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Final Thoughts

During our parting meeting at Heythrop College, each Fordham Summer-in-London class presented its reflections on the past few weeks, explaining to the others what it had done and learned. Our class was represented by Giuseppe, who put together a wonderful powerpoint summarizing our different excursions, beginning with Stonehenge, then showing images from Winchester, the Tower of London, the Globe Theatre and finally Canterbury. This presentation encapsulates the vast amount of knowledge that the students in the Knights of the Round course learned about the Middle Ages in only a few weeks and offers a window into our adventures in London and beyond.

This presentation is available for download here:

RoundTable Presentation

Additionally, Giuseppe’s power point is available at the link below. It is not necessary to have a rapid share account in order to download the presentation; simply click on the free download option.

https://rapidshare.com/files/3011966541/RoundTable.ppt

The Readings

Each student describes what she or he found most surprising or interesting in the course readings, which included Tristan and Isolde, Perceval, several of the Canterbury Tales and Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave:

Surprising aspects of the Canterbury Tales 

by Courtney

Canterbury

One of the most surprising readings in our course was the Miller’s tale. The details of the story had, in previous readings, gone straight over my head. The entire idea of the fabliau is shocking in two regards. First of all, the vulgar details included seem to preclude some of the slap stick humor present in modern day comedies such as the blatant sex scenes, bathroom humor, and violence. Second of all, even more surprisingly, fabliau tales seem to glorify the woman, especially in the case of the miller’s tale. Even though she has offended one admirer, and cheated on her husband, she still manages to dupe the four men involved without being punished at all. The four men involved all end up looking like fools, and in a way one could almost say that this text is in many ways feminist.

Another surprising thing I found about the Canterbury tales was in the wife of Bath and falls on the other side of the spectrum. While the wife of Bath itself didn’t seem to encourage rape, the idea about the French tales that glorify rape was a bit disturbing. Additionally, the idea that Chaucer follows up the story after the rape with a story about the consequences, just further muddles Chaucer’s intentions when the lack of punishment does not seem to fit the crime. One interesting point is that, while we hear all about the knight who rapes the girl, the girl herself is only mentioned once. After the rape, which is only mentioned briefly, we never hear from her again, nor does she ever receive a name. While the tale seems to put on the appearance of being concerned with woman’s desires, the main character is still the knight. The plot seems to be more concerned about how the knight develops as a character rather than about women’s desires.

The Canterbury Tales

by Sean

O'Neil's Pub

The most interesting facet of the reading for the course was how intricate the characters in the Canterbury Tales were.  The characters in Percival and Tristan are ideal representations of chivalry and courtly love.  However, the pilgrims in Canterbury Tales have real emotions and stories.  Over 600 years after the tales were written I can still relate the Wife of Bath, Miller, and Prioress to actual people I have met.  The Wife of Bath hangs out at Jimmy O’Neill’s Irish Pub on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights.  Jimmy O’s is a notorious underage bar full of college and even some high school kids.  Respectable people avoid it like cancer.  Yet every weekend the Wife of Bath is there, scaring the hell out of underage boys with tales of exploits from her past.  At every Coburn family event the ‘miller’ shows up in my uncle Howard to the chagrin of my grandmother.  I specifically remember one Christmas when everyone was telling jokes at the dinner table.  At a family event such as Christmas, the jokes are obviously supposed to be appropriate, but low and behold my uncle forgot and told a VERY inappropriate joke.  I thought my grandmother was going to die right then from the look on her face.  When reading the prioress’s tale I thought Chaucer most have met my catholic grade school’s principle, Sister Linda.  They could not be more similar.  They are both perfectly mannered and groomed nuns with wicked undertones.  Although I must confess I am heavily biased here, since I have not seen Sister Linda since I was twelve and in absolute fear of her.

“The Miller’s Tale”

by Brendan

The Miller's Tale

I found “The Miller’s Tale” of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to be the most interesting reading of the course for manifold reasons.  The tale mimics the medieval French fabliau genre in that it contains excessive sexual obscenity, adultery, bodily imagery and gratuitous violence.  In short, it describes the story of a wife who betrays her older, impotent husband with the younger, smarter and better-looking “Hende” Nicholas.  Chaos ensues when the extramarital couple pulls a hilariously vile prank on the jealous parish clerk, Absolon.  Ultimately, every character save the cheating wife ends up either humiliated, physically deformed or both.

While the plot alone is incredibly amusing, on a deeper level “The Miller’s Tale” is an interesting commentary on arranged marriages, social class tensions and the overall fickleness of the human condition.  The Miller satirizes the fundamental pretentiousness of the chivalric romance genre simply by placing Nicholas and Alisoun in a lower-class context, and continues his parody by detailing their exploits in a blunt and sexually graphic manner.  Moreover, Absolon, the parish clerk, epitomizes the conventional chivalric lover, yet ultimately fails to win the affections of the lady he desires.  He stays awake at night to court Alisoun, either by singing or playing guitar.  However, for all his efforts, he ends up making a fool of himself; he kisses Alisoun’s bottom and is subsequently farted on by Nicholas.

I found Chaucer’s rendering of this dysfunctional love triangle especially entertaining after reading Tristan, which, unlike “The Miller’s Tale” strictly conforms to the conventional model of chivalric romances.  In contrast with the predictability of Tristan, “The Miller’s Tale” contained both surprising twists and dynamic characterizations that captivated my interest from beginning to end.  Finally, the tale proves that for everything that’s changed since the Middle Ages, some of the most universal human themes have not faded over time.  The adulterous affair and ensuing chaos portrayed in “The Miller’s Tale” is a narrative that continues to surface in wide-ranging contexts today.

Source

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Miller’s Prologue and Tale.” The Geoffrey Chaucer Page. Harvard University. Web. <http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/teachslf/milt-par.htm>.

Contextualizing the Middle Ages

by Justine

I was going to try to avoid being so general, but mostly everything.  I had no prior knowledge of the Middle Ages, besides any Disney movie or film that Heath Ledger acted in, so being able to sit down and read the texts was interesting on all different levels.  It was cool to see how even throughout hundreds of years the Arthurian Age is still an ideal that any politician or authority figure would want to accomplish.  Everyone knows of King Arthur and the general idea of what his story is, but to be able to sit down and actually study it was an overall amazing experience.  Even better than just reading, we were able to go to the actual sites we were reading about.  Even better than that, the museums had artifacts that put the Middle Ages in an even better perspective because your actually looking at things that were made in the same time period or inspired by the actual text.  Nothing can really beat that.
 

Who is Arthur?

by Amy

Round Table

I think that most of the class can agree with me when it comes to King Arthur’s role in the texts we have read.  Arthur is briefly mentioned in Tristan, and a few more times in Perceval.  I do not recall hearing much about him in the Canterbury Tales, but we begin to hear about the start of him in The Crystal Cave.  It was not until I read the excerpts from Geoffrey Monmouth and Nennius that I started having an understanding his role.  Arthur is more of a mythical figure found in literature than a historical figure because there is no solid evidence as to his existence.  But there are references to him as early as the time of the Celts.  Arthur was a Celt himself and was a strong military leader, or in Latin, a “dux bellorum.” His court was considered to be the most perfect, having no flaws.  It was an ideal place to be, and anyone or thing outside of it was trying to be part of it.  Some have compared Arthur to Jesus because Arthur was a strong leader, died for his people, and is said to come back again one day.  I think that it is fascinating to relate this king to Jesus; we really do not have solid evidence on either one, which is another thing they have in common.  People have to rely on their faith in Jesus or Arthur and believe that either is real based on texts and stories.  When I first started reading the texts for the class, I thought that we would never get to an explanation about Arthur, but as the class ends, it’s interesting to learn about this mythical figure.

Intergenerational Links Between Women

by Alexandra

Tristan Presents Dragon's Tongue before Court, Wool Wall Hanging, V&A

Having recently done research on friendship between women in the late Middle Ages, I was on the lookout for examples of female friends in the texts that our class read this summer. Instead, I found a different type of link between women that proved equally fascinating: female familial ties proved to be of vital importance in both Tristan and Perceval. What struck me about these relationships was both their centrality to the narratives and their complexity; familial links between women never seem one-dimensional but rather evince a polyvalence that, in itself, denotes their value.

In the first text we read, this relationship is of course between Queen Isolde and her daughter. As an image of the younger Isolde in white standing beside the seated queen from a wool tapestry at the V & A (no.1370-1864, see “The Tristan Hanging”) suggests, this mother and daughter are particularly close. Their relationship is integral to the Tristan story because it is through the queen’s intervention that Tristan becomes her daughter’s tutor and because it is the mother who concocts the love potion that is mistakenly taken by the ill-fated pair. Since the mother passes her healing arts down to her daughter but, at the same time, bequeaths to her a potion that results in an adulterous affair that will ultimately lead to her death, Gottfried’s stance on female lineage remains ambiguous. What is, however, clear is that this relationship is crucial to the entire plot of the romance.

In Perceval, we see different, though equally complex, examples of familial ties between women. The first of these is the fraught relationship between two sisters, who bicker about whether Gawain or Meliant de Liz is the better knight. Their relationship drives the plot at this point in the romance, since it leads to the tournament between the two knights. Later, Gawain visits a castle in which he encounters three generations of women: the white-haired queen, who is the mother of Arthur, her daughter, who is Gawain’s mother, and her daughter, who is Gawain’s sister. Since the castle ruled by these women is trapped in a troubling stasis, wherein squires cannot become knights and maidens cannot marry, it is doubtful that Chrétien sought to promote female lineage as a promising alternative to a male line of kings. Yet, relationships between women again take a central role in his narrative, suggesting that medieval authors and their audiences might have perceived relationships between women as sources of power in their own right.

Works Cited

“The Tristan Hanging.” Victoria and Albert Museum. Victoria & Albert, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2011.< http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O86303/hanging-the-tristan-hanging/>.

Personal Pilgrimage

by Matt

Canterbury Cathedral

The Canterbury Tales was by far the most interesting piece of literature I read this summer.  Not only were the tales a perfect contrast with some of the more serious and chivalry-focused stories we read, but also being able to visit the shrine of St. Thomas Becket made the experience entirely unique and incredible.

The Miller and Prioress’s tales offered amusing yet distinct views into a world in which we had only previously read as one dominated by noble and proper aristocracy. Chaucer’s tales were a pleasant break from the legends of some of his contemporaries, yet still added to the understanding of what life could have been like outside of the confined courts knights and kings lived.

What made my experience with the Canterbury Tales complete was being able to actually make my own pilgrimage to St. Thomas Becket’s shrine.  Never could I have imagined reading this story and making this pilgrimage, and this experience was certainly a unique and unforgettable one.  Seeing the location of the shrine that literally provides the basis for the Canterbury Tales, while simultaneously thinking of my own Canterbury tale allowed me to feel as if I was a traveler trying to impress my group with a witty or clever tale.  I cannot imagine what it would have been like for a pilgrim at that time to behold the sight of Canterbury Cathedral for the first time after traveling hundreds of miles and countless days to the destination.

The only thing that disappointed me about being able to visit Canterbury was the easiness in which we were able to get there.  I definitely do not wish to have traveled their any way but by train, but I feel as if the epic pilgrimage that the cast of the Canterbury Tales made is a piece of history that at one time was so common, but is now improbable.  Either way, my trip and reading experience with the Canterbury Tales was certainly one I will never forget.

Secular and Sacred

Locate, document, describe, and discuss an example of the interrelation between secular and religious culture.

Chaucer’s rendering of secular versus religious culture

by Brendan

The Pardoner

The interrelation between the secular and religious worlds indeed varies drastically throughout the medieval canon.  Chaucer’s own treatment of the topic in The Canterbury Tales reflects the Church controversies of his time. A major concern of Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales is the configuration of a world struggling to balance or reconcile its religious and secular cultures.  Chaucer wrote the Tales at a time when many Englanders were questioning the authority of the established Church.  By the late 14th century, the Catholic Church had become extremely wealthy, and many people from both secular and religious backgrounds joined the movement to expose Church corruption and the misbehavior of the clergy.  The effect of this context on The Canterbury Tales is that it presents several religious figures as characters, all of which deviate in some way from the traditional roles we expect them to fulfill.

Generally speaking, Chaucer treats his religiously affiliated characters with more hostility than his strictly secular ones.  Of all the narrators introduced, the Pardoner, in my opinion, is characterized the most pejoratively.  The Pardoner’s role was basically to apply Church authority in a secular context through collecting indulgences for the forgiveness of sins.  Chaucer paints the Pardoner as sinful, greedy and corrupt; the Pardoner even openly admits to abusing his power for his own personal gain.  While interpretations may vary, I take Chaucer’s portrayal of the Pardoner to be a commentary on the general incompatibility of the secular and religious worlds in 14th century England.  As a representative of the Church, the Pardoner is expected to embody integrity and other virtues espoused by religious doctrine; instead, he personifies the widespread corruption crippling the Church’s reputation during the period in which Chaucer wrote.

The Prioress is another example of a Christian character that seems to identify more closely with secular pleasures than religious life.  The Prioress is said to live in a convent, yet she parades around wearing a bejeweled rosary that seems intended more for decoration than for devotion.  Although the Prioress is described as modest and quiet, she nonetheless proudly avows her exquisite taste in clothes and boasts of her knowledge of French.  The Prioress’ gruesome, extremely anti-Semitic tale further highlights her superficiality and demonstrates that while she may not be as loathsome as the Pardoner, her religious authenticity is nonetheless largely questionable.

Anthony, Brother. “Chaucer and Religion.” Sogang University. Web. <http://hompi.sogang.ac.kr/anthony/Religion.htm>.

Once a Church Now a Famous Burial Site

by Amy

Pantheon, Paris

Recently I took a weekend trip to Paris with some Fordham students.  We had a great, but short stay, so it was important for us to continually move.  We were able to cover a lot of the famous sites in the city, including the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum.  One place that I stumbled upon with two other students was the Pantheon.  I did not know that France had such a structure, and was curious as to what this building contained.  In Rome, the Pantheon was a place of worshipping “all the gods,” but I found out that this building was one of Paris’ Neoclassical structures.

However, the Parisian Pantheon was built much later than the Middle Ages; in fact it was completed in 1789 CE.  It is a building that once was religious, but now is secular. The initial purpose was to be a church holding the relics of St. Genevieve (the patron saint of Paris), who lived in the 5th century CE.  After the French Revolution, the church became a mausoleum, and some artwork is on display from time to time (The Pantheon Paris).

I think this structure was a nice homage to the classical period.  It does not directly relate to the Middle Ages, but originally meant to be a burial place for a saint who lived at that time.  Even though it initially was a church, when I viewed the outside of it, the Pantheon looked more like a secular structure than a church.  The features of Corinthian columns and grandeur size are fit for a secular structure imitating Classical buildings.  It is quite impressive, but I think it is good that it does not function as a church or site of St. Genevieve’s relics.

“History.” The Pantheon of Paris. Pantheon of Paris, 2009. 9 August 2011. http://www.pantheonparis.com/history

The Stone of Destiny

by Justine

The Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Destiny is an important symbol of Scottish monarchy and till this day plays a very important part in all British coronations.  It is displayed in the Edinburgh castle and was one of the highlights of the tour.  During the medieval ages, people believed it was the pillow that Jacob dreamed of his ladder.  It has been used in coronations for an extremity amount of years. At first sight, I do admit it’s kind of impossible to imagine exactly why this stone is such a big deal, but while asking the guide why this stone was so significant he said, “It is arguably the greatest symbol and touchstone of Scottish nationhood and as such has been a very potent icon for more than a thousand years.”  They are very proud of this stone.  The first coronation where this stone was vital was in Scone, where the stepson of Macbeth, Lulach, was crowned King of Scots in 1957.  Until 1296 the stone was used in all coronations.  It was that year that Edward I of England invaded Scotland and took the stone back to London.  From that point on, all English coronations were enthroned on this seat.  In 1996, The Queen allowed the stone to be returned to its homeland. The service was held in St. Giles Cathedral and Reverend John MacIndoe accepted the stone saying it would “strengthen the proud distinctiveness of the people of Scotland.”   It took over 700 years for the stone to be returned to its rightful homeland.  Scotland has been kind enough to agree to allow that it may be used for all future coronations.

 

Boyd, John. “Scotland, Stone of Destiny in Edinburgh Castle.” About Scotland. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. <http://www.aboutscotland.com/stone/destiny.html>.

Aoshmor, Alba. “Edinburgh Castle – Highlights – Stone of Destiny.” Edinburgh Castle – the Official Website. Historic Scotland. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. <http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/index/tour/highlights/highlights-stone-of-destiny.htm>.

An Egyptian Gift

by Matt

Place de la Concorde

The Place de la Concorde in Paris is one of the major squares of the city, and home to the massive obelisk called the Luxor Obelisk.  The obelisk once presided in Egypt outside of Ramses II tomb, but was given to France by the Egyptians and now used as a secular monument in a bustling area of Paris.

In Egyptian culture, obelisks were entirely religious structures, placed outside of temples and used as connections between the gods in the sky and the Egyptians on Earth.  The inscriptions on the side of the Luxor Obelisk are most definitely inscriptions associated with the temple that it once stood outside of, as well as the pharaoh that would have called for its construction.  When the Luxor Obelisk reached Paris, its existence and purpose entirely changed from a religious monument to an entirely secular monument.

The placement of the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde heightens the significance of the structure.  The square was home to the executions of some of France’s most famous leaders, most notable Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette.  Although these events occurred before the Luxor Obelisk was placed in the square, the importance of the square to French culture makes the square even more appealing than simply being the home to an Egyptian religious pillar.  In placing the Luxor Obelisk in what was once a square that a tour guide described as being so bloody oxen wouldn’t walk through it, the French certainly tried to change the connotation of Place de la Concorde.

Although the Luxor Obelisk seems out of place in the middle of Paris, it is certainly an interesting spectacle in a city that is home to countless other famous artifacts from around the world.  Not only is the obelisk a religious structure turned secular structure; it is a monument that shields the bloody history of France’s past.

Guilds: a union of the secular and religious world 

by Courtney

Guild Seals, British Museum

After reading about the guild of St. Bride’s church and coming across these guild seals, I began to wonder how the guilds and the church community could exist in harmony. But first I’ll give a brief background on the types of medieval guilds. Merchant guilds were focalized on one town or parish (“Ancient Quest-Home Page”). Eventually they became recognized by local governments, and expanded to cover trade in towns besides their towns of origin. Craft guilds, on the other hand focused on one particular good, and attempted to gain a monopoly on that good (Ancient Quest –Home Page”).

The guilds also provided work for future generations. They were usually led by Masters, who hired apprentices, and journeymen. Journeymen had no stable position, and would often go from town to town looking for work. While this expanded the medieval world, it was at the expense of journeymen. The most desirable position was of course the master. Much like the hierarchy of the feudal system, the Guild master was parallel to a lord. And similarly he often had a distinguishable seal, such as the ones depicted above.

Often the guilds were associated with a specific church. For example, the seal above was representative of the Guild of the Nativity of our Lord of Coventry. Guilds were tied to the church with a church’s sponsorship. Guilds  also created the Mystery Plays. The Mystery Plays featured devotional subjects. They often used representations of the Devil and an angel or God. These plays also poked fun at the church, with the typical satirical character: the Abbot of Unreason. While the plays sometimes featured biblical legends such as Noah’s Ark, they also featured more secular plays such as Robin Hood (“Ancient Quest-Home Page”).

To put this into a timeline, these mystery plays became most popular after the Norman Conquest, and they contributed significantly to entertainment during the Middle Ages.

“Ancient Quest – Home Page.” Ancient Quest – Official Website for Author Karen Ralls – Home

Page. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. http://www.ancientquest.com/embark/guilds.html

Church and Everyday Life

by Giuseppe

Chapel. White Tower

In a previous article about the presence of religion, I briefly mentioned the chapel in the Tower of London’s White Tower as an example of the ever present church. I did not go into detail about this chapel though, but I think it serves as a great example of the interrelation of secular and religious culture. The white tower was built as a stronghold for William the Conqueror. As we learned from the beefeaters, William the Conqueror had recently conquered England, and needed a stronghold to protect his people and to make a statement about his presence.

Walking around the tower, it is obvious that it was built as a defensive structure. The doors are all raised, and ladders (now wooden stairs) are needed to enter these tall doors. In addition, the windows are small and the staircases are narrow and can easily be defended. Even the position of the tower, up on the top of a hill, speaks of defensive measures. Walking through the inside of the tower, one can notice that it was definitely built to serve as a haven for people. There are large fireplaces to provide warmth, and large open spaces where many people would be able to fit. This makes sense. If William was under siege, he would want his people to be safe in the tower. What’s curious is the presence of a chapel on the upper floors of the tower. I would think that a defensive structure would make as much room as possible to hold the people it is supposed to protect. I wouldn’t think to waste space, that could hold more people or supplies, by inserting a chapel in the tower. I think this is a testament as to how important religion was to the medieval people. It seems to me that the secular and religious lives could not be separated. People could not think of trying to defend themselves without God’s help. Hence, they put a chapel in their defensive tower. Throughout our stay in London, we have seen this omnipresence of the church in medieval works, and I think the White Tower portrays this clearly. Religion was part of life, and could not be separated.

Aristocratic Patronage and the Church

Elizabeth Talbot and Elizabeth Tilney, Long Melford Church, Suffolk

by Alexandra

On a recent trip through Suffolk, I came across dozens of churches heavily marked by wealthy aristocratic families. One such building was the Holy Trinity in Long Melford, whose nave, instead of being filled with stained glass images of saints or scenes from Christ’s life, displays the family and friends of the church’s most powerful patron, John Clopton, who made his fortune in the wool trade. That a church would pay homage to such aristocratic figures is not unusual, and these images serve to underscore the constant permeability between the secular and sacred in the Middle Ages.

One of these windows, shown on the left, interested me particularly because I had referenced it in a paper on female friendship in the Life of St Catherine of Alexandria by Osbern Bokenham who lived and worked in the area around Long Melford. This window portrays two praying women, Elizabeth Tilney, the wife of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, and Elizabeth Talbot, the wife of John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, and the possible model for John Tenniel’s Duchess in Alice in Wonderland. Significantly, these women’s kneeling forms are surmounted by the arms of the Mowbray family, a clear symbol of secular status.

These two women form part of the thirty-two members of Clopton’s family and associates who are honored in the windows that he commissioned from a Norwich workshop during the late fifteenth century. Their collective presence creates a kind of extended secular family within a religious structure, serving to remind viewers of Clopton’s power and to urge them to keep him in their prayers. This remembrance is even further emphasized in the effigy to John Clopton’s father, William, which is further east of the windows along the north wall of the church. Each year, a plaque explains, the mayor of Long Melford offers a rose to William Clopton’s memorial, an act that bears witness to the enduring influence of the church’s secular patron and of the continued overlap between the secular world and the Church in England today.

Secular and Religious in the Canterbury Tales

by Sean

Pilgrim

The secular and religious cultures interact very strongly in the Canterbury Tales.  Almost all literature in the Middle Ages was religious based.  Christian clergy were the intellectual center of medieval time.  The majority of the educated population was clergy and their work was the most widespread of medieval literature.  The secular tales of the era were oral and passed down through generations; as most of the literate were clergy, they saw no point in spending the time to record something secular.  The aristocracy countered this by employing clerics to write tales that were inherently secular.  The chivalric romances and fabliau tales were examples of secular writing.  These tales avoid mentioning the Church or its power.  Percival only encounters a hermit, Tristan a doddering old bishop, and Gawain encounters no clergy at all.  This is in stark contrast to two hundred years later, when Chaucer includes both secular and religious figures in The Canterbury Tales.  He paints a portrait of English society at the time, and is critical of both the Church and nobility.  The tale itself is set against the religious backdrop of a pilgrimage, but in the prologue Chaucer comments on the seasonal attractions of Canterbury, not the power of the Cathedral. The pilgrimage can be interpreted as heaven, with many different flawed people struggling to reach paradise, or as a condemnation of the religious establishment.   The characters who are most deeply vested in the power of the Church, the Pardoner and the Summoner, are corrupt and greedy.  The monk and prioress, who are supposed to be ascetic, are both dressed richly and do not seem overly pious.  However, Chaucer is not wholly critical of the Church.  The second nun is truly pious and represents what a nun should be.  [1][2]


[1] Bisson, Lillian. Chaucer and the Late Medieval World. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998

[2] Barr, Helen.  “Chaucer and Religion,” Journal of Ecclesiastical Study.  Volume 62, Issue 3, 7/1/11

Excursions

Locate, document, describe, and discuss something that you found the most surprising/interesting on one of our trips.

A Slight Letdown

by Amy

Stonehenge

I enjoyed every single class trip we went on.  I thought each one was unique, and most related to our class in some way or other.  The one that seemed to be a little bit of a disappointment though was Stonehenge.  I knew that it was one of the oldest sites in England and how it got there was a mystery, but I guess I did not know how it would look up close.  As we were driving there, one of the professors gave a brief lecture on the basics of its history, but he talked the site down quite a bit, so I had a mindset of it not being that great.  Before we arrived, my preconceived idea of it was that it stood very tall and was spaced out.  I was a little bit upset to see that it was small.  I also felt rushed while observing Stonehenge because we only had about twenty minutes.  I think if my class had the opportunity to have a lecture by Professor Hafner and if we had more time, the trip would have been better.  Although we discussed it more in class after the fact, and we are reading The Crystal Cave, I am able to appreciate Stonehenge a little bit better.  According to the Monmouth article we read, the stones were brought from Africa and placed in Ireland.  One theory was that Merlin used his magic to place them on the site.  I have come to the conclusion that the mystery behind Stonehenge makes it more interesting.  I would rather not know exactly how it got there and leave it up for my imagination to decide.  Even though I was disappointed when I visited it, I feel that it was still worth seeing this unsolved mystery.

The Westminster Abbey Tour

by Courtney

westminster abbey

Most of the Westminster tour, unfortunately, went over my head, as I could not hear the guide woman well, and was constantly watching my back for fear of trampling other tourists. However, a few of the tombs that she pointed out were a bit unusual. For example, she spent great lengths discussing the memorial to Charles Darwin. She mentioned how Darwin was not originally buried in the cathedral, but in St. Mary’s churchyard. However, the Royal Society later decided to request that he be buried in the cathedral.

The tour guide mentioned that Darwin had originally attended church, but had lost faith with the loss of his daughter. I was curious to see if this was true, because she had mentioned it in such a dismissive, almost vicious manner. While this may be speculatively true,  I thought it would be easier to find the turning point in Darwin’s own words. “Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and (“Charles Darwin Quotes-Biography Online.). By the end of his voyage, he believed that he had come to the decision to abandon Christianity and “never since doubted for a single second that my second conclusion was correct.” (“Charles Darwin Quotes-Biography Online.”) He mentioned nothing about the loss of his daughter. Additionally, Darwin attacked the argument that the presence of a number of religions, including Hinduism and Judaism, that proved the existence of a God. His counter idea was “This argument would be a valid one, if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of the existence of one God; but we know this is very far from being the case.” (“Charles Darwin Quotes-Biography Online.”). In this case, the bias and ignorance of the tour guide was a bit disturbing. If nothing else, this tour taught me to never take tour guides at face value.

“Charles Darwin Quotes – Biography Online.” Biography Online | Biographies of Inspirational and Famous People. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. http://www.biographyonline.net/scientists/darwin-quotes.html

Stonehenge

by Justine

Stonehenge

The size of Stonehenge baffled me.  I had always pictured this grand image of the top of a mountain top with these huge stones in the middle of nowhere.  When we got there it was underwhelming if anything.  It was still very exciting, but underwhelming.  First off, there is a high way no more than 30 feet away from Stonehenge.  Second off, you couldn’t even walk up to Stonehenge, therefore making the actual monument look even smaller than it actually is.  Thirdly, there is a ring around it; a moving track.  This track goes in one direction, and one direction only.  This made the experience not only weird (because I had to super zoom on my camera to see the structure of Stonehenge) but very hasty.  Overall, the experience was one I will never forget but very touristy.  Of course, there had to be a “classy” gift shop located directly next to the parking lot.  All of these different aspects surprised me.  I pictured this glorious medieval monument and I got a Stonehenge highway and a miniscule sight of a bunch of important rocks.  I also realize I have spoken a lot about how disappointed I was with the site.  Clearly, it was an emotional journey that I’m still struggling to come to terms with.

Reliquary Bundles

by Alexandra

Portable Altar, Museum Catalogue

One of my favorite museum experiences during the past few weeks was our class trip to the British Museum’s special exhibition “Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe.” Set within the museum’s circular reading room, this exhibition, with its dimly lit interior and softly playing liturgical music, evokes a sacred space suitable for the relics displayed within.

Among the many spectacular pieces here is an early thirteenth-century portable altar (BM 1902,0625.1) from Hildesheim, Germany. Highly decorated around a concealed wooden core, this altar is a multi-media piece, having been made from a combination of metalwork, ivory carving and painting. The altar stone at the center is probably Purbeck marble and is surrounded by a gilt copper frame, which is engraved with symbols of the four Evangelists and saints Peter, Paul, Andrew and Laurence, who are named in inscriptions. On the right and left sides are portraits on parchment of St Bernard and Godehard. Above is an ivory panel with the crucifixion, and below a panel depicts the Virgin and Child. Inscriptions on the underside of the altar name forty saints whose relics were inside. Eighteen of these, labeled with parchment and some wrapped in textiles, have been removed and are currently displayed next to the altar. Analysis has shown that the oldest textiles are likely to date from the ninth or tenth century, whereas the most recent may date from as late as the nineteenth (“Portable Altar”). In the museum, a video of the opening of the altar and removal of the relics is playing next to the altar itself.

What interested me most in this altar was its play between the outer and the inner, the seen and the unseen. While modern viewers require visible proof of the altar’s contents and even of the method through which it was opened, medieval people, it seems, would have been satisfied with the knowledge that it contained relics without ever having viewed them. Moreover, the attentive labeling and rich textiles covering the relics that are concealed inside implies a belief in the power of these objects to operate miraculously, regardless of the viewer’s awareness of them. This altar thus underlines crucial aspects of medieval perspectives on belief, spirituality and even sight, which appear fascinatingly within an exhibition that reveals a twentieth-century take on the same issues.

Works Cited

“Portable Altar.” British Museum. British Museum, n.d. Web.  08 Aug. 2011. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_mla/p/portable_altar.aspx.

The British Museum

by Brendan

Rosetta Stone, BM

For me one of the most startling elements of our field trips was the British Museum’s refusal to acknowledge the controversy surrounding some of its more disputed acquisitions.  The Museum has been a notable target of critics who contend that museums should not be allowed to possess artifacts taken from other countries. In contrast to the British Library, whose tour guide gave a passing nod to such items, I couldn’t find any literature at the Museum that offered information from the perspective of any opposing claimants.  While our tour guide defended the British Library’s right to keep its controversial books, I appreciated his effort to at least present the other side of the issue.

One of the most famous of the British Museum’s sketchier imperial relics is also one of its most prized pieces, the 2,000-year-old Rosetta Stone. The French first found the stone in 1799 at the mouth of the Nile and yielded it to the British in 1801.  The massive stone, which helps the Museum attract millions of visitors each year, “provided a key insight into hieroglyphics because it was accompanied by the Greek translation.”  The Egyptian Government has repeatedly asked the British Museum to loan the Rosetta Stone to the Cairo Museum for a three-month period, but the UK has refused to return the artifact, arguing that the “British Museum Act of 1963 legally prevents any object from leaving its collection once it has entered it.”  The Museum has used this statute to assert its inalienable right to other items including the Elgin Marbles, Benin Bronzes, Ethiopian Tabots, Aboriginal human remains and Mold’s Golden Cape.

I am in no way an expert on the issue of museum ownership, so I cannot make any definitive value judgments on the topic.  However I do believe that the British Museum should more carefully consider the requests of countries from which many of its controversial artifacts originate.  Great Britain is no longer the domineering empire it once was, and the British Museum could benefit from acknowledging its own complicated history.

“BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Egypt Calls for Return of Rosetta Stone.” BBC News – Home. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/3084215.stm>.

  After Church, Casino Win

by Sean

Before Casino Win

My most surprising incident in London actually came after our very first trip, not the trip to Stonehenge but the one directly across High Street to St. Alban’s Church.  The day was very nice out so I decided to explore the area around Heythrop, and find some real food to go with all the cake I had eaten for Giuseppe’s birthday.  I headed for Hyde Park first, hoping I could make it before the inevitable rain fall that plagues London.  I was walking on the left side of the street, which is unusual for me because the Tube stop, Heythrop College, and my dorm/college from the last program were all on the other side of High Street.  As I passed by the colossal Connoisseur London Hotel, I noticed something I had never seen before: The Grosvenor Casino.  I am not a big gambler and had never been to a casino before, but something about the entrance seemed mythical to me.  Maybe it was the just jet-lag or dehydration in the heat, but the casino called to me.  I tried to put the casino out of my mind, knowing that I could probably not afford to go there.  However, the casino was my destiny.  That very night my friends and I ended up an eastern European club called Angel, which was directly across the street.  As we were exiting the club, I nonchalantly brought up the casino, hoping that if I did not seem overzealous my friends would agree to stop in briefly.  The brief stop became a very late night excursion.  My friends and I, including our new 65 year old Indian friend Abhay, had the entire casino to ourselves.  We were treated like kings and Abhay kept the drinks coming.   I managed to come out fifty pounds on top in blackjack.  As we were exiting, my friends depressed from losing and I exalted with my 50 pound winnings, I saw the roulette wheel.  I was feeling lucky so I placed 5 pounds on black number 9, and won 200.  Oh what a night!

All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away

by Matt

Beatles MS, BL

The Beatles exhibit at the British Library was easily the most interesting thing I saw on any of our class trips.  Although it’s a far cry from most of the historic things I saw on our trips, the contents of the Beatles exhibit struck home for me as an avid musician and music fan.

Most of the sites and trips we saw in London were of places and artifacts that used to be relevant.  The Beatles memorabilia was different from these in that it was still very much alive and thriving today.  Manuscripts of songs like “Yesterday” and “Help” are primary sources of songs that are frequently used in movies, television shows, and remakes by other artists.  To see where these songs were first derived from their writer’s minds whether it is in the back of a taxicab, or sitting in a coffee shop, made these artists seem more human than I have ever experienced them before.

The story of John Lennon writing “Help” on the back of a sheet of directions seemed to fit perfectly with how I always perceived the Beatles.  Although they may have evolved into something far more than a rock band, at the root of their success are regular musicians that were inspired and moved like anyone else trying to write a song.  To see John Lennon’s handwriting, along with his doodles, made him seem more mundane than his martyr-like reputation of today would insinuate.

Because The Beatles have become such a meaningful part of popular culture over the past fifty years, I have certainly been exposed to countless pieces of art and media influenced by them.  To see the actual pen and pad where this influence began was a moving experience.

Locate, document, describe, and discuss an artifact and its location.

St. Genevieve’s Relics

by Amy

St Genevieve's Reliquary, Paris

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take a trip to Paris this past weekend.  After seeing many of the touristy sites like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumph, it was nice to see some things that I was not as familiar with beforehand.  One thing that I saw was the Pantheon, which was originally meant to hold the relics of St. Genevieve, but now serves as a secular mausoleum.  Near the Pantheon is the church of St. Genevieve, holding part of her remains.

St. Genevieve lived from about 419-512 CE.  She grew up as a peasant from Nanterre, which is right outside of Paris.  Genevieve was very devoted to charity work and lived a simple lifestyle.  She did not eat very much, but took in communion frequently.  She prayed and encouraged Attila and the Huns to not attack, and they ended up leaving Paris without harming it.  Genevieve assisted in the start of a church building, but died shortly after plans started.  Her relics were fully preserved in St. Genevieve’s Church, but most of it was destroyed by a mob. The Pantheon was built nearby to hold her remains, but that did not work out, and her remains are back in the church (New Advent).

St. Genevieve’s relics in the church are an example of an object relating to its location.  I think that it is appropriate for her remains to be on display in the church because she is the patron saint of Paris.  She is an important part of the Catholic community there, and it is special for her relics to be on display in the church.

“St. Genevieve.” New Advent. Kevin Knight, 2009. 9 August 2011. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06413f.htm.

Shrines

by Sean

Pilgrim

The relationship between artifacts and their location is most profoundly seen in the relics of great saints.  The most famous sites attracted thousands of pilgrims, and therefore all the benefits and problems that result.  The three most famous pilgrimages in the Middle Ages were to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, Old Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, and Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain.  The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela became particularly popular to pilgrims in Western Europe during the Middle Ages because it was the easiest and cheapest to reach.  Saint James supposed burial in Northwestern Spain completely transformed the area and route to reach it.  Pilgrims began coming in large numbers during the 10th century, this in turn made Santiago de Compostela a wealthier town.  The bishop was able to begin a huge Romanesque cathedral in 1075, which brought even more pilgrims.  The Codex Calixtinus, a guidebook for pilgrims traveling the Way of Saint James, established four definitive routes from France and made the pilgrimage even more famous.

The Way of Saint James became one of the most well traveled routes in Western Europe.  Thousands pilgrims, mostly from France, would travel to Spain and spend money along the way, making it extremely profitable.  Shrines and cathedrals sprung up along the route to encourage the pilgrims to stop and spend money.  Each major stop became associated with some miracle or saint, most of which deal directly with pilgrims.  For example, the Codex tells of a chaste young pilgrim who after rejecting a girl’s sexual advances, she has him framed and hung.  He is then miraculously brought back to life by Saint Domonic de la Calzada, who has a cathedral dedicated to him on the route.  However, this same tale supposedly happened in many other stops and is attributed to various saints.  Hospices were built to house and feed pilgrims, while they were protected by both French and Spanish royal decree.  In Santiago, the pilgrims would buy Galician Scallop Shells, or Saint James’s Shells, to prove they completed the pilgrimage and they would touch the pillar at the cathedral entrance.  So many pilgrims have now touched the pillar a groove has been worn into it.[1]

The Black Prince at Canterbury Cathedral

by Brendan

The Black Prince's Shrine, Canterbury

More often than not, the physical location of an artifact offers bountiful insights into the object itself.  In the case of human burial, the deceased’s final resting place is often especially significant as it usually reflects who that person was and how their legacy was shaped posthumously.

Prince Edward of Woodstock, popularly known as the Black Prince, is among those buried at Canterbury Cathedral.  Born in 1330 in Oxfordshire, Edward was the eldest son of King Edward III and was noted as an exceptional military leader, gaining widespread popularity with his victories over the French at Crecy and Politiers.  Prince Edward’s burial at Canterbury came followed a lifetime of devotion to the church.  Throughout his life the Black Prince remained extremely pious and made generous contributions to Canterbury Cathedral, which at the time was England’s preeminent religious destination.  His bond with the church remained consistent despite his time consuming role as a military commander.  For example, according to one contemporary account, the Black Prince reportedly prayed with John the Good at the cathedral after capturing the king of France.

In his final display of allegiance to Canterbury Cathedral, Edward requested to be buried in its crypt.  The cathedral reciprocated the prince’s request, and prepared a chapel in the crypt as a chantry for him and his wife.  However, the church ultimately overruled its plan after Edward’s death in 1376 and instead buried him on the south side of St Thomas Becket’s shrine.  Edward’s tomb, though, was erected in accordance with his will, and is still available for public viewing today.  It consists of a bronze effigy of the prince beneath his knightly equipment that hangs above.

The central location of Prince Edward’s tomb in Canterbury Cathedral is a reflection of the strong mutual relationship he shared with the church throughout his life.  The cathedral’s decision to bury Edward next to St Thomas’ shrine is hugely indicative of the interrelation between his tomb and its placement within the church.  In a way, its location beside Becket’s shrine elevates the prince to almost saint-like status and, minimally, signals the cathedral’s tremendous gratitude for the prince’s lifelong patronage and generous support.

“The Black Prince: Edward, Prince of Wales.” Famous Welsh. Web. 10 Aug. 2011. <http://www.famouswelsh.com/13_Articles/Black_Prince/Black_Prince.shtml>.

Canterbury’s Windows

by Justine


Corona Stained Glass, Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral is home to some of the most fascinating glass windows in the World.  The eight Becket Miracle Windows are placed around the Trinity Chapel.  The windows are placed specifically where St. Thomas Becket’s shrine once was.  This was his parish.  His death actually took place in one of the corridors in which he was praying in.  The death of St. Thomas took place around 1170 and the windows were created/installed from about 1180 to 1220 AD.  Becket’s windows describe the period just after the saint’s death.  They tell stories of pilgrimages, healing stories, and miracles conducted by St.  Thomas.  Stained glass was a very important part of the Middle Ages.  Light was the first act of God upon this world.  Therefore stained glass represents the manifestation of God, not only in this world, but in his sanctum; the church.  These images were brought to life by light or “God’s Presence.”  It is also true to say that during the Middle Ages, very few people were able to read and write.  These glass windows were made to emphasize St. Thomas and glorified him even more than just his actions or his infamous death. Another interesting aspect may be the fact that the Becket Windows derive from no story.  In fact, Brother William of Canterbury and Prior Benedict in 1180 recorded many of St. Becket’s stories and while some of the windows can account for their stories, many do not.  This makes the Becket windows even more marvelous due to the fact they are their own story and not derived from any source of text.

“I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay their foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.”

Isaiah 54:11-12

Canterbury Cathedral – Stained Glass.” Canterbury Cathedral – Home. Dean of Canterbury Cathedral. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. <http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/history/stained-glass.html

Cosmati Pavements at Westminster Abbey

by Alexandra

The Cosmati pavement at Westminster Abbey, completed in 1268, is one of the most splendid of its kind and is rendered even more significant by its placement in front of the high altar at Westminster Abbey, a structure founded by Edward the Confessor and rebuilt by Henry III starting in 1245.

Named after the family of craftsmen who specialized in it, Cosmati is a technique of mosaic work that consists of large, specially-cut pieces of tile or stone, rather than the older method of using small squares of equal size. The Westminster pavement, laid by workmen brought from Rome, has an abstract design and is made up of stones of different colors, shapes and sizes. The materials include onyx, purple porphyry, green serpentine and yellow limestone, as well as colored glass and purbeck marble. The last two of these are particularly English innovations, since Italian floors typically used white marble and did not employ glass (“Cosmati Pavement”). Also on the pavement are several damaged inscriptions in brass referring to the end of the world and mentioning Henry III and Abbot Richard de Ware. These words are thought to have been added after the king’s death.

This floor’s location is integral to its meaning; at the site where English monarchs have been crowned since the thirteenth century, the pavement appropriately fuses Roman and English references. On the one hand, the very technique of mosaic, along with the precious marbles imported from Rome, clearly point to an imperial artistic tradition. The use of such materials and technique enacts a translatio imperii, inserting English monarchs within a Roman imperial line. At the same time, the unique innovations of purbeck marble and glass, for instance, adapt the power of the past for a particularly English present. Thus, within a building envisioned by Henry III to make his unique mark, this pavement generates a message of new authority cemented within past glory.

Works Cited

“Cosmati Pavement.” Westminster Abbey. The Dean and Chapter of Westminster, 2011. Web. 04 Aug. 2011. <http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/art/cosmati-pavement&gt;.

St. Etienne-du-Mont 

 by Courtney

St. Etienne du Mont

I came across St. Etienne-du-Mont, because of its location near the Pantheon. It was founded as a shrine for St. Genevieve. St Genevieve is particularly popular among the French. As a child, she listened to St. Germain preach against Pelagianism. St. Germain picked her out of the crowd and told her to continue on her virtuous path. She converted to Christianity, and spent most of her time in prayer or doing acts of charity. St. Genevieve was criticized for speaking about false visions. However, she is best known for convincing Attila the Hun not to ransack Paris. St. Genevieve was buried in this church just as it was being completed. Because a number of miracles occurred in the church after she died, St. Etienne de Mont was named after her       .

This building was started in 1492, and construction on the building continued into the 1800’s. However, it contains a number of medieval aspects including a relic of St. Genevieve. However her tomb, which was originally in the church, was destroyed along with most of the other relics in 1783. Much like Oliver Cromwell’s revolution in England, which destroyed pieces of churches such as Winchester cathedral, the French Revolution did a massive amount of damage to Cathedrals and their possessions(“CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Genevieve”).

The church itself is also built on ruins of an abbey created by Clovis. Clovis was a Frankish king in the middle 600’s who had converted to Christianity. His remains are buried in the church today. A few fragments from the abbey remains, but most of it had been destroyed during the revolution of 1783 (CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Clovis).

St. Etienne du mont struck my eye because of its unusual architecture, especially its incorporation of gothic and later centuries, as well as its location next to the Pantheon.

“CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Clovis.” NEW ADVENT: Home. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04070a.htm

“CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Genevieve.” NEW ADVENT: Home. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06413f.htm

Getting as Close as You Can

by Giuseppe

St Swithun's Tomb

After visiting several major cathedrals in England, it is obvious that location is an extremely important aspect of these churches. Of particular importance is the location compared to a saint’s relics. The closer one could be to these relics, the better it was for them. People believed that by getting as close as possible, and usually touching these relics, there was apparently a better chance of getting healed than just walking by and looking at them.

One example of this is the Canterbury Tales. It seems that people could not just ask for God’s forgiveness and healing from their homes or at their own local church. People would make the pilgrimage to Canterbury in order to get closer to a famous saint’s relics. To a medieval pilgrim, getting closer to a relic must have meant getting closer to God.

This concept of location can be seen again in the picture above. People would flock to Winchester Cathedral to pay a visit to St. Swithun. As seen in the picture, this is an extreme example of how much location matters. Not only would people visit the church in order to pray for forgiveness and healing, people would climb into the little hole in the wall so that they could actually touch St. Swithun’s coffin. As our tour guide said, people would crawl into that hole and hug the coffin, hoping to be blessed and healed. In addition, people would generally leave a small item that related to their ailment. In this case, people are getting as close to the relic as is physically possible, and also leaving something with the relic, so that they could have something to continually represent them there at the church. It is apparent that people during the middle ages were obsessed with being as close to God, through a saint, as is possible.

Copycat Arch

by Matt

L'Arc de Triumph

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris is a stunning artifact whose location makes the sight the epic spectacle that it is.  The Arch of Titus in Rome provides the template for the Parisian arch, which was built to commemorate victory in the French Revolution, as well as the Napoleonic Wars.  The Arc’s location at the end of Champs-Elysees, opposite the imposing obelisk makes this triumphant edifice the spirit conjuring spectacle it was intended to be.  What made this arch so interesting to me was that it immediately reminded me of the Roman arc that I had seen a few years prior.

Romans built arches to provide their victorious troops with an honorary march back to Rome, where crowds would gather to view the troops.  As with the Roman model, the Arc de Triomphe was the scene of some of the most famous photographs following the allied troops victory in World War II.  The returning French troops were met by thousands of emotional and relieved Parisians whose city had been retaken by their native troops.  The photographs of the thousands of people with the Arc, as well as the Obelisk in view, make the Arc truly a major sight in Paris.

Had the Arc de Triomphe been built in a different location, I don’t believe its reverence would be the same as it is today.  Paris is certainly a city that offers quite a few grand views of streets with famous structures on opposite ends, and so it is only fitting that a symbol of military strength be built in an important location.  When standing beneath the Arc, it seems as if all of Paris lay out in front of you.  The Eifel tower is present on one side, and the tops of brilliant buildings like the Church of Madeleine are among the structures in the distance.  The ideal location of the Arc undoubtedly contributes to the symbolism and grandeur of the creation

 Locate, document, describe, and discuss an example of the commercialization of the Middle Ages.

Toy Knight

by Amy

Toy Knight

Many people do not realize how the Middle Ages have an impact on our present day culture and commercialization.  Movies such as Braveheart and A Knight’s Tale, and books like The Lord of the Rings portray medieval kings, knights and their lifestyles.  There are even restaurants and entertainment shows like Medieval Times that try to bring concepts of jousting and medieval food to present day audience.  People of the 21st century are fascinated with how this society lived, and continue to carry on its traditions through pop culture.

I was thrilled to go to Canterbury with my class because we were reading Chaucer’s tales.  As my class and I were walking down the streets leading to the cathedral, I noticed various buildings remaining from the Middle Ages amongst the modern shops.  It was memorable for me to visit the cathedral, but also a good way to experience medieval heritage today.  I felt like we made our own pilgrimage to the cathedral, even though we took the train as opposed to walking.   We viewed the nave, crypt, and some chapels within the cathedral, but some highlights included Thomas Beckett’s murder sight and the spot where his shrine was on display.  The architecture within the cathedral was beautiful and displayed a sample from several centuries.

In addition to the observation of this sacred place, the cathedral had a gift shop filled with many souvenirs.  There were pilgrimage badges, rosaries, and prayer cards, but the one that struck me as interesting was a toy statue of a knight.  I did not understand why they sold some of the objects in the store like this toy knight, but it occurred to me that these places are advertising the Middle Ages.  Kids like hearing stories about knight in armor or castles just as much as adults enjoy.  The toy knight, at first seemed to be an unusual souvenir at the cathedral, but ended up being a cool trinket representing medieval ancestry for kids today.

Souvenirs

by Justine

This may be the easiest topics of all the ones we have discussed so far.  Upon visiting London, Paris, or Scotland (and I’m sure any other touristy area) you will notice that more than the actual number of artifacts you have seen are an obscene number of gift shops.  Upon visiting the British Museum, I decided to take a snap shot of some of the artifact replicas they were offering.  Here we have Medieval decorated pencil holders, medieval artwork coasters, medieval replica plates, medieval picture frames, medieval journals, and my personal favorite, medieval shot glasses.  You may be wondering why a store would sell such silly replicas?  It is because everyone buys these items; including me and Professor Hafner.  We are both proud owners of St. Thomas pilgrimage badges from Canterbury.  I have also bought a number of bracelets, a journal with a pretty cover, and an Alice in Wonderland poster.  One thing that each gift shop has in common is the ability to make you think you need each item when in reality you will walk out of the store realizing that chances are you will never use this item for a reputable cause.  Some items may have their purpose, but in reality, when will a medieval coaster ever work in a contemporary decorated room?  Commercialization is a thriving business endeavor, catering to people ogling over artifacts they will never be able to own.  The next best thing, clearly, is a shot glass with Tristan’s face on it.

The commercialization of the Middle Ages

by Brendan

Canterbury Souvenirs

As the commercialization of the Middle Ages seemingly became more conspicuous with every site we toured, I was surprised to discover that the practice of selling medieval products actually coincided with the period itself. The gift shop at Canterbury Cathedral stocks a wide range of medieval souvenirs, many of which attempt to imitate the wares that actual pilgrims purchased to commemorate their journey.  Although the goods themselves were mostly inexpensive and mass produced, they were prized commodities among religious communities because they represented a unique narrative that only pilgrims to Canterbury could claim as their own.  For example, the original pilgrims to the shrine of St Thomas Becket “bought pewter tokens as a sign of pilgrimage.”  The pilgrims then migrated to the center of old London Bridge, where a chapel dedicated to St Thomas had been erected.  It was here that they proceeded to toss their tiny mementos into the River Thames as a gesture of reverence.  The focus was not on the disposable tokens themselves, but rather on the accomplishment they represented.

Today the Canterbury Cathedral shop offers replicas of these and many other duplications of medieval pilgrimage badges.  One of the more interesting items I noticed was the Becket lapel pin, a replica of the14th century pewter bust of St Thomas that pilgrims retained to prove they completed the arduous trip.  Other inexpensive tokens that pilgrims obtained to validate their pilgrimage included tokens depicting Becket’s exile, death and shrine, as well as gold plated engravings of the cathedral itself.  All of these articles provide contemporary evidence of the Canterbury Cathedral’s attempts to market the pilgrimage experience in the Middle Ages.  These souvenirs remain on sale today for largely the same purposes: to generate additional revenue for the cathedral, as well as to advertise the experience to prospective visitors to Canterbury.

Cathedral Gifts, Art, Church Art, Pictures, Souvenirs from Canterbury Cathedral Online Gift Shop. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. <https://www.cathedral-enterprises.co.uk/index.asp>.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: pilgrim badges for sale

by Alexandra

Among the many, many souvenirs in Canterbury Cathedral’s gift shop are badges that imitate the leaden ones once purchased by medieval pilgrims. The badge shown on the left is cast in lead-free pewter and duplicates a fourteenth-century depiction of the standing St Thomas Becket, similar to one which our class recently saw on display at the British Museum. While it is tempting to decry commercialization as a tasteless modern phenomenon that mars the sacrosanct interiors of churches, this pilgrim badge suggests otherwise.

As Brian Spencer notes, Canterbury was at the forefront of the pilgrim souvenir industry, which boomed in the last quarter of the twelfth century (13). Souvenirs like this leaden badge allowed pilgrims to take away inexpensive portraits of Becket as proof of their journeys. These badges and objects like ampullae, miniature flasks of silver and pottery made to contain Becket’s blood, offer evidence of an important commercial industry operating in the shop just outside the Canterbury Cathedral precinct, which is mentioned in an anonymous continuation of The Canterbury Tales (Spencer 13).

In many ways, the function of the medieval badges and their modern equivalents are the same; both serve(d) to provide additional funds for the cathedral, to publicize Canterbury and to raise their bearer’s prestige. Similar to medieval people who disapproved of pilgrim signs as falsely easing their wearer’s conscience (Spencer 13), modern skeptics critique the tourism industry and the ‘tacky’ objects that it produces. For me, one of the crucial functions of this modern pilgrim badge on sale at Canterbury is to complicate notions of the Middle Ages as a purely spiritual era, removed from modern commercialization; rather, this badge suggests a continuum between medieval ‘tourism’ practices and those of today.

Works Cited

Spencer, Brian. Pilgrim Souvenirs and Secular Badges. London: Boydell Press, 2010.

Thoughts on souvenirs from Canterbury Cathedral

by Courtney

Canterbury Souvenirs

Diptychs became popularized during the medieval period. Large diptychs were used to cover the altar. There were also smaller versions for personal use. These diptychs can be defined as medieval for a number of reasons. Primarily, the subject isn’t set in a background, but instead seems to exist in some unknown space. Additionally, the use of halos is specific to medieval art. Finally, the child Jesus has features that make him look more like a shrunken adult than like an actual baby. During later periods, depictions of Jesus as a child began to become more and more realistic.

This isn’t the only version of the medieval saint image that is marketed. Medals of saints, paintings, and scapulars are sold at a number of churches. During the Medieval period, using saints to market was at its peak. The fourth Lateran council standardized a program which insisted that all followers go on a pilgrimage to certain churches. Followers were encouraged to make a donation at all of the churches that they visited. Additionally, to see or touch many of the relics, a pilgrim would have to pay a small fee.

Some of these practices still continue. Only today, it comes in the form of a man selling toast online because it looks as though the Virgin Mary is depicted on it. Perhaps even more obviously, many churches still charge for entry: especially the touristy churches. These churches include St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Temple Church. Many of the churches also have gift shops including Sacre Coeur, and Winchester Cathedral. Sacre Coeur was by far the worst instance I’ve seen of people taking advantage of tourists visiting a church. Many of the locals would attempt to sell objects to the people walking up the path to the church aggressively by tying bracelets on the visitors and then making them pay for it.

Tolkien’s Success

by Matt

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a prime example of indirect commercialization of the Middle Ages.  Tolkien was a medieval scholar in the early 20th century, and his works are undoubtedly influenced by many chivalric tales of knights and heroes in the Middle Ages.  His stories reflect attributes of noble knights that were seen in stories such as Tristan and Perceval’s tale.

One of Tolkien’s characters that is entirely parallel to a medieval hero is Aragorn.  Aragorn, as with King Arthur, is the rightful heir of a sword that makes him the rightful heir to the throne of his kingdom.  As with Arthur, Aragorn’s identity as king is hidden and his ascension to the throne is a gradual but eventful process.

Building on many of the themes seen in medieval literature on knights and battles, Tolkien is able to create an entire world in which these events can escape the mythology of medieval legends, and exist in their own realm.  Although Tolkien’s works have seen a massive amount of success over the years, they are still entirely grounded in Tolkien’s extensive knowledge of medieval culture.

The success of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings has created an entirely new generation of Lord of the Rings fans.  As an avid fan myself, I was delighted to read the stories of Arthur, Perceval, and Tristan and truly see where Tolkien derived much of his inspiration.  Countless characters in each of the stories reflect characters Tolkien creates, as well as the perception of warriors and knights as brave and noble heroes.

The success of Tolkien’s works insinuates that not much has changed in regard to public perception of knights and heroic warriors.  Tolkien’s stories are by no means much different than any Arthurian legend would have been hundreds of years ago.  For his story to still be so popular and relevant reveals that people are still very much interested and fascinated with stories similar to those of the Middle Ages.

Dreams of Being A Knight

by Giuseppe

Knight Costume

The theme of medieval times definitely has a great commercial potential. What little boy doesn’t wish he was a knight, fighting off enemies and slaying dragons, and what little girl doesn’t wish she was a princess, living in a castle and dressing in the finest clothes and jewels everyday. After reading several Arthurian romances, I still wish I could be a knight, living the life of chivalry, with tons of money and winning the heart of a princess. What guy doesn’t wish that was his life?

The Louvre has picked up on this view of the middle ages. Walking through their gift shop, I saw this mock suit of armor for little children. The Louvre is selling kids the opportunity to don their suit of armor, and pretend that they’re living the lives of Arthurs’s knights. In Medieval times, armor was extremely expensive. Only aristocrats had the money to buy armor and the time to train to become a knight. Knights had to continually take part in tournaments in order to earn winnings and get a shot at winning the heart of a princess. As we discussed in class, most of these knights were hoping to marry into a family that had no male heir, therefore, inheriting that kingdom and its family’s finances. It seems people have forgotten this aspect of knighthood nowadays. As I saw in the Louvre, modern commercialism gives any kid the chance to dress up and play the part of a knight. Mock armor like the one pictured don’t cost much, especially compared to what real armor would have cost. This gives people the chance to experience knighthood in their own way. However, it strongly downplays the real life experience of what being a knight was like. Little kids get to experience the excitement and glamour of being a knight in shinning armor, without dealing with the real life horrors and life threatening obstacles a real knight would deal with. I think that’s a pretty good trade off.

  Old Tom Parr

by Sean

Parr Life Pills

Old Tom Parr miraculously lived until age 152, even more miraculously his last will and testament was discovered in 1841 over 200 years after his death.  In this last will and testament, Parr included the secret to his longevity, Parr’s Life Pills for Health, Strength, and Beauty.  These all herbal pills were released along with a new mostly fictitious account of Parr’s life, The Extraordinary Life and Times of Thomas Parr.  The biography’s main purpose was to promote Parr’s Life Pills.[1]  Old Tom Parr was quite a folk legend in England by the Victorian Age.  Parr’s Pills are an extraordinary example of the power of advertising in Victorian England and capitalizing on the medieval past.   Hebert Ingram revolutionized news in the mid-1800s.  He is a father of pictorial journalism and the founder of the Illustrated London News which still runs today.  However, he did not have the money to start in the news agent business.  He got this money by purchasing Parr’s Life Pills and publishing first hand testaments of their success.   For example an advertisement from the first volume (ever!) of The Economist :

WONDERFUL CURE!–Read the following interesting facts, communicated by Mr Brown, bookseller, Gainsborough:–

“To Messrs T. Roberts and Co. Crane court, Fleet street, London, Proprietors of Parr’s Life Pills.

“Gentlemen, “West Stockwith, Aug. 11, 1843.

“I, James Jackson Easton, do hereby testify, that, by taking your excellent Parr’s Life Pills, I have derived greater benefit than in using all the other medicines I have tried since 1841; about which time I was attacked with severe illness, accompanied with excruciating pain and trembling, with large rupture. For the last six months I have had no return of this illness, nor the least appearance of the last-mentioned symptom. Through the mercy of God, I do at present feel perfectly recovered from it. I still continue the occasional use of your excellent Pills.–I am gentlemen, respectfully yours,

J.J. EASTON.”

Sold by all respectable medicine venders, in boxes at 1s. 1-1/2d. 2s. 9d. and 11s.–See the words “Parr’s Life Pills,” in white letters on a red ground, engraved on the Government stamp.[2]


[1] Keith Thomas, ‘Parr, Thomas (d. 1635)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/21403, accessed 9 Aug 2011]

Text and Image

Locate, document, describe, and discuss an example of the interrelation between text and image.

The Tristan and Isolde quilt 

by Courtney

Tristan and Isolde Quilt, V&A

The Tristan and Isolde quilt features the scene where Morold attempts to tell the king that Tristan and Isolde are seeing one another. The depiction of Tristan and Isolde on Medieval mediums, however, is not unique. It was the subject of tapestries, manuscript illuminations, and love chests.

But the quilt as a form of medieval art struck me as particularly unusual. Quilting became popular in Europe after exposure to eastern quilting during the crusades (“History of Medieval and Renaissance Quilting).  Medieval quilts featured other romantic poetry and tales as well. For example, there is also a surviving quilt illustrating Perzival (“History of Medieval and Renaissance Quilting”).

While these quilts could have served a practical purpose it is more likely that they were used as wall hangings. (“History of Medieval and Renaissance Quilting”). This quilt, like other forms of medieval art, had been sponsored by a wealthy family. The use of the quilt as a decoration ties back into the idea of the luxuries that the aristocrats could afford.  In addition, the use of the quilt as a wall hanging mimics the function of a tapestry.

Tapestries also feature love poetry and chivalric tales, besides depicting every day scenes of aristocratic life. Additionally, many tapestries depicted Greek and Roman myths or religious scenes. Perhaps the most well-known tapestries are the unicorn tapestries which feature symbolic representations of the Passion and death of Jesus.

One thing to keep in mind is the idea that the family receiving and giving this gift would be familiarized with the Tristan and Isolde story. This says a lot about the popularity of the tale, especially considering that the family receiving this gift was Italian.  The quilt illustrates how Italy was instrumental in sponsoring a number of artistic and literary ventures during the Medieval Period and beyond.

“History of Medieval & Renaissance Quilting.” Needlework & Quilt History – Making

Reproduction Quilts. Web. 09 Aug. 2011.

http://www.historyofquilts.com/precolonial.html

Code of Laws

by Matt

Law Code

The Law Code of Hammurabi, as seen on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, is a historic example of the start of legal society.  The pillar in which these laws are etched also happens to contain important sculpting at the top of the creation.  This combination of incredibly important text and equally significant carvings make Hammurabi’s Code even more significant than what it stands for.

This code is believed to be the first written declaration of laws over a land.  Hammurabi was the King of Babylon, and his code of laws was essentially a call for ‘eye for an eye” justice, in which the punishment for a crime would mirror the level of the crime.  What makes this set of laws so surreal is that it not only represents an important legal feat, but also an important writing visual as well.

Aside from being one of the most famous historical legal artifacts, the code is also a stunning visual as well.  Placed in the center of the city of Babylon, the stone stood for all members of society to see.  Not only would it have been the framework for what would have become their primitive legal system, it would also have been a stunning feat of craftsmanship and literature.  Excerpts from the stone also provide insight into how the people of Babylon viewed their own society.  The scene at the top of the pillar, a king (assumed to be Hammurabi) handing a scroll to a servant would have been Hammurabi’s way of directly including himself in this primary source of laws.  The combination of writing and art on such an exceptionally famous piece of history provide insight into more than one aspect of Babylonian culture.

Text and Image: Bestiary/ Book of Kells

by Sean

Bestiary

The images in a book were often just as or more important than the text itself in medieval times.  The vast majority of people in the Middle Ages could not read, including most of the nobility.  The nobility were the only ones who could afford the expensive process of creating a book.  Books were hand written on vellum which was very expensive and required years of work to write.  Only an aristocrat or powerful church figure could afford to keep a clerk in residence to create the book or pay a monastery enough to do it for him.  Having the expensive books was a sign of status, but no aristocrat would want a bunch of letters that most of his peers could not read.  Texts created for the nobility would have huge elaborate illuminated drawings.  The drawings would signify the wealth and importance of the manuscript, and often tell a tale to supplement the text.  For example, medieval bestiaries would have an elaborate image to accompany the text.  The image was not meant to be a factual representation of the creature, but to elaborate on the mythical lore.  Elephants were believed to lack knee joints and be mortal enemies with dragons, so they were drawn with unnaturally straight legs stomping on a serpent.[1]   Illuminated manuscripts were also created for monasteries to demonstrate their wealth and importance, but not for practical use.  The Book of Kells, Ireland’s most famous treasure, was kept on the high altar of the church in the Abbey of Kells and taken off only for readings of the gospel.  However, it is very likely the gospel would have been recited from memory making the book purely symbolic.  When the book was stolen, it was stolen from the sacristy and not the library, meaning it was seen as a part of Mass and not truly a book to be read. [2]

Text and images on the Bayeux Tapestry

by Brendan

Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry utilizes both written text and visual imagery to present in rich detail the story of the Norman conquest of England.  Measuring over 230 feet long, the tapestry features hundreds of powerful visualizations divided into scenes depicting a particular event.  The two protagonists of the tapestry are Harold Godwinson, the recently crowned Ango-Saxon King of England, and William the Conqueror, leader of the Normans.  The tapestry begins as early as 1064 and finally culminates with the decisive Norman victory at the Battle of Hastings.  Because history is written by the victors, scholars have acknowledged that the tapestry may have somewhat distorted the historical accuracy of the story for political propaganda purposes.  Nevertheless, it is highly valued as a unique visual documentation of the events of 1064-1066 as well as of medieval artifacts such as arms and apparel.

The Bayeux Tapestry would have most likely been displayed in a church, where it was readily available for public view.  The vast majority of the population was illiterate when the tapestry was commissioned.  The tapestry’s illustrations were therefore momentous in telling the story of the conquest of England from, of course, the perspective of the Norman victors.  Its individual panels form a linear sequence of events, which was crucial in enabling illiterate viewers to “read” the entire story, beginning with the events leading up to the conquest to the invasion itself. Although most of its spectators lacked literacy and therefore relied solely upon the illustrations, the entire Bayeux Tapestry is annotated with Latin text in accordance with the scene represented in the panel below.  In the description of Harold’s oath to William, for example, the Latin inscription reads, “Where Harold took an oath to Duke William.”  Although the accompanying text in this panel offers nothing particularly profound, it nevertheless enriches the experience of more educated viewers by providing a clear written narrative to supplement the tapestry’s wonderful imagery.

“Invasion of England, 1066.” EyeWitness to History – History through the Eyes of Those Who Lived It. Web. 10 Aug. 2011. <http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/bayeux.htm>.

An Example for the Interrelation between Text and Image

by Justine

Text & Image

Religion was built on the basis of the interrelation between text and image.  The fact of the matter is throughout the history of mankind religion was spread either by the word of the gospel or words sparked by images on a cave wall.  The basis for every religion in the common day and age is formed by the power of text.  The power to study a text and to provide with rules to justify everyday living.  Without the use of an image those that were incapable of reading would have no way to spread and/or practice religion.  Everyone needs something to believe in and images provided a self explanatory vice for that.  Here we see a priest reading off of the scripture.  His position is vital to the faith of all his citizens.  What he reads will be the basis for people’s lives.  Without the interrelation between text and image there would be no source to spread the holy word.  This picture is painted on a wall of a Canterbury crypt.  I was lucky enough to be able to take it without anyone noticing.  The reason why this is painted on the wall of a crypt is to commemorate the fact that priests were not given the power to decipher their religion, it was taken from a manuscript.  A manuscript made by a higher power; not by the person/priest directly. 

 

“The Middle Ages: Image, Text, Performance.” Medievalists.net. Theme Builder. Web. 09 Aug. 2011. <http://www.medievalists.net/2011/01/11/the-dance-of-death-in-the-middle-ages-image-text-performance/>.

In the Beginning was the Word…

by Alexandra

On our tour of the British Library, we saw the Lindisfarne Gospels (BL Cotton MS Nero D.iv), which our guide described in hyperbolic terms as the only manuscript that cannot be ordered in the reading rooms. Whether or not this is the case, the Lindisfarne Gospels, made in the late seventh century and used at Lindisfarne Priory, the religious community that housed the shrine of St Cuthbert, is indeed one of the library’s most prized possessions. Some of its pages (the opening evangelist portrait page, the carpet page and the incipit for each gospel), which may be viewed online at the British Library website, are highly decorated with pictorial designs that allow the manuscript to straddle the border between image and text.

The page (f. 211r) shown on the left is the incipit of the Gospel of John, containing the famous opening line “In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum” [In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God]. Somewhat ironically, this page derives much of its energy from images. The first three letters, filled with elaborate interlace and zoomorphic designs, form a frame on the left side of the page that is completed with interlace borders on the right. The stem of the large letter p juts down into the center of the page, directing the eye in ways that run counter to the left-right movement of the script. The different colors filling the rest of the letters, some of which are also filled with interlace, complete the dynamic movement of this imagetext. The incredible visual power of this page, whose content asserts the enduring presence of the word, evokes the strong pictorial quality of the medieval written page.

In a time when the majority of a congregation would have been illiterate, the clergy’s possession of books would have signaled their unique control over the word; at the same time, if displayed in a church, the visual elements of pages such as this one would have offered the laity a window into the spiritual texts that were otherwise inaccessible to them.

Tristan and Isolde

by Giuseppe

Tristan & Isolde Casket

The relationship between text and image in the medieval period was extremely important. Looking at manuscripts from this time period, one can see that the texts are decorated with great illuminations and pictures. Churches have great stained glass windows, along with statues and huge paintings that portray different stories. Besides the aristocracy and clergy, very few people could read or write in the middle ages. Therefore, by providing images that could explain the texts, the illiterate majority of the population could understand the stories that were being presented. This was important in a biblical sense. For example, since many people could not read the bible, they relied on images in stained glass windows that would portray the scenes from the Bible, allowing the people to learn the important stories and lessons of the Bible. This works in a secular sense as well. One example of this can be seen in the decorations of the pictured box. The British Museum states that this box’s lid is decorated with a picture of Tristan and Isolde in bed together after drinking the love potion.

Since the story of Tristan and Isolde was such a popular story, many people would have already heard the story in some form. By decorating this chest with the scene of the two laying together after drinking the love potion, the artist is calling to mind the main point of the story. The artist obviously could not put every scene from the story on the box, so he put one of the most important ones. This would call to mind the story, allowing the viewer to enjoy the story again. This is important because, since many people could not read or write, they relied on images like this to relay the general idea of a story, and allow them to enjoy these stories over again without having to sit down and read a copy of the story.

The relationship between text and image in the medieval period was extremely important. Looking at manuscripts from this time period, one can see that the texts are decorated with great illuminations and pictures. Churches have great stained glass windows, along with statues and huge paintings that portray different stories. Besides the aristocracy and clergy, very few people could read or write in the middle ages. Therefore, by providing images that could explain the texts, the illiterate majority of the population could understand the stories that were being presented. This was important in a biblical sense. For example, since many people could not read the bible, they relied on images in stained glass windows that would portray the scenes from the Bible, allowing the people to learn the important stories and lessons of the Bible. This works in a secular sense as well. One example of this can be seen in the decorations of the pictured box. The British Museum states that this box’s lid is decorated with a picture of Tristan and Isolde in bed together after drinking the love potion.

Since the story of Tristan and Isolde was such a popular story, many people would have already heard the story in some form. By decorating this chest with the scene of the two laying together after drinking the love potion, the artist is calling to mind the main point of the story. The artist obviously could not put every scene from the story on the box, so he put one of the most important ones. This would call to mind the story, allowing the viewer to enjoy the story again. This is important because, since many people could not read or write, they relied on images like this to relay the general idea of a story, and allow them to enjoy these stories over again without having to sit down and read a copy of the story.

Cur Deus Homo

by Amy

St Anselm Window, Canterbury

Canterbury was one of the best class trips we visited.  After reading parts of Chaucer’s tales, it was a “must see” site where the pilgrims planned to travel.  Known for one of the top pilgrimage sites in the world and worship of St. Thomas Beckett, Canterbury Cathedral dates back from the early Middle Ages around 597 AD (History and Heritage).  Sections of the church were remodeled after the fire, but still date back from the medieval period.

Some of the things I saw in the cathedral included the crypt, the sight of Thomas Beckett’s murder, the nave, and the decorative stained glass windows.  One window that caught my attention was of Saint Anselm of Canterbury.  I studied some of his works in my Faith and Critical Reasoning course last semester, so I felt an instant connection.  The window is a good representation of text and image.  Even though it was made in 1959, it represents the Christian theologian from the 11th century CE (Sacred Destinations).

Famous for his ontological argument about the existence of God, the image of the window depicts Anselm standing above a dove hovering over his  “Cur Deus Homo” (translation: Why God man/why does God become man?) with two people standing near it (Keifer).  The window is an example of text and image because it is emphasizing Anselm’s concept of God and man through a picture.  Stained glass windows were learning tools for the illiterate, which was common among the lay people of a congregation.  Along with the beauty of the colored glass they were able to see the pictures, which may include some words or phrases, and relate them to texts within their faith.

Visually, the stained glass window portraying Saint Anselm was one of the best interpretations of text and image because it exemplifies the teachings of the theologian.

“Canterbury Cathedral Stained Glass.” Sacred Destinations. Sacred Destinations, 2011. 8 August 2011. http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/canterbury-cathedral-stained-glass-windows

“History and Heritage.” Canterbury Cathedral. Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral, 2011. 8 August 2011. http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/history.html

Keifer, James E. “Anselm of Canterbury, Monk, Archbishop, Theologian.” Biographical Sketches of Memorable Christians of the Past. Society of Archbishop Justus, 1999. 8 August 2011. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/141.html