middle ages

Anna Komnena – Byzantine Historian of the First Crusade

Anna Komnena – Byzantine Historian of the First Crusade

Anna Komnena was a Byzantinian Princess in the 11th century. She is considered one of the world’s first female historian and a major source of information about the reign of her father, Alexius I. in the times of the crusades. Of course this is rather unusual for the time being, that a princess writes about the life of her father, The Alexiad, and even more that this piece of writing should become…
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Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim – The Most Remarkable Women of her Time

Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim – The Most Remarkable Women of her Time

Although her date of birth is not known exactly, today’s post features “the most remarkable woman” of the early middle ages, Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim (in German also often referred to as Roswitha, and attributed as ‘the mighty voice‘ or the ‘Nightingale of Gandersheim‘). Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim was a 10th-century German secular canoness, as well as a dramatist and poet who lived and worked at Gandersheim Abbey in modern-day Bad Gandersheim, Lower Saxony, Germany,…
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Hildegard of Bingen – More than the ‘Sybil of the Rhine’

Hildegard of Bingen – More than the ‘Sybil of the Rhine’

Although her exact birthdate is uncertain, we dedicate today’s article to an extraordinary woman in science: German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath St Hildegard of Bingen. At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard, known as “Sybil of the Rhine“, produced major works of theology and visionary writings. She used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about natural history and medicinal uses of…
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Ulman Stromer and the First Paper Mill North of the Alpes

Ulman Stromer and the First Paper Mill North of the Alpes

On January 6, 1329, German long-distance trader, factory owner and councillor of Nuremberg Ulman Stromer was born. Stromer established the very first permanent paper mill north of the Alpes, at the Pegnitz river not far from the city of Nuremberg. Paper Predecessors The story of paper as a writing material dates back to ancient times. Papyrus as its predecessor was introduced in Egypt most probably already in the 3rd millenium BCE. Papyrus differs from…
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Umberto Eco and The Name of the Rose

Umberto Eco and The Name of the Rose

On January 5, 1932, Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and successful novelist Umberto Eco was born. He is best known for his groundbreaking historical mystery novel Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose), an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory. I have read ‘The Name of the Rose‘, when I was just 20 years of age, and ever since I am a…
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William of Rubruck and his Adventurous Journey to Karakorum

William of Rubruck and his Adventurous Journey to Karakorum

On January 4, 1254, Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer William of Rubruck was granted the privilege of an audience at the great Mongol Möngke Khan in his court in Karakorum. Background The Flemish William of Rubruck had joined the Franciscan Friars Minor at an early age, studied in Paris and in 1248 travelled to the Holy Land in the wake of King Louis IX and the seventh crusade, where he stayed for four…
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The Assassination of Thomas Becket

The Assassination of Thomas Becket

On December 29, 1170 AD, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who engaged in conflict with Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church, was assassinated by followers of the King in Canterbury Cathedral. The very last hours of Thomas Becket’s life are the reason why we remember him at all. If the four knights sent for his assassination had not completed their bloody work as he defied their…
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Charlemagne and the Birth of the European Idea

Charlemagne and the Birth of the European Idea

On December 25, 800 AD, Charlemagne also known as Karl the Great was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope Leo III in Rome. Thereby, he was the very first emperor of western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Prelude Back in the 6th century, the West Germanic Franks had been christianized and Francia, ruled by the Merovingian dynasty, was the most powerful of the kingdoms that succeeded the…
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Otto the Great – Founder of the Holy Roman Empire

Otto the Great – Founder of the Holy Roman Empire

On November 23, 912 AD, Otto I, also referred to as Otto the Great, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and founder of the Ottonian dynasty of German emperors, was born as the oldest son of the Duke of Saxony Henry the Fowler (“Heinrich, der Vogler” referring to a German poem „Herr Heinrich sitzt am Vogelherd…“ by Johann Nepomuk Vogl, 1835 [1]) and his second wife Matilda of Ringelheim. By the time of…
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Geoffrey Chaucer  – the Father of English Literature

Geoffrey Chaucer – the Father of English Literature

On October 25, 1400, English poet Geoffrey Chaucer passed away. Known as the Father of English literature, Chaucer is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages.He is best known today for The Canterbury Tales and was the first poet to be buried in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote  The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,  And bathed every veyne in…
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