Kissing Heaven’s Door: the Medieval Legend of Judas Iscariot

The Betrayal with Judas kissing Christ and soldiers standing by.  British Library Harley 1782   f. 6v

When we consider Judas Iscariot as he appears in the Bible in modern terms, we might think along the lines of a pantomime villain.

Miracles from Medieval Iceland

saint thorlak - 15th century image of the saint, now found in the National Museum of Iceland - photo from Youtube

The first saint from Iceland was Thorlak Thorhallsson. The saga of his life reveals dozens of the miracles that were attributed to him after his death. Here are ten of these miracles, which reveal much about religion and daily life in medieval Iceland.

Imprisoning the Mentally Ill in Medieval England

imprisonment - Detail of a miniature of Bel Acueil in prison, being guarded by Vielle (old woman). British Library

What to do with mentally ill individuals who are violent? This is a question that modern and medieval societies had to deal with.

Cuthbert, Guthlac and the Life of St Antony

st anthony

Christians far from Egypt have drawn inspiration from the Life of St Antony, including England’s two most popular pre-Conquest hermit saints

Parental Grief and Prayer in the Middle Ages: Religious Coping in Swedish Miracle Stories

The Mother of Allegranzia Appealing to Saints Aimo and Vermondo to Save Her Child -c.1400

This article focuses on expressions of bereavement and religious coping in medieval miracle stories from Sweden.

Holy and Unholy Miracle Workers

Byzantine Magic

Examining the miracles of Byzantine saints

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).

Top Ten Superheroes of the Middle Ages

Medieval Superheroes

Even in medieval times they had stories and legends about people with extraordinary gifts – saints and warriors with special powers. Here is our list of ten superheroes from the Middle Ages.

10 Cool Facts about Saint Catherine

Caravaggio (1598) - Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Saint Catherine of Alexandria and her wheel have been well recognized symbols since the beginning of the Middle Ages. Here are 10 interesting tidbits about Saint Catherine:

Christians in the amphitheater? The ‘Christianization’ of spectacle buildings and martyrial memory

Sant Agnese in Agone  - Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778)

This article presents an overview of the archaeological evidence for Christian spaces inside spectacle buildings – stadia, hippodromes, theaters and amphitheaters.

Books of Art: 20 Medieval and Renaissance Women Reading

Saints Christina and Ottilia by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1506)

I love to read. I also love books depicted in art. I became fascinated with Medieval and Renaissance pictures of women reading or with books. I noticed while I was walking around the National Gallery, Musèe Cluny and the Louvre recently that there are many beautiful images of women reading or with books. Saints, sinners, and laywomen; I wanted to share a few of my favourites. Here are 20 works of art of women and their books

The Medieval Saints of Sweden and Denmark

Parchment fragment of a medieval church book. Photo: Sara Ellis Nilsson/University of Gothenburg.

There is a clear link between the celebration of native saints and the ecclesiastical organisation that emerged in Scandinavia in the 12th century. Yet, according to a new doctoral thesis in history from the University of Gothenburg, important differences can be noted between Sweden and Denmark.

Which Irish Saint Are You?

irish saints

Brendan, Columba, Patrick – find out which Irish Saint you are most like!

The Life of St. Sabas the Younger as a Source for The History of the Catalan Grand Company

grand catalan company

A piece of Byzantine hagiography from the fourteenth century which, in spite of its religious character, is a valuable source for the history of the Catalan Grand Company, Roger de Flor’s famous band of Spanish mercenaries hired by the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328) to fight the Turks in Anatolia.

A Viking Pacifist? The Life of St Magnus in Saga, Novel, and Opera

The statue of St Magnus of Orkney -  photo by Mike Atherton

Vikings settled in, and ruled, many parts of the British Isles and Ireland, but of these areas only the Norse earldom of Orkney has a whole Icelandic saga devoted to its early history.

A Hagiographical Reading of Egils saga


When the literary presentation of the character of Egill is examined carefully with an eye toward the hagiographical paradigm, one can see that it matches the presentation of a bishop’s life and character…

The Original Placement of the Hereford Map


This paper relies on new masonry and dendrochronological evidence and the system of medieval ecclesiastical preferments to argue that this monumental world map was originally exhibited in 1287 next to the first shrine of St Thomas Cantilupe in Hereford Cathedral’s north transept.

Shaping a Saint’s Identity: The Imagery of Thomas Becket in Medieval Italy

Venetian workshop, Martyrdom and Elevatio animae of Thomas Becket, third quarter of the 13th century, wall-painting. Treviso, Diocesan Museum

This article sets out to trace the visual responses to the sainthood of Thomas of Canterbury outside of his original cultural context, namely in Italy, where his cult was readily received, integrated and modified.

From St. Nicholas to Santa Claus

st nicholas santa claus

How did a 4th century bishop become the jolly man who comes down the chimney with gifts for children on Christmas?

Worthy of Veneration or Skepticism?: How Europeans Regarded Relics During Medieval and Renaissance Europe

Reliquary of St. Genevieve in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France.

Relics and reliquaries were prevalent in renaissance and reformation Europe until certain theologians began to question the validity, practicality, and true purposes of relics. These theologians emphasized an individual’s faith in God rather than faith in relics, which in turn resulted in a renaissance movement away from reliance on relics.

The Bones of St. Cuthbert: Defining a Saint’s Cult in Medieval Northumbria

Miniature of a man being healed by shoes belonging to Cuthbert, from Chapter 45 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert. Yates Thompson 26, f.80

This paper investigates the social, political, and religious changes and tensions which surrounded the cult of St. Cuthbert in medieval Northumbria. Specific comparisons are made between the Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods in English history, and how St. Cuthbert’s cult responded to the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Transvestites in the Middle Ages

Saint Pelagia

An examination of the lives of the transvestite saints whose legends and myths help set Western attitudes toward transvestism.

Hagiography and the Experience of the Holy in the Work of Gregory of Tours

Gregory of Tours - statue

The rich literature associated with the Desert Fathers provides convincing evidence of the important role played by charismatic figures in the transformation of Late Antiquity.

Ten Medieval Saints You May Not Have Heard of

medieval saints

Sometimes overshadowed, sometimes eccentric, and perhaps a little unbelievable – here are ten medieval saints you should know more about.

Soldier saints and holy warriors: Warfare and sanctity in Anglo-Saxon England

Saint Guthlac - Roundel from Guthlac Roll, depicting St Guthlac in contemplation - British Library

This study examines hagiographers’ changing literary tropes as subtle but important reflections of medieval Christianity’s evolution from rejecting the sword to tolerating and even wielding it. H

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