30 September 2008

Saint Jerome

Today, September 30th, is St. Jerome's day. St. Jerome is the patron saint of translators due to his translation of the Bible into Latin, which became the standard Latin translation known as the Vulgate. (public domain picture by Caravaggio, from wikicommons)

St. Jerome according to the Catholic Encyclopedia and An Anglican view.

The Christian Classics Ethereal Library has The Principal Works of Saint Jerome. See also the entry for Jerome on this index page (you'll have to scroll down till you find him).

26 September 2008


I often wonder in the Cadfael series what language the characters are talking. Sometimes Ellis Peters makes it explicit as a plot point that somebody is speaking Welsh or English, but presumably Norman French and Latin are also possibilities. Could Cadfael also speak Byzantine Greek and Arabic from his time in the East?

The Language Hat alerts us to the online existence of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary or AND.

I was also pleased to see this in the introduction:

If you are, or are soon to become, a taxpayer in the UK or any other EU country, you will probably be interested to know how we spend your cash, because it is taxation, channelled our way both through the general Higher Education budget and the specific allocations made to us by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom, that pays for everything we do. When we say that our Dictionary, unlike a number of other similar on-line undertakings, is 'free', we mean that we don't charge users to access it, hence anyone can consult it wherever there is an Internet connection without needing registration, passwords or a library or credit card. But of course nothing is ever truly 'free of charge'. We don't see why taxpayers who have already funded our work should pay once again to read it, but they have indeed already paid to have it created, maintained and distributed, and we are very grateful to them for that. We hope they will also be happy that what they have paid for is also made freely available to users worldwide, if only because that way people all over the globe can see and benefit from what is internationally regarded as an outstanding example of world-class UK-based research.

OED take note.

25 September 2008

Actaeon -- 18th century onwards

Our second look at representations of the story of Diana and Actaeon starts with the 18th century. Thomas Gainsborough's 1786 picture is in the Royal Collection, while the two statue groups from a variety of hands pictured below are in the grounds of the Caserta Reggia palace near Naples and were made in the late 1770s. (photos from wikicommons, licensed under Creative Commons 2.5 licence)

The 19th century brought an 1836 picture by Corot now in New York's Metropolitan Museum, while Delacroix chose Diana and Actaeon to illustrate Summer in this picture below from a series of paintings on the four seasons, dated 1856-1863. The original is now in Brazil's Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP). (public domain picture via wikipedia)

However, the story does still inspire contemporary artists such as Calum Colvin and Harvey Dinnerstein. Those in the right part of the world might be interested in a forthcoming exhibition on the theme of
Diana und Actaeon: Der verbotene Blick auf die Nacktheit at Düsseldorf's Museum Kunst Palast.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Edith Wharton published a collection of poems in 1909, the title poem of which was Artemis to Actaeon. The history of the Diane and Actéon Pas de Deux is complex and with all due trepidation (caveat quaerens) I refer to you to Wikipedia for information. The National Library of Australia has a photo of Rudolf Nureyev as Actaeon, while ballet.co has a series of stills from a performance at London's Coliseum theatre by Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo. There are innumerable versions on Youtube, all looking much the same apart from the costumes to this non-balletomane.

24 September 2008


Pilgrimages were an important expression of religious feeling in Cadfael's day. Shrewsbury Abbey wanted the body of St. Winifred in order to attract more pilgrims. For general information on medieval pilgrimages, see Pilgrims and Pilgrimages -- the other pages on this site are also well worth exploring. (image of scallop shell from wikicommons licensed under GNU Free Documentation Licence)

Although we tend to think first of long distance pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Compostela, or Canterbury, local pilgrimages were also important, and this pdf article from Peregrinations explores the theme. The photobank of images at Peregrinations, the website for the International Society for the Study of Pilgrimage Art, is also well worth exploring. Here is a mosaic from Aachen cathedral to whet your appetite (photo by Asa Mittman via Peregrinations used by permission) .

19 September 2008

Actaeon - 15th to 17th centuries

Book III of the Metamorphoses continues with the story of Actaeon. We start our look at representations of this theme with a majolica dish dating from the 1490s and now in Bath's Holbourne Museum of Art, showing the story of Actaeon in the centre and the story of the Centaurs and the Lapiths around the rim. (photograph by HaSee released into the public domain via wikipedia)

The picture to the left is Louis Cranach the Elder's picture of Diana and Actaeon, from the first third of the 16th century. It is now in Connecticut's Wadsworth Athenaeum, but does not appear to be on their website.

The two pictures of Actaeon above are both by Titian, the one on the left, called Diana Surprised by Actaeon, being earlier (1556-1559 -- now in The National Galleries of Scotland) and the one on the right, called The Death of Actaeon, being later (1565-1576 -- now in London's National Gallery). Lonely London Lad's song was inspired by the Diana Surprised by Actaeon, and the two paintings form the video accompaniment to this performance of the aria "Oft she visits this lov'd mountain" from Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas".

Moving on to the late 1580s and and early 1590s, the above left picture is by Bassano, (now in the Art Institute of Chicago) while a drawing by Spranger is now in New York's Metropolitan Museum. The above right picture is by Cesari (1603), and is now in Budapest's Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, but does not appear to be on their website.

A decade or so later, Joachim Anthoniesz Wtewael of the Netherlands produced Actaeon Watching Diana and Her Nymphs Bathing, now in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Dresden's Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (ninth picture down -- can't link any more closely) dates Albani's painting of Diana and Actaeon to before 1630. In 1634, Rembrandt combined the stories of Diana and Callisto and Diana and Actaeon in a single picture now in Anholt Castle in North Rhine-Westphalia (a tip of the hat to Judith Weingarten, who brought this to my attention in a comment on my second post about Callisto).

St. Petersburg's The Hermitage has Maratti's Landscape With Diana and Actaeon from the late 1660s, while Liechtenstein Castle takes us up to the 1690s with Franceschini's Diana and Acteon .

Backtracking slightly to 1684, the French composer Charpentier wrote a pastorale called Actéon, an extract from which can be viewed below.

13 September 2008

Saint Winifred and Saint Giles

Two important saints in the Cadfael stories are St. Winifred and St. Giles. The first book in the Cadfael series, A Morbid Taste For Bones, tells how Benedictine monks from Shrewsbury brought St. Winifred's bones from Gwytherin in Wales to Shrewsbury. The Catholic Encyclopaedia has an article on St. Winifred (aka Winefride, Wenefride). St. Winefride's Well at Holywell in Flintshire, Wales, where St. Winifred was decapitated, still attracts pilgrims seeking cures. (clip art of St. Winifred courtesy of Two Hearts Design

Prior Robert, the leader of the Shrewsbury monks looking for St. Winifred's bones in Ellis Peters' book, was a real person and he wrote up the story of the monks' expedition. His account of St. Winifred's back story was probably the source for the account in The Golden Legend, a 13th century compilation of saints' stories, which was translated by William Caxton in 1483 (not as daunting as it may sound) - St. Winifred's life. Google books has made available Philip Leigh's 1712 The Life, and Miracles of S. Wenefride. Pages 114 - 134 (small pages, only about 100 - 150 words each) are said to be a translation of Prior Robert's work, but read more like a paraphrase. A scholarly translation of Prior Robert's account was issued in 1977, the same year A Morbid Taste For Bones was published.

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The Catholic Encyclopaedia and
The Golden Legend
both also have accounts of St. Giles (aka Aegidius), the saint to whom the church in Shrewsbury Abbey's leper asylum is dedicated. The above map shows the Abbey church (A) and St. Giles's church (B) - picture here - in today's Shrewsbury. The picture below (public domain picture from wiki commons) shows a painting of an incident in the life of St. Giles, painted around 1500 by an anonymous painter now known as the Master of St. Giles, and now in London's National Gallery.

09 September 2008

Cadmus and the Dragon

Unlike his sister Europa, Cadmus does not seem to have been a great inspiration for later artists. The story of how Cadmus came to found the city of Thebes is at the beginning of Book III of the Metamorphoses ( Tony Kline's translation). In his account Ovid compares the dragon to the constellation Draco, shown to the left. (Torsten Bronger's picture from wikipedia licensed under GNU Free Documentation Licence.)

Cornelis van Haarlem's 1588 picture of the dragon eating two of Cadmus's followers is now in London's National Gallery. Hendrik Golzius (1588 - 1617) produced an etching of van Haarlem's work and also painted a picture of Cadmus slaying the dragon, now in Kolding's Koldinghus.
We conclude the story with a picture of Cadmus sowing the dragon's teeth by Maarten de Vos (1532 - 1603), now in London's Courtauld Institute.

07 September 2008

candles and candlesticks

The Gloucester candlestick, now in London's Victoria & Albert Museum, was made for Gloucester Abbey some time between 1104 and 1114, so about 15 years before Cadfael became a monk and about 30 years before Cadfael's adventures as told by Ellis Peters. There are three inscriptions on the candlestick, the above link translates one of them; for translations of the other inscriptions we have to go to another page at the Victoria & Albert Museum's site (scroll down to the section titled "Christian Symbols of Light"). (picture under GNU Free Documentation License from wikipedia)

For more general information on mediaeval lighting, see this page of links to pictures and references, drawn up for re-creationists. This page from a commercial candle-makers' site has instructions on how to make mediaeval style candles. The recipe calls for beeswax rather than tallow, so these would be candles for churches and the wealthy.

05 September 2008

Europa in the 20th century

In this last in my series of posts on the theme of Europa and the bull (previously in the 15th and 16th centuries, in the 17th century, and in the 18th and 19th centuries), I'll be looking at the first half of the 20th century. With the advent of the European Common Market, now the European Union, in the second half of the century Europa has become a very popular theme, quite impossible to cover fully.

Our first two pictures are pre-WWI. The Europa on the left is by Felix Valloton (1908), now in Berne's Kunstmuseum (but not on their website). The Russian painter Valentin Serov produced the painting of Europa on the right in 1910 (now in Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery (note: even using an online machine translation the text is informative and interesting)). (pictures in the public domain, left via Museum Syndicate, right via wikimedia commons)

In the inter-war years Lili Finzelberg produced this bronze sculpture of Europa and the Bull in 1928, now in Bremerhaven's Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum (not on their website). Matisse painted an Abduction of Europa in 1929, now in the National Gallery of Australia. (picture by Hannes Grobe copied from wikimedia commons under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.5 licence)

03 September 2008

Shrewsbury Abbey and Shrewsbury Castle

Shrewsbury was built by the Anglo-Saxons near the former site of the Roman city of Viroconium. After the Norman Conquest, Roger de Montgomery, a close friend of William the Conqueror's and probably a relative was made Earl of Shrewsbury. He was responsible for two of the important landmarks in Shrewsbury in Cadfael's time parts of which can still be seen today, the Abbey and the Castle. The main surviving part of the Abbey is the Abbey church, while Shrewsbury Castle was extensively remodelled in the 18th century by Thomas Telford to turn it into a home for the Pulteney family.

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A well illustrated summary history of Shrewsbury can be seen in this .pdf file. Shropshire county council has a site including pages on the history of Shropshire.

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The above map shows the location of Shrewsbury Abbey church and (scroll rightwards) Shrewsbury castle. The BBC has a series of panoramas showing the inside of the Abbey church and exterior views of the castle. The BBC also has pages on the history of Shrewsbury abbey. The Darwin Country further education website has illustrations of the Shrewsbury Abbey church and Shrewsbury castle produced at various times down through the ages.

01 September 2008

Davies and Pym

In marking the 40th anniversary of the Booker Prize, the Oxford National Dictionary of Biography has put online its articles on winners and some shortlisted authors, among whom are two of my favourite authors: Robertson Davies and Barbara Pym. I must admit the article on Barbara Pym reads more like a newspaper obituary, but the Robertson Davies article is interesting.