barges known as cagnone, took two weeks, with each barge carrying up to 50 tonnes of stone.

Mr Meinardi said the canals began falling into disuse in the 1930s, as goods were transported by road and rail instead of water. They became unnavigable either because of neglect or because dams were built for irrigation. Electronically controlled locks would now be built.

The canals of Milan were first built in the 12th century by Benedictine and Cistercian monks, and later expanded in line with designs by Leonardo da Vinci, linking the city to the sea. Leonardo turned his hand to waterways after painting The Last Supper at Milan's church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Some of Milan's canals have already been restored for picturesque boat trips, including the oldest one, the Naviglio Grande , now lined with boutiques and caf├ęs. La Stampa newspaper said canals were enjoying a revival throughout Europe, not least in Britain, with a rise in property values along navigable waterways..

Wall paintings at St Mary's Parish Church, Lakenheath, to be preserved

Unique and important wall paintings at a Suffolk church are to be conserved for...
6 January 2009
Eastern Daily Press

Unique and important wall paintings at a Suffolk church are to be conserved for future generations thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund award of £32,500.

The paintings at St Mary's Parish Church, Lakenheath, date from the 13th to the 17th centuries and show scenes from the life of Christ, angels, birds and local saint King Edmund. Some of the medieval decoration is thought to be unique among surviving English wall paintings.

They were discovered during restoration work carried out on the church in 1864 when the lime wash, which had covered the colourful examples of medieval art since the reformation, was removed to reveal at least three individual painting schemes.

Having been exposed to the elements for over a century, urgent work is now needed to maintain the stability of the paintings and the plaster onto which they were painted.

The Heritage Lottery Fund, along with a number of local organisations, has provided the money to support a six-month project aimed at conserving and explaining the wall paintings. The project intends to fully involve the community in attempting to bring these fascinating examples of medieval art to wider public attention.

As they stand, the wall paintings are seen as difficult to interpret and an important part of the project is to make them accessible to local schools and community groups via a series of free events. These will include hands- on workshops and demonstrations, family activities, costumed live interpreters, talks and lectures, and educational packs.

Among the highlights will be the creation of a modern wall painting by local people as a lasting monument to the project, and the development of a 'wall painting trail' linking Lakenheath to other East Anglian churches fortunate enough to have surviving wall paintings of their own.

Father Robert Leach, the vicar of St Mary's, said: “We are deeply grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing the funds to enable this project to proceed. Without their help these unique works of art would have faced an uncertain future.”

Matthew Champion, the newly-appointed project manager, added: “The wall paintings at Lakenheath are of national importance and the HLF funding will enable them to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

“However, the project isn't just about relics from the past. These fantastic images were originally paid for and created by the local community. This project aims to bring local people back into their church to rediscover their own parish heritage.”

The project, costing just over £54,000, will begin this month and is anticipated to run until the end of June. Roger Rosewell, the acclaimed author of Medieval Wall Paintings in English and Welsh Churches, will present a special lecture to mark its completion.

Wall paintings at St Mary's Parish Church, Lakenheath, to be preserved

Unique and important wall paintings at a Suffolk church are to be conserved for...
6 January 2009
Eastern Daily Press


Unique and important wall paintings at a Suffolk church are to be conserved for future generations thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund award of £32,500.

The paintings at St Mary's Parish Church, Lakenheath, date from the 13th to the 17th centuries and show scenes from the life of Christ, angels, birds and local saint King Edmund. Some of the medieval decoration is thought to be unique among surviving English wall paintings.

They were discovered during restoration work carried out on the church in 1864 when the lime wash, which had covered the colourful examples of medieval art since the reformation, was removed to reveal at least three individual painting schemes.

Having been exposed to the elements for over a century, urgent work is now needed to maintain the stability of the paintings and the plaster onto which they were painted.

The Heritage Lottery Fund, along with a number of local organisations, has provided the money to support a six-month project aimed at conserving and explaining the wall paintings. The project intends to fully involve the community in attempting to bring these fascinating examples of medieval art to wider public attention.

As they stand, the wall paintings are seen as difficult to interpret and an important part of the project is to make them accessible to local schools and community groups via a series of free events. These will include hands- on workshops and demonstrations, family activities, costumed live interpreters, talks and lectures, and educational packs.

Among the highlights will be the creation of a modern wall painting by local people as a lasting monument to the project, and the development of a 'wall painting trail' linking Lakenheath to other East Anglian churches fortunate enough to have surviving wall paintings of their own.

Father Robert Leach, the vicar of St Mary's, said: “We are deeply grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing the funds to enable this project to proceed. Without their help these unique works of art would have faced an uncertain future.”

Matthew Champion, the newly-appointed project manager, added: “The wall paintings at Lakenheath are of national importance and the HLF funding will enable them to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

“However, the project isn't just about relics from the past. These fantastic images were originally paid for and created by the local community. This project aims to bring local people back into their church to rediscover their own parish heritage.”

The project, costing just over £54,000, will begin this month and is anticipated to run until the end of June. Roger Rosewell, the acclaimed author of Medieval Wall Paintings in English and Welsh Churches, will present a special lecture to mark its completion.

Medieval monastery window found at hotel

Medieval monastery window found at hotel
CHRIS CUTMORE
10 January 2009
Evening Herald


A medieval monastery window about 600 years old has been discovered during building work at the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock. The important architectural discovery was made when builders constructing a new function room in a rear courtyard removed slate cladding from a wall, revealing the window. The window is described as trefoil-headed, framed and made from local Hurdwick stone.

An archaeological investigation by Dr Stuart Blaylock, of Exeter University, dated the window as late medieval, with rubble masonry from the 14th or 15th Century. The window was possibly part of the Abbot's lodgings.

The Bedford Hotel is built on the site of the former Benedictine Tavistock Abbey, which was founded around 981. By the end of the medieval period, the monastery had become the wealthiest and most important in Devon.

Dr Blaylock said: "Any find of this sort is significant as it is a finite resource. Tavistock Abbey is a jigsaw from which we only have ten to 15 per cent of the pieces remaining and no picture on the box. This has filled out the picture and added to what we know about this little corner of the Abbey."

Philip Davies, chairman of Warm Welcome Hotels, which owns the Bedford Hotel, said: "We are delighted that this important historical feature has been revealed and that we will conserve it for future generations."

Architect for the project Stephen Whettem said: "A key aim of the design of the new room was to bring into the public realm some of the hidden parts of Tavistock's heritage. The Function Room was designed as a simple roof canopy with fully glazed external walls, giving views of a number of important and historic buildings that surround it. The discovery of this very attractive and historic window opening is a real bonus."

The window will be conserved and protected by a toughened glass panel.

Michael A. Signer


THEOLOGIAN RABBI MICHAEL SIGNER DIES - UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME
12 January 2009
States News Service

Rabbi Michael A. Signer, Abrams Professor of Jewish Thought and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, died Saturday (Jan. 10). He was 63 years old.

"We are saddened at the loss of our dear colleague Michael Signer," said John Cavadini, chair of theology at Notre Dame. "His leading work in Christian-Jewish dialogue and his scholarship in medieval biblical exegesis made him a beloved teacher and scholar whose loss will be keenly felt not only by his colleagues and students in our theology department, but by the theological community worldwide."

A member of Notre Dame's faculty since 1992, Rabbi Signer was a professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles from 1974 to 1991.

Rabbi Signer was an international scholar with wide-ranging expertise. In addition to Jewish history, liturgy and Biblical commentary, he was particularly interested in the multiple relationships between Judaism and Christianity. He initiated and directed the Notre Dame Holocaust Project, an interdisciplinary group of faculty which designs educational opportunities for the study of the Shoah.

Rabbi Signer was graduated from the University of California Los Angeles in 1966 and earned a master's degree from Hebrew Union College in 1970, the same year as his rabbinical ordination. He became interested in interreligious affairs as a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, where he wrote his dissertation on Andrew of Saint Victor, a 12th century Biblical scholar. While in Los Angeles, he participated in numerous dialogues between Catholic priests and rabbis, taught Bible courses to Catholic seminarians of the Los Angeles archdiocese, and organized retreats for his Jewish, Catholic and Protestant colleagues.

Throughout his ministry and career, Rabbi Singer followed what he once described as "the impulse to explore relationships between Catholics and Jews by encouraging students to investigate the darker moments of rivalry and even persecution that mark the pages of history to those invigorating engagements between scholars of our two communities." He said he cherished his years at Notre Dame because they provided him "the opportunity to engage in the day to day lives of Christian colleagues and students as they wrestle with what it means to live their tradition in the modern world. Their struggle to discover how their faith can guide them as they negotiate a path to discover meaning in the pluralistic society that surrounds them without surrendering a distinctive religious identity awakens many echoes of the Jewish tradition which has in the past and continues to chart its course between assimilation and resistance to contemporary culture."

A well-traveled theologian, Rabbi Signer also taught courses at the Institut Kirche und Judentum at Alexander von Humboldt University in Berlin and for the Catholic theology faculty of the University of Augsburg and several Catholic universities in Poland, including the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow.

Rabbi Signer was the author and editor of numerous books and encyclopedia articles on topics ranging from medieval Latin biblical commentaries to contemporary Jewish-Christian relations. He also was one of the authors of "Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity," a document signed in 2000 by more than 220 rabbis and intellectuals from all branches of Judaism.

In 2005 Rabbi Signer was designated a "Person of Reconciliation" by the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, an honor annually awarded to an individual advancing Jewish-Christian dialogue in Poland.

Rabbi Signer is survived by his wife, Betty, and their daughters Aliza and Hanna.

Friday, January 09, 2009

New this week on Medievalists.net

We have been busy adding more material to the main Medievalists.net website. This includes:

Interview with Tommaso di Carpegna - We interview the author of The Man Who Believe He Was King of France: A True Medieval Tale about how he came across this fascinating tale of a 14th century Italian merchant who believed he was the true heir to the French crown.

Interview with Vicki Ellen Szabo - Szabo’s latest book Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic, examines a topic rarely dealt with by medieval historians. We talk with her about her research on whales during the Middle Ages.

Travel Guide to Carcassonne - Our first travel guide, we offer information, videos and links about what to see at this city in Southern France, famous for its historical beauty and its role in the Albigensian Crusades

Facebook for Medievalists - A guide to groups and games that Medievalists can join on the popular social networking site

We also added 39 articles to the site this week, including:

A Classification of Peasants Attached to Land in Byzantium of the 14th Century

Background, Social Situation and Form of Living of Women in Hessian Cloisters of the Late Middle Ages

From Islam to Christianity: the Case of Sicily

The Jewish communities in Portuguese late medieval cities: space and identity

Against the Lord’s anointed: aspects of warfare and baronial rebellion in England and Normandy 1075-1265

Societies in Symbiosis: The Mudejar-Crusader Experiment in Thirteenth Century Mediterranean Spain

The Role of Arianism in the Vandal Kingdom

The First Siege of Constantinople by the Ottomans (1394-1402) and its Repercussions on the Civilian Population of the City

Theodoricus Monachus and the Icelanders

Excavations at Castle of Wardhouse, Aberdeenshire

The Bishops of Argyll and the Castle of Achanduin, Lismore, AD 1180-1343

Archaeological Excavation of a Shang Dynasty City Wall

Journal of Agrarian Change

This journal, published by Wiley, examines the social relations and dynamics of production, property and power in agrarian formations and their processes of change, both historical and contemporary. Usually, they do not have many medieval articles, but in their latest issue - Volume 9, Issue 1 (January 2009) they are entirely devoted to the topic of Aristocrats, Peasants and the Transformation of Rural Society, c.400–800. Articles include:

Introduction: Aristocrats, Peasants and the Transformation of Rural Society, c.400–800, by Peter Sarris

Forces and Relations of Production in Early Medieval England, by Rosamond Faith

Framing the Carolingian Economy, by Matthew Innes

Aristocracies, Peasantries and the Framing of the Early Middle Ages, by Jairus Banaji

Settlement, Taxation and the Condition of the Peasantry in Post-Roman Central Italy, by Marios Costambeys

Landholding Patterns in Early Islamic Egypt, by Petra M. Supesteun

Early Medieval Byzantium and the End of the Ancient World, by Mark Whittow

You can access these articles if you have a Wiley Interscience subscription, or want to buy the articles individually, here.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Large Byzantine coin find in Bulgaria

12th Century Coins Are Biggest Numismatic Find near Sevlievo
1 January 2009
Bulgarian News Agency

Three thousand coins, minted by five Byzantine emperors through the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century, constitute the biggest numismatic find, discovered near Sevlievo during the past 30 years. BTA learnt this by Sevlievo Historical Museum Director Naiden Petrov.

The coins were found in a pottery vessel in 1993 during excavations of the medieval town of Hotalich, a monument of culture of national relevance. They were discovered at a depth of 40 cm.

According to historians, the coins are indicative of the intensive commodity exchange between Hotalich, on the one part, and Byzantium and other settlements on Bulgarian territory, on the other.