a medieval minute: Saint Catherine of Alexandria

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Saint Catherine was a fourth-century Christian martyr and popular medieval saint. Saints were identified by their attributes (symbols). Catherine’s attribute was the wheel because the emperor condemned Catherine to death on a spiked wheel. The wheel shattered at her touch. She was beheaded with a sword. Because of her great learning, she is the patron saint of scholars. In addition to the wheel, she is often shown with a book, a sword and the palm, the symbol of martyrdom.

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To learn more about St. Catherine:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Alexandria

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: cannons and castles

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Catapults (trebuchets) of various sorts called by differing names depending on their locations and specifications were important siege engines in the Middle Ages until cannons were introduced in the thirteenth century. By the fourteenth century, cannons were essential not only in the assault of castles but also in their defense.

To learn about cannons and castles:
http://www.medievality.com/decline-of-castles.html
http://www.themcs.org/weaponry/cannon/cannon.htm

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: the Battle of Crécy

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The Battle of Crécy in 1346 between England and France during the Hundred Years War was a decisive victory for England. The longbow was responsible for winning the battle. Longbow men could reload much father than the crossbow men. The longbow decimated the heavily armed French cavalry.

To learn more about the battle of Crécy:
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/battle-of-crecy

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: women writing

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Not only did women read in the middle ages, but also there were many women writers. There were so many writers of note that a number of colleges and universities offer courses such as the one at Rice University called Medieval Women Writers.

For a comprehensive list of books by medieval women writers:
http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/med/womenbib.asp

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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medieval minute: women reading

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Though overall literacy in the middle ages was low by modern standards, there is considerable evidence that some women could read. Pictures of the Annunciation usually show Mary reading when she receives the news that she’d be the mother of the Savior. Many nuns could read, and Books of Hours (prayer books) for secular women are still extant. During the Protestant Reformation when all the faithful should read the Bible literacy grew for both men and women.

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

To learn more about female literacy:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/659649?seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents

Reading Women, and Reading Women

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a medieval minute: the damned

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Medieval people had vivid ideas about the sufferings of sinners in hell. Medieval artists did not hesitate to put monks, nuns, bishops, and sometimes even popes in hell. People in hell usually were naked, and often they burn in eternal fires. I am struck by the fact that in the pictures I’ve viewed not a single one of the damned is overweight.

To learn more about medieval ideas of hell:
https://gratefultothedead.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/medieval-images-and-doctrines-of-hell/
My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: harrowing

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Every time I fly somewhere I find the occasion to use the word harrowing to describe the interminable lines at the TSA, the delays for equipment failures, or the turbulence in the flight itself. But to medieval people, the harrowing was something they did after plowing with a heavy plow. The harrow was a piece of farming equipment that broke up the clods of earth produced by the plow and helped to extract grass and weeds from the newly plowed field.

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: plowing

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Note the horse collar.

Note the horse collar.

Scholars pretty much agree that the development of the heavy plow (mouldboard plow) was essential to the economic rise of Medieval Europe. It replaced the scratch plow (ard plow) used widely in Southern Europe. The heavy plow became common in Northern Europe between 900 and 1300. Increased cultivation led to the growth of population, cities, and trade. The development of padded horse collars made horses more practical for plowing.

To learn more about the heavy plow:
http://sciencenordic.com/how-heavy-plough-changed-world

To learn about horse collars:
http://www.angelfire.com/tx6/gans/gans04.pdf

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: nuns

A nun praying.

A nun praying.


a saint teaching or preaching to other nuns.

A saint teaching or preaching to other nuns.


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A nun working on a manuscript. A nun working on a manuscript.

The main occupation of nuns during the middle ages was praying. But their duties included traditional woman’s work such as spinning and embroidery. Some nuns illuminated manuscripts, composed music, or taught. The life of the nun wasn’t all work though, as the illustration of nuns and monks playing ball illustrates.

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To learn more about medieval nuns:
http://www.lordsandladies.org/medieval-nuns.htm

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: chess

Kings playing chess.

Kings playing chess.

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Bibliothèque municipale de Boulogne-sur-Mer_MS 0142

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Women playing chess.

A man and woman playing chess.


Many depictions of medieval chess games appear in manuscript illuminations. Initially, the game recreated military strategy and kings, nobles, and knights commonly played it. Increasingly, however, women enjoyed the game as a recreational pastime. It was only toward the end of the fifteenth century that the queen became the most powerful figure on the chessboard.

The role of the queen:
https://www.chess.com/blog/kiwi_overtherainbow/chess-history–the

For an essay on the medieval origins of chess:
http://www.markland.org/docs/chess.pdf

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: past tents

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Tents were widely used in the middle ages for military campaigns. Crusaders and their Arab counterparts both used tents during the crusades. Tents were also used when people assembled for tournaments or other occasions. The tents were made of canvas, duck, wool, linen and even leather. Painting the tents might have provided some degree of waterproofing. Tents often were brightly colored and nobles often displayed their arms on tents. Inside there could be silk or wool hangings.

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: harvesting fruit

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Medieval fruit harvesting entailed actually climbing into a tree. I don’t recall ever seeing an illustration of someone harvesting from a ladder. I have scoured the net for an explanation of this practice, and I didn’t find anything. Ladders are not included in lists of medieval farming tools.

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: wonderful wings

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Since no one knew what angels’ wings looked like, there could be wonderful imaginative variations. Most wings seemed to have feathers, but the colors and variations were left to the artists who drew medieval illuminations.

To learn more about medieval angels:
http://www.medievalists.net/2015/06/14/angels-in-art-angels-through-the-ages/

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: cinnamon birds

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Unicorns were medieval fantastical beasts that most people are familiar with. We are less familiar with the mythological cinnamologus bird (cinnamon bird). The bird built its nest with the fruit of cinnamon trees. The trees were so high and the branches so delicate, the cinnamon tree could not be climbed. One obtained cinnamon by throwing lead balls at the tree. Medieval bestiaries often depicted the cinnamon bird.

Cinnamon was a highly desired spice in the medieval world. People used it for flavor and for preserving meats. Cinnamon became a medieval status symbol. As the middle classes became wealthier, the demand for it grew. During the age of exploration, cinnamon was one of the spices the explorers hoped to find.

To learn more about this mythical bird:
http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beast242.htm
http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/cinnamons-spicy-history

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: Saint Hubert

Saint Hubert's miraculous vision.

Saint Hubert’s miraculous vision.


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I grew up in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. The Roman Catholic Church in our town was St. Hubert’s. I knew he was the patron saint of hunters, and that seemed appropriate since we were in a popular deer-hunting area.

Hubert was an avid hunter and had a miraculous conversion upon seeing a crucifix in the antlers of a deer. A voice told him: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest a holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”.

During his vision, Hubert received instructions on ethical hunting: never shoot a female with a fawn, shoot only old stags, and target sick or injured animals.

So, Hubert is not only the patron saint of hunters but also of ethical hunting. He later became a cleric and eventually a bishop.
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To learn more about St. Hubert:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubertus

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: shields

An Anglo-Saxon shield from Sutton Hoo.

An Anglo-Saxon shield from Sutton Hoo.

Viking shields.

Viking shields.

A kite shield.

A kite shield.

A triangle shield.

A triangle shield.

An archeology example of a Viking shield.

An archeological example of a Viking shield.

Round shields were popular in the early middle ages. By the time of the Norman Conquest, both knights and common soldiers used kite shields. The kite shield gave more protection for the legs. By the thirteenth-century, armor improved and shields became triangular.

Shields weighed between five and ten pounds. They were usually made of wood and covered with leather. Sometimes they had metal rims. Celts and Vikings generally used round shields with a center metal boss to deflect blows.

To learn more about medieval shields:
http://hubpages.com/education/History-of-Medieval-Shields

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: Saint Lawrence

Saint Lawrence being placed on the grill.

Saint Lawrence being placed on the grill.

Saint Lawrence with his attribute, a gridiron.

Saint Lawrence with his attribute, a gridiron.

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I grew up in St. Lawrence County in Northern New York. Much of the county abutted the St. Lawrence River and Seaway. But I never knew anything about Saint Lawrence. He was an early Christian martyr who suffered a horrific death by being grilled on a gridiron. His identifying attribute subsequently was a gridiron. In legend, he is said to have told his Roman tormentors: “Turn me over; I’m done on this side!”

To learn more about Saint Lawrence:
http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2014/08/happy-st-lawrences-day.html

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: halos

A cross in the halo indicated Christ.

A cross in the halo indicated Christ.

Mary's halos were often ornate.

Mary’s halos were often ornate.

Even the Magi have halos in this painting by Fra Angelico.

Even the Magi have halos in this painting by Fra Angelico.


Angels with halos.

Angels with halos.


Saints with halos.

Saints with halos.


An early square halo.

An early square halo.


Sacred or holy persons in the iconography of many religions are surrounded by halos. A halo is a nimbus or ring of light. In medieval art, Christ usually has a cross in his halo. Saints and the Virgin Mary had halos. Even angels in medieval art had halos. In early Christianity, some halos were square.

To learn more about halos:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_(religious_iconography)

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: the Devil

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devil3Satan was a common image in the medieval world, vividly depicted in medieval art oftentimes with horns, a tail, and a goat’s hindquarters. Since the Devil is not described in the Bible, artists based their ideas on pagan gods such as Pan. Sometimes the Devil is seen with batwings and faces on his body. He was a shapeshifter, and he always appears to be male! The medieval illustrations were meant to warn the faithful. Unless they avoided temptation, they would suffer the torments of the damned in hell. Satan was always waiting to snatch you away.

To read more about the Devil:
https://medievalfragments.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/devil-be-gone-temptation-sin-and-satan-in-medieval-manuscripts/

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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a medieval minute: Santiago musicians

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A great source for people studying medieval music is the Pórtico da Gloria on the medieval façade of the Cathedral of Santiago in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The sculptures were completed between 1168 and 1211 by Master Mateo. In the central archivolt the elders of the Apocalypse play musical instruments including an organistrum, guitar, cittern, harp, aulos and eight violas and for percussions: bells, tambourines and castanets. In addition to being a great source of medieval musical instruments, the sculptures aptly portay the bliss of music.

For more information about the sculptures:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portico_of_Glory

My medieval novels are available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Viscounts-Daughter-Narbonne-Inheritance/dp/1492113301

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