A Medieval Multiverse

Medieval Universe

Ideas in a thirteenth-century treatise on the nature of matter still resonate today, say Tom C. B. McLeish and colleagues.

Medieval Magic Tricks

Medieval Magic Tricks

How to turn water into wine, make a cross turn by itself, or have worms appear on cooked meat – some fun medieval magic tricks!

Sickness in the Nidaros Cathedral?

Sickness in the Nidaros Cathedral?

Up towards the ceiling vault of the Nidaros Cathedral, a number of artworks are hidden from public view. Many of the stone sculptures portray mythological animals and other scary creatures. In such company, one would imagine that human faces were also intended to evoke fear and anguish. Do they depict people with diseases?

The fire that comes from the eye

medieva eyes

One of the earliest ideas about vision is that it depends on light that streams out of the eye and detects surrounding objects. This view was attacked in its own time and finally disproved more than 2000 years later.

Voynich Manuscript partially decoded, text is not a hoax, scholar finds


A Professor in Applied Linguistics believes he has decoded a few words from the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, a 600-year old work that has baffled scholars for the last hundred years.

Limitations imposed by wearing armour on Medieval soldiers’ locomotor performance

Late Medieval Armour

Our findings can predict age-associated decline in Medieval soldiers’ physical performance, and have potential implications in understanding the outcomes of past European military battles.

‘Royal’ pediculosis in Renaissance Italy: lice in the mummy of the King of Naples Ferdinand II of Aragon (1467-1496)

Ferdinand II of Aragon

Pediculosis seems to have afflicted humans since the most ancient times and lice have been found in several ancient human remains. Examination of the head hair and pubic hair of the artificial mummy of Ferdinand II of Aragon (1467-1496), King of Naples, revealed a double infestation with two different species of lice…

Anesthesia Drugs in the Medieval Muslim Era


In the Middle Ages, Christian Europe was in a state of intellectual stagnation and the theological doctrine that pain serves God’s purpose and must not be alleviated militated against the improvement in methods of narcosis. Nuland points out that the Middle Ages in Europe were dark ages so far as advances in the pharmacology of anesthesia were concerned.

Stature and frailty during the Black Death: the effect of stature on risks of epidemic mortality in London, A.D. 1348-1350

The excavation site at East Smithfield. Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary geneticist at McMaster, has identified the bacteria responsible for causing the 1348 Black Death. Photo reproduced courtesy of the Museum of London

Recent research has shown that pre-existing health condition affected an individual ’ s risk of dying duringthe 14th-century Black Death. However, a previous study of the effect of adult stature on risk of mortality during the epidemic failed to find a relationship between the two; this result is perhaps surprising given the well-documented inverse association between stature and mortality in human populations.

Can medieval drugs help modern patients?

medieval medical plants from the Antidotarium Nicolai

Were medieval drugs effective at helping patients? Can modern pharmaceuticals make use of their knowledge?

Depicting the Medieval Alchemical Cosmos: George Ripley’s Wheel of Inferior Astronomy

Picture from a 1550 edition of On the Sphere of the World, the most influential astronomy textbook of 13th-century Europe.

Alchemical writing often develops the idea of a physical or analogical correspondence between heaven and earth: a relationship most fre- quently and conveniently expressed by the use of the seven planetary symbols (Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) to denote the seven metals (usually gold, silver, quicksilver, copper, iron, tin and lead respectively).

Ironing Out the Myth of the Flat Earth

Picture from a 1550 edition of On the Sphere of the World, the most influential astronomy textbook of 13th-century Europe.

It seems there’s one fact about the Middle Ages that always seems to astound people: medieval people did not actually think the world was flat.

Galileo, the Impact of the Telescope, and the Birth of Modern Astronomy


Galileo would have dearly loved to explain to his examiners how his observations made belief in the Copernican system more intellectually respectable even though he had no irrefutable proof of the Earth’s motion, but this was an opportunity he never got.

From Rome to the antipodes: the medieval form of the world

The Terrestrial Sphere of Crates of Mallus (ca. 150 B.C.).

Here we discuss how some medieval scholars in the Western Europe viewed the form of the world and the problem of the Antipodes

Political Science in Late Medieval Europe: The Aristotelian Paradigm and How It Shaped the Study of Politics in the West

Medieval Politics

While scholars have provided many interesting insights into the role of Aristotle in shaping later political theory, I argue that they are inadequate to explain the rapid “Aristotelianization” of political thought in the later Middle Ages.

Islamic Astronomy in Medieval China

A portrait of Khubilai Khanm First Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty

In 1271, Kublai Khan founded the Bureau of Islamic Astronomy in Peking, which operated alongside the long-established Chinese Astronomical Bureau.

The Medieval Metal Industry Was the Cradle of Modern Large-Scale Atmospheric Lead Pollution in Northern Europe

This study indicates that the contemporary atmospheric pollution climate in northern Europe was established in Medieval time, rather than in the Industrial period. Atmospheric lead pollution deposition did not, when seen in a historical perspective, increase as much as usually assumed with the Industrial Revolution (1800 A.D.).

The Night the Moon exploded and other Lunar tales from the Middle Ages

Diagrams of the path of the Sun and the phases of the moon; from Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, England, last quarter of the 11th century, Royal 6 C. i, f. 30r.

People in the Middle Ages asked what was the moon made of? How far away was it? Could it make my child vindictive? Here is what they found out.

Abortions in Byzantine times (325-1453 AD)

From Soranus'work "Gynaikeia" illustrating  various presentations of the foetus. Manuscript  of 19th c. Royal Library, Brussels

All legislation of Byzantium from the earliest times also condemned abortions. Consequently, foeticide was considered equal to murder and infanticide and the result was severe punishments for all persons who participated in an abortive technique reliant on drugs or other methods. The punishments could extend to exile, confiscation of property and death.

The Nature of West European Science in the Late Middle Ages (1200-1500)

Detail of a miniature of Beatrice explaining some scientific theories to Dante, including the appearance of the moon.  Photo courtesy British Library

I will argue that what medieval scholars did with natural philosophy and the role they assigned to it in intellectual life was ultimately more important than what they did with the technical sciences.

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