How I spent the evening in Ancient Rome

Tonight I invited my parents for dinner in Trier, a small Rhenish town with a glorious past. It rose to prominence under the rule of the Roman emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD, when the city became the seat of the Gallic prefecture. However, in what follows I shall not deal with the town’sContinue reading “How I spent the evening in Ancient Rome”

Realizarea potentialului hristic în colindul “La Viflaim colo-n jos”

M-am trezit cu un gând in ajunul Craciunului. Colindul românesc “La Viflaim colo-n jos” pare sa se deschida spre o hermeneutica hristologica interesanta insa, din pacate, nu realizeaza decat jumatate din potentialul teologic. Sa examinam putin versurile: La Viflaim colo-n jos/ Cerul arde luminos, / Preacurata, Naste astazi pe Hristos Naste-n ieslea boilor Pe-mparatul tuturor / Preacurata, Sta si plange-ncetisorContinue reading “Realizarea potentialului hristic în colindul “La Viflaim colo-n jos””

Yule and the spread of Christianity in medieval Norway

The Saga of Olaf Kyrre (in the Old Norse Heimskringla cycle) has an interesting account of king Haakon I’s(920-961) attempt to impose Christianity in Norway. In chapter 15, we find out that… “King Hakon was a good Christian when he came to Norway; but as the whole country was heathen, with much heathenish sacrifice, and as manyContinue reading “Yule and the spread of Christianity in medieval Norway”

‘Why do you bend your body, held captive before silly statues and earthly pictures? God made you upright’: Claudius of Turin’s iconoclasm

Claudius of Turin was one of those 9th-century Catholic bishops who stood behind Byzantine iconoclasts and attempted to introduce their ideas into the Western Church. In his ‘Apologeticum’, Claudius condemns two sets of ideas: the cult of images and pilgrimage to Rome (perhaps any pilgrimage, as Claudius’ ideas reach out to any form of sanctificationContinue reading “‘Why do you bend your body, held captive before silly statues and earthly pictures? God made you upright’: Claudius of Turin’s iconoclasm”

Yuletide and Wassailing

The 8th century Anglo-Saxon historian Bede wrote that in pre-Christian England ‘The first month, which the Latins call January, is [called] Giuli’; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April, Eosturmonath; May, Thrimilchi; June, Litha; July, also Litha; August, Weodmonath; September, Halegmonath; October, Winter¢lleth; November, Blodmo- nath; December, Giuli, the same name by which January isContinue reading “Yuletide and Wassailing”

‘I talk people, and you answer back in provinces’: gender history in ‘The Lion in Winter’

Tomorrow I’m teaching a seminar on gender horizons in the 12th century and how kinship and marriage patterns shaped new models of woman sociology. As I was preparing, I remembered the brief tête-à-tête between king Henry and his mistress Alix in James Goldman’s play The Lion in Winter. It could be a good exordium toContinue reading “‘I talk people, and you answer back in provinces’: gender history in ‘The Lion in Winter’”

Etymological thought of the day

It is widely accepted that the Viking presence in 10th-century Rouen area (future duchy of Normandy) left no discernible linguistic traces in the langue d’oïl language group beyond some scattered words relating to shipping and other very specific operations. However, as I was musing on the biography of the French word “seuil”, I noticed the striking similarityContinue reading “Etymological thought of the day”

Glorious things of Thee are spoken

Most people are acquainted with John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” and rightly so, for it’s probably the loveliest hymn ever composed. Newton, however, was no one-song man. His collection of Christian hymns is simply impressive. To my shame, I had never – until this morning – listened or sung to any other of his compositions.Continue reading “Glorious things of Thee are spoken”

A wedding ring for three fingers

Now we all know everything about wedding rings but here’s something that may not be that well-known. In the Norman pontifical from Lyre (in Evreux, France) there is something quite fascinating about the way a wedding was being conducted in the middle of the twelfth century. A pontifical is a sort of users manual forContinue reading “A wedding ring for three fingers”