medieval

Christmas, the Birth of the New Man. December 25.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Paul the Apostle had a view of the birth of Jesus as a major cosmic event which brought a “new man” who  would undo the damage caused by the fall of the first man, Adam. The Pauline perspective puts an emphasis in the birth of a new man and a new world with the birth of Jesus Christ. The first source stating December 25 as the date of birth of Jesus was Hippolytus of Rome, one of the most important early Christian theologians, assuming that the conception of Jesus took place at the Spring equinox, on March 25, and then added nine months. There is historical evidence that by the middle of the 4th century the Christian churches of...

The Conviction of de Rais. September 15, 1440.

Even if there had been nothing else unusual about the Breton nobleman Gilles de Rais (1404–40), his outstanding career as a soldier in the Hundred Years’ War and as a comrade in arms of Joan of Arc would have been enough to guarantee his place in history. Today, though, those achievements can only be seen in the shadow of the secret life he led as the perpetrator of more than a hundred gruesome child murders, a rampage which made him arguably the first serial killer in recorded history. The early life of Gilles de Rais was marked by tragedy. Both his parents died about 1415: his father, Guy de Laval, was killed in a hunting accident that de Rais may have witnessed, and his mother, Marie de Craon, died of an unknown cause. He was raised by his maternal grandfather, Jean de Craon. As a young...

The Battle of Pinkie. September 10, 1547.

The Battle of Pinkie, also known as the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, took place on 10 September 1547 on the banks of the River Esk near Musselburgh, Scotland. The last pitched battle between Scotland and England before the Union of the Crowns, it was part of the conflict known as the Rough Wooing and is considered to have been the first modern battle in the British Isles. It was a catastrophic defeat for Scotland, where it became known as “Black Saturday“. A highly detailed and illustrated English account of the battle and campaign authored by an eyewitness William Patten was published in London as propaganda four months after the battle. In the last years of his reign, King Henry VIII of England tried to secure an alliance with Scotland by the marriage of the infant Mary, Queen of...

The Sacrifice of Stamira. September 1, 1173.

Emperor Frederick Barbarossa bore a long-standing grudge to Ancona, one of the Italian Maritime Republics, for its assertion of independence. Ancona had already stubbornly and successfully resisted an earlier attempt of Imperial occupation in 1167. Moreover, to counterbalance the power of the Holy Roman Empire, the Anconitans made a voluntary submission to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos, and the Byzantines maintained representatives in the city. In the later part of May 1173 the Imperial forces, commanded by Christian von Buch, Archbishop of Mainz, laid siege to Ancona. In preparation for this step, the imperial troops had previously requested and obtained the naval alliance of the Republic of Venice. Despite the ongoing conflict between the Empire and the Italian cities associate...

The Ashmolean Museum, the first university museum. May 24, 1683.

Its first building was finished in 1683 to house the cabinet of curiosities that Elias Ashmole gave to the University of Oxford in 1677 and opened its doors on May 24. Ashmole was an antiquary with a strong Baconian leaning towards the study of nature. His library reflected his intellectual outlook, including works on English history, law, numismatics, chorography, alchemy, astrology, astronomy, and botany. Although he was one of the founding Fellows of the Royal Society, a key institution in the development of experimental science, his interests were antiquarian and mystical as well as scientific. He was an early freemason, although the extent of his involvement and commitment is unclear. Throughout his life he was an avid collector of curiosities and other artefacts. Ashmole donated most...

Geoffrey Plantagenet. August 24, 1113.

Geoffrey V, called the Handsome or the Fair and Plantagenet, was the Count of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine by inheritance from 1129 and then Duke of Normandy by conquest from 1144, and was born on August 24, 1113. By his marriage to the Empress Matilda, daughter and heiress of Henry I of England, Geoffrey had a son, Henry Curtmantle, who succeeded to the English throne as King Henry II (1154–1189) and was the first of the Plantagenet dynasty to rule England. His ancestral domain of Anjou gave rise to the name Angevin for three kings of England (Henry II his son and heir, and Henry’s sons Richard and John), and what became known as the Angevin Empire in the 12th century. Geoffrey was the elder son of Fulk V of Anjou and Ermengarde of Maine. Geoffrey received his nickname from the yellow...

Il Duomo. August 7, 1420.

By the beginning of the 15th century, after a hundred years of construction, the structure was still missing its dome. The basic features of the dome had been designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296. His brick model, 4.6 metres high, 9.2 metres long, was standing in a side aisle of the unfinished building, and had long been sacrosanct. It called for an octagonal dome higher and wider than any that had ever been built, with no external buttresses to keep it from spreading and falling under its own weight. The commitment to reject traditional Gothic buttresses had been made when Neri di Fioravanti‘s model was chosen over a competing one by Giovanni di Lapo Ghini. That architectural choice, in 1367, was one of the first events of the Italian Renaissance, marking a break with the Medieval ...

Mary, “king” of Hungary. September 17, 1382.

  Louis the Great died on 10 September 1382. Cardinal Demetrius, Archbishop of Esztergom, crowned Mary “king” with the Holy Crown of Hungary in Székesfehérvár on 17 September, a day after her father’s burial. Mary’s title and her rapid coronation in the absence of her fiancé, Sigismund, show that her mother and her mother’s supporters wanted to emphasize Mary’s role as monarch and to postpone or even hinder Sigismund’s coronation. The queen mother, Elizabeth, assumed regency and most of Louis’s barons preserved their offices. All royal charters issued during the first six months of Mary’s reign emphasized that she had lawfully inherited her father’s crown. However, most Hungarian noblemen were strongly opposed to the very ide...

Edward The Confessor. April 3, 1043.

Also known as Saint Edward the Confessor, was among the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England. Usually considered the last king of the House of Wessex, he ruled from 1042 to 1066. The son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, Edward succeeded Cnut the Great’s son – and his own half-brother – Harthacnut, restoring the rule of the House of Wessex after the period of Danish rule since Cnut (better known as Canute) conquered England in 1016. In 1041 Harthacnut invited long-exiled Edward back to England, probably as heir because he knew he had not long to live. The 12th century Quadripartitus states that he was recalled by the intervention of Bishop Ælfwine of Winchester and Earl Godwin. Edward met “the thegns of all England” at Hursteshever, probably modern Hurst Spit opp...

King Charles II of England dissolves the Cavalier Parliament. January 24, 1679.

Although previously favourable to the Crown, the Cavalier Parliament was alienated by the king’s wars and religious policies during the 1670s. In 1672, Charles II issued the Royal Declaration of Indulgence, in which he purported to suspend all penal laws against Catholics and other religious dissenters. In the same year, he openly supported Catholic France and started the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The Cavalier Parliament opposed the Declaration of Indulgence by claiming that the king had no right to arbitrarily suspend laws passed by Parliament. Charles withdrew the Declaration, and also agreed to the Test Act, which forced the public officials to receive sacrament under the forms of the Church of England as well as denounce teachings of the Catholic Church as “superstitious and idolatr...

The Siege of Jerusalem. September 20, 1187.

The Siege of Jerusalem took place from September 20th  to October 2nd 1187, when Balian of Ibelin surrendered the city, resulting the absolute conquer of the Kingdom of Jerusalem by Saladin. This conquer was the excuse to launch the Third Crusade in 1189. After days of Muslim attacks with hundreds of casualties, Saladin decided to move his camp towards the Mount of Olives, where Jerusalem´s wall was lighter. The walls were constantly pounded by the siege engines, catapults, mangonels, petraries, Greek fire, crossbows, and arrows. Finally, the wall was mined and the crusaders were incapable of pushing Saladin´s troops back from the breach, although the Muslims couldn´t either gain entrance to the city. The civilians were in great despair, and finally Balian had to surrender the city uncondi...

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