Modern maps rarely include wondrous sea monsters in their depictions of bodies of water. Author Chet Van Duzer laments this fact in his new book Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps. Tanya Lewis of LiveScience has a review.
San Gennaro, the bishop of Naples who was martyred by Diocletian in 305 A.D. and is now the city’s most beloved patron saint, is richer than the Queen of England. People have been showering him with gifts since the 14th century, and thanks to the unstinting efforts of seven centuries of deeply devout custodians, his treasure remains intact despite Naples’ long, tortured history of foreign conquest and natural disasters. Now its 21,000 objects from gem-festooned necklaces to gold ostensories (containers that hold the consecrated Host) to silver and gold statues of exquisite artistry form a collection so valuable that it eclipses even the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
It all started, as so many things do, with an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It was 472 A.D. and the volcano that had destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum 400 years earlier had Naples in its sights this time. Thousands of terrified Neapolitans sought shelter in the catacombs under the hill of Capodimonte. These catacombs had held the remains of Saint Agrippinus, sixth bishop of Naples and its first patron saint, since his death at the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century and had become the locus of veneration for his cult. Some time between 413 and 431, Bishop John I moved the bodily remains of San Gennaro, aka Saint Januarius, into the Capodimonte catacombs, making it the center for the cult of that saint too. When Vesuvius struck in 472, the refugees huddled in the catacombs directed their desperate pleas for intercession to the more recently popular saint. The eruption stopped. From then on San Gennaro was the A#1 King of the Hill patron saint of Naples. (There are 52 in total, including good ol’ Agrippinus who is still on the books).
In the 9th century, Naples was besieged by Sico I, the Lombard ruler of the principality of Benevento. He failed to take the city, but he was able to make off with most of the relics of San Gennaro which he installed in the cathedral in the city of Benevento about 35 miles northeast of Naples. By the 11th century, the principality had been chipped away by Norman and northern Lombard invaders, ultimately leaving the city in the hands of the Papacy. With Benevento no longer safe, Norman King William I of Sicily had San Gennaro’s remains moved to the Abbey of Montevergine.
There they were pretty much forgotten. The Abbey was already well established as a pilgrimage site because it owned the relics of Saint William of Vercelli; San Gennaro couldn’t compete. He was still huge in Naples, though. His head and two ampoules of his blood had managed to stay in Naples when Sico took everything else, and it was those ampoules of blood that would launch the saint into the stratosphere. King Charles II of Anjou, son of the first Charles who conquered Naples in 1266 establishing a line of Angevin rulers that would last almost 200 years, commissioned three French goldsmiths to make a bust/reliquary of San Gennaro that would hold his head and blood. It was completed in 1305, and for the first time San Gennaro’s relics were put on display for public veneration. Charles’ son Robert the Wise had a silver container made specifically to hold the blood ampoules.
It was that blood that would come to define the saint’s cult. August 17th, 1389 is the first recorded instance of that desiccated 1,000-year-old blood miraculously liquefying when it was held aloft during a procession asking the saint to help end a famine that was devastating the city. The Miracle of San Gennaro, as the liquefaction became known, became a regular ritual. To this day, three times a year the archbishop of Naples celebrates a mass during which the ampoules are displayed with their dried, powdery contents and then displayed again once the contents have turned to liquid. Sometimes it takes a few minutes, sometimes hours, sometimes even days for the liquefaction to occur, but as far as I know, it has always happened, even, much to the city’s dismay, under the short-lived French Revolutionary republic of 1799, although that time the French commander had to threaten to kill the archbishop of Naples before the blood would turn.
Charles II of Anjou’s gift of a sumptuous reliquary for San Gennaro’s relics started the trend. Popes, emperors, kings, aristocrats and common people all gave votive offerings to the saint. Offerings from emperors and popes are rarely modest, and San Gennaro started collecting an extraordinary amount of wealth. When the rest of his remains were rediscovered in the Abbey of Montevergine in the 15th century, Cardinal Oliviero Carafa and his brother Alessandro, archbishop of Naples, scions of one of Naples’ most powerful and oldest noble families, secured them for the city. The disparate body parts of San Gennaro were reunited in Naples in 1497. Cardinal Carafa had a crypt, the Cappella del Succorpo, built under the major altar of the Duomo of Naples to house the relics.
Disaster struck again in 1526, this time in the form of plague. Again San Gennaro’s relics were held aloft in a procession to beseech his intercession. The Neopolitans vowed to build the saint a new chapel for his relics and burgeoning hoard in gratitude for his help. Gennaro indicated his approval by liquefying his blood. It would take more than a century for Naples to make good on its promise. Construction on the Chapel of the Royal Treasure of San Gennaro began in 1608 and ended in 1646. The finished chapel was dedicated to the saint with a Latin inscription that says it all about the city’s relationship with its patron: “Divo Ianuario e fame bello peste ac Vesaevi igne miri ope sanguinis erepta Neapolis civi patr. vindici” or “To Saint (it’s actually “god” but usage goes with a slightly less pagan translation) Gennaro, to the citizen savior of the country, Naples saved from hunger, war, plague and the fires of Vesuvius, by virtue of his miraculous blood, consecrated.”
In 1601, an organization was founded to conserve and protect the relics and treasure of San Gennaro. The Deputation of the Royal Chapel of the Treasure dedicated itself not just to maintaining the votive gifts received, but also to use the steady stream of donations to commission specific pieces in keeping with the religious significance of the collection. This is how the treasure developed into a collection to rival those of the crowned heads of Europe, because a select group of representatives from the five noble divisions and one commoner division of the city have been nurturing it non-stop for more than 400 years.
Unlike the Crown Jewels, however, San Gennaro’s hoard is barely known outside of Naples. It was kept in locked safes in the chapel (some pieces are now kept in bank vaults), and only rarely were individual objects taken out for ceremonial use. The only time the treasure budged was during World War II, when, after the Duomo was hit by Allied bombs in 1943, the precious artifacts were sent to the Vatican for safekeeping. In the chaotic post-war years, the streets weren’t safe and the police were too short on men to arrange for the safe return of San Gennaro’s treasure.
Enter a classic Neopolitan character: diver, hustler and self-styled “King of Poggioreale” (after the neighborhood he lived in) Giuseppe Navarra. In 1947 Navarra, who was the proud owner of the first license to carry firearms issued in Naples after the Liberation, volunteered to go to Rome and bring the treasure back. Accompanied only by Prince Stefano Colonna di Paliano, vice president of the Deputation, and holding a permission slip signed by Cardinal Alessio Ascalesi, archbishop of Naples, Navarra picked up the saint’s valuables, packed them in his car and drove down to Naples. As with any epic flight of treasure, the voyage did not go smoothly. They were blocked by a sudden flooding of the Garigliano river and two thieves stopped them at the city gates. Navarra and Prince Stefano somehow managed to get past the swollen river and the thieves, finally delivering the treasure to Cardinal Ascalesi on January 26th, 1947.
So the treasure of San Gennaro was safe at home, hidden away as usual, which is where it remained for 56 years. After much debate on whether the treasure should be kept in seclusion because of its devotional nature, in 2003 the Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro opened adjacent to the Duomo. The saint’s jewels could now be seen by the public, as long as the public was in Naples.
Now for the first time a selection of the San Gennaro beauties has gone on display in Rome. The Mostra San Gennaro showcases two of the greatest begemmed pieces: the Necklace of San Gennaro, a necklace first created by Michele Dato in 1679 to adorn the bust of San Gennaro and added to over the years with donations of jewelry from the likes of Charles II of Bourbon, Maria Amalia of Saxony, Maria Carolina of Austria, Victor Emmanuel II and Queen Marie Josè; and the Mitre, made by Matteo Treglia in 1714 out of gilded silver and festooned with 3326 diamonds, 164 rubies, 198 emeralds and 2 garnets. Some of those emeralds are Columbian, making San Gennaro’s mitre one of the greatest collections of ancient Latin American gemstones in the world.
Then there are the chalices, ostensories, crosses and silver and gold saints of jaw-dropping artistry. There’s a pyx made out of gold, red coral and malachite that was made in 1831, but the colors are so startlingly contemporary it could easily pass for a modern piece, or at least something from the Miami school of Art Deco.
The Treasure of San Gennaro will be on display at the Palazzo Sciarra in Rome until February 16th, 2014.
Archival experts are teaming up with scientists to re-create two Tudor monuments using a combination of cutting-edge technology and document research. The two tombs, both victims of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, are those of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, illegimate son of Henry VIII. (photo)
Canadian folk singer and songwriter Heather Dale lives a long way from Texas, but she traveled south recently to perform at Copperas Cove Public Library. Cove Herald reporter Erik Papke spoke with Heather's fans who gathered for the performance.
Construction of a new museum to house a copy of the Magna Carta at Lincoln Castle in England has halted after the discovery of the remains of a church, human skeletons and other artifacts. Among the finds was a sarcophagus, believed to contains the bones of "somebody terribly important." (photos)
THL Finn Grim, Court Reporter, reports that, at Their July 2013 Coronation, Their Majesties Ieuan and Gwyneth of the Kingdom of An Tir offered elevation to the Peerage to two of Their subjects.
On Monday, October 29th, 2012, a mighty oak in the New Haven Green was toppled by Hurricane Sandy. Planted in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the oak tree was knocked down by the force of the winds and the large root ball fully exposed. Passerby Katie Carbo saw an oddly shaped rock embedded in the roots but when she looked closely, she found that weird rock was actually a human skull. She notified the police who brought in Alfredo Camargo, a death investigator from the state medical examiner’s office, to collect the human remains for examination.
No foul play was suspected. The Green had been used as a cemetery from early colonial times through the dawn of the Federal era so it seemed likely the remains were historical. In fact, Yale anthropologist Gary Aronsen, State Archaeologist Nick Bellantoni and archaeologist Dan Forrest worked with Camargo to collect the bones and any artifacts that might help date or identify the remains. A hand-wrought iron coffin nail from the late 18th century suggested a preliminary date, but a confirmation would require further analysis of the bones.
It was a ghoulish surprise well-suited for Halloween to many New Havenites who had long forgotten that their central green was once a very active cemetery. The Puritans began burying people in the square pretty much as soon as they arrived in 1638, a party of 500 led by Reverend John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton who had left the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the wake of the great Antinomian Controversy, a debate about whether salvation comes through good works or solely by the grace of God that ended with the excommunication of Free Grace advocate Anne Hutchinson. Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop, who had delivered the famous “City upon a Hill” sermon to the colonists while they were still on the ship, sided with the works people and his autocratic style of governance had already alienated the likes of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island. Davenport was more of a salvation through grace fellow, so he and Eaton founded New Haven to get out from under Winthrop’s thumb and to worship as they preferred.
The town green was one of the first things they built. It was designed specifically so it would be the proper size to accommodate 144,000 people, the number they believed would be saved in the Second Coming. What better place to inter the dead than underneath the future launching pad of the Rapture? Burials began in 1638 and continued undiminished through 1797. By then the small space was just heaving with bodies. New dead were buried on top of previous burials and most graves went unmarked. An estimate 5,000 – 10,000 people were laid to rest under the New Haven Green.
Finally after a series of epidemics — scarlet fever, yellow fever, dysentery — in the 1790s forced the burial of as many as 5,000 victims within two years, it became palpably clear that New Haven needed a new burial ground. The Grove Street Cemetery was built on the edge of the city limits in 1797. This was the first chartered burial ground in the United States. In 1821, the remaining headstones from the Green were carried to the new cemetery by a procession of Yale students where they were arranged against the north and west walls in alphabetical order.
There were still occasional burials in the Green until 1812 when a new church was built over a section of the Green. Center Church simply absorbed the piece of the burial ground it was built over, keeping the burials and headstones in place in a basement crypt. The crypt holds 137 burials marked with headstones and other monuments and an estimate 1,000 unmarked graves. There are some historically significant personages among those 137: Margaret Arnold, the first wife of Benedict Arnold, Ezekiel Hayes, Revolutionary War hero and great-grandfather of President Rutherford B. Hayes, New Haven co-founder and colony governor Theophilus Eaton, and Reverend James Pierpont, a founder of Yale College whose daughter Sarah married Jonathan Edwards, Great Awakening preacher of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” the sermon that scared the crap out of me when I read it in 8th grade English class, and had 11 children whose direct descendants include Vice President and infamous dueler Aaron Burr, financier John Pierpont Morgan and such a vast network of intellectuals, university presidents, captains of industry and political leaders that eugenicists in the early 1900s pointed to the extended Edwards’ family as an example of what good breeding can accomplish.
Despite this rich history writ in the bones of the New Haven Green, general memory of the burials faded over time. When the Lincoln Oak was planted in 1909, there was no mention of the site as a former burial ground. The spot was chosen for the planting because the Connecticut State House had stood on the site from 1828 to 1889 and that’s where the public prayers were said after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.
The Lincoln Oak’s skeletal roots brought it all back, and not for the first time either. Believe it or not, Hurricane Esther partially toppled the oak on September 27th, 1961, exposing the roots and, yes, a handful of human bones entangled in them (pdf). New Haveners were as surprised then as they would be 51 years later, which goes to show our memories are ridiculously short even in the age of mass media. There are plenty of people still around who were there in 1961, but it took local historian Rob Greenberg digging through the archives of the New Haven Register to bring the earlier episode to light. Rob Greenberg also doggedly pursued the mystery of a concrete cylinder found under the oak’s 1909 plaque which turned out to contain two time capsules with Civil War and Lincoln mementos that was buried when the oak was planted.
Basically this Lincoln Oak was like the kite-eating tree in Peanuts only with bones instead of kites, and it’s the roots that do all the entrapping rather than the branches. Once it was replanted in 1961, the roots just kept growing until they found more bones to nom. Sadly, the tree could not take root once more after Sandy. This fall was its last. A new oak was planted on the spot, however, so the whole thing can happen again a century from now.
As for the bones plucked out of its roots last year, the first official report of the findings will be made tonight at a panel discussion at the New Haven Museum. The event starts at 5:30 PM, is scheduled to run just over two hours and is open to the public. Analysis did confirm that the evidence of the coffin nail was accurate: the bones date to the late 1790s. There are bones from at least four people in this group: one adult male, one child of 7-9 and two younger children. The adult was buried in a decorated casket, fragments of which survive. One of the children was buried with a red marble toy. There were signs on the teeth of early childhood malnutrition but no cause of death could be determined for any of the four.
Here’s a Yale News video with good shots of the uprooted tree and bones:
The remains will be reinterred when research is complete. No word yet on where they’ll be buried.
Edward and Anastasie report that Sir Magnus Tindal was the victor of the October 12, 2013 Crown Tournament in the Kingdom of AEthelmearc. His Highness was inspired in His endeavor by Lady Etain ingen Dalaig.
Much of the action in the epic poem Beowulf takes place in the great hall. Now archaeologists in Denmark believe they have discovered the great royal feasting hall described in the poem as "the greatest hall under heaven."
At Their recent Crown Tournament, Their Majesties Cellach and Vukasin of the Middle Kingdom observed the victory of Sergeant Cameron Smyth over all opponents. His Highness was inspired by Lady Amalie.
Liadin Chu reports that Sir Siegfried Brandboern was the winner of the October 27, 2013 Crown Tournament in the Kingdom of Ealdormere. Sir Siegfried was inspired in his endeavor by Mistress Ragni Dzintara.
Carved out of oolitic limestone from the Cotswolds, the sculpture is more than two feet tall and 1’10″ wide. It depicts an eagle with wings spread biting a snake coiled around the bird, its forked tongue protruding. Other than a small piece missing from the broken right wing (the wing hasn’t been reattached; it’s on a custom frame that keeps it in place), the sculpture is complete with every detail from feathers to talons still sharp. It may have been painted originally but so far no trace of paint has been found on the surface.
The symbolism is understood as the struggle of good, the eagle, against evil, the snake. This theme is common in funerary contexts and an important Roman cemetery is known to have been located on the site. It is believed by archaeologists that this statue once adorned a rich mausoleum, the foundations of which were also uncovered during excavation. The lack of weathering on the statue corroborates this theory, as does the absence of detail on the back of the sculpture; suggesting it once sat it an alcove.
Although the eagle vs. snake imagery is widespread in the Roman world, the only other freestanding Roman sculpture known to have survived comparable with this one was found in the great Nabatean city of Petra, in what is today Jordan, and is now part of the permanent collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum. I couldn’t find any pictures of it, sadly, other than a little thumbnail in the Daily Mail article about the discovery. You can see that it’s far from complete, with the beak and chest of eagle missing. The picture on the right is of another eagle from 1st century Petra, a relief, that is now in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s collection.
Petra was a major center of trade thanks to its prime location at the crossroads of Middle Eastern caravan routes and the Nabatean’s extraordinary water control systems. It’s a testament to the skill of the Romano-British sculptors that Britannia could produce art of at least equal quality as is found Petra. The Cotswolds is known to have been a center of Roman sculpture, although the sculptures that survive have primarily been small or fragments of larger pieces. Most of the sculptures found have been in the Cotswolds area as the Jurassic vein of oolitic limestone of the Cotswold hills was the source of the stone and sculptors mainly worked on the spot. They did travel, however, to large cities, either bringing the raw stone with them or completing the sculpture at home and then transporting the finished work to its destination. The family of the deceased was clearly willing to pay a pretty penny for a top quality funerary sculpture from the best artists in the province.
The eagle’s rough surface is the natural finish of Cotswolds limestone which is coarse enough that fine details are sometimes hard to convey in this medium. It is, however, an ideal material from the sculptor’s perspective because it’s soft to carve but over time hardens leaving a durable surface, durable enough to survive centuries underneath a burgeoning metropolis. Of course the find spot was outside the city in Roman times, like all cemeteries, but as London grew, Minories was absorbed into the urbs and the tombs that once lined the street were destroyed to make way for new construction. Their materials, including decorative elements, were recycled, used as masonry and fill, which is why we know very little about the Roman cemetery.
Michael Marshall, MOLA Finds Specialist, said: “The eagle is a classically Roman symbol and this new find provides a fascinating new insight into the inhabitants of Roman London and demonstrates their familiarity with the iconography of the wider classical world. Funerary sculpture from the city is very rare and this example, perhaps from inside a mausoleum, is a particularly fine example which will help us to understand how the cemeteries and tombs that lined the roads out of the city were furnished and the beliefs of those buried there.”
Starting today, the eagle and snake are on display in the Museum of London’s Roman London gallery. It will remain on public view for six months after which it will be removed for further study.
"Hadrian's Wall is under constant pressure from the weather, from visitors, from livestock and other factors, and we need to work hard to protect and to conserve this icon of world heritage," said Bryan Scott, from the Hadrian's Wall Trust about the recent grant to rebuild parts of the wall.
Fragments of ancient music have been found going back as far as the eighteenth century B.C., the most ancient ones recorded on cuneiform tablets, but there is only one complete song from antiquity known to have survived: the Seikilos epitaph. It was discovered carved on a marble column-shaped stele in Tralleis, near Ephesus, Turkey, in 1883, and is now in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.
Dating to the first or second century A.D., the stele announces its function clearly in the inscription. “I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance.” The last line is damaged, reputedly by Anglo-Irish railway engineer Edward Purser who was on site building the Smyrna-Aidin Ottoman Railway when the stele was discovered and who sawed off the base so his wife could use it as a flower display, but it appears to be a dedication from Seikilos to a Euterpe, perhaps his wife?
It’s the song that ensured the stele would truly be an everlasting memorial because he didn’t just have the lyrics engraved, but rather also included the melody in ancient Greek musical notation. The lyrical message is your basic carpe diem. These are the lyrics in transliterated Greek and in an English translation:
Hoson zes, phainou
While you live, shine
Herodotus’ The Histories describes an Egyptian practice which puts Seikilos’ song in context:
In social meetings among the rich, when the banquet is ended, a servant carries round to the several guests a coffin, in which there is a wooden image of a corpse, carved and painted to resemble nature as nearly as possible, about a cubit or two cubits in length. As he shows it to each guest in turn, the servant sings, “Gaze here, and drink and be merry; for when you die, such will you be.”
I suppose this is how they got people back into a revelrous mood when things were winding down, by reminding them life is fleeting so party while you have the chance. I’m not sure how well that would go over today, although given the season, you could totally take a tip from the ancient Egyptians and pass around the realistic mini-corpse in a coffin when your Halloween party looks to be flagging.
Anyway, because of the clear alphabetical notation Seikilos’ song is playable today. Lyre expert and ancient music researchers Michael Levy has a wonderfully virtuoso performance on his YouTube channel for which he uses a wide range of lyre techniques to give it that zesty drinking song vibe.
Musician and Oxford University classicist Armand D’Angour is working on a research project to use the latest and greatest discoveries on Greek musical notation to bring ancient music back as accurately as possible.
And now, new revelations about ancient Greek music have emerged from a few dozen ancient documents inscribed with a vocal notation devised around 450 BC, consisting of alphabetic letters and signs placed above the vowels of the Greek words.
The Greeks had worked out the mathematical ratios of musical intervals – an octave is 2:1, a fifth 3:2, a fourth 4:3, and so on.
The notation gives an accurate indication of relative pitch: letter A at the top of the scale, for instance, represents a musical note a fifth higher than N halfway down the alphabet. Absolute pitch can be worked out from the vocal ranges required to sing the surviving tunes.
While the documents, found on stone in Greece and papyrus in Egypt, have long been known to classicists – some were published as early as 1581 – in recent decades they have been augmented by new finds. Dating from around 300 BC to 300 AD, these fragments offer us a clearer view than ever before of the music of ancient Greece.
Dr. David Creese, a Classics professor at Newcastle University, has constructed a zither-like instrument with eight strings on which he plays ancient Greek music. Instead of strumming or plucking the strings like you would with a lyre or traditional zither, he strikes them with a little mallet. You can see him playing it in class in this YouTube video. That is the Song of Seikilos he is playing in that video, incidentally, but obviously not a full rendition. Here he is playing it and singing it:
Compare Dr. Creese’s version with Mr. Levy’s. I find it fascinating how different the two performances of such a simple song can be, and it underscores the inherent challenges of resurrecting ancient music even when you have the words and melody.
Johann Steinarsson sings his song Hadrada’s Last Stand as the latest entry in the CalonSound Project.
Gulf Wars is seeking an individual willing to serve as a Deputy Exchequer for one year, then as the Gulf War Exchequer for the next two years with a final year as the Emergency Deputy. This position starts on or about February 1, 2014. The deputy will replace the current Gulf Wars Exchequer after August 1, 2014.
Requirements include the ability to arrive the Friday before the War and stay late the Monday after the War. Applicant must have internet and email capability along with knowledge of Excel and Exchequer experience in the SCA, especially doing quarterly reports. Gulf War volunteer work is desired. A local branch of Bancorp South and/or Region’s bank would be helpful.
As indicated – this is a four-year position with the first year (starting August 1, 2014) as Deputy Gulf Wars Exchequer and the next two years as the Gulf War Exchequer. The final year will be as the Emergency Deputy to the incoming Gulf Wars Exchequer. This position is a warranted deputy to the Society Exchequer.
All interested applicants should send both their modern and SCA resumes to Genevieve McCullum de Caen, the Gulf Wars Exchequer at email@example.com and the Society Exchequer at firstname.lastname@example.org.The Gulf Wars Financial Committee and the Society Exchequer will review all applications.
Applications will be accepted until January 15, 2014
Filed under: Corporate Tagged: Exchequer, Gulf War
The village of Little Walsingham in North Norfolk was the site for a major pilgrimage during the 14th and 15th centuries. What still exists today of that ancient site? Take a virtual trip back to this shrine. (photos)
Archaeologists excavating Mingary Castle in west Ardnamurchan, Scotland have recovered a musket ball and canonball in the moat of the castle, speaking of an attack sometime in its past. Mingary is considered to be "the best preserved 13th-century castle in Scotland."