Returning (briefly)

Welp! It’s been nearly a year since I last posted something on here. Where has the time gone?!

The short answer: senior year happened. We won’t go into the long answer – not completely, anyway.

But now that I’m graduating, it’s time to resurrect the Medieval[ist] Tourist for about two weeks before it probably goes back into hibernation.

Hopefully my blog can get this comfy. Via

 

There are a few medieval-y things I’ve been working on/involved with: the biggest project of the year was my Capstone for Medieval Studies on St. Birgitta of Sweden. I hope to eventually share some of it on here, but for now, I’ll just say that it’s a reflection on my personal journey of discovery about and with Birgitta. Oh, and I also went on a study trip to Sweden in February, where I stayed with the Birgittine nuns in Vadstena.

Next week, I’ll be attending the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan (yes, that is a real place). There I’ll be enjoying four of the nerdiest days of my life: seminars, round tables, lectures, business meetings, and socials on every possible subject with medievalists from around the world for about 15 hours a day. It probably sounds like torture to many, but I am beyond excited to be able to fully get my geek on.

One of my other projects this semester is an independent study on Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be posting things related to/about Undset and Kristin.

Hopefully the things I say will make sense.

Hopefully.

But with finals and graduation here, I make no promises.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recreating a Simple Medieval Cookout

As summer draws near, we’re all looking forward to our favorite summer activities: relaxing by the pool, catching up on our reading lists (more like pretending to catch up on them), going on vacation, and whatever else you like to do when it’s sweltering outside. Ironically, though I much prefer frosty temperatures to the sticky hot summers of the Mid-Atlantic, I always look forward to summer picnics and cookouts. So, I thought I’d share a few pics of two soirées I found especially ravishing!

Follow these tips to recreate your own medieval cookout:

    1. Pick a prime location – castles make nice backdrops.
    2. Make sure your guests are entertained, whether you hire a jousting team or just make sure conversation flows. 

      Peasant Meal top half

      castles + a little retail therapy = happy guests; Plus you get to make some money on the side. Perfect for those who still want to host parties but can’t really afford to do so!

      Très Riches top half

      An entertaining battle with a castle for a backdrop makes for some high-class enjoyment.

    3. Invite everyone. Yes, even the dogs.

      Aren't they just the cutest? Who would be so cruel to leave out the dogs? Plus, they're totally additional entertainment - for free!

      Aren’t they just the cutest? Who would be so cruel to leave out the puppies? Plus, they’re totally additional entertainment – for free!

    4. Think about what kind of food you want to serve. Do you want a snug meal where everyone shares or something a little fancier?
    5. Your table décor should match the kind of food you serve: simple food = simple table settings.

      feasts

      Beautiful examples of both kinds of feasts. On the left is a very simple meal – no place settings, shared food & drink – accompanied by simple, rustic décor – benches and a simple table cloth is all you need! On the right is a more elaborate meal: lots of place settings, fancy gold décor, & lots of food!

    6. Encourage costumes! Anything from fun hats to full-blown fancy garb goes and makes fur a fun and carefree afternoon, or evening, or night . . .
      Costumes collage

      party hats

      Party hats shouldn’t even be an option.

       

Do these things and you’ll have  a cookout no one will forget!


The images used in this post are parts of two medieval images:

Medieval peasant meal

From: Aristotle, Politiques et économiques, 15th century France. Via.

Page from Très Riches Heures, early 15th century France. Via.

From Très Riches Heures, early 15th century France. Via.

 


 

This post is written for the last blog challenge of ENGL488B. Don’tcha worry, though, folks – I won’t stop here! 

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

RE: Seeking My Mission

Time for a bit of self-plugging today! I just finished writing a post for Notes from a Traveling Girl about my upcoming mission trip to Iceland (getting a wee bit excited over here!), and I thought I’d share it on here, too. Because why not? Iceland’s got medieval history, too, ya know. But I’ll save that for another time. If you want to see the original post, check it out here!


Hello friends! It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for Notes from a Traveling Girl, and I apologize for that. Y’all know how busy life can get. Anywho, I’d also like to point out that this the first post to the blog on its new platform! Doesn’t it look pretty?

Since today marks one month until I jet off on my next journey, I thought I’d share what I’m up to this summer:

As many of you probably already know, I have some pretty exciting summer plans. Yes, I’ll be traveling again (I lead such a hard life, I know). This time I’m going on a mission trip to Reykjavik, Iceland.

About the mission: 
I’m going through the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. There are a total of 12 missionaries going, including Sister Marie Notre Dame de Bon Secours, a Servant of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará. In Iceland, we will be working in the communities of the Church of St. Joseph (Reykjavik) and the Chapel of St. Barbara (Hafnarfjörður). All of us will be staying with local families. Our daily schedule will look something like this:

    • morning prayer & mass
    • home visits (i.e. “door-to-door evangelization”)
    • oratory (a kind of Vacation Bible School for the local kids)
    • mission sermon for the parents

Why I’m going: 
If I were to make a simply list of why I want to go on this trip, it might look something like this:

  1. I get to travel again.
  2. It’s Iceland. Who wouldn’t want to go?
  3. Puffins. Lots and lots of puffins.

But it’s not really that simple. We’ve all had moments where we think, This is right. This is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I had exactly this Aha! moment. Depending on your personal beliefs, you might call this fate or luck. I call it Divine Providence.

After I had come home from Norway, I kept thinking about the spiritual poverty in the country. Now, when people think about poverty, they usually think of material poverty. And when they go on mission trips, they usually go to help alleviate material poverty. And though spiritual enrichment is part of these mission trips, it isn’t necessarily at the forefront. Norway may be the 2nd wealthiest country in the world, but only 20% of Norwegians say that religion plays an important role in their lives. I witnessed a lot of this spiritual poverty when I was in Norway and I really wanted to do something about it. But then, what can an expat that doesn’t even really speak the language and is only there for a few months do on her own? Not much, in case you were wondering. But since then I have felt a desire to serve the spiritually poor, not just in Norway, but in Scandinavia as a whole.

During my first time back at the Catholic Student Center on campus, I was talking to Fr. Rob (our chaplain) about my frustrations and new-found desire to serve. He then told me there was a mission to Iceland and said I think you should go. For the first time, I felt the Holy Spirit really speak to me. Sometimes you can pretend not to hear God’s call, but not this time. He spoke loud and clear and my heart was set on fire. I wanted to serve and God gave me the A-Ok. 

The situation in Iceland: 
Iceland is much like Norway. With an economy that has been steadily improving since its 2008 crisis, Iceland is relatively well-off. But again, it’s not the material poverty that’s bringing us to Reykjavik. According to the country’s national tourism website (“The Gateway to Iceland”),

“Most Icelanders (80%) are members of the Lutheran State Church. Another 5% are registered in other Christian denominations, including the Free Church of Iceland and the Roman Catholic Church. Almost 5% of people practice ásatrú, the traditional Norse religion.” [emphasis added]

These numbers might look pretty good, but there are two issues:

  1. Though 85% of the population appears to be practicing some sort of Christianity, the numbers are actually much worse. Nearly half the population considers itself either non-religious or atheist.
  2. The 5% practicing ásatrú are following Norse paganism.  5% seems like a pretty innocent number, but if you do the math, that’s almost 160,000 people! I’m not sure to what extent this part of the population practices the rituals associated with the Old Norse religion – I’m assuming human sacrifices are no longer allowed – but the idea is unnerving.

Being in Iceland is not going to be a walk in the park. Our faith will be challenged, especially when we go on home visits. But this is exactly the kind of suffering I love! Some find joy in living in physically rough situations; I find my joy in situations in which my own faith is challenged and inevitably strengthened, and in which I get to share the love of Christ with those who are closed off from Him.

What else I’ll be doing:
On my way to Iceland, I’ll be stopping in Norway for a few days (Note: it’s actually cheaper for me to fly through Oslo to Reykjavik instead of flying directly to Reykjavik!). I’ll then be getting to Iceland a few weeks before the mission start. I’ll stay with the Servidoras in Reykjavik first and then hopefully be able to see a bit of the rest of the country.

The Servidoras in Iceland

These are the Servants in Iceland! Via.

Travel Dates:

    • June 12-17: Oslo, Norway
    • June 17-30: Iceland
    • July 5-16: Mission in Reykjavik

In order to fund my trip, I’ll continue to work with the Honors College at UMD. I’ll be staying with friends and other religious along the way to really cut down on costs and make the trip as cheap as possible. However, a big part of our mission is also bringing religious ed supplies to Iceland. Here’s a list of things we’re trying to bring with us:

    • saints prayer cards
    • Catholic Catechisms
    • rosaries
    • small holy water bottles
    • craft supplies
    • videos about the saints

These supplies can make a world of a difference for the people in Reykjavik and really bring the faith to life! I ask you to join me in this mission first and foremost in prayer: please pray for me and the other missionaries, for the religious in Iceland, for the Church in Iceland, for the Icelandic people!

However, if you can also support me monetarily, I would be extremely grateful. Without the weight of a financial burden I can better serve God and His people and completely focus my attention on the mission. Please consider giving to my mission via the website I have set up on CrowdRise. Any little bit helps and I’ll be more than grateful for whatever you can contribute.*


 I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.  [Romans 9: 1-5]


*If you want to give towards a specific item, please send me a note! 

[Edit: 5% of Iceland’s population is 16,000, not 160,000. Thanks, Keep on Learning!]

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Jester-Shepherd on TIngelstad I

Our blog challenge this week to write a note about fashion. My mind immediately went in twenty different directions of potential posts (don’t worry, I’ve written them all down for later posts!), but I settled on doing something that I’ve been working with for a while: altar frontals! Specifically Norwegian altar frontals – they’re beautiful pieces of work and I could go on about them ad nauseam. But I’ll spare — for now [cue evil laugh]. Before I get ahead of myself any further, lemme explain what I’m talking about:

An altar frontal is pretty much anything pretty placed before or attached to an altar to decorate it. E.g.:

Picture of high altar from Kapucijnenkerk in Ostend, Belgium

That carved wood at the front of the altar is the altar frontal. This is the high altar from Kapucijnenkerk in Ostend, Belgium. Pretty, right? By Georges Jansoone. PS-The arrow’s pointing at the frontal, in case you couldn’t find it.

 

 

 

 

Arrow

 

 

 

There are 31 medieval frontals from Norway and all of them are painted ones. This is one of the largest collections of one kind of art from the Middle Ages. When I was in Oslo last semester, I saw nearly all of the 31 frontals, the majority of which I saw in the University Museum of Bergen (read about my visit here!). I fell in love with them, to say the least. I think they’re beautiful works of art and I love the iconography on them. Plus I’m just a total geek and devour pretty much everything academic about them that I can get my hands on. I’m currently hoarding the amazing three volume work, Painted Altar Frontals of Norway, 1250-1350, and my absolute favorite book in the world – but actually – Norske frontaler fra middelalderen i Bergen MuseumSomeone please buy me these. I’ll love you forever and ever. And I’ll make you yummy cookies! [imagine your favorite cookie here].

If that wasn’t proof enough about how rambly I get when I talk about Norwegian altar frontals, then I don’t know what is.

To continue: One of my absolute favorite Norwegian altar frontals is the Tingelstad I (ca. 1275-1300) frontal (RE: title of post). Here it is:

Picture of original Tingelstad I frontal

This is the original altar frontal. Well, a picture of the original. From Vol. 3 of Painted altar frontals of Norway, 1250-1350.

Picture of reconstructed Tingelstad I frontal

This is a reconstruction of the original. I.e. this is what the frontal would’ve looked like during the Middle Ages. Beautiful, isn’t it? Via.

Picture of Tingelstad I reconstructed frontal installed

And here it is attached to its altar. People still worship here! Via.

 

Okay, so now you actually know what the thing looks like. I’ll probably end up talking about the entire frontal eventually (spread out over posts, of course), but for now I’m going to talk about one specific character, und zwar, this guy:

Picture of shepherd from Tingelstad I

From the 2nd frame (upper register, right side) of the frontal

Let’s call him Samuel. Samuel is a shepherd, who is present during the angel’s annunciation to the shepherds in the story of the Nativity (that’s Jesus Christ’s birth). Now, Samuel is a rather special character. You see, aside from looking rather stern, having rather rosy cheeks (or at least one rosy cheek), and standing on Candyland-esque hills, Samuel is wearing a mi-particolored tunic. What’s that? you ask? It basically means that his tunic is two-colored and that these colors are arranged in a kind of checkerboard fashion. In other words, it’s what we often imagine court jesters wearing:

I think our dear Samuel is a little less creepy than this fellow.

Why’s this important? Well, you can tell just by looking at the tunic that it’s not exactly the easiest piece of clothing to create. Or at least that it’s a lot more complicated than a one-colored tunic. Which means that only members of (royal) courts could have afforded these.

Then why is a shepherd wearing this? That is a good question, my friend, and unfortunately one that I am not really qualified to answer.

Medievalist/iconographer (or even medievalist-iconographer) Margrethe C. Stang suggested in her dissertation,  Paintings, patronage and popular piety. Norwegian altar frontals and society c. 1250-1350, that Samuel was painted thus to add a bit of humor to the frontal. I agree with Stang, and I think this suggests what kind of an audience Tingelstad I had. Who else besides the elite would see the irony in a poor shepherd wearing fancy-schmancy courtly clothes? The peasants would probably just be sad that they can’t afford such finery. Unfortunately that’s about all I can say about Samuel.

Sadly there isn’t really any literature speculating about the origins/inspirations/purpose of Samuel’s clothing. In fact, there’s a lack of academic discussion about the altar frontals as a whole – most of it’s just descriptive/catalogue stuff. This is partly because there is a huge lack of primary sources, including church inventories, letters, information about patrons and the frontals’ original parishes, etc. Explaining the frontals is definitely important, but I’d like to see a little conversation among the scholars who have been diligently working their way through the Norwegian altar frontals for the past 40 years. I’d love to be a part of this conversation, but I am nowhere near being qualified enough to discuss with the superstar academics of Norwegian painted panels (here’s looking at you, Nigel Morgan, Anne Wichstrøm, Margrethe C. Stang, and Erla B. Hohler!). They should definitely have a go at it, though!

 

 

[If I have missed a source, or messed up information, or am missing something important, please, please, please contact me! Again, I am only an amateur, especially in art history.]

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

St. Elizabeth of Hungary: Patron of (Me)

This week, our class blog challenge was to take an analog memory and make it digital. I immediately thought Great. How the heck do I make this work. I’ve never been to the Middle Ages and everything I’ve done about the Middle Ages is definitely digital. Then I – you might say miraculously – remembered my patron saint, Elizabeth of Hungary. I mean, that’s what patron saints are for, right? To look out for you. [Quick shout out to my girl, Elizabeth!] Here she is:


 

Painting of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Spinning for the Poor

St. Elizabeth of Hungary Spinning for the Poor
Marianne Stokes
1895

St. Elizabeth of Hungary 

Born: 1207; Hungary

Died: November 17, 1231; Marburg, Germany

Feast Day: November 17

Canonization: 1235, Pope Gregory IX

Patron of: tertiaries, widows, young brides, bakers, the homeless, the falsely accused, nursing services, death of children, Third Order of St. Francis

Attributes: roses, crown, basket, bread

Backstory: Elizabeth was the daughter of King Alexander II of Hungary. At four years old she was sent to the Landgrave of Thuringia to be educated alongside the Landgrave’s son, Louis, to whom she was betrothed. Elizabeth and Louis married in 1221 and had three children. After Louis died (1227) en route to the Sixth Crusade, Elizabeth regained her dowry and used the money to build a hospital for the poor in Marburg. Throughout her life, Elizabeth lived simply and charitably, and after Louis’ death, Elizabeth took official vows of chastity and poverty and became associated with the Order of St. Francis. She served in the hospital she had built until her death.

Legend: Louis supported Elizabeth’s service to the poor, in which she most frequently distributed bread. People began to question why Elizabeth was leaving the castle so often and some accused her of stealing from the treasury. Once, when she met Louis and his hunting party on her way to distributing bread to the poor, someone asked her to show what was under her cloak. When she moved her cloak, there were roses in place of the bread.

Saintly Relations:
St. Hedwig of Silesia, aunt (1174-1243)


Lemme take a small step back. . . Patron saints. Huh? I think AmericanCatholic.org puts it quite well, so I’ll use their definition:

Certain Catholic saints are associated with certain life situations. These patron saints intercede to God for us. We can take our special needs to them and know they will listen to our prayers, and pray to God with us.

That’s pretty much it. Now, when Catholics get confirmed, they choose a patron saint, whose name they adopt as their confirmation name. In some countries this seems to be more intense than others. In the U.S., for example, we get pretty excited about our patrons. They become an important part of our lives, even if your choice seems arbitrary when you’re going through confirmation. When I was in Norway, I found out that there patron saints don’t really play a role other than that it’s part of the ritual.

I know you’re thinking, But Jenn, how do you pick one saint from the thousands that exist? I’d have to say luck. Or divine intervention, really. Because I think the saint chooses the confirmandee. Here’s how I picked my patron: when my family moved here from Germany in 2002, my brother and I started going to Mother Seton School – yes, the original one started by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose shrine is also in Emmitsburg. In seventh grade, we had to research a saint for religion class and make a tapestry depicting that saint. I’m not really sure how I settled for Elizabeth of Hungary, but I know I wanted a lesser known saint. In any case, artsy little me loved this project and I think the final product turned out quite well:

Picture of the St. Elizabeth of Hungary tapestry I made in 7th grade

Yes, I still have it. I’m quite proud of it actually. Thanks for the pic, Mom!

So when it came time to pick my confirmation saint two years later, I thought Why not? and stuck with her. Or maybe she stuck with me. I know quite a few other cases that ran along the same lines. Before I finally decided on Elizabeth though, I had spent hours and hours looking up hundreds of other saints. The last two contenders were (ironically) Elizabeth of Hungary and Hedwig of Silesia, though I definitely did not realize at the time that they are related.

Now that I’m older and (presumably) wiser, my choice makes a lot of sense and really is a blessing. For one, she’s a medieval saint from Germany. I am a medievalist German. Then, a few years ago, I was talking to my mom (hey mom!) about saints and, naturally, Elizabeth of Hungary and Mother Seton came up. From there we somehow moved to baby names (I was named after my mother’s doll. Or, as she puts it, the doll was named after me – just, ya know, 20 years before I was actually born), and I found out that my parents almost named me Elizabeth after my mom’s grandmothers (I guess naming me after a doll was more exciting). So, now I’m an Elizabeth after all.

The cool stuff happened a few weeks ago, though. I like old pictures, and so my mom gave me a 19th century print of the Marburg Cathedral about two years ago. I thought, Cool. Old print of a German cathedral. Don’t have a connection to it other than that it’s German, but whatevs. It’s pretty. Oh, you foolish child! As I recently discovered, I have a pretty big connection to the place, even though I still haven’t been there. On my mom’s side, my grandfather’s aunt was a Lutheran nun. Turns out that she was a nun in Marburg, which became Protestant during the Reformation. Already pretty cool, right? Well, as you can see on Elizabeth’s Steckbrief, she worked and died in Marburg. And therefore was buried there. Now, while her remains and possessions were scattered all over Europe during the Protestant Reformation, some of her relics have always been in the cathedral. In other words, my relative prayed and worshipped in the church where my patron saint is buried. Whoa. More like:

Me. All the time. Via.

I think this is totes cool. It’s amazing how you get these little glimpses into how God works and the blessings we’ve been given. Obviously I don’t fit into any of her official patronages: I’m not a baker, I’m not a young bride, I’m definitely not widowed or have suffered the death of any of my children. But she’s still my patron saint and we’re tight. The cool thing about saints is that you don’t have to fall into a certain category to talk to them. They’ll listen to anyone and everyone. And even if it doesn’t seem immediately clear why you’re stuck to a particular saint, it’ll become clear with time.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

(Briefly) Defining Historical Foundations of Religious

This past weekend I went on a discernment retreat at the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará‘s convent. Yes, I slept in a convent. No, it wasn’t silent all weekend. I’ve been going to first Friday (of the month) pizza nights for two years now and have gotten to know some of the sisters very well. They’re a really young order (founded only in the late 1980s) and so full of life. They pretty much shatter every stereotype of religious there is. Well except for being religious and that kinda stuff. But that’s kind of a given, isn’t it? You should really go check out their website. Oh yeah and I’ll be going to Iceland with them in July, so be sure check out my other blog to see what I’m up to then! Anyway, I’ve always been fascinated by religious orders of any time period, and I thought I’d use this opportunity to break religious communities down for y’all (because I’ll definitely be talking about them again).

I think the best way to go through this is chronologically. So, we’ll start with hermits. Hermits are people who went to go live off in the wild starting in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Or at least that’s how they started out. Way back when there were a bunch of John the Baptists running around in the desert, where they would come face to face with their (presumably internal) devils. They are better known as ascetics, or people who abstain from a number of worldly pleasures to focus on spiritual growth. The movement was primarily in Egypt but also existed in Syria, and the big honchos of the ascetics of Late Antiquity are collectively called Desert Fathers (don’t worry, there are also a few Desert Mothers). The idea of being a hermit is that you’re completely alone. Of course, if you’re one of the big honchos, that’s kinda problematic because people find out about you. And then find you. And then want to talk to you. So, if you’re someone like St. Anthony the Great, you instead spend your life teaching others how to be alone (or something to that effect). If you’re really into hermits, there’s a whole website dedicated to them.

The Desert Fathers set the stage for early medieval monasticism. As the numbers of hermits grew, the space required to live successfully alone diminished drastically, so they decided to team up and live in communities. Just kidding. But they did start living together because why not? They all had the same goals, so they may as well help each other out [cue annoying Disney music]. Skipping ahead to the 5th century, we meet one of my all time faves: St. Benedict of Nursia (480-543). I could spend an entire post on him. But I’ll spare y’all this time. Benedict – yes, we’re on a first name basis – started off as a hermit. Eventually, Benedict established Monte Cassino, one of the – if not the – most important monasteries in the history of western monasticism because it is the foundation of western monasticism. With Monte Cassino came a new kind of hermit: the monk. Monks are men who are closed off from the world and live within a community that follows certain rules specific to their order. Nuns are the female counterpart to monks. Monks and nuns – in class I shorthand that to muns (teehee) – both live in monasteries, but nuns’ residences can also be referred to as cloisters or convents (check the glossary for the specific definitions of these). Benedict’s book of rules, the Regula Benedicti (which set the groundwork for future rules), lists everything the monks in the Benedictine order should and shouldn’t do, from how many times a day they should pray to how to treat their clothes. In short, monks and nuns are pretty much hermits that live in a group.

I could go into other big  monastic groups in the middle ages, but then you’d be reading a paper and not a blog post, so I’ll spare you. Instead, I’ll move on to mendicant orders. Mendicant orders, part of a 13th century movement to make the Church and religion more accessible to regular people (i.e. the laity). You’ve probably heard of St. Francis of Assisi (that guy with the animals) and St. Dominic, both of whom founded their own mendicant orders. The men in mendicant orders are friars. They live in poverty and lead ascetic lives like monks and nuns do, but they are not cloistered. Instead, they go around preaching the Gospel to people.

Now, while women such as St. Clare of Assisi (the Poor Clares) founded complementary orders to some of the mendicant orders, the Middle Ages were a little tricky when it came to women religious. So, while sisters like the Poor Clares lived (and still do) in the spirit of the Franciscans, they weren’t true mendicant orders because the Church didn’t allow women to be mendicants. This may sound sexist (and maybe it is), but there was a huge concern for the safety of women walking around unsupervised during the Middle Ages. As a result, women like Clare ended up in their own cloisters, living mostly as nuns.

And that’s where the Servidoras come in. Because things have changed since the Middle Ages (duh). The Servidoras are a modern-day mendicant order. They live in poverty, are ascetics, but also mission all over the world. In their convent they are allowed to communicate with each other except when in the cloisters, which is where their bedrooms are. They also have a contemplative branch within their order, so really they’re everything rolled into one group! (They also have a cool brother order, the Institute of the Incarnate Word, for all you men out there) In any case, women mendicants (sisters) do actually exist. Other examples are the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters and Daughters of Charity, and of course Mother Theresa‘s order, the Missionaries of Charity.

And because I can’t decide which medieval saint to feature, I’ll just post a picture of the holy women I got to spend my weekend with:

Picture of the Servidoras at the Juniorate in D.C.

The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará at the Juniorate House of Studies in Washington, D.C. Via

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back on Track. Kind Of.

This one’s going to be short ‘n sweet:

I just added a new page to my blog – woo for adding stuff! If you didn’t see it up top, it’s called “Glossary of Useful Stuff” (original, I know). I decided to make this my little pet project for my own and your benefit: y’all now have a place where you can look up definitions of terms I use in my posts and I can practice explaining these things in a way that doesn’t make me sound like an obnoxious prat.

Please comment here or on the page if there are things you think I’m missing, either from my posts or from other definitions. Also let me know if I need to clarify things – again, I’m practicing.

Next: I’m slightly shifting the focus of my blog. Originally I had said that I was going to write about all kinds of pilgrimages from the Middle Ages and today’s pilgrimages to medieval places. Unfortunately, this is a rather overwhelming topic for your baby-medievalist. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing about this, but it just doesn’t come naturally. In other words, it’s not you, medieval pilgrimage. It’s me.

But don’t worry, Medieval[ist] Tourist will still be about traveling and pilgriming. It’ll just be focused a little more on my personal growth in the field of Medieval Studies and my plethora of quirky interests.

So, from now on, there won’t be schedule of topics. I’ll post about whatever I feel inspired to write and so share with you lovely people all that I find amazing about the Middle Ages.

And now, go forth and prosper, and enjoy the beautiful weather if you have it!

 

[Note: I’m still going to be writing about saints and the Church a lot. That actually is one of my quirky little interests.]

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Learning in College, Part 3

Last, but not least: Fellow classmate and blogger Tish Bruce talks about the trials of switching from high school learning to college learning. Tish, a fabulous tour guide at UMD, is the author of Beyond the Tour. Check out her blog for some great insights into the administrative side of academia and how to do college right.

On Making the Switch from High School Learning to College Learning – by Tish Bruce

From my experience and the experiences of my friends,  students tend to struggle with learning in college for different reasons.  I have seen students come from high schools where they were the class Valedictorian and once they come into college they struggle to find their niche and excel at the same level. These struggles seem to stem from the following factors:

1.   The Level of Difficulty of their High School
2.   Inability to adjust to different teaching methods
3.   Time management

While these are only three of the possible problems, the overall theme is that with each grade sequence in one’s life (elementary, middle, high school, college), you need to make an appropriate adjustment to understand how to learn at that level.

Each grade level in elementary and secondary school increases in difficulty but the there is a drastic shift from high school to college.  Once you enter college you no longer have the confines of your home to protect you, your parents, or anyone else to influence you .

The Level of Difficulty of their High School

It is a known fact that there are differences in teaching methods between high schools across America. Some schools offer AP and IB classes while others do not. Some schools use a 4.0 grading scale while others use a 5.0 or even a point system out of 1000. Some schools have Rhodes scholars and Ivy League graduates teaching students while others have volunteers.

With so much variation in high schools it can be expected that students will be coming in with different levels and experience learning. This is why colleges typically require that students submit a “Secondary School Report” which details every aspect of their school. Admissions Representatives will then compare the student to their high school. Depending on a school, a particular student could have been in the top of their class at a not so competitive high school, come to college and not do as well since their school did not adequately prepare them.

Inability to Adjust to Different Teaching Methods

As stated in the previous section, many students struggle learning in college due to the level of difficulty of their high school. This struggle continues when students are forced to adhere to different teaching styles. In high school, many teachers will spoon feed their students the information they teach in order to make things easier for them.  In high school there are make up exams, your teachers will contact you if you’re failing a test, and they generally hold your hand through everything.

Once you enter college, you are faced with different professors who each have varying ways of teaching. Some professors teach solely out of a textbook [which means going to class isn’t necessary]. Some professors talk the entire time during a lecture without stopping for questions.  Some professors will teach one concept in class and put a different concept on the exam which creates confusion for students.

Each professor you encounter in college has a different teaching method which can make learning a bit difficult. With that in mind, students [particularly freshmen] struggle with figuring out how their professor teaches and how they can utilize their teaching method to learn accordingly.

In order to overcome this, students should meet with their professors and teaching assistants in order to get to know them on a personal level and learn their teaching style.

Time Management

Out of all the reasons why students struggle with learning in college, time management is the most important.  When students enter college they are given a new sense of freedom: they are no longer confined to their homes, no parents, no supervision, new friends, and endless experiences.

With that being said, some students struggle to balance their new found social life, sleeping, and studying.  Deadlines start to creep up on them and, as the picture to the left illustrates, there is pressure to keep up with extra curriculars, family, work etc in order to be a “successful student”.

In order to overcome these problems, time management is VERY important. The University of Maryland for example gives students agenda books once they move onto campus. This allows students to write down dates and deadlines and help them manage their school and study time. Along with the agenda book, UMD offers learning assistance services to help students work on basic study skills, techniques, and ways they can effectively manage their time.

Overall, each student learns at a different level and pace. It is imperative that as students enter college, they are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and the fact that college is an entirely new chapter of their life that they must plan for accordingly.

 

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Learning in College, Part 2

Today’s special: Fellow classmate, blogger, and IVSPer Rob Cobb talks about learning in and outside of the college classroom. Give his post a read, and don’t forget to check out his blog, Learning Learning, to read more about how we learn and what we can do to be better learners. This stuff’s applicable to everyone, not just students. So, go check it out (after you read this post, of course).

On Learning in College – by Rob Cobb (KeeponLearnin)

Feminist theory, public health, statistics, real estate, cooking, current affairs – I have learned lots of things in my time in college. But, although the university offers classes in each of these domains, all I know about these diverse subjects I learned outside of the lecture hall.

I have blogged before about learning outside the normal systems of education – if I were to sum up the point of the blog, it might be ‘a how-to guide for learning in and out of the classroom’. Today I want to take time to focus on the curricular and extracurricular learning that happens in places of “higher learning.”

I have learned in my classes – mostly the learning takes place as I am doing the reading and homework, but sometimes the lectures are good and I learn there too. Nevertheless, in terms of raw learning, the formation of my identity and development of skills and acquisition of knowledge – I have done more of that outside of my classes than in them.

Granted, I have taken advantage of a great number of opportunities for extracurricular development – I studied abroad, I write for the school paper, I volunteer at a crisis hotline and a youth leadership program, I was in an entrepreneurship living and learning program as well as a multidisciplinary program focused on project-based learning, systems, and quality. I also work at a technology summer camp and bought and rented out my house.

Naturally, I have learned in all of those experiences, and it shouldn’t be too surprising that who I am and what I know comes more from those things than it does from listening to professors talk. Colleges are aware that learning about the world goes on outside the classes we take – faculty and administrators do their darndest to get us to do things – internships, contests, research – that enrich our learning.

Despite all that effort, college remains poorly designed for the curious! It is designed for specialization, but hacks like Gen Ed requirements and extracurriculars do not make higher ed good for those who want to generalize. The fourteen or fifteen week course is not my idea of an introduction to a subject, thank you very much, and there is a limit of ~10 or so classes you can take outside your major. (If you are very clever, you can do what Jenn and I did and make your own major out of the courses you want, but even that limits you to 40 or 50 courses total, which isn’t enough for me, at least!).

I am interested in diverse subjects, and want to learn about them. While I believe that I ought to know some subjects in depth, I do not have the chance to do minor exploration with the plentiful experts that surround me. That stinks! Instead, I have to learn about these cool things from wikipedia and talking with my friends. Not that those aren’t great things to do, but why is college designed so that engineers never speak with public health professors who in turn never see business professors who never interact with art students?

Interacting with just one type of professor and one type of student is boring.

Why not have a week or two a year for each professor to give open lectures on their subject? Why not offer short courses that allow for shallower but broader learning, fostering interaction across disciplines?

If we look for an answer, it’s probably not going to make anyone happy. No one in the administration seriously gives thought to changing the way our semester works, or ‘fostering interaction across disciplines.’ Our bureaucracy is too tightly bound to the 14- or 15-week semester and making things run smoothly the way they always have to experiment with different types of teaching and learning.

At least officially. I know from taking classes in many departments that outside perspectives are valued in the classroom. I know from meeting students and professors of many disciplines that each discipline is, without exception, highly interesting, and filled with exciting and interesting people doing great work. While I can’t yet say that the way courses are arranged and administered makes any sense, colleges are still hubs where the smart and the brilliant congregate.

If you can figure out how to talk to lots of those smart people, you might just become smart yourself! Until then, keep using the internet for getting smart. I’ll leave you with a powerful mental tool that I had to pick up outside the classroom, because there are no classes on useful mental tricks.

Fermi estimation lets you make good guesses and back of the envelope type calculations. It’s most useful if you practice with it, so first link is a more detailed explanation of what and why, and the second is a link for practicing!

About Fermi Estimates: http://lesswrong.com/lw/h5e/fermi_estimates/

Practice: http://www.fermiquestions.com/

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Learning in College, Part 1

Y’all know that this blog was started for this wonderful English course I’m taking at UMD. As part of maintaining our blogs, we have weekly blog challenges through which we can learn a little more about being bloggers and spice up our writing. One challenge was to hyperlink to at least five sources; for another challenge we had to include an original image.

Last week, our professor split us into “blog affinity groups” and challenged us to create a blog challenge appropriate for our group. My group, the “academia/college life” group, decided to do a collaborative posting series in which each of us speaks about our experiences in our niche of the university. I.e. a new post will appear for the next three days.

So, without further ado,
I present to you,
the tales of three developing scholars,
who happen to be brilliant bloggers.

On being a Medieval Studies major – by yours truly

As I mention on my About page, I created my Medieval Studies major through the Individual Studies Program (IVSP) at UMDCP. Now, while being the only Medieval Studies at a university of 26.708 full-time undergraduate students is pretty awesome (if I do say so myself), it doesn’t come without its challenges.

Let me start from the beginning.

For anyone to create a major at UMD, they have to come to the IVSP office with some idea. In other words, no, you can’t major in Underwater Basket Weaving (unless, of course, the appropriate classes are offered). From there, you start building your major: you have to decide what kinds of classes you want to take and be able to justify why they are necessary for the major, you have to define your major, you have to think of a Capstone project, etc. etc. After all that, you propose your major to a board and it’s up to them whether you get to declare a major in the degree you built. My point? You have to be really dedicated to your idea. Of course if you’re going to IVSP to create a major, then I think it’s pretty safe to say that you’re dedicated to the idea.

If the board approves your major, you’re set and take the courses you prescribed for your major. For the most part, the majors consist of pretty standard courses in various departments. Mine isn’t an exception. My Medieval Studies major consists of the following concentrations:

  • History
  • Society & Culture
  • Religion & the Foundation of Church Latin
  • Modern Language Study

Now these seem like pretty straightforward concentrations, right? They are for the most part (i.e. anything related to language and basic history), but medieval stuff isn’t really popular at UMD, which means that courses frequently are not offered or get cancelled. This means I sometimes have to get creative with replacing classes. Other times I just have to pray really hard that it works out (like I did for next semester, and, lo and behold, it worked out!).

Despite the difficulties of being the only Medieval Studies major, it’s such a rewarding experience! I get so much great feedback and encouragement from professors and other students and whenever I get to talk about my major I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Not to mention that having the initiative to build your own major looks pretty great on your CV.

However, I do have to confess that I am extremely possessive of my major. I want nothing more than to have a fellow baby-medievalist follow in my footsteps and create a Medieval Studies major, but I cannot stand it when just plain History students claim to be Medieval Studies majors. This normally happens at the beginning of the semester when we go around the class and introduce ourselves to our professor and fellow classmates by stating our names, majors, and interesting facts. I feel so accomplished when I introduce myself as a Medieval Studies major. But for some reason there are always a few History students doing concentrations in the Middle Ages who feel that it’s OK for them to copy me and say they’re Medieval Studies majors, too. This usually results in me giving them a half glare that tries to tell them You know nothing. 

I think a Game of Thrones reference is pretty appropriate, don’t you? [Via]

So, my tactic has changed, and instead of making my interesting fact that I grew up in a foreign country or have studied seven languages or that I can touch my nose with my tongue, my interesting fact now is that I am the only Medieval Studies major in the history of the University of Maryland. BAM.

[HT to Learning Learning for finding this gem via]

[Disclaimer: Snark emphasized for dramatic effect. Author is not actually this stuck-up about her major. Usually.]

But if you get as excited as I do about something, please come talk to me about creating your own major! It’s so rewarding and a great experience. Not to mention all the other awesome people you meet along the way!

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

David Ganz Lecture on Paleography

Last Friday I went to my home parish’s fish bake with my parents, where we ran into a good family friend who teaches at McDaniel College. She’s a fellow medievalist and she has all kinds of wild connections, so of course I love talking to her.

Anywho, she told me that McDaniel College is hosting the David Ganz, Professor of Paleography. He once was the UK’s only Chair of Paleography – that is until King’s College London gave him the boot. Currently Ganz is a visiting professor at University of Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute, where he is teaching two graduate courses this semester.

Here are some guest posts Ganz wrote for medievalfragments.

The lecture is on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 19.30 in the McDaniel Lounge, McDaniel College.

I am simultaneously beyond excited and devastated: Excited because it’s going to be an amazing lecture. Devastated because at this point I have no way of getting there (any volunteers?!).

DGanz Lecture Poster jpeg

And if you’re still not sure what’s the deal with paleography and why it’s important, this article is a good one to read!

À bientôt, m’dears!

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of Carrying Stuff

So, I was actually going to write about Holy Land pilgrimages today, but then I came across this gem on the blog Amawalker:

Backpack Myth

I chuckled out loud (can I say COL?), and hence was inspired to write what pilgrims look like. It seems like today pilgriming has become somewhat synonymous with backpacking. Now I don’t think this is completely invalid, especially because many people who follow pilgrimage routes aren’t necessarily going on a pilgrimage. But I think it is interesting to actually think about what this comic is saying. And thus I give you reflection time!

But seriously, why is it that we have all this stuff with us all the time? Nowadays, traveling ‘lightly’ apparently means taking with you as much as the airline will allow/you can (just barely) handle on your own. Backpacking is very popular in Europe, which would make you think that Europeans have therefore mastered the art of packing lightly. But people travel with ginormous backpacks plus another normal-sized backpack that they sling around front. The girls frequently also carry purses on top of the backpacks. I must say this looks extremely uncomfortable and I have a hard time imagining traveling long distances carrying all this stuff.

When I went to Norway last fall, nearly every European study abroad student brought at least two suitcases with them. Some even had parents or friends bring another suitcase full of stuff when they came to visit. I, traveling from the good ole US of A, did not have that luxury. I packed my one suitcase to the 23 kg – that’s 50 lb. for you non-metric using peeps – limit and my one carry-on and shipped off to Norway.

While I sometimes [correction: often] felt out of place because I had a very limited wardrobe, it was kind of liberating not having so much stuff. Packing for side trips was a lot easier because I had about 5 shirts, 4 sweaters, and three cardigans to choose from. Question: If I managed to live out of one suitcase for five months, why do backpackers walk around carrying as much for just two or three weeks? Answer: I haven’t a clue (but maybe I’ll find out when I go on my own pilgrimage one day).

When I was coming home from Norway, I met a girl who had just visited her Norwegian host family for two weeks. All she had with her was a backpacking pack that was larger than a school bag but still small enough to meet carry-on requirements. For two weeks. In the middle of winter. In Norway. I was very impressed because winter usually requires all sorts of warm layers and that generally take up a lot of room. She’s obviously very skilled at packing.

Now, while I don’t think that it is necessary to pack the way this girl did for every trip, I think she definitely has the right idea for packing for a pilgrimage.

Aha! Pilgrimage, you think. Yes, this post actually does relate back to the topic of my blog.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Pilgrimage and packing. So here’s what I’m thinking: if people went on and still go on pilgrimage to experience/accomplish some sort of change, why do we instinctively want to bring all of our old stuff with us? I find it easier to experience change when I have less stuff from my past weighing me down, and I’d imagine it’s the same for going on a pilgrimage.

Perhaps it’s social norms that cause people to want to pack so much: daily (or at least every other day) showers are pretty typically expected for good hygiene, wearing the same outfit twice in a row is unacceptable, we cannot possibly survive without all of our technology, etc., etc. But I think going on pilgrimage is already a special enough journey that these things need not apply. I mean, who’s gonna know you already wore that shirt twice this week? Or that you’re still wearing yesterday’s socks? And why bring your laptop when you have all these amazing new sites to take in?

I firmly believe that by packing more lightly and therefore living simpler lives while on pilgrimage (and in general, actually), we can invite the change we seek and be more proactive about it, whether that means listening to your body, working on a habit, or fighting through emotions.

Further, for the spiritually inclined, Saint Matthew says “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” [Matt. 6, 31-32]. In other words, don’t worry. If ya need it, He’ll make sure ya get it.

In this season of Lent, I am working on living more simply.* I hope to continue this after the season of Lent, as well. I’m not living on just the bare necessities – did that song just pop into your head, too? – and I’ll probably never get there completely, unless, you know, I join a cloister or something. But so far I have found that living even just a little more simply has helped me tremendously.

So, whether you’re on a literal pilgrimage or on an odyssey of the soul, try leaving some things behind to clear the path for change.

And in case “Bare Necessities” miraculously did not get stuck in your head, it is now: 

 

*If you’re curious about what I gave up for Lent or if you want ideas for things you can give up in your own life, feel free to ask me in an email/message/in person! 

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doctorly Saints: Augustine & Jerome

[Update: In my struggle with this thing called WordPress, my picture of Saint Jerome seems to be hiding. If you click on where the empty space for it is, you’ll get to see it, though. Don’t hold your breath while I try to fix this (I’ll gladly take tips though!) – it might take me a year…]

[Update update: I did it! And it didn’t take me a year! Anyway, you can now also see Saint Jerome – enjoy.]

Okay, so the title is a bit misleading since these guys aren’t actual doctors. The title “doctor”  (as I explained in my last post) just means that these guys really know their stuff when it comes to the Church and theology and all that good stuff. But actually.

Anyway, to the point: who are these guys? Well, a long, long time ago…

You know what? I’m just going to give it to you simply, in the form of Steckbriefe (that’s German for, uh, short profiles. Actually, they’re wanted posters, but we’ll just ignore that. It literally means “a letter that is to be stuck onto something,” or something to that effect):


 

Philippe de Champaigne
1645-50

Saint Augustine of Hippo
Born: 13 November 354; Thagaste, Numidia (modern-day Algeria)

Died: 28 August 430; Hippo-Regius, Numidia (also modern-day Algeria)

Feast Day: August 28

Canonization: 1298, Pope Boniface VIII

Patron of: brewers, printers, theologians, alleviation of  sore eyes, Augustinians

Attributes: pierced heart, bishop’s staff, dove, child

Backstory: Born to a Christian mother and a pagan father (he converted on his deathbed), Augustine was raised Christian but left the Church in favor of Manichaeism and led a hedonistic life. He taught grammar in Carthage for a bit and then moved on to Rome and Milan. In 386, Augustine converted to Christianity and was baptized by St. Ambrose. After his mother’s death in 388, he gave away all of his belongings except his family’s home, which he converted into a monastery. In 391 he was ordained a priest and in 395 he became bishop of Hippo.

Some Ideas:
Spiritual things are superior to earthly things – the soul is above the body, spiritual love is more significant than earthly (or carnal) love.
God created the universe all at once – the 7-day thing is just a structure applied to make the creation story easier to understand.

Major Works:
Confessions (397-98)
City of God (published 426)

Saintly Relations:
St. Monica, mother (331-87)
St. Ambrose, baptized him (337-97)
St. Thomas Aquinas, follower (1225-74)


Doctorly Map

Map drawn by yours truly. I think there’ll be more of these in the future – my inner wannabe cartographer and third grader rather enjoyed this little project! (Please ignore the ink showing through. I was trying to save the world and reuse paper, but my scanner decided to punish me anyway. )


 

Louis Cretey  2nd half of 17th c.

Louis Cretey
2nd half of 17th c.

St. Jerome

Born: 347; Stridon, Dalmatia

Died: 420, Bethlehem

Feast Day: 30 September (Western Church); 15 June (Eastern Church)

Canonization: Unknown (likely shortly after his death)

Patron of: archaeologists, archivists, librarians, Bible scholars, students, translators

Attributes: lion, skull, trumpet, owl

Backstory: Jerome studied grammar and classical authors in Rome, where he converted to Christianity and was baptized sometime in the 360s. In the 370s he traveled through Asia Minor until he reached Antioch, where he had a vision in which he was told to stop studying secular texts. So, Jerome dedicated himself to a life of asceticism and studied the Bible. In 386, he moved to Jerusalem, where he dedicated the rest the rest of his life to writing commentaries on Scripture and translating the Bible into Latin, although it is recorded that he died near Bethlehem.

Some Ideas:
Much of his writing defends Christian practices and beliefs, such as the Trinity and asceticism. Early in his career, Jerome used classical texts to explain Christian concepts.
Jerome is best known for his translations of major Christian documents.

Major Works:
The Vulgate (late 4th c.)
Chronicon (c. 380)

Saintly Relations:
St. Paula, friend (347-404)
St. Marcella, correspondent (325-410)


So what about pilgrimage? Let’s start with some Latin:

In melius renovabimur. We will be changed into something better.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the basic idea of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage, whether spiritual or physical, changes a person in any number of ways. This can be anything from finding oneself to just getting physically fit. But we change. And it’s pretty safe to assume for the better. At least it should be that way.

St. Augustine is all about love. The guy actually gave an entire sermon on love. Here, Augustine emphasizes that Christianity is built on love, and so, naturally, we are also meant to love, but we must remember to “Love what God made, not what the person made.” Everything always comes back to God. It is spiritual love (which leads only to God)  that we are meant to live out, and to do so, we have to go on a spiritual pilgrimage.

According to Augustine, we have to constantly work to attain the ultimate goal (entry into Heaven). This doesn’t come without struggle, obviously, but we must journey through these struggles to reach our destination, paradise. The human desire to express our love by earthly means is what Augustine calls amor and our spiritual journey culminates in the conversion from amor “to infinite and perfect good, which is the promised land of paradise, and the Prodigal’s return from a distant country.”

Perhaps the best way to understand Augustine is to read his Confessionsor his “odyssey of a soul,” in which he recounted his own spiritual pilgrimage from paganism and hedonism to trying to reach the ultimate destination through spiritual love.

St. Jerome’s pilgrimage is a little more literal. He traveled through Asia Minor to the Holy Land to visit the places associated with the life of Jesus. In the 30 plus years that Jerome lived in Jerusalem, he helped establish monasteries for men and women and even created a hostel for pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. But Jerome also agrees with Augustine that it’s not the fact of going to a sacred place but the way, or the spirit in which,  we get there.

As St. Jerome points out, not every saint made pilgrimage to the Holy Land, yet they still became saints. By following their example and going on our own odyssey of the soulwe too are pilgrims.

Maybe there should be a bumper sticker:

Pilgrim4Life copy

Yes, I did just pull up a Word Doc and make this on a whim. Looks pretty good though for a ten second project, right?

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

(Briefly) Defining Sainthood

Saints

What’s a saint? 

Depending on the (Christian) denomination, the term saint can mean any number of things. In the Bible, St. Paul calls believers in Christ (aka “the faithful”) saints. This idea of sainthood continued through the first centuries of Christianity. But with persecutions of Christians under Roman rulers, especially the emperor Diocletian, martyrs (people who die for their beliefs) were especially venerated. Monks and ascetics, too, got large followings, and these groups of people would kind of elevate the status of the (already dead) people they really liked in an informal recognition of their holiness.

In A Brief History of Saints, Lawrence S. Cunningham notes that there was no systemized process for the canonization (or official recognition) of saints. Local bishops ‘canonized’ people based on popular demand. It wasn’t until 1234, under Pope Gregory IX, that the right to officially recognize a person’s sainthood was the pope’s alone, and not until the early 14th century that a formal process for canonization was used.

And so saints (in the newer sense of the term) were no longer simply followers of Christ, but rather people recognized for leading exceptionally holy lives and being great examples and teachers to other Christians. Today, saints are probably most known for their ability to perform miracles (of which two are needed, unless the person is a martyr). But what most people probably don’t know is that not only is everyone in heaven a saint, everyone is called to be a saint (read “7 Ways to Become a Saint” to learn how to do that).

This is important to understand because all Christians are called to be a part of the Communion of Saints, i.e. the Universal Church.

One last point about saints: The Church doesn’t make saints, it simply recognizes the lives of certain saints that should be examples to Christians. Everyone is called to be and can be a saint.

Like I said - everyone.

Like I said – everyone can can be a saint.

What are Church Doctors?

Now that we have saints covered to a certain degree (there’s always more!), I think we can move on to another kind of saint: Doctors of the Church. These are people who are recognized as exceptional teachers of and/or contributors to doctrine and/or theology (here’s a list of the Catholic Church’s Doctors).

The four original Church Doctors (who Cunningham calls the “western canon” and who I like to call “the Fundamental Four”) consists of Saints Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, Jerome, and Pope Saint Gregory the Great. These guys said extremely important and useful things about the doctrine and theology of the early Christian Church and played an important role in the formation of the Church during the Middle Ages. They’re neat people and I encourage you to check them out!

So, now that I finally brought them up, who are St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Jerome? And what do they have to do with medieval pilgrimage? I know I said I would cover this in this blog post, but I think there’s a good amount of information to digest here. The goal of this blog is not to flood you with information (that’s what college is for, after all), but to have you learn alongside me. I don’t like being overwhelmed, and I imagine neither do you.

So, that’s it for now, but please don’t hesitate to ask questions or give feedback! After all, what good is a blog if it isn’t starting a dialogue?

Fare thee well, fellow users of the Internets!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ye Olde Blogge Birthe Announcement

Welcome! Wilkommen! Bienvenue! Velkommen!

So, this blog is obviously not old since this is the inauguration of my blog, Medieval(ist) Tourist. But I’ll be talking about ye olde stuffe. Here I’ll be journeying through (see what I did there?) medieval history and exploring tourist sites, both of the Middle Ages and of today.

To start, I’ll focus on pilgrimage sites and giving backgrounds of how the sites became a pilgrimage site. What’s a pilgrimage, you ask?  It’s a (religious) trip to a holy place, like Jerusalem or Canterbury (The Canterbury Tales, anyone?). People go for any number of reasons: from finding themselves to growing deeper in their faith, out of devotion to a particular saint, in hopes of receiving or witnessing a miracle. Nowadays non-religious people often go on pilgrimages, too, for soul-searching, to get fit, bonding, self-discovery, etc. They’re marvelous things and I hope that I can go on a pilgrimage of my own soon. Maybe I’ll blog about it.

But for now I’ll stick to researching and sharing pilgrimages and their historical contexts. So, up next you can expect a post about Church Fathers Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Jerome, who kind of kick-started this whole pilgrimage thing.

And, because I believe every post should have something other than words, here’s a (completely non-related) picture of boathouses in Norway, where I studied abroad last semester:

IMG_0852

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment