There have been lots of interesting Medieval-related items in the news lately, or at least the art and history news, so I’ve gathered them together for this week’s Quick Takes.
The Bentivoglio bible, c. 1270, The Walters Museum - source
The Walters Museum in Baltimore is home to an extensive collection of medieval manuscripts. Thanks to a series of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Walters is in the midst of digitizing its rare manuscripts:
Medieval manuscripts are unique historical documents as well as works of art, and the museum’s collection includes both little-known treasures and well-known examples such as the Beaupré Antiphonal, which was made for the Cistercian convent of Beaupré in 1290 and which, as the earliest extant large-format choir book from Northern Europe, is central to the history of music.
Digitizing these rare works requires advanced technologies and preservation expertise. The Walters Art Museum has developed an in-house process to prepare the original manuscripts, photograph them, and archive the final digital images. You can learn more about these activities in the video above.
The museum’s Islamic collection was the first to be digitized. Consisting of 53,000 folios, it is distinguished for its illuminated manuscripts of the Koran as well as illustrated volumes of Persian poetry that date from the ninth to the 19th century. The collection represents all major cultures and languages of the traditional Islamic world (Arabic, Persian and Turkish).
A second NEH-funded project digitized 105 manuscripts from Armenian, Byzantine, Dutch, English, central European and Ethiopian Christian cultures.
The third and current project is digitizing 112 Flemish manuscripts from northeastern France and Belgium dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries, with particular attention to 80 Books of Hours, personal devotional compilations that contain texts and images tailor-made to reflect the interests and preoccupations of their patrons. - source
- see the digital images at thedigitalwalters.org. The images can be used for any purpose without permission
In addition to digitizing its collection of medieval manuscripts (thanks to grants such as from the NEH) the Walters Museum is collaborating with Stanford University to hlep maintain the digital files:
More than 100,000 high-resolution images of unique medieval manuscripts will have a second home, thanks to a new agreement between the Walters Art Museum and Stanford University Libraries.
The Walters’ holdings of 850 medieval illuminated manuscripts and 150 single leaves, ranging in date from the ninth to the 19th century, are one of the most significant medieval collections in North America.
About two-thirds of the manuscript page images are already online through the Walters’ website – but the new home at the Stanford Digital Repository will add two important advantages: Stanford will give a long-term protection against file loss or corruption, and it will also provide digital handling tools that allow scholars to analyze the manuscripts and compare them with manuscripts elsewhere. The original manuscripts remain at the Walters Museum.
The digital tools will include a transcription tool, a side-by-side viewing tool, indices and other such apps. Stanford University Libraries offers access to the entire collection through its online catalog, SearchWorks.
William Noel, until recently curator of manuscripts and rare books at the museum and now at the University of Pennsylvania, was instrumental in launching the collaboration. Calling the Stanford investment “visionary,” he praised “its recognition that openly licensed, high-quality digital resources can be assets, not just for the institution that makes them, but for any institution that curates them.” - source
- Read the whole article on the medievalists’ site, complete with lots of information about the Walters’ holdings and Stanford’s commitment to medieval history.
Here’s a recent youtube video called “Were the Dark Ages Dark?.” According to the video’s description:
There is no period in history more misunderstood than the Middle Ages. Providence College Professor of English, Anthony Esolen, vividly demonstrates why the “Dark Ages” would be better described as the “Brilliant Ages.”
cross section of the soil in the Vik farm excavation in Norway - source
Archaeologists exploring the Vik farm in Norway, a large documented farm from the middle ages, have discovered a 1200-year old coin from Charlemagne’s reign - the oldest coin ever found in Norway. The researchers can date the find from 768-793. The farm is located not far from Trondheim, an important medieval pilgrimage destination.
The coin reads CAR LVS (Carolus) split in two lines on the front, and has Rx.F on the reverse. The Rx.F is short for Rex Francorum, the King of the Franks.
The Vikings conducted extensive raids in Frankish areas during the ninth century. In addition to looting, they held people and towns for ransom. Researchers have assumed that the reason for the relatively few coin finds in Scandinavia is that they were melted.
Most of the coins that survive were used as jewellery, usually marked with a hole or a loop for hanging.
This coin does not have any of these features, but it seems that the coin might have been gilded. Gilding might suggest it was used for jewellery, but the Museum will have to conduct further investigations to determine certainly whether or not it was ever gilded.
“One might speculate as to how and why this coin ended up at the Vik farm in Trøndelag. The find shows very clearly that this was a great farm with international contacts,” Grønnesby says. -source
read the whole article on Science Nordic
the Motte at Lincoln Castle - source
William the Conqueror’s 11th century Lincoln Castle is undergoing some extensive renovation, in part to make it handicap accessible, and in the process of excavating for an elevator shaft, archaeologists have discovered evidence of a 10th century church:
A total of eight skeletons have been found thus far, all buried in the east-west alignment that is typical of Christian burials. The remains of walls and flooring suggest this was a religious structure in which people of high status would be buried rather than a cemetery. Pottery found at the same level dates to the 10th century, which means the church and burials are around a century older than Lincoln Castle, which was one of the first castles built in England by William the Conqueror in 1068.
The spot 10 feet under ground level was being surveyed before construction of an elevator shaft when archaeologists encountered multiple skeletons and two stone walls. Further excavation in the small space — it’s approximately 10 by 10 feet — revealed another skeleton which had once been wrapped in a finely woven fabric buried in a niche in the foundations of the oldest wall. The textile has long since disintegrated, but the imprint of it is still visible in the wall’s mortar. This unusual burial within a wall suggests the remains may be the relics of a saint or august venerated personage of some kind who was inhumed in the foundations as a votive deposit to sanctify and dedicate the building. - source
read the whole post on the History Blog
We commonly think of workshops of monks - men - busily producing illuminated manuscripts in medieval times. But there were also women in convents who did the same, and this article chronicles their achievements:
While a monograph on medieval women’s art is only partially completed, some conclusions can be drawn from the data collected so far. These indicate that works from women’s convents are inclined to depict a larger number of women and female saints in their illustrations. Certain themes such as the infant Christ (often alone), images of spiritual intimacy (nuns embracing Christ), nativity scenes with Mary wearing a crown, or crucifixion by the virtues are found more frequently in these works than elsewhere. In illustrating saints’ lives (a favorite genre), women artists tend to insert cult images within the narrative. In liturgical works, they often include banderoles containing phrases from the liturgy as design elements in the illustrations. Not only do some manuscripts contain embroidery for decorative effect, but the images themselves reflect tapestry and needlework motifs in their designs. Images of nuns – often including their names – kneeling in the margins of graduals and antiphonals seem to constitute a kind of pictorial necrology or anniversary book, reminding those who sing the office to remember the soul of the departed sister. - source
Mary Magdalen Announces the Risen Christ, St. Alban’s Psalter - source
Six windows from Canterbury Cathedral will be on display this fall at the Getty Museum along with the St. Alban’s Psalter. This rare opportunity is a medievalist’s dream, and the exhibit will run from September 20, 2013 until February 2, 2014. The Getty is the only museum that will display both the windows and the psalter.
This exhibition brings together two masterpieces of medieval English art: stained glass from Canterbury Cathedral and the St. Albans Psalter, a splendidly illuminated Book of Psalms. Uniting monumental glass painting with the art of book illumination, this presentation explores how specific texts, prayers, and environments shaped the medieval viewer’s understanding of these pictures during the great century of art making following the Norman Conquest of England.
Another exhibit, “Miracles and Martyrs: Saints in the Middle Ages” , will be at the Getty at approximately the same time.
- article in the New York Times (might be behind the Times’ paywall)
And in the sad current events category: A carved stone window was recently stolen from a medieval church in Ireland:. Here’s are before and after photos from the County Leitrim location:
For more Quick Takes, explore this week’s Quick Takes link-up, hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary.