Lighting Up The Dark Ages

The home of Author Annie Whitehead

Category: ðas ylcan mislicnyssa (miscellany)

Storms in Summer

“At Mainz the sky shone red like blood for many nights, and other portents were seen in the heavens. One night a cloud climbed up from the north and another from the south and east, and they exchanged bolts of lightning.

They met overhead and fought a great battle.

All who saw this were amazed and afraid and prayed.

Several men gathering in the harvest in the district of Worms were found dead because of the heat of the sun.

Many were also drowned in the Rhine.”

From a chronicler in the monastery at Fulda, AD870

(Tr T. Reuter, Manchester University Press, 1992)

Bishop Paul Discovers a Naked Woman on an Island

In the middle of the tenth-century, Bishop Paul of southern Greece found a naked woman who told him her story:~

She was from the city of Larissa, born of poor parents. When she was orphaned she was taken into the house of a rich man, who, when she came of age, married her to his only son.

The son’s friends insulted him, reminding him what his father had done to him: “A woman of your own social standing was never found for you and he has given you this penniless and low-born wife.”

The young girl, seeing her husband’s humiliation, ran away, taking only the clothes she was wearing, finding a boat and coming to the island. Only later did she realise she was pregnant. She gave birth to a boy, and made swaddling from her clothes.

When Bishop Paul found her, the ‘child’ was thirty, and was naked too. The woman said to Paul: “Every day I have implored God to …send a priest to illuminate my don by holy baptism. And behold, the Lord has not refused my prayer but has sent you, His servant, to fulfil my desire.

[The spiritually Beneficial Tales of Paul, Bishoip of Monembasia, Cistercian Publications, 1996]

Plus ca Change…10th Century Teacher’s Report

“I hesitated whether to write to you or not, but decided that I ought to. Children naturally prefer play to study: fathers naturally train them to follow good courses, using persuasion or force. Your children, like their companions, neglected their work and were in need of correction. I resolved to punish them, and to inform their father. They returned to work and studied diligently for some time, but they are now occupied with birds once again, and neglecting their studies. Their father, passing through the city, commented on their conduct. Instead of coming to me, or to their uncles, they have run away to you or to Olympus.”


Letter 69 from Robert Browning:  The Correspondence of a tenth century Byzantine Scholar Byzantion, 24 (1954) repr in Robert Browning Studies (Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing, 1977)