Medieval Books: Great Reads of 2013
Published: May 15, 2013 (British Library)
Perhaps at no other time in Western history have animals played such a dominant role in the visual and literary arts as they did during the Middle Ages. Animals were prevalent and essential in all aspects of medieval life, and as a result, they were employed by artists for a variety of purposes: to illustrate saint’s lives, populate farm scenes, act as characters in fables, and even crawl among the very letters forming the text. And while artists used a host of animals, both real and fantastic, for these purposes, one of the most popular animals was man’s best friend. Dogs were as important to humans during the Middle Ages as they are today, and this new book celebrates that association through their appearance in medieval manuscripts. A follow-up book to Kathleen Walker-Meikle’s Medieval Cats, published by the British Library in 2011,Medieval Dogs presents a wealth of dog imagery from a variety of medieval sources and is peppered with fascinating facts about the medieval view of dogs and many stories of people and their pets in the Middle Ages. Among the themes explored in the accompanying text are the roles of the medieval dog, dog breeds, dogs and saints, the names of dogs, canine faithfulness, veterinary care of dogs, dog feeding, the mourning of dogs and burial practices, and medieval poetry about dogs, with translations of some short poems included here. Medieval Dogs is sure to charm dog lovers and medievalists alike.
Author: Michael Rank
Published: November 17, 2013 (Five Minute Books)
‘The Crusades and the Soldiers of the Cross’ is an exciting new book by best-selling author and historian Michael Rank about the quest to retake the Holy Land. It looks at the lives and times of the 10 most important people in one of the most interesting times in history, covering 1095 to 1212. Whether it is Peter the Hermit raising an army of 100,000 peasants to fight in the Crusades in the Holy Land with nothing but pitchforks or Baldwin IV personally leading his forces against Saladin despite having terminal leprosy, these larger-than-life figures were compelled to forsake their vast land holdings while embarking on a dangerous adventure against a superior enemy. This book will look at the reasons for these 10 figures joining the Crusades. Perhaps it was for glory in battle, as was the case for Richard the Lionheart. For others it was simple curiosity, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, who added dramatic panache to the whole affair and brought along 300 female servants donned in decorative armor and carrying lances while on the march to Jerusalem. For many it was a simple faith conviction, such as the thousands of child crusades, who legend has it marched to the Mediterranean sea and expected it to open for them as the Red Sea had done for Moses. Whatever their background, these 10 participants in the Crusades demonstrate that a person willing to brave the enormously dangerous journey — traveling to to a different continent over land no less — had a personality fitting for the fascinating time in which they lived.
Author: Jeffrey L. Singman
Published: November 5, 2013 (Sterling)
We consider the Middle Ages barbaric, yet the period furnished some of our most enduring icons, including King Arthur’s Round Table, knights in shining armor, and the idealized noblewoman. In this vivid history of the time, the medieval world comes to life in all its rich daily experience. Find out what people’s beds were like, how often they washed, what they wore, what they cooked, how they worked, how they entertained themselves, how they wed, and what life was like in a medieval village, castle, or monastery. Contemporary artworks and documents further illuminate this fascinating historical era.
Author: Robert Bartlett
Published: November 10, 2013 (Princeton University Press)
From its earliest centuries, one of the most notable features of Christianity has been the veneration of the saints–the holy dead. This sweepingly ambitious history from one of the world’s leading medieval historians tells the fascinating story of the cult of the saints from its origins in the second-century days of the Christian martyrs to the Protestant Reformation. Drawing on sources from around the Christian world, Robert Bartlett examines all of the most important aspects of the saints–including miracles, relics, pilgrimages, shrines, and the saints’ role in the calendar, literature, and art. As this engaging narrative shows, a wide variety of figures have been venerated as saints: men and women, kings and servant girls, legendary virgins and highly political bishops–and one dog. The book explores the central role played by the bodies and body parts of saints, and the special treatment these relics received: how they were treasured and enshrined, used in war and peace, and faked and traded. The shrines of the saints drew pilgrims, sometimes from hundreds of miles, and the book describes the routes, dangers, and rewards of pilgrimage, including the thousands of reported miracles. The book surveys the rich literature and images that proliferated around the saints, as well as the saints’ impact on everyday life–from the naming of people and places to the shaping of the calendar. Finally, the book considers how the Christian cult of saints compares with apparently similar aspects of other religions. At once deeply informative and entertaining, this is an unmatched account of an immensely important and intriguing part of the religious life of the past–as well as the present.
Author: Sophie Page
Published: Press November 13, 2013 (Penn State University)
During the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries a group of monks with occult interests donated what became a remarkable collection of more than thirty magic texts to the library of the Benedictine abbey of St. Augustine’s in Canterbury. The monks collected texts that provided positive justifications for the practice of magic and books in which works of magic were copied side by side with works of more licit genres. In Magic in the Cloister, Sophie Page uses this collection to explore the gradual shift toward more positive attitudes to magical texts and ideas in medieval Europe. She examines what attracted monks to magic texts, in spite of the dangers involved in studying condemned works, and how the monks combined magic with their intellectual interests and monastic life. By showing how it was possible for religious insiders to integrate magical studies with their orthodox worldview, Magic in the Cloister contributes to a broader understanding of the role of magical texts and ideas and their acceptance in the late Middle Ages.