Walk this Way: Two Journeys to Jerusalem in the Fifteenth Century

Depiction of Jerusalem in the 15th century, by Hartmann Schedel

This paper appraises place pilgrimage to Jerusalem in two late-medieval English texts: The Itineraries of William Wey and The Book of Margery Kempe.

Ring Out the Old: Medieval Bells in England

Rabbit tolling church bells from the medieval devotional Book of Hours

Of the bells that survive, the oldest may be in St. Chad’s Church in Claughton in Lancashire.

Sacrificial Magic and the Twofold Division of the Irish Ritual Year

Samhain Candle - photo by Alison Leigh Lilly / Flickr

The historical development of St. Martin’s Day in Ireland, and its relationship with the more ancient festival of Samhain is examined, revealing circumstances that saw much of the ritual nature of Samhain being adopted within a Christian context in the medieval period.

The End of the Ancient Other World: Death and Afterlife between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

The earliest portrait of Saint Augustine in a 6th century fresco, Lateran, Rome.

Peter Brown gives lectures on ‘Gloriosus Obitus: Death and Afterlife 400-700 AD’ and ‘The Decline of the Empire of God: From Amnesty to Purgatory’

Necromancy from Antiquity to Medieval and Modern Times

The Witch of Endor, by the Master of Otto van Moerdrecht, 15th century

In the Old Norse saga there is peculiar technique of divination called utiseta that is practised on burial mounds.

Priests found spiritual satisfaction by serving nuns, Stanford medieval historian says

A female scribe and male artist present their book to the Virgin Mary in this medieval manuscript, called the Guta-Sintram Codex (c. 1154). The Codex supports Fiona Griffiths' finding that men and women collaborated during this period of history. Photo by Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia Commons

A study of medieval texts and imagery by Stanford history Professor Fiona Griffiths counters commonly held beliefs about misogynistic practices in medieval Europe. Griffiths’ research reveals how some male clergy acknowledged and celebrated the perceived religious superiority of nuns.

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.

Demon Possession in Anglo‐Saxon and Early Modern England: Continuity and Evolution in Social Context

A miniature in the British Library Yates Thomson MS 26, with Saint Cuthbert's hand healing a paralytic

Sometime between around 687 and 700, a distraught father brought his raving son, in a wagon, to the island of Lindisfarne, where the holy relics of Saint Cuthbert were kept.

Medieval Pilgrimages: It’s All About the Journey

medieval pilgrimage - detail of miniature showing the Lover, dressed as a pilgrim, setting off on his pilgrimage.  British Library Egerton 1069   f. 145

For medieval people, faith was more than just an abstract idea, it was tangible in the works they made to glorify God, and the relics they could see with their own eyes. An integral part of this tangible form of faith was the pilgrimage: a spiritual journey to visit a holy site.

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”

How to destroy gods

Bishop Absalon topples the god Svantevit at Arkona - created by Laurits Tuxen (1853–1927)

In the year 1168 a Danish bishop destroyed three pagan gods. The story is told in Gesta Danorum, by Saxo Grammaticus, which has recently been entirely translated into English for the first time.

What is a Psalter?

What is a Psalter - St. Albans Psalter from the 12th century

Because they didn’t contain the entire Bible, psalters were nice and portable, making good girdle books for the devout – or those concerned with showing off – to carry with them.

Portable Christianity: Relics in the Medieval West (c.700–1200)

14th century purse reliquary

Relics thus typify the characteristic dynamic of medieval Christianity—a repeated refreshing and renewing of an ancient tradition that was endlessly culturally creative.

Can We Talk About Religion, Please? Medievalism’s Eschewal of Religion, and Why it Matters

Photo by Geraint Rowland / Flickr

With this essai I would like to advocate for a reconsideration of religion as an essential topic for medievalism studies.

Performing the Seven Deadly Sins: How One Late-Medieval English Preacher did it

British Library Yates Thompson 21   f. 165   Seven Deadly Sins

Some preachers, it is true, shunned certain of the rhetorical embellishments characteristically recommended in the artes predicandi.

Medieval Jews on Christianity

medieval Jewish manuscript - British Library Additional 14761   f. 35   The Simple Son

Whatever medieval Jews said, or thought, about Christianity, one may be sure that very little of it was good.

Margery Kempe and her Autobiography

Margery Kempe's autobiography - British Library

Margery Kempe was a self-proclaimed holy woman, visionary, mystic and medieval pilgrim. She is also unique because although she was not proficient at reading and writing, she was determined to record her visions, journeys and spiritual experiences

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.

A Comparative Analysis of the Concepts of Holy War and the Idealized Topos of Holy Warrior In Medieval Anatolian And European Sources

story of the crusaders

This thesis focuses on the relations between the idea of holy war and the portrayals of holy warriors in medieval narratives composed by those in the service of power-holders.

How Christianity came to Europe


During the Middle Ages nearly all the lands of Europe converted to Christianity. In this short guide, we take a look at how various lands adopted Christianity, including by means of missionary efforts, politics and warfare.

Investigating ‘peasant conversion’ in Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England

A miniature in the British Library Yates Thomson MS 26, Bede's Prose Life of St Cuthbert, depicting Cuthbert's meeting with Boisil at Melrose

It is somewhat surprising that we find very little in the way of propaganda bent on stressing positive changes that Christianity could bring, propaganda of the kind that Bishop Daniel of Winchester scripted for Boniface in the oft-cited letter which he advised the missionary to lure converts by contrasting the economic prosperity of Christian communities with the backwardness of the non-Christian.

Christianization of Early Medieval Societies: an Anthropological Perspective

Conversion of the Saxons - Guizot, François Pierre Guillaume, A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times

Conversion of early medieval Europe may be discussed as a continental process or as a series of local events having their specific characteristics.

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.

A Precious Ancient Souvenir Given to the First Pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

All of us who have made pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwest Spain – three for me – are often reminded of their visits by the souvenirs they bring home.

Julian of Norwich: Mystic, Theologian and Anchoress

Julian of Norwich

Very little is known of her actual life, not even her real name. We do know she wrote two texts in English on her visions and their meaning

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