Weird But Wonderful

This weird, kind of amazing glass fish thingy just has to be shared. According to the Walters Art Museum, it dates to the Baroque period in Italy. At the base, "dolphins with entwined tails support the fish, while the wavy patterns on the base represent flowing water." The Milanese family of Sarachi was particularly famous for vessels in the shape of fishes. So they think the Sarachis made this one, probably around 1590 to 1600.

How Did Elizabeth I of England Use Art As Propoganda?

This video looks not at her more-famous life-size paintings, but her miniatures. How did she convey big political ideas with small portraits? Because no matter how she was being portrayed, Elizabeth I was always a political actor, and conveyed herself as such.

How Did Church Bell Ringing Become An Art?

Bells have been used in Europe since the early middle ages to call people to church services, mark the hours of the day, and sometimes convey signals or warnings. However "musical" bell ringing did not really begin until the 1500s or 1600s.

The first carillon, the array of bells housed in the tower of a church, was created in Flanders, Belgium, in the 1500s. It was slowly refined over decades until it became a huge musical instrument that just happened to be housed in a giant tower. Each bell could be run precisely as the ringer wished, using a system of levers and pedals. The new musical instrument proved popular, and carillons and their beautiful sound slowly spread across Europe.

When You Visit the Great Wall of China, You're Really Visiting the Great Ming Wall

The best-preserved sections of the Great Wall of China existing today were built during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). That's very new: the oldest sections date to the 600s BCE. The Ming version stretched from northern Korea to Tibet, with the middle section near Beijing splitting into an inner- and outer-wall. Double the wall, double the protection.

Where Is The Mind Located?

Now we know the answer: the brain. But ancient humanity did not know. A number of famous thinkers have placed the mind in a number of places around the body

  • Aristotle: the heart. It is the center of the body and the first organ to be discerned in an embryo
  • Thomas Aquinas: the ventricles (empty spaces) of the brain. Being pure spirit, the mind lives in the empty parts of the body and survives beyond death.
  • Rene Descartes: the pineal gland.

The Unusual Heretic

Domenico Scandella, also known as Mennochio, was an Italian peasant who lived during the 1500s. He knew how to read a little, so was considered semi-educated, and it is known that he read a number of contemporary histories and religious works. The Roman Inquisition branded him a heretic for teaching a version of unorthodox Christianity to his fellow peasants -- twice.

The first time he was accused, Mennochio abjured, and claimed to have reformed. He was sent home in 1586 but had to wear a burning cross on his clothing as a visible symbol of what he had done. In 1598 he was re-arrested for preaching, again, his own beliefs. At his questioning, he gave his rendition of Creation as he thought the Church had taught him. Taken from The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg (1976):

"I have said that, in my opinion, all was chaos, that is, earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed – just as cheese is made out of milk – and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels. The most holy majesty decreed that these should be God and the angels, and among that number of angels there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass at the same time, and he was named lord with four captains, Lucifer, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael."

Unfortunately this was considered blasphemy in the eyes of the Catholic Church. It did not help that at his trial Mennocchio also spoke out against masses helping the dead get out of purgatory, against the sacraments including baptism against Latin as the language of religion and the courts, and against the Church hierarchy's wealth and abuse of the peasantry. He was burned at the stake in 1599.

India Has Been a Pluralistic Society for Centuries, Meaning Governing India Has Been Difficult for Centuries

Emperor Akbar ruled the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1605. When he came to the throne, he confronted a problem that had plagued his predecessors: how to be a Muslim ruler over a majority-Hindu nation, that also had substantial numbers of various other religions including Buddhism and Jainism. He eventually came to believe that no religion could have pre-eminence. In fact, he was not even sure that any religion was "the truth" but were all humanity's imperfect interpretations. The logical conclusion is that all subjects of his empire should be free to practice whatever religion they wished.

Akbar began to hold conferences weekly, with wise men from all faiths (no known women, though). He would apply their wisdom to questions of state. He slowly took over spiritual leadership, even getting the Muslim clergy to pronounce a fatwa (judgement) that as emperor, Akbar could adjudicate any dispute between religious authorities -- even overruling the Qur'an if necessary for the public interest.

Legally, Akbar made two big changes. He abolished the hated tax levied on the Hindu majority, the jizya, the "contribution for not being put to death". He also created a private faith for the elite. It was not a new religion, per se. It was a kind of Sufi system for the rulers, with 10 cardinal virtues, the essence of which was promoting tolerance. Akbar combined aspects of different faiths, borrowing from all the religions of his empire, to create an ethical code that he wished his inner circle to follow. He called this the Din i-Ilahi, or "Worship of God." While it has been accused of being a pick-and-mix religion, Akbar did not proclaim it a religion, and he remained a Muslim all his life. The Din i-Ilahi died with Akbar in 1605, and the jizya was reintroduced by Akbar's great-grandson Aurangzeb in 1679.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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