Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christians in early Muslim Spain

One of the big questions people ask about the medieval years when Islam was ascendant is, “Is it true that they were much more tolerant of Christians and Jews? Was it a “golden age” of co-existence?” Part of the answer … Continue reading

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Europe’s first great mosque

Abd Al-Rahman, the half-Berber Umayyad prince, was firmly in control of the Iberian peninsula by the time Charlemagne became King of the Franks. He ruled until his death at age 58, which was long past the average life-expectancy of the … Continue reading

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Special days after Christmas

Medieval people generally believed that feasts were the way to honor saints, and the week after Christmas was particularly thick with saints to honor. That’s one reason that Christmas seemed like a feast that just went on and on. St. … Continue reading

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Putting “Christ” back in Christmas, 13th cent.

Christmas was always a somewhat troubling holiday for really devout believers. Its syncretist roots were quite plain from the start and in the beginning some of the newly-converted might have been aware of things like the religious meaning of mistletoe … Continue reading

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Christmas drama

The castle Hall at Christmas always had some theater productions. Traveling players may have been engaged to put on shows (Christmas was a time when any and all jongleurs and singers could count on picking up work if they didn’t … Continue reading

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Medieval Christmas games

After a feast, when the food scraps and dishes were cleared away, it was time for games and dancing. Here’s where we have to admit that medieval games were a bit lame. It’s much nicer to explain that while we … Continue reading

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Christmas in a castle

As you remember from the castle series, there were no true castles in Charlemagne’s time. As soon as you’re in a stone castle with a keep, maybe a round tower, and a gatehouse, the year is at least 1100 and … Continue reading

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Christmas with Charlemagne

When Pope Gregory first sent Latin missionaries to the outer northern wilds of Europe, he instructed them to make it easy for converts. If they were used to gathering on a hilltop somewhere on a certain day, find a saint’s … Continue reading

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Roland: the facts

In the “Song of Roland,” the first premise is that Charlemagne has spent seven years campaigning across Spanish Andalusia, taking back territory from the perfidious Saracens. The famous battle in which Roland loses his life takes place in the mountain … Continue reading

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The Song of Roland

The “Song of Roland” was the most popular epic of its time. Composed by a Frankish minstrel named Turoldus, the poem first appeared in written form around 950. Its subject matter was Charlemagne’s invasion into Muslim Spain in 778. The … Continue reading

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