Medical Practice, Urban Politics and Patronage: The London ‘Commonalty’ of Physicians and Surgeons of the 1420s

15th century image of a Physician setting a dislocated arm

Medical practice in fifteenth-century England is often seen as suffering from the low status and unregulated practice of which Thomas Linacre later complained.

‘Do You Not Know I am a Healer?’ Royal Authority and Miracles of Healing in High Medieval Lives of Kings

Edward the Confessor

Today I’d like to place in comparative perspective the reputations for miraculous healing achieved by two high medieval royal saints: Edward the Confessor of England and Óláfr Haraldsson of Norway.

Powerful Patens in the Anglo-Saxon Medical Tradition and Exeter Book Riddle 48

exeter riddle 48

This article discusses Exeter Book Riddle 48 in light of its proposed solutions.

Soldiers to Warriors: Renegotiating the Roman Frontier in the Fifth Century

Early 14th century map of the British Isles - Codex Athous Vatopedinus 655: Add. MS 19391, f 19v-20

There has been a presumption that only the poorest soldiers remained in very small numbers by the end of the Roman period, c ad 410, if not withdrawn completely at the command of an emperor or usurper; but there are no documentary sources that validate this, and there is a considerable amount of archaeological evidence that disproves it.

How to Deal with the Restless Dead? Discernment of Spirits and the Response to Ghosts in Fifteenth-Century Europe

Ghost - image by Gallowglass / Wikimedia Commons

Discernment of spirits was embedded in late medieval theologies and ministries of death and, as such, was central to the assessment of other apparitions – like those of ghosts.

How to Make Medieval Artists’ Tools

Cennino Cennini, Madonna and Child with Angels and Saints, Galleria Moretti

by Danièle Cybulskie If there’s one thing medieval people loved, it was writing educational treatises. Sometimes, these were a little on the fantastic side – like bestiaries or travel literature – but other times, they were extremely useful how-to manuals. I particularly love the how-to manuals because they can teach us so much about medieval […]

The Troubadours and the Song of the Crusades

Troubadour playing a fiddle  - image from BnF ms. 854 fol. 49

The troubadours have been credited as giving birth to the lyrical poetry of modern European languages. Emerging in France, they were predominantly male composers from parts of Western Europe during the High Middle Ages

Young hands, old books: Drawings by children in a fourteenth-century manuscript, LJS MS. 361

LJS 361, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,
University of Pennsylvania
Libraries folio 26r.

Added to manuscripts by scribes or illuminators during the production of a book, medieval marginal illuminations might include and combine defecating monks, tumbling animals, grotesques and various other ‘weirdnesses’.

Richard I and Berengaria of Navarre

Berengaria and Richard I

Berengaria of’ Navarre was brought to Richard’s court, then at Messina in Sicily, in March 1191. She accompanied the crusader-king on his journey east and they were married in Cyprus, at Limassol, on 12 May 1191.

Vampire Burials in Medieval Poland: An Overview of Past Controversies and Recent Reevaluations

Vampire Skeleton from Poland

Recently, the sensationalist interpretations of deviant burials have also permeated into (inter)national media, leading the general public to misinformation about Poland’s past and the mentalities of its medieval societies.

Annihilation and Authorship: Three Women Mystics of the 1290s

18th-century print of Angela of Foligno

Mechthild of Hackeborn, Angela of Foligno, and Marguerite Porete were exact contemporaries who differed in language, social status, and modes of religious life; their books diverge no less in genre, modes of production, and posthumous destinies.

Monastic medicine: medieval herbalism meets modern science

Folio from a manuscript of the De Materia Medica by Dioscorides (ca. 40-90 AD),
showing a physician preparing an elixir. From Iraq or Northern Mesopotamia,
perhaps Baghdad.

A group of German researchers is bringing to light the medicinal wisdom of the Middle Ages.

Did Medieval People Believe in King Arthur?

By Danièle Cybulskie If you’ve ever had your doubts that King Arthur was a real, living, breathing human being at some point, you’re not alone. Despite the many, many histories that “prove” that Arthur was definitely this or that – tenacious Briton, Roman military man, leader of hunky Sarmatians – the evidence is pretty thin. […]

Constructing Imaginary Cities in Fifteenth-Century Illumination

The Construction and Destruction of Troy, Orosius Master, Paris, 1405–6. In City of God

In the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Trojan legend was one of the most popular myths in the European courts, and in the Burgundian court in particular. The legend was depicted in numerous tapestries and illuminated manuscripts.

The Black Prince at War: the anatomy of a Chevauchée

From Bibliothèque Nationale MS Fr. 2663

These were highly complex, organized, and focused operations rather than unfocused raids with no other purpose but pillage and ravishment.

A haunch for Hrothgar

medieval feast

Naomi Sykes takes a taste of venison amid the Feast Halls of Anglo-Saxon England

The Varangian Legend: Testimony from the Old Norse sources

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In the eleventh century there existed, within the great army of the Byzantine empire, a regiment composed mainly of soldiers from Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. This regiment was known as the Varangian Guard

Medieval Mysteries: Miscellanies and Mix Tapes


By Danièle Cybulskie In thinking this week about the medieval mysteries we’ll never solve, it struck me that one of the most fun questions that I – and everyone else who loves medieval books – ponder is why the particular stories in them are put together the way they are. Most medieval manuscripts that aren’t […]

Baptism in Anglo-Saxon England

Drawing with coloured wash of the baptism of Balan in a tub by Pope Milon with 4 archbishops present, illustrating section 351 of the Chanson d'Aspremont.  - from British Library MS  Lansdowne 782   f. 18v

This thesis examines the lexical field of baptism in Old English. The lexical development of the field and the semantic development of the individual lexemes were evaluated: the verbs fulwian, cristnian, depan, dyppan, and the vocabulary for baptismal water in Old English. At every stage of the project, the linguistic data was correlated to theological, liturgical and cultural backgrounds.

The sin of crime: The Mutual Influence of the Early Irish and Anglo-Saxon Penitentials and Secular Laws

Medieval Penitential - British Library MS Additional 30853   f. 309

One of the most fascinating questions concerning Medieval Irish and Anglo-Saxon society is not one about what was done when all went well, but rather, what was sought to be done when matters were not as they ought to be.

Diorasis denied: Opposition to clairvoyance in Byzantium from late Antiquity to the eleventh century

Byzantine crescent - photo by  fusion-of-horizons / Flickr

This article treats the phenomenon of clairvoyance, the ability to know the thoughts of others that set holy men apart from ordinary human beings who had to make inferences from a person’s outward appearance.

Plague, Papacy and Power: The Effect of the Black Plague on the Avignon Papacy

View of the Palais des Papes in Avignon, France. 17th century

The plague came at a critical moment for the Church, and the papacy at Avignon did not adequately rise to the challenge.

‘Ill-Liver of Her Body:’ A Legal Examination of Prostitution in Late Medieval Greater London

Drawing by Antony van den Wyngaerde View of London - The Tower of London - 16th century

I will be examining how women—specifically prostitutes—were placed under male authority and marginalized in London and Southwark, despite the divergent legal practices seen in these two adjacent areas of Greater London.

The Battle of Hastings: A Geographic Perspective

Bayeux tapestry scene

The Battle of Hastings is one of the most widely studied battles in medieval history. Yet despite the importance that research shows geography to play in the outcome of such conflicts, few studies have examined in detail the landscape of the battle or the role the landscape played in its eventual outcome.

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