Posts Tagged ‘Middle Ages’

More Danico

Friday, November 21st, 2008

The Danish Way.

This legal expression which designates a type of marriage was mainly used in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages. It was opposed by the Christian church who promoted the More Christiano type of wedding. Several Norman Dukes married More Danico which supposedly involved a handfasting ceremony. Among them, William the Conqueror’s parents, Robert the MagnificentĀ  and Herleva, were married this way.

More on Wikipedia

Unius Uxoris Vir

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Husband of one wife.

Expression found in the New Testament that opponents to clergy celibacy have been using for centuries in order to have a family. These words are found among others in the first Letter of St Paul to Thimothy (3:2):

“oportet ergo episcopum inreprehensibilem esse unius uxoris virum sobrium prudentem ornatum hospitalem doctorem”

“Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher”

At the end of the 4th century pope Siricius gave a clear answer to its meaning, saying that before being ordained , having had only one wife was a sign of faithfulness. The newly ordained priest was thus more trusted to carry on his vows of perpetual abstinence.

Now, here is the official (and lengthy) answer from the Vatican.

Ara Victoriae

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Altar of Victory

It was a gold statue of the goddess Victory worshipped in Rome and located in the Roman senate. The Altar was seized from the Greek general Pyrrhus by the Romans in 272 BC and removed from the senate in 382 AD by Roman emperor Gratian.

More on Wikipedia.

Ludi Olympici

Monday, November 10th, 2008

The Olympic Games.

Created by the ancient Greeks in 776 BC, they were celebrated every 4 years until 393 AD when Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great decided to stop them because of their too pagan flavor in a freshly christianized empire. Their name is not related to Mount Olympus, home of the Greek gods but to the city of Olympia where they were held.

The original Greek name is Olympiakoi Agones. Agones means ‘contest’ in Greek and not ‘game’ like in Latin or English. We can also find it in the words protagonist or antagonism.

More on Wikipedia.

Summus Pontifex

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Supreme pontiff.

One of the non official names of the pope. It was used in medieval era not only for popes but also for bishops. It has a similar story as Pontifex Maximus (greatest Pontiff) used today to call the pope. The origin of the word pontiff or pontifex comes from Roman pagan times where the highest priest was considered a ‘bridge builder’ between men and gods. It also had a significance anchored in reality since ancient Rome needed bridges over the Tiber which was itself a deity. The priest might have also been involved in bridge building.

More on Wikipedia.

Terra Sancta

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

The Holy Land.

That was the most common name used by medieval Christians to name the land around Jerusalem. There was no Canaan, Palestine or Israel. The latter was used by Jewish communities.

Crux Ansata

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Cross with a handle.

Latin name of the Egyptian Ankh cross.

Stratoris Officium

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Office of the Groom.

Symbolic gesture in which a head of state holds the stirrup of the pope in a submission homage. It originated from the forged Donation of Constantine where the Roman Emperor held the bridle of the then pope. In 1095, Urban II used it to get King Conrad, son of Emperor Henri VI, to support him against his father. Conrad dutifully performed the Office and thus submitted to the pope’s authority.

Votum Crucis

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

The Crusading vow.

An innovation from pope Urban II, this was a votum volontarium and the peregrinatus (pilgrim) was making a promise to God. He was staking his salvation on the fulfillment of this promise. It had to be taken publicly and just after he could wear the famous cross of cloth on his tunic or cloak. Suddenly, with this badge, he was a different person. On the other hand, if the deed was not accomplished the Votum Crucis carried the sanction of excommunication.

Lignum Crucis

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Wood of the Cross