Epiphany: Three Kings Day

The Three Magi, Byzantine mosaic c.565, Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy (restored 18th century). As here Byzantine art usually depicts the Magi in Persian clothing which includes breeches, capes, and Phrygian caps. Wikipedia

A look at the history behind Epiphany and Twelfth Night.

Surviving Winter in the Middle Ages

Pavel Sapozhnikov and his goat, Glasha, surviving a harsh Russian winter living as people did in the ninth century. Photo courtesy of Alone in the Past.

Surviving Winter in the Middle Ages: How did people stay warm? What did they eat? What did they do?

Advent in the Middle Ages

My Star Wars Advent Calendar - Sadly, this delicious tradition isn't medieval.

Advent in the Middle Ages

A Christmas Crib as a Meek Heart of the Late Mediaeval Christian

Late Gothic Christmas crib

In the summer of 2013 the Rijksmuseum acquired a rare Late Gothic Christmas Crib (c. 1510-20). In the 15th century tangible aids – devotionalia – were promoted to support meditation, to accomplish as it were a link between God and the soul of the believer.

Bah! Humbug! Complaining about holiday gifts 1600 years ago

holiday gifts - photo by Alice Harold / Flickr

Christmas has long been associated with gift giving, but one suspects that Asterius of Amasea would not like seeing all those presents under the Christmas tree!

Is Yule Cool – Or An Old-Fashioned Medieval Celebration?

yule cool

The end of the year is a messy mixture of different celebrations. Whatever your personal or religious background, the original celebration was the winter solstice – celebrated by our ancestors for thousands of years. We take a look beyond modern history and find some interesting customs that have survived the test of time.

The Earliest Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree in Tallinn's Town Hall Square - Photo by Toomas Volmer

One of the most iconic traditions of Christmas is having a tree in your house, decorating it and placing the presents underneath. How early did this tradition begin?

The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra

The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus

Around the fourth century in what is now Turkey, a boy of humble circumstance became a man revered for his many virtues.

Sal ich von den Ioden liten große pin? – Integration and Isolation in the Medieval German Christmas Play

nativity medieval

I would like to start with two responses to the performance of Christmas plays that provide some insight into their effect on the socialization of the Christian communities in which they were performed.

Saint Lucy’s Day: A Light in a Dark Time

medieval image of saint lucy from the walters art museum

Scandinavian and Sicilian girls eagerly await the arrival of Saint Lucy on 13 December.

A Medieval Christmas: Such Splendid Sight Was Never Seen

christmas play

Take in this medieval play in Toronto on Friday December 13th and Saturday, December 14th

The Hidden History of Christmas Carols

Christmas Carols - 19th century image

Apparently early carols could be quite lewd, and they were originally associated with dance as well as song.

Matthew Paris and the Royal Christmas: Ritualised Communication in Text and Practice

Detail of a marginal drawing of the marriage of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence

In the Chronica majora, and its abbreviations, Paris opened each year with a description of how and where the king held Christmas.

Christmas in the Qur’än: the Qur’änic account of Jesus’s nativity and Palestinian local tradition

Medieval Nativity Scene

The confluence of this evidence strongly suggests that the traditions associated with Kathisma church gave rise to the rather peculiar account of Christ’s Nativity found in the Quran.

Richard III’s raucous Christmas parties

Richard III

Just as the company Christmas party can lead to embarrassing situations, some 15th century festivities could also lead to scandal.

Seven Medieval Christmas Traditions

medieval Christmas

Christmas in medieval Europe could include feasting, gambling, one-day marriages, boy bishops and trolls.

Poculi Ludique Societas shows how to perform a Christmas play, medieval style

Peter McArthur and Alice Degan as Mary and Joseph in A Medieval Christmas - photo by Tom Sheridan

A Medieval Christmas: Go We hence to Bethlehem’s Bower – playing this weekend in Toronto

Medieval Christmas Cookies Still In Fashion

christmas cookies

So what does a Christmas cookie from centuries ago look like? This time of year, a bakery in Pennsylvania Dutch country is busy making cookies the same way they were made in medieval Germany, and their edible pieces of art history have attracted customers from all over the globe.

Christmas Cards with medieval images on sale from Bangor University

Christmas 1 Bishop

Cards show a miniature of a bishop consecrating a church, and the decorated opening page of a special Mass celebrated during the Christmas season.

Christmas in the Middle Ages

Early 15th century Dutch painting of the Nativity

What are the origins of Christmas? How it was celebrated in the Middle Ages?



THE BIRTH OF SACRIFICE: ICONOGRAPHIC METAPHORS FOR SPIRITUAL REBIRTH IN MASTER MATTHIAS’ ISENHEIM ALTARPIECE Anderson Tuft, Katherine Master of Arts Thesis, Brigham Young University (December 2006) Abstract While little is known concerning the events surrounding the commission of the Isenheim Altarpiece or of the artist known to us as Master Matthias Grünewald, much can be ascertained about […]

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