The Hairy Middle Ages 

Peter Paul Rubens: ‘Calydonian Boar Hunt’


Gheraducci, Heraducci, Gradual from Santa Maria degli Angeli (Folio 155v) c. 1370

Gradual from Santa Maria degli Angeli (Folio 155v)c. 1370

Rogier van der Weyden: ‘The Last Judgment’, 1446-1452, Oil on Wood 

‘Descent into Limbo’, Zoan Andrea


Descent into Limbo
Zoan Andrea
engraving on laid paper
circa 1475-1480

The Evolution of the Foot Soldier


via spookyfreedomwagon – washingtonstateconservatarian


Hell from The Garden of Delights (Hortus Deliciarum) with Detail c. 1180



Hell from The Garden of Delights (Hortus Deliciarum) with detail
c. 1180
Manuscript (facsimile)
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

‘Judith with the Head of Holofernes and Her Maidservant’, by Garofalo

(c) National Trust, Knole; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Judith with the Head of Holofernes and Her Maidservant
by Garofalo

Date painted: 1500/1559
Oil on panel, 33.5 x 27 cm
Collection: National Trust

Beheading of Saint Paul c. 1278-1279


Beheading of Saint Paul  c. 1278-1279

Magna Carta Originals Reunited for 800th Anniversary


The four surviving original Magna Carta copies go on display together for the first time from Monday as Britain kicks off 800th anniversary celebrations for a contract with global significance.

Considered the cornerstone of liberty, modern democracy, justice and the rule of law, the 1215 English charter forms the basis for legal systems around the world, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the US constitution.

A total of 1,215 people, drawn from a ballot, have won the chance to see the unification at the British Library, which is bringing together its two originals with those of Lincoln and Salisbury cathedrals from Monday to Wednesday.

The four parchments will also be on private show in parliament on Thursday, kicking off a year of celebrations for a document that still has resonance eight centuries on. Read more.

Woody Allen’s Insincere Nihilism


I hope Woody Allen reads this.

Though it’s unfair to start in the middle of Rev. Robert Barron‘s comments, this is a section that suggests the graceful exploration at work here. Note: Barron refers to Allen’s “recent ruminations on ultimate things”, but I’m not sure where Woody’s ruminations appear. Perhaps a recent interview? If a reader recognizes the reference, let us know. Though I’m tempted to include my own observations, I’ll refrain, to avoid diminishing Barron’s commentary.

This essay by Rev. Robert Barron is best appreciated by reading it in full.

“…If you consult the philosophers of antiquity and the Middle Ages, you will find a very frank acknowledgment that what Woody Allen observed about the physical world is largely true. Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas all knew that material objects come and go, that human beings inevitably pass away, that all of our great woody-allen-peeking-Sepiaworks of art will eventually cease to exist. But those great thinkers wouldn’t have succumbed to Allen’s desperate nihilism. Why? Because they also believed that there were real links to a Diotimahigher world available within ordinary experience, that certain clues within the world tip us off to the truth that there is more to reality than meets the eye. 

One of these routes of access to the transcendent is beauty. In Plato’s Symposium, we can read an exquisite speech by a woman named Diotima. She describes the experience of seeing something truly beautiful — an object, a work of art, a lovely person, etc. — and she remarks that this experience carries with it a kind of aura, for it lifts the observer to a consideration of the Beautiful itself, the source of all particular beauty. If you want to see a more modern version of Diotima’s speech, take a look at the evocative section of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, wherein the narrator relates his encounter with a beautiful girl standing in the surf off the Dublin strand and concludes with the exclamation, “Oh heavenly God.” John Paul II was standing in this same tradition when, in his wonderful letter to artists, he spoke of the artist’s vocation as mediating God through beauty. To characterize artistic beauty as a mere distraction from the psychological oppression of nihilism is a tragic reductionism…(read more)

National Review Online

May Day, First of May, Ancient Passage

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. Ojéda

May Day, the first day of May, was a time to celebrate the arrival of spring. In the Middle Ages it was the custom to gather wildflowers and green branches, weave floral garlands, and dance around a Maypole.

image: Folio 5v: the calendar page for May of Les Trés Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

Medium Aevum

The Outlaw Campus: Ten Steps to Reform


The university has become a rogue institution in need of root-and-branch reform
NRO‘s Victor Davis Hanson writes:  Two factors have so far shielded the American university from the sort of criticism that it so freely levels against almost every other institution in American life. (1) For decades a college education has been considered the key to an ascendant middle-class existence. (2) Until recently a college degree was not tantamount to lifelong debt. In other words, American society put up with a lot of arcane things from academia, given that it offered something — a BA or BS degree — that almost everyone agreed was a ticket to personal security and an educated populace.

Not now. Colleges have gone rogue and become virtual outlaw institutions. Graduates owe an aggregate of $1 trillion in student debt, borrowed at interest rates far above home-mortgage rates — all on the principle that universities could charge as much as they liked, given that students could borrow as much as they needed in federally guaranteed loans.

Few graduates have the ability to pay back the principal; they are simply paying the compounded interest. More importantly, a college degree is not any more a sure pathway to a good job, nor does it guarantee that its holder is better educated than those without it. If the best sinecure in America is a tenured full professorship, the worst fate may be that of a recent graduate in anthropology with a $100,000 loan. That the two are co-dependent is a national scandal.

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Medieval Liberals


Victor Davis Hanson writes: A classical liberal was characteristically guided by disinterested logic and reason. He was open to gradual changes in society that were frowned upon by traditionalists in lockstep adherence to custom and protocol. The eight-hour work day, civil rights, and food- and drug-safety laws all grew out of classically liberal views. Government could press for moderate changes in the way society worked, within a conservative framework of revering the past, in order to pave the way for equality of opportunity in a safe and sane environment.

Among elite liberals today, all too few are of this classical mold — guided by reason and empirical observation. By far the majority are medieval and reactionary. By medieval I mean that they adhere to accepted doctrine — in this case, the progressive doctrine of always finding solutions in larger government and more taxes — despite all the evidence to the contrary. The irony is that they project just such ideological blinkers onto their conservative opponents.

Reactionary is a good adjective as well, since notions of wealth and poverty are frozen in amber around 1965, as if the technological revolution never took place and the federal welfare state hadn’t been erected — as if today’s poor were the emaciated Joads, rather than struggling with inordinate rates of obesity and diabetes, in air-conditioned apartments replete with big-screen TVs, and owning cell phones with more computing power than was available to the wealthy as recently as the 1980s. Flash-mobbing sneaker stores is more common than storming Costcos for bags of rice and flour. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Steyn: Blunt words about Muslim backwardness

llustration by Persian scholar Al-Biruni (973-1048) of different phases of the moon, from his masterpiece Kitab al-Tafhim. Wikimedia Commons

llustration by Persian scholar Al-Biruni (973-1048) of different phases of the moon, from his masterpiece Kitab al-Tafhim.                                                                                                                                              Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, the bestselling atheist Richard Dawkins, in the “On Faith” section of the Washington Post, called the pope “a leering old villain in a frock” perfectly suited to “the evil corrupt organization” and “child-raping institution” that is the Catholic Church. Nobody seemed to mind very much.

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