St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most loved saints of the Catholic Church. He founded the Franciscan Order known as the Friars Minor which now consists of priests, nuns, and brothers, as well as third-order lay associates. Our present Pope Francis has taken his name to add Francis' simplicity and love of poverty to the tone of his papacy.
In the Middle Ages women's life choices were limited by both gender and social status. But in spite of these limitations, medieval women had a surprisingly wide range of careers.
17th November is not a date that is generally celebrated in England but perhaps it should be. In 1558 a hated monarch died and a new age - the Elizabethan Age - was born. The queen who died - Mary the First - was mourned by few.
The Order of Assassins was one of the most feared political forces of its day. Comprised of true believers who were capable of waiting for years to strike, the Assassins were all but invisible to their targets. While destroyed by the Mongols hundreds of years ago, the society left its mark on history, and its shadowy legacy intrigues and horrifies to this day.
When Medieval monks and nuns retired from the world, they dedicated themselves to a life of incessant prayer, constant discipline, and Spartan simplicity. There were many reasons to take monastic vows, and these were not always spiritual.
We've all heard the phrase "blood is thicker than water," typically invoked by family members who want to remind you that friends come and go, but relations stay forever. However, while this is the accepted meaning we have today, the original intent behind the phrase was something quite different.
The German mathematician, logician, political adviser, and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was credited with his independent invention of integral and differential calculus.
In the year 1315 a devastating famine struck Europe that killed millions, weakening the population and making the continent susceptible to the Black Death just a few decades later. The most likely cause of the famine has been determined to be a massive eruption from Mount Tarawera, a volcano in New Zealand, which is also responsible for an infamously deadly eruption in 1886.
The witch is a fixture of fairy tales and modern fantasy, but where did she come from? Is the witch, in fact, supposed to be a "she" at all? These are difficult questions to answer, and it seems as if every academic has a separate explanation. Finding the proper thread is important though, especially for those who want to know what witches were, instead of what they are now.
Homes constructed during the Middle Ages were not built in a fashion that you'd expect to see in modern times. Both the inner and outer construction were very different, and even details, such as windows, were not what you'd find in the 21st, or even the 18th, century. Why were windows so small?
When you think of a wizard you typically think of a wise old man with a long gray beard. Why is that? Well part of it is just the cultural image we have of knowledge being something that older people have... the rest of it comes from the unique history associated with the word itself!
The rapier is a sword associated with the Renaissance, and with musketeers and dueling. While it may have descended from the heavy swords of medieval knights it's sometimes hard to see the family resemblance, until you realize the other factors that led to this light, quick sword being born. Other factors like the gun.
Fiction and film are full of swashbucklers both good and evil. From Errol Flynn slashing his way across the deck of a pirate ship to the Three Musketeers taking on impossible odds the archetype is recognizable at a glance. Or is it? What if swashbucklers were actually the complete opposite of what we think of today when we hear that term?
The word "paladin" brings to mind knights in shining armor, going forth to do noble battle for the forces of good. While the knights and armor part is definitely accurate the association of paladins with crusaders and the divine is something we can thank the Romantics for.
Have you ever looked at the calendar hanging on your wall and wondered why we call the days of the week what we do? Who named them? Why did we pick those particular names? Is there a REALLY cool mystery just behind your date book? Yes, as it turns out. There totally is.