My fav saints: St Sebastian

Last week I went to the National Gallery to do some research for my next book and spent a bunch of time taking photos of altarpieces that feature one of my favourite saints – Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes, soldiers, and people who want to die a saintly death. He was a big fav of medieval people as well, which is why we end up having great images like this to geek out over:

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On women, pleasure, and semen

As I continue to pull myself out of the hole caused by finishing a book and recovering from COVID, I was reminded of something that I wanted to write about in January but just didn’t have the time or health to do it. I was made aware of it due to a particularly bonkers piece of Twitter lore which I am absolutely not going to unpack here, but it stayed on my mind because it displays an honest to god medieval attitude towards women and sex. So, without further ado I give you this exchange:

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On non-written communication (in Norwich)

​​I am aware, my gorgeous readers, that the blog has been languishing of late. This is down to the fact that I foolishly agreed to write a book which is, and I am not sure if you are aware of this, hard. Luckily I should have more time to spout off here now that it is all turned in, however. As a little celebration of finishing up, the other week I took a little mini-holiday to Norwich, and today I want to talk to you about some cool medieval stuff I saw there and what it means.

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On finding inspiration for change

Every day I wake up with the grinding worry that some non-historian has had a very mad medieval history take, and every day that is true. Sadly, yesterday was one of those days once again as some basic wrote a bad take in The New York Times about how the Black Death allegedly improved conditions for workers. This, of course, is something I have rebutted at length, both on here, and also in The Washington Post (because ya girl is fancy now). It is one thing to complain about how this is bad history that has been roundly debunked, as I do that all the time. However, today I want to talk a little where in medieval history we can look for good news.

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Podcast alert – Medieval Christmas on You’re Dead to Me

I was lucky enough to stop by You’re Dead to Me to talk to my mate Gregg Jenner and the lovely Miles Jupp about Medieval Christmas celebrations. I hope you will enjoy!

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On visiting Westminster Abbey

My friends, I want today I want to talk to you about Westminster Abbey. I know you probably are aware of it, being as you are able to read English and it looms pretty large in the history of the English-speaking world. And there’s a reason for that. It’s a pretty special place with explicit royal connections in a really weird way for the medieval period.

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On cathedrals and cooperation

This month my comrades at ALE and I are working on the theme of cooperation, and I thought a useful thing to think about in that context is not my usual favs of rebellion, or even collective republics, but architecture. In particular, I want to talk about what you could argue are the most important medieval buildings – cathedrals. Cathedrals, from the Latin cathedra meaning “throne of the bishop” are and were enormous and intricate buildings that took centuries to build, and you probably know that. However, we often talk about them as finished projects rather than as a testament to how humans cooperate with each other across time. That’s what we’re gonna do today.

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On the commemoration of the dead, and poppy season

A thing about being alive is that someday you won’t be. This is, of course, a matter of fact and also something that humans have always had to deal with. The dead, writ large, outnumber the living, and it is the living who have to deal with the dead. The bodies of the dead can harm us if they are not sufficiently dealt with, of course, however there is also the significant psychological connection that the living have with the dead. We grieve people that we have lost, and as a part of that often seek to commemorate them. That happens on a small scale when we have funerals for our loved ones who have died, which is a way of allowing those who knew and cared for someone to connect to their memory. Then you also have forms of collective grieving and commemoration of the dead as a large group, and let me tell you what, over here in the UK we are very much in the middle of one of those, because it is poppy season.

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