Starting in the 13th century, but really taking off in the 14th, medieval courts began keeping much better written records concerning crimes, trials, and petitions for pardon (lettres de remission). In this blog, I retell those cases (here called Stories) and offer the comments of a medieval historian on anything I find interesting. I find a lot about medieval criminals and medieval crime interesting. Click to read more of what this is all about!
I also illustrate the cases, making some of them into full comics. I make no claim to artistry, just enjoyment. I find that drawing out the Stories makes me have to really think about the cases, what these medieval criminals were up to, and what their world was like. It’s a very different approach to tackling history than I ever experienced in all my years in academia.
All the stories presented here are true, which is to say they involve real people. They come from real historical records that I’ve translated from either the Latin or Old French or Middle English. Whether the events unfolded as the records say is another matter, and one on which I often speculate in my commentary.
To stay up-to-date with the blog, follow me on Twitter @medievalnotary for blog updates and medieval musings.
Of Heretics and Ghosts: II
What kinds of stories do ghosts tell, anyway?
Part II: Ghost Story leaves France behind for Iceland and some haymaking.
We leave Arnuad and Arnaud behind for a moment to turn to the world of 11th-ish century Iceland and the medieval ghost story of Thorgunna and Thurida. Normally I’d recap what happened in the previous post before continuing on, but this digression is entirely separate from the main story. So, enjoy Part I, but you don’t need it to understand what follows: except for the blue ghost elephant who’s narrating this particular ghost story. This story comes from the Icelandic Eyrbyggja Saga.
We begin at sea, off the shores of Iceland. A boat awaits the wind to carry them farther on their journey from Dublin to Dogvertharness. On board, one woman is thoroughly done with sailing.
On shore, some soldiers gossip about the passengers now that the boat has docked in the harbor.
Thurida, quite interested in the latest fashions, goes on board to meet this Thorgunna.
Thorgunna, an older woman and quite tall, is very protective of her possessions.
Thorgunna accepts Thurida’s offer of hospitality and sets herself up in the guest room in the village of Froda.
I do wonder why it took so long for them to recognize it is as blood. But maybe that’s just me.
Thorgunna went to change and lay down in bed. She did not emerge again that day.
Skálholt would, in 1056, become one of two episcopal sees in Iceland.
After her death, Thorodd dutifully carried out the dictates of Thorgunna’s will.
And I am getting there too. As you can tell, this ghost story is a long one. Next time, what happens when Thorgunna’s will is ignored.
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Blaming the Devil in the Middle Ages is all about just that, including a handy formula for if you ever need to give it a go
How Men of God Made Me Poison People explores why Jehannin le Fournier waffles on whether his poison suppliers were clergymen.
In the case of Jehannin Le Fournier: A Medieval Case of Stranger Danger and Well-Poisoning, a PSA comes too late to help Jehannin be wary of strangers with nummy packets of powder.