Friday, 7 January 2022

saint distaff’s day

Observed in medieval Europe on the day after the Feast of the Epiphany and also known as Roc or Rock Day (used with a spindle to make fabric) is an unofficial solemnity (see also) to mark going back to the grind with spinners and weavers resuming their work after the holiday break. Regarded traditionally as women’s work, there would be a gathering and some merry-making, recently seeing a revival, and men held their own parallel party, letting the short week run its course, called Plough Monday.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

legenda sanctorum

Born a prince into a sainted and royal family, issue of Richard the Saxon and Wunna of Wessex, Winibald (Winebald, Wunebald) is fêted on this day on the occasion of his passing in 761 (*702), who along with his siblings Willibald and Walpurga were persuaded to first undertake a pilgrimage and commit to a course of study in Rome (his brother settling down from his travels and became a monk at Monte Cassino) then all to go on a mission to Germany by their uncle Boniface. Abbot at his home double-monastery in Heidenheim in Middle Franconia, Winibald is considered the patron of construction workers and established a network of cloisters across the region and is generally depicted with the iconography of a brick trowel and carrying a miniature church.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

landshuter hochzeit

Recreated every four years by the city of Landshut in celebration of one of the largest historical processions and pageants of medieval times, the so-called Landshut Wedding between Duke George of Bavaria (Herzog Georg, called the Rich) and Princess Hedwig (Jagwiga) Jagiellon, daughter of King Casimir IV of Poland, the lavish, sumptuous ceremony and feast, took place on this day in 1475. Though the couple continued in happy for over a quarter of a century until George’s death, because all male heirs pre-deceased their father and Salic laws at the time in the kingdom prevented their capable and savvy daughters Elisabeth or Margaret from inheritance and the power-vacuum and counter-claims led to a succession crisis that split the duchy into four.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

burgruine osterburg

Taking advantage of the sunny Autumn weather, we took a drive through the countryside and made the short hike up to the clearing on a summit facing the Kreuzburg to explore the ruins of the hilltop fortress called Osterburg near Bischofheim, a tenth century fortification that was the stuff of legend until its accidental rediscovery in 1897 by a forester, its strategic importance having waned into oblivion as the valley below gained in strength and control of the region’s trade. The aerial shots are courtesy of H’s drone and we enjoyed the impressive vistas all around. 

 One could easily imagine what the grounds might have been like intact and manned. The outpost mysterious and isolated among the peaks, the place was imbued in the last centuries with a few elements of folklore including a lost treasure whose finding would prove redemptive for some souls tethered to castle and keep.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021


heir apparent: after over a century, Russia hosts a royal wedding for a member of the Romanoff family

9m²:a luxury apartment in Tokyo that makes very efficient use of space—at more than twice the size, my work-week flat feels rather sprawling and and ilunder-utilised 

pandora’s box: a trove of leaked records, following on from the Panama papers shows how the wealthy and connected hide their riches 

faux mcdoo: a fake McDonald’s in Los Angeles for filming purposes, via Messy Nessy Chic 

tx-33: new lows attained in gerrymandering and voter-marginalisation 

full circle: a retrospective exhibit of Judy Chicago  

deuce court: a demonstration of medieval tennis  

вызов: cast joins crew aboard ISS to film scenes of the first movie shot in microgravity

Tuesday, 28 September 2021


pyroclastic flow: paintings of the 1776 eruption of Mount Vesuvius (previously)—via Everlasting Blört  

don jumpedo in the character of harlequin jumping down his own throat: an apology for the man in the bottle

twist and bend: superlative balloon art recreating iconic classics 

eisenbahnbetriebsfeld: a model railway in Darmstadt used to train train traffic-controllers  

store-brand: Kmarto table wine  

licorice pizza: a trailer for a 1970s coming-of-age film set in California’s San Fernando Valley—via Waxy

social justice: artist Kerry James Marshall designs new stained glass windows for Washington’s National Cathedral to replace Confederate ones

Saturday, 25 September 2021

day-trip: gemünden am main

Taking advantage of the nice weather, H and I took a tour past the outskirts of Bad Kissingen and beyond Hammelburg to explore again the small town at the confluence of four rivers, the Sinn, Saale and Werra all discharging into the River Main—first stopping at the ruins of a hill castle (Höhenburg) above the village of Gössenheim, one of the largest of its kind in Frankonia. 

First erected in the eleventh century for a ministerialis family—that is those ennobled from the ranks of serfdom but yet unfree—in service of the bishopric of Würzburg, later divided between the counts of Rieneck, the dukes of Henneburg and the imperial abbey of Fulda, the hereditary owner’s family branch eventually going extinct. Though surviving the Peasants’ War in the early fifteenth century, the castle lost its strategic importance, efforts forced on holding the waterways and one of the last caretakers, Prince-Bishop Rudolf II von Scherenberg (namesake of our next destination), gifted the lands back to the monastery of Würzburg and established fortress in order to control trade (particularly in wine) and river traffic. 

It was a lot of fun to explore and imagine what it looked like before falling into neglect and disrepair. The aerial shots are courtesy of H’s drone. Gemünden am Main was just a short drive further on and first explored the ruins of the Schrenburg—a customs post, a Zollburg, that dominated the town and commanded view of the river valley below. The remaining curtain wall and bergfried—now a home to bats—hosts open-air theatre in the summer.

Friday, 24 September 2021


social distancing: a racier version of Bernie Sanders inauguration getup (previously)—via Everlasting Blört  

directory assistance: file folders are a foreign concept to younger pupils—via Waxy  

street view: a stroll around New York City in 1914 

the matter of britain: early fragment of the Arthurian legend discovered and translated 

we are on the worst timeline: the future used to be cool 

apocalypse no: as a global community, we have overcome some high-hurdles

Sunday, 1 August 2021

the woman with seven sons

The martyred family known as the Holy Maccabees after the epigraphical account in that book who are venerated in some traditions on this day is included in a the poetically entitled list of ‘Names for the Biblically Nameless,’ many apocryphally sourced to the Golden Legend, such as the sisters of Cain and Abel—Aclima (also Luluwa) and Delbora, Nimrod’s Wife—“a mighty hunter in the face of the Lord,” possibly the Amazon Semiramis, and Pharaoh’s (and whole human being in their own right) Daughter, who drew infant Moses from the reeds, possibly Merris according to Eusebius of Cæsarea. The Wife of Job who advises him to finally curse God and die, is perhaps called Sitis or Dinah, the Queen of Sheba either Makeda, Nicaule or Bilqis according to different traditions. Proper names are also assigned to the Magi who are also called the Three Wise Men as well as the seven archangels, the thieves crucified with Jesus and the Roman soldier who prodded him on the cross. The woman known variously as Solomonia, Hannah or Miriam is reserved special honour for courageously enduring the torment and dismemberment of her sons and then herself (see also) for refusing to submit to a cruel and capricious king and remaining steadfast in her faith as did the band of brothers.

Sunday, 25 July 2021


The Gentle Author of Spitalfield’s Life directs our attention to a new, epic mosaic along the Thames path that illustrates two millennia and more of human history with the estuary’s natural course at the inlet named ‘the Queen’s Harbour’ after Matilda granted around 1104 the establishment of a dock there and the excise of duties on goods delivered. Learn more at the link above, including a treasury of panels from the procession, pictorial chronicle of the ages.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

elder fuþark visiting the impressive cloister ruins of Avestra, we doubled back before continuing through Östergötland to the village of Rök Whose parish church hosts the famous runestone (Rökstenen, Rundata inscription number 136), the five tonne megalith considered the first written document of Sweden and thus the starting point of recorded history was rediscovered in the nineteenth century as part of the medieval church’s wall. Removing it for study and conservation—revived interest in such artefacts coinciding the 1865 deciphering of the runic alphabet by Norwegian academics retrieving a lexicon lost to the ages, at around seven hundred characters, the inscription represents the longest extant pre-Christian passage and contains a bit of Norde mythology and a reference to the Roman emperor of the latter day rump state—dating the writing to the ninth century. Most scholars agree on the translation but many forward competing theories on allegorical interpretation. There was also an informative exhibit on runic writing in an outdoor pavilion and signs reminding that the church was open and welcomed one’s visit as well.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

zwischenstopp: mellrichstadt

While we’ve mentioned the next bigger town numerous times especially in connection with the dying out of the Henneberg line and Count Poppo and go there regularly (see previously here, here and here), we realised that we’ve not dedicated much writing to the place itself, elevated to the status of a city within the Grand Duchy of Würzburg in the thirteenth century and its importance as a seat of learning with a Latin school in medieval times before desecularisation and joining the Kingdom of Bavaria. 

Sunday, 27 June 2021


This feast day marking the legend of the Seven Sleepers, a group of companions who hid in a cave outside of Ephesus to escape Roman emperor Decius’ persecution of Christians and emerged three-centuries later, also recalls one of the oldest and widespread artefacts of forecasting and weather lore (see also here, here and here) stemming from medieval Europe. The conditions on this day are supposed to be preview of how the skies and temperatures will be for the rest of the summer. I’d say, judging from here and now, we have a fine season ahead of us.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

cantiones profanæ cantoribus et choris cantandæ comitantibus instrumentis atque imaginibus magicis

With the above full Latin title, the cantata Carmina Burana (Songs of Beuren—a Benedictine abbey near Bad Tölz) of twelfth century meditative texts and poems orchestrally arranged by Carl Orff (81895 - †1982) had its premier performance on this day in 1937 at the Oper Frankfurt. The opening and closing movements are named “Fortuna Impertrix Mundi” and contain the famous and stirring O Fortuna.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

stultifera navis

A Latin, international edition translated by his pupil Jakob Locher in Strasbourg and published by printer Hans Grüninger of Sebastian Brant’s 1494 German-language Das Narrenschiff (The Ship of Fools) on this day in 1497 made the late medieval moral allegory a success all over the continent, prompting several more translations, sanctioned and otherwise. The humanist and theologian compiled an anthology of one hundred and twelve brief satires, illustrated with woodcuts (originally issued in Basel), as commentary and condemnation of the human condition, developing the character of Saint Grobian, a patron for the crude, clumsy and gluttonous and is singled out as the best treatment of the trope taken from Plato’s Republic about a dysfunctional crew unable to pilot the ship of state. Locher (*1471 – †1528), the student who translated the work, went by the Latin name Philomusus and became a professor of Humanism and a dramatist himself and published a multivolume study on comparative religion. Though an artefact of medieval sensibilities sharpened with the focus of scholasticism, the conceit, tempered with allegory, gave the authors’ license to, writing in the voice of the fool, to legitimately criticise church and court.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

sunday drive: wasserschloss roßrieth and walldorfer-kirchenburg

For what was the first time in a long time, H and I took advantage of the fine and sunny weather and visited a few sights from outdoors on either side of Mellrichtstadt and Meiningen first with the moated castle located within a small farming village of the same name. Existing as the seat of a lordship since the twelfth century before being destroyed for harbouring highwaymen in 1401, the rebuilt sixteenth century compound was in the ownership of the rulers of Ost- and Nordheim until the mediatisation of imperial immediacy at the beginning of the nineteenth century (die Reichsdeputationhauptschluss von 1803) when transferred to the Free State of Bavaria. 

The castle is in private hands and cannot be visited by the surround grounds and agricultural outbuildings were nice to explore. Next we came to the fortified church (see links above) of the town of Walldorf, now a suburb of Meiningen. Originally a medieval defensive Höhenberg (a hill castle) along the old trade route from Frankfurt to Erfurt—a good vantage point to monitor for smugglers and other potential disruptions, the complex on the promontory has been an episcopal fort since 1008 when the archbishopric of Würzburg took over the area. 

The high keep with residential structures and a garden was used as a protected farmyard through the ages as it is today, restored after reunification and a fire in 2012 that caused extensive damage. Beyond its historical value as a monument, designs for restoration undertaken and achieved have made it moreover a “biotope church” with a replacement roof optimised for nesting kestrels, a colony of jackdaws (Dohlen), bats, bees that visit the old cottage gardens plus a nesting stork with a young brood.

Saturday, 29 May 2021

homo signorum

Public Domain Review indulges our curiosity and resurgent obsession with astrology (see also) in these early Renaissance anatomical depictions of the Zodiac Man, with star signs appended to the organs and humours that they were thought to influence. The inclusion of such diagrams (see previously) in medical texts was to ensure auspicious (or at least not oppositional and ill-timed) scheduling of treatments and surgeries—avoiding, for instance, bloodletting when the Moon was in Aries as a cure for headaches. The full correspondence, at least according to the observations and experience if one seventeenth century physician, is listed below: 

ARIES: Head, Sinus, Eyes, Blood Pressure TAURUS: Ears, Neck, Throat, Shoulders
GEMINI: Nervous System, Respiratory Stems, Arms, Hands
CANCER: Chest, Lymphatic System, Plasma
LEO: Heart, Spleen, Spinal Column
VIRGO: Trunk, Intestines, Gallbladder, Pancreas, Liver
LIBRA: Back, Hips, Endocrine Gland, Kidneys
SCORPIO: Reproductive Organs, Urinary Bladder, Rectum, Pelvis
CAPRICORN: Skin, Knees and Bones
AQUARIUS: Ankles, Blood
PISCES: Feet, Serum 

More details and collections from Public Domain Review at the link above.

Monday, 10 May 2021

a cautionary tale

Though exploitative and terribly, predictably misogynistic, via Super Punch, we enjoyed learning about the popular late medieval trope of the Frankish thirteenth century story le Lai d’Aristote / Aristoteles und Phyllis depicted in numerous media in art and artefacts spanning into the modern era and upheld to a degree in academia. The conceit, with some significant variation depending on the version, is that the seductive can over take the greatest intellect, countering a dominatrix with the great philosophical mind with their attendant gendered roles—see also Socrates and Xanthippe. Caught by the royal retinue undergoing the humiliation of being ridden, Aristotle excuses himself with Amour vainc tot, & tot vaincra / tant com il monde durea—Love conquers all and all shall conquer as long as the world lasts.

Monday, 3 May 2021

fah ond fyrgeard ferhearde heold

Mentioned no fewer than five times in the contemporary Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf (previously) and with subsequent and comparable artefacts excavated in later years from the Sutton Hoo and other sites, the Benty Grange helmet found on this day in 1848 in an ancient mound burial site in a farm in Derbyshire was the first evidence of the well-attested seventh century boar-crested headgrear. The nose-to-nape band portrays a charging wild swine at the crown with an incipient cross inlay—this example of spangenhelm—that is, a segmented helmet of bone that’s since decayed away displays both Christian and pagan iconography and possibly captures a moment on the cusp when conversions were carried out by Irish missionaries. Apparently any faith tradition would do on the battlefield or against the scorn of Grendel’s mother.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

helige mathilde von sachen

Patroness of, among other things, disappointing children, Saint Matilda of Ringelheim (see previously) is venerated on this day on the occasion of her death in Quedlinburg in 968 (*892), acclaimed for her charitable acts and strong sense of justice. Despite her status as a king-maker and raising ostensibly, widow of Henry the Fowler, Duke of Saxony, regnant and politically savvy in her own right, her eldest son Otto I who restored the Holy Roman Empire, Bruno, Archbishop of Köln, Gerberga Queen of France through marriage to Louis IV, Hedwig, mother of Hugh Capet and perhaps tellingly Henry, Jr. made Duke of Bavaria and called the quarrelsome, matters soon descended into petty squabbles over land, inheritance and alliances. Accused of mismanagement and sent into exile with Emperor Otto staking claim to his mother’s possessions, Matilda (from Old High German, incidentally, for the Mightiest in Battle) and it remains a point of contention the exact nature of these feuds and whether the family was ever reconciled. Despite or rather because of this administrative embargo, Matilda focused her efforts on establishing more monastic communities for women on her estates, sought and granted ecclesiastical immediacy and papal privileges for all convents in East Francia.