Medieval Latin Science Fiction

In Ireland, today is the feast of a Sainted monk named Brendan, who is traditionally said to have been born in Clonfert in the year 484, and to have died in 577 at the age of 94. He is sometimes called “the Younger” to distinguish him from another Brendan, of Birr, or “the Elder.” They […]

A Homily by St Gregory the Great Carved in Stone

Today is the feast of two Roman Saints named Nereus and Achilleus. An inscription placed over their burial place by Pope St Damasus I (366-84) tells us that they were soldiers who were forced to participate in the persecution of the Christians, but threw away their weapons and armor, and were in turn martyred for […]

The Prodigious Memory of St Antoninus

Today is the feast of St Antoninus, a Dominican friar who became archbishop of Florence in 1446, and died in that office in 1459. He was born in Florence in 1389, and christened “Antonio”, but because of his small stature, was always known by the diminutive form “Antonino.” The bull of his canonization, issued by […]

Treasures of the Cotton Library

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1631 of Sir Robert Cotton, the creator of a famous and very important collection of books and manuscripts. On Wednesday, we described the arrangement of the collection, and how the items were given call numbers based on the busts of the Roman emperors mounted above the bookcases. […]

The Great Rogations and Plague-Causing Dragons

Today is traditionally both the feast of St Mark the Evangelist, and the observance known as the Greater Rogations. The latter is a penitential procession instituted by Pope St Gregory the Great at the very beginning of his reign (590 A.D.), to beg God’s mercy for the end of a terrible plague that struck Rome […]

Studium Urbis – The Foundation of the University of Rome

On this day in the year 1303, the last of his reign, Pope Boniface VIII issued the bull “In supremae praeeminentia dignitatis”, establishing the University of Rome. The university’s official motto is “Studium Urbis – the study of the city”, “studium” being the word most broadly used in the Middle Ages for academic institutions; since […]

Paul the Deacon

Today marks the anniversary of the death of one of the most important literary figures of the Carolinigan era, a monk who is generally known as Paul the Deacon; the exact year of his death is uncertain, from 796 to 799. Born ca. 720, and originally called Winfrid, he was descended from a noble family […]

Vocabula Mira: “Glossator”

Since yesterday we looked at the Emperor Justinian’s Corpus Juris Civilis, today we turn to the foundational role which this text played in the intellectual life of the medieval West. During the reign of Justinian (527-65), the Eastern Roman Empire (as historians now call it) regained control of most of Italy, which it had lost […]

The Largest Medieval Manuscript of All

Yesterday, for the feast of St Isidore, we looked at his work known as the Etymologies, the widely used general encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. One of the indications of how important this work was to medieval culture is the fact that nearly 1000 manuscripts of it survive. Of these, one is a book also […]

The Patron Saint of the Internet

The Catholic Church has a patron Saint for almost everything, and in many cases, several for the same thing. One useful website (https://catholicsaints.info/) classifies them by the specific field of human endeavor they watch over, from accountants to yachtsman, in over 700 different categories. However, despite the omnipresence of the internet in modern life, the […]