Category Archives: History

Books of Hours

In richer books of hours, the commissioner would often be depicted kneeling before the Virgin.
[Hours of Catherine of Cleves, c. 1440, Morgan Library & Museum, Image Source]

The twelfth century Europe saw a rise in popular interest,
and indeed a sense of ownership over, the Catholic faith.  Over the next few centuries this
resulted in the rise of foundations of new monastic orders, like the
Cistercians and the beguines, and heresies, like the Cathars.  But it didn’t just lead to sweeping
social movements and new institutions. 
People wanted ways to participate in religion more on their own
terms.  A particular type of book,
known as a Book of Hours, allowed anyone who could afford one to bring a small
piece of religious life into the privacy of their own home.

An image of the Annunciation often marked the beginning of the Hours of
the Virgin.  Also, notice how similar these two pages look.  These two
books came from the same workshop.  It’s likely these pages were copied
from the same template.
[Annunciation, Boucicaut Master, c. 1410, Paris, Image Source]
[Annunciation, Boucicaut Master, Heures de Guise, c. 1410, Musée Condé, Image Source]

The core piece of any Book of Hours was a text known as the
Hours of the Virgin, essentially an abbreviated form of the Divine Office sung
by monks and nuns.  Besides this,
nearly every Book of Hours opened with a calendar of Church feasts, providing
the books owner with the appropriate dates and indicating feasts of particular
importance to the Church or to the person who commissioned the book.

I think my birthday’s on there.
[Calendar page, July, Beaufort Hours, 15th century, British Library, Image Source]

Technically everything else besides two things was optional,
but there are several texts that appear regularly.  The usual order for the most common of these was as follows:

  • Calendar
  • Readings from the Gospels
  • Hours of the Virgin
  • The seven Penitential Psalms
  • The Office for the Dead

Other texts were also frequently included, but varied a bit
more according to what the person commissioning the book wanted.

An example of a printed book of hours.  This one’s Bulgarian.
[Page 31, Yakov Kraykov, “Chasoslov,” 1566, Image Source]

These were books owned by people at many levels of
society.  They ranged from the
fantastically opulent books commissioned individually by the Duc de Berry and
Mary of Burgundy, to mass produced books that were bought and commissioned by
middle class people and may have been the only books they owned.*  They were primarily used as devotional
texts, but they served other purposes as well.  Children learned to read from their personal or family Book
of Hours.  A wealthy young woman
might be given one of these books as part of her trousseau.

The Book of Hours is the most common type of medieval text
to survive today.  They rose in
popularity from the 13th century onwards.  With the advent of printing in Europe, books of hours were
eventually mass-produced, allowing many people, women especially, personal
access to their religion.

*There’s even one manuscript that was made husband and wife
who may have done so because they couldn’t afford to buy one.

Sources/Further Reading:
De Hamel, Christopher. A History of Illuminated Manuscripts. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1994.
Bell, Susan Groag. “Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture.” In Women & Power in the Middle Ages, edited by Mary Erler and Maryanne Kowaleski, 149-187. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1988.
Jewell, Helen M. Women in Late Medieval and Reformation Europe 1200-1550. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
Books of Hours, Les Enluminures –  Medieval Books of Hours
Books of Hours – University of Texas at Austin
Picturing Prayer, Books of Hours in Houghton Library – Harvard University
Book of Hours – Wikipedia

Seriously,
just go google books of hours or dig through Wikimedia Commons.  There
are so many beautiful examples out there and so many people who may well
have said these things better than me.

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The Great and the Small: Medieval Military Orders

The best known and most romantic of all the military orders of the Middle Ages were the legendary Knights of the Round Table, from which developed the chivalric ideal expressed in medieval romances and chansons de geste. The initial concept of chivalry included bravery in battle, skill at arms, loyalty to one’s lady, and obedience to God. The later historical medieval military orders emphasized bravery, skill, and obedience to God.

The idea of a military elite grew out of the caste of knighthood itself. The great ones, Hospitalers (also known as the Order of St. John) and the Knights of the Temple of Solomon (Templars), rose originally to serve as charitable orders. The Hospitalers aided the sick and wounded during the Crusades. Templars protected travelers along the main pilgrim road to Jerusalem. Both were large orders of warrior monks, the Hospitalers based on Cistercian rule, and the Templars also living under monastic rule, and taking oaths of poverty, obedience, and chastity.

The Templars, founded in 1128 by Hugh de Payens, made their headquarters first in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, and later in Cyprus, after Richard the Lionheart conquered it and later sold the island to them. Hugh’s original eight companion knights grew to number over two-hundred, whose responsibility was to the Church (the pope), rather than king or nation. Hence, they were an international order, swearing obedience to God and their Grand Master until death.

As a result of the wealth the Templars garnered, this order grew into respected and trusted bankers, and became rich enough to support its own navy (as did the Hospitalers). The jealousy such financial success aroused in the French king Philip the Fair prompted the Templars’ downfall. On Friday, 13 October 1307, Philip accused the Templars in France of heresy, seized their property, imprisoned all but thirteen knights who managed to escape, and burned the remaining fifty-seven at the stake.

Hospitalers escaped this fate for two reasons: (1) they had no headquarters in France at the time, and (2) they weren’t as wealthy as the Templars. Also, as some historians have suggested, the Hospitalers were not as stubborn (some would say pig-headed) as the Templars, who flaunted their allegiance to the pope, not the king

Suppression of the Templars in the 14th century led to creation of new orders: The Knights of Christ in Portugal, and Knights of Montesa in Aragon. Gradually, such smaller orders slid into secularism, sometimes fighting against each other as they pledged themselves to various countries and counties. From 1130 on, both Templars and Hospitalers established a presence in Spain (Aragon and Castile) and aided in the subsequent Christian Reconquista.

In Northeast Europe rose the Order of Teutonic Knights, which began as a hospital corps for the sick and wounded at the siege of Acre in 1190. This order owed allegiance to king and country rather than God and the Catholic church. This was also true of the Brethren of the Sword, founded early in the 13th century in the Baltic area known as Livonia (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania); the Order of St. Catherine, founded in the 1330s in southeast France; and the Order of St. George, founded in Hungary in 1326. Another order, The Order of the Sash, founded in Castile in 1330, survived into the 15th century. 

Other smaller orders included the short-lived Order of the Star in France (1353-1356), whose motto, “Never retreat in battle,” quickly decimated their members; and the Order of the Golden Fleece in Burgundy, created by King Philip the Good on the occasion of his marriage to Isabella of Portugal in 1430, which resulted in an organization of twenty-five knights swearing personal loyalty to the king.

Source: http://historyhoydens.blogspot.com/2007/04/great-and-small-medieval-military.html

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Julia Domna

image

One big happy family.
[Tondo showing Julia Domna and family, 2nd century CE, Antikensammlung, Berlin, Image Source]

Empress Julia Domna (c.170-217 CE), like any Roman Empressthough perhaps more than some, is a figure obscured by propaganda.  Wife of one Roman Emperor, SeptemiusSeverus, and mother of two more, Caracalla and Geta, she certainly held great
power. and the general trajectory of her life is clear, but accounts of
specific events tell us more about the aims of their writers than about the
woman herself.

Julia was the first Roman Empress to come from somewhere
other than Rome and was probably of Arab descent.  She was born in Syria to the priest Bassanius.  Little is known of her early life, but
later events show that she was probably quite well educated in her childhood.  Septemius Severus married her in 187 or
so, supposedly because she was destined to marry a king.  Whether or not the story is true, which
it may have been, it did a fantastic job of legitimating Severan rule.

With the assassination of Commodus* began the Year of the
Five Emperors (193), with Sevrus as one of the contenders.  Unlike many of women of her time,
though very like some of her predecessors, Julia accompanied her husband on
campaign even after he had definitively won power.  Like Faustina the Younger she earned the title of Mother of
the Camp.  Her elder son,
Caracalla, was born in Gaul, the younger, Geta, back in Rome.

image

She must have had very thick hair for a hairstyle like that.
[Aureus depicting Julia Domana Augusta, Image Source]

Throughout her time as Empress, Julia devoted herself to
learning.  She gathered around
herself a circle of mathematicians and philosophers; it was through her
influence that the study of philosophy flourished.**  It was to this that she turned during the tumultuous events
of her sons’ rule as co-Emperors, her attempts to mediate between the two of
them and Caracalla’s sole rule after he killed his brother.

Julia died of starvation in 217 sometime after hearing of
Caracalla’s assassination.  Whether
this was suicide or a complication of breast cancer is unknown.  It is remarkable that she, a nobody
daughter of a Syrian priest, rose to become the Empress, the events of her life
an important part both of the Severan campaign to legitimize a new imperial
dynasty and of others’ later attempts to tear them down.

 

*Son of Faustina the Younger.
**She especially supported the Pythagoreans.

Sources/Further Reading:
Cassius Dio, Roman History books 75-79 – Lacus Curtius
“Septemius Severus,” Historia Augusta – Lacus Curtius
Langford, Julie. Maternal Megalomania: Julia Domna and the Imperial Politics of Motherhood. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.
Benario, Herbert W. “Severan Julias” – De Imperatoribus Romanis
Julia Domna – Women Philosophers

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Medieval – 2015-03-11 Update #16

Cats walking on your stuff since the 15th century!

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/apr/05/cats-mark-centuries-books-15th-century

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Medieval – 2015-04-08 Update #14

Book of Kells.  https://www.tcd.ie/Library/bookofkells/book-of-kells/

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Medieval – 2015-04-08 Update #15

The Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux.  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/54.1.2

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Mysterious medieval fortifications buried in Poland detected with advanced imaging technology

Through advanced radar and laser detection, the remains of a medieval fortification have been located in the foothills of south-eastern Poland. Researchers wonder if this mysterious hidden stronghold could reveal evidence of the Bohemian Wars and Hussite warriors as they fled across central Europe in the 15th century.

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Medieval – 2015-03-11 Update #14

Diagram of the brain by unknown author, England ca. 1300 via Cambridge University Library on Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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Medieval Apocalypse The Black Death BBC Documentary

Medieval Apocalypse The Black Death BBC Documentary
Medieval Apocalypse The Black Death BBC Documentary
bbc documentary, documentary bbc, bbc documentary history, bbc, documentary, bbc documentary 2014, documentaries, history channel documentary, national geographic documentary, documentary films, bbc history documentary, national geographic, history, bbc radio 1, documentary full, history channel, india, documentary 2014,

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How to Get Ahead 1…At Medieval Court (2014)

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