The hidden courtyard of one of England’s best preserved castles – Flickering Lamps

It may not be the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of England’s great castles, but in the North Yorkshire town of Skipton, a fine medieval castle dominates the skyline.  Skipton Castle, the earliest parts of which date from the Norman period, is one of the best-preserved…

Source: The hidden courtyard of one of England’s best-preserved castles – Flickering Lamps

5 Objects That Illuminate the Medieval Exchange Between Africa and Europe – Atlas Obscura

DURING THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD, BETWEEN the 8th to 16th centuries, West Africa was flush with vast resources and gold. Its kingdoms were some of the most prosperous the world has ever known. When the king Mansa Musa of 14th-century Mali made a stop in Cairo, Egypt, it’s said that he handed out so much gold to the poor that he single-handedly caused…

Source: 5 Objects That Illuminate the Medieval Exchange Between Africa and Europe – Atlas Obscura

This Stunning 700-Year-Old Hand Carved Cave Was Found Behind A Rabbit Hole In The British Countryside.

We’ve all heard of rabbit holes leading to another world before, but that’s usually something that only happens in books!

Photographer Michael Scott took a trip down a rabbit hole into this medieval cave, armed with candles for illumination and captured…

Source: This Stunning 700-Year-Old Hand Carved Cave Was Found Behind A Rabbit Hole In The British Countryside.

I Tried a Medieval Diet, And I Didn’t Even Get That Drunk | Atlas Obscura

A kingly feast, from the Bayeux Tapestry. (Image: Public domain)

It can seem sometimes like all diet advice boils down to the same basic ideas. Eat vegetables, healthy proteins, avoid processed snack food and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

This was not, however, the case in medieval times.

The Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum was created, allegedly, by famous doctors for English royalty and disseminated in the form of a poem. It recommends, very specifically, red wine, fresh…

Source: I Tried a Medieval Diet, And I Didn’t Even Get That Drunk | Atlas Obscura

The Many Lives of the Medieval Wound Man | The Public Domain Review

With thanks to Iva of Victorian Paris for bringing this to my attention.

A Wound Man from a late 15th-century manuscript, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Cgm 597 — Source (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

Sliced, stabbed, punctured, bleeding, harassed on all sides by various weaponry, the curious image of Wound Man is a rare yet intriguing presence in the world of medieval and early modern medical manuscripts. Jack Hartnell explores this enigmatic figure’s journey through…

Source: The Many Lives of the Medieval Wound Man | The Public Domain Review

The Battle of Ankara,1402 – Treachery on the battlefield seals the fates of an Emperor and a Sultan

The Battle of Ankara was fought on the 20th of July 1402. Two of the greatest rulers of their time – Bayezid I The Thunderbolt, the…

Source: The Battle of Ankara,1402 – Treachery on the battlefield seals the fates of an Emperor and a Sultan

Laser Technology Reveals Cambodian Civilization that ‘Rewrites History’ | Atlas Obscura

Angkor Wat is the most recognizable ruin in Cambodia, but the CALI project has revealed there’s much more to be found in the jungle. (Photo: Aleksandr Zykov/CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Last year, the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative (CALI) conducted the world’s most extensive archaeological lidar study, scanning nearly 2,000 square kilometers of Cambodian landscape in search of evidence of the medieval Khmer empire. (Lidar is like radar, only with laser lights.) Now, the results of the campaign are being shared with the public, including…

Source: Laser Technology Reveals Cambodian Civilization that ‘Rewrites History’ | Atlas Obscura

Gargoyle of the Day: Notre Dame de Paris | A Scholarly Skater

Today’s grotesque is a true classic. The gargoyles of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris are neither the oldest nor the most interesting of their kind, but they have certainly become the most famo…

Source: Gargoyle of the Day: Notre Dame de Paris | A Scholarly Skater

Flyting Was Medieval England’s Version of an Insult-Trading Rap Battle | Atlas Obscura

Flyting from Norse folklore and Old England should be incorporated into American politics. (Photo: Public Domain/WikiCommons)

Imagine a world that had swapped its guns for puns and its IEDs for repartees. Such a planet is possible if only those in power would manage their conflicts with flyting, the time-honored sport of verbal jousting.

Flyting is a stylized battle of insults and wits that was practiced most actively between the fifth and 16th centuries in England and Scotland. Participants employed the timeless tools of provocation and perversion as well as satire, rhetoric, and early bathroom humor to publicly trounce opponents. The term “flyting” comes from Old English and Old Norse words for “quarrel” and “provocation.” ‘Tis a form of highly poetic abuse, or highly abusive poetry—a very early precursor to MTV’s Yo Mama and Eminem’s 8 Mile.

“Court flyting” sometimes served as entertainment for royals such as Scottish kings James IV and James V. The most famous surviving exchange is The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie, which was performed in the early 16th century by…

Source: Flyting Was Medieval England’s Version of an Insult-Trading Rap Battle | Atlas Obscura

The Stone of Oo: High Weirdness from Southern France – Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog

Originally posted on Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog.

Oô in southern France has two things going for it. First, that name, I mean what…?! And second the pierre d’Oô, one of the weirdest objects to emerge in the last three or four thousand years of human endeavour: a sculpture of a lady and her pet. At this point, readers should take a moment and just enjoy the jarring horror of the stone and try and work out for themselves what is going on. While you are thinking about this let’s get the coordinates down. The image is carved onto a three-foot marble stone presently kept at the Musée des Augustins de Toulouse: the marble is native to the Pyrenees so no shock there. A controversial question is the stone’s date. Some have suggested antiquity, some have suggested the Middle Ages and there have been mumblings about a modern fake: one of these is almost by definition correct, but which one? The consensus opinion is that the stone was part of the church of St Jacques in Oô that was built in the…

via The Stone of Oo: High Weirdness from Southern France – Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog.

Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia

O potent Elfleda! Maid, men’s terror!
You did conquer nature’s self; worthy
The name of man!
More beauteous nature’s form of
A woman; but your valour shall secure
Man’s higher name. For name you only need
Not sex to change; unconquerable queen,
King rather, who such trophies have obtained!
O virgin and virago farewell!
No Ceasar yet such triumph hath deserved
As you, than any, all, the Ceasars more renown’d!

~ Francis Peck

Of all the medieval women I have researched and written about, Aethelflaed is by far my favorite. She was the daughter of Alfred the Great and was instrumental in carrying out his vision for a united Britain.

Aethelflaed was born in 868, the eldest child of King Alfred of England and his wife Ealhswith. Ealhswith was related to the house of Mercia through her mother, Eadburh so Aethelflaed had a Mercian pedigree in addition to her West Anglo-Saxon heritage. Mercia was one of the kingdoms of England that’s roughly in the middle of the island between Wales and East Anglia. Aethelflaed grew up in the care of her mother with her younger brother Edward at the royal palace of…

Source: Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia.

I Need A Hero: Why Medieval England Needed Robin Hood | The York Historian

A man in tights, a thief and a fox; Robin Hood has been presented in many different ways. To us, today, he is a legend who most will place within the reign of Richard the Lionheart and the evil King John, who fought the Sheriff of Nottingham and fell in love with the beautiful Maid Marian. However, the story has not always been the fairy tale we know it as today. The first mentions of the outlaw hero appear in the fourteenth century, when an outraged monk recorded several men repeatedly missing mass to listen to stories of Robin Hood and other outlaws such  as William of Cloudesley, who was an English version of the famous Swedish archer William Tell. Whilst these stories were orally told to a wide audience, from peasants to courtiers, work by Dobson has uncovered that the most popular audience for these stories was likely to be a middling class of townspeople. The main case for Dobson and other historians who support the claim rests on the word ‘yeoman’ which crops up repeatedly in the tales of outlaws. Yeomen were not only given important protection by outlaws and received help by them, but they themselves were a special type of yeoman; a forester. Why exactly did the middling rank of most societies suddenly find themselves in need of a hero who lived in the forest, robbed and murdered?

Unjust Laws

By turning a criminal into a hero, what the audience does is…

Source: I Need A Hero: Why Medieval England Needed Robin Hood | The York Historian

French Cooking Terms in the Victorian Era | Geri Walton

Catherine de Medici

Catherine de Medici

In the Middle Ages, French food was similar to Moorish cuisine and it did not change until Catherine de Medici married Henry duc d’Orléans (who later became Henry II of France). When Catherine came to France in 1533, Italy was the leader in cuisine, and she brought with her numerous Italian chefs, who were busy creating many wonderful and unique Italian delicacies, such as macaroni, manicotti, and lasagna. Catherine’s fine cooks then introduced their culinary secrets to the French court and skilled culinary craftsmen soon began to emerge in France. By the 17th and 18th centuries, Haute Cuisine or “High Cuisine,” developed in France, along with the idea of “French cooking.”  Thus, France became known internationally as…

Source: French Cooking Terms in the Victorian Era | Geri Walton

X-Rays Expose a Hidden Medieval Library | medievalbooks

Readers of this blog probably know that early-modern book bindings contain hidden treasure: fragments cut from medieval manuscripts, ranging from small snippets to full pages. The fragments were placed inside bindings to reinforce the bookblock and to provide support for the boards (see this post I wrote about it, and this one as well). This recycling process – plain-old slicing and dicing, really – was common practice, old-fashioned as handwritten books had become after the invention of print. In fact, medieval pages are found in as many as one in five bindings of printed books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  While the stowaways are normally hidden from our eyes, we sometimes get to meet them face to face when…

Source: X-Rays Expose a Hidden Medieval Library | medievalbooks

Eleanor of Aquitaine: Why we should not forget the medieval era when searching for our most powerful queens.

The York Historian


On the 9th September, Queen Elizabeth II surpassed Queen Victoria as the longest reigning British monarch. Journalists marked the event with comparisons between the two queens, [1] whilst some historians chose to look back to the Tudor queens of England; Mary and Elizabeth. [2] Both Victoria and Elizabeth I expanded Britain’s oversea territories, were patrons of the arts, and successfully ruled without a husband over shadowing them. It is understandable such large characters dominate our historical view when we search for the strong female leaders of our past. However, our focus on these women, mean that powerful medieval queens often get forgotten. I am not attempting to say that they had any equal power to that of the more modern Queens – medieval queens were undeniably second to the king.

Dispelling a myth

Medieval queens were also not the weak and submissive figures they sometimes come across as. Such…

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