Medieval Lisbon: Castelo de São Jorge

Walking along the castle walls, you can see the red and green flag of Portugal whipping in the wind alongside the black and white flag of the city. Photo by

Above Lisbon’s skyline of colourful tiled houses and red roofs lies Castelo de São Jorge, a dominating, but beautiful, 11th century fortress in the heart of this vibrant city…

Genoa: The cog in the new medieval economy

View of Genoa by Christoforo de Grassi (after a drawing of 1481)

Journalist and author Nicholas Walton writes about medieval Genoa’s economy, trade and role in the Black Death. Walton recently published a book on Genoese history entitled, “Genoa: La Superba”

Embracing Death, Celebrating Life: Reflections on the Concept of Martyrdom in the Order of the Knights Templar

Detail of a miniature of the burning of the Grand Master of the Templars and another Templar. From the Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, BL Royal MS 20 C vii f. 48r

Although research on the concept of martyrdom during the era of the Crusades has gained considerable prominence, it has rarely been applied to the Knights Templar. This is surprising, as the Templars were the first military order and paved the way for a new monastic development; they were devoted to warfare only; and they, together with the other military orders, but unlike most Crusaders, established a permanent presence in the hostile environment of the Holy Land, consequently facing the threat of death both regularly and frequently.

The Afterlife of the Dead: Reform in Attitude Towards Medieval Burials, Corpses and Bones

Rothwell Charnel Chapel. Photo courtesy of ITV.

The International Medieval Congress is taking place at the University of Leeds, I’m on hand this week to report on the conference. This blog post reports on my first session.

Angels in Art: Angels Through the Ages

Quinten Massys - The Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels (1506-1509)

A look at cool and fun facts about angels and how they were depicted in some of the most beautiful works of Medieval and Renaissance art.

Foundation Myths in Medieval and Renaissance Italy

Plaque of Regola, the VII rione of Rome. (

The 3 papers featured here looked at the development of the civic identities of Florence, Genoa and Rome through art, architecture and foundation legends.

Bishops and Their Towns

City of Lucca, Italy. Image via Flickr by bongo vongo.

Another #KZOO2015 post – this one examines Bishops and Their Towns.

KZOO 2015: Session #42 – Magna Carta in Context

British Library's Magna Carta, photo credit Joseph Turp

This coming week I’ll be featuring summaries on some of my favourites sessions and papers from #KZOO2015. I kicked off my first session on Thursday with the Magna Carta.

David Nirenberg on ‘Religion and Violence’

David Nirenberg

Do the respective claims of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic holy texts contribute to the violence between the various communities that read them? Or do they provide a basis for solidarity between the three Abrahamic religions?

Katherine of Alexandria: Decline of an Empire

Katherine martyred on the wheel

According to hagiographers, (C)Katherine was a princess, the daughter of Roman governor named Constus. She was well educated, beautiful and highly intelligent. She converted to Christianity at the age of 13 or 14 and caught the eye of the Roman Emperor, Maxentius (278-318 AD).

BOOKS: Medieval Ireland


In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, here are some great books on medieval Ireland!

Environmental Crusading: The Teutonic Knight’s Impact After the Baltic Crusades

Malbork Zamek Krzyzacki. Wikicommons

Environmental archaeologist and Professor of Archeology at Reading, Dr. Aleks Pluskowski, examined Malbork and several other sites across Eastern and Northern Europe in his recent paper, The Ecology of Crusading: The Environmental Impact of Holy War, Colonisation, and Religious Conversion in the Medieval Baltic. Pluskowski is keenly interested in the impact the Teutonic Knights and Christian colonisation had on the region. His ambitious 4 year project on the ecological changes in this area recently came to a close at the end of 2014.

The Anglo-Saxon War-Culture and The Lord of the Rings: Legacy and Reappraisal

The Lord of the Rings - Aragorn

The literature of war in English claims its origin from the Homeric epics, and the medieval accounts of chivalry and the crusades.

Intersex in the Middle Ages

Statue of Hermaphrodite - Louvre

A brief look at how the medieval world viewed the Intersex individual.

Trolls in the Middle Ages


Where did trolls come from? What did medieval and early modern people think of trolls? How did the concept of the modern day troll evolve?

How Witches Looked in Medieval Art

Hans Baldung - The Witches Sabbath (1510 AD)

I recently visited the British Museum and enjoyed their Witches and Wicked Bodies exhibit which runs until January 11th, 2015. It displays art depicting witches from the middle ages up to the late nineteenth century. This post looks at a few late medieval interpretations of witches and the artists behind these works.

‘De civitatis utriusque, terrenae scilicet et caelestis’: Foundation Narratives and the Epic Portrayal of the First Crusade

Siege of Antioch - from a 15th-century miniature painting.

My summary of a paper given at the Institute of Historical research on the accounts of Antioch and Jerusalem during the First Crusade.

‘Forget Your People and Your Father’s House’: Teresa de Cartagena and the Converso Identity

Teresa de Cartagena

Religion is a very important factor to take into consideration in discussions about the identity of the conversos [converts] or New Christians, an emerging group in 15th-century Castile.

Charlemagne’s Denarius, Constantine’s Edicule, and the Vera Crux

Charlemagne as emperor on this coin - Photo PHGCOM

In 806 a much-discussed silver denarius bearing the likeness of Charlemagne was issued. This is called the “temple-type” coin due to the (as yet unidentified) architectural structure illustrated on the reverse side, and which is explicitly labeled as representing the epitome of “Christian Religion.”

Latin Grammar in the Cathedral School: Fulbert of Chartres, Bonipert of Pécs, and the Way of a Lost Priscian Manuscript

Priscian, or the Grammar, relief from the bell tower of Florence by Luca della Robbia

The starting point of the classical tradition in medieval Hungary is marked by a letter written by Bishop Fulbert of Chartres in Northern France to Bishop Bonipert of Pécs in Southern Hungary.

The Sincere Body: The Performance of Weeping and Emotion in Late Medieval Italian Sermons

The Magdalen Weeping - by Master of the Legend of the Magdalen, dated 1525.

In 1493 the well-known and controversial Franciscan preacher Bernardino of Feltre gave a series of Lenten sermons to the people of Pavia. On March 11 he dedicated an entire sermon to the necessity of contrition—or perfect sorrow over sin—in the rite of confession.

‘Hag of the Castle:’ Women, Family, and Community in Later Medieval Ireland

Sheela-na-gig from the Fethard wall in Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, detail, 12th c.

In a letter written as part of his work for the Irish Department of the Ordnance Survey in 1840, Thomas O’Conor recorded his reaction to a “Sheela- na-gig” sculpture—the image of a naked woman shown exposing her genitalia (fig. 1)—that he saw on the old church at Kiltinane, Co. Tipperary.

CONFERENCES: The Stellinga, the Saxon Elite, and Carolingian Politics

Battle of Fontenoy - The battle as depicted in the fourteenth-century Grandes Chroniques de France. Grandes Chroniques de France, France, Paris, Cote : Français 73 , Fol. 150

This is my summary of a paper presented at the Institute of Historical Research on the causes of the Stellinga uprising in the Carolingian period.

Nourishment for the Soul – Nourishment for the Body: Animal Remains in Early Medieval Pomeranian Cemeteries

Medieval depiction of animals

Late medieval sources clearly refer to souls, which in traditional folk beliefs were periodically returning to feed and warm themselves by the fires made by the living. This kind of conception can be merged with Slavic eschatology. There is multiple evidence to confirm that belief some form of spirit or soul was spreading amongst the people, who in the early medieval period, bordered directly with Pomerania.

Corbie in the Carolingian Renaissance

Carolingian Aachen Gospels (c. 820)

This study opens with a historical account of Corbie from its foundation until the reign of Charles the Simple, which clarifies the political importance of the abbey and its relations with rulers and bishops.

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