February 2020

Christine D. Baker on Medieval Islamic Sectarianism

In the tenth century Middle East, a remarkable thing happened: two Shi’i states took over the greater part of the Muslim world. First, the Fatimids, who began as an underground Shi’i revolutionary movement and declared an independent caliphate in North Africa in 909; they would eventually establish the city of Cairo as their capital and rule until the late 12th century. Second, the Buyids, Shi’i Persian mercenaries from the mountainous hinterlands just south of the Caspian Sea, conquered Baghdad in 945 and took control over the Sunni ‘Abbasid caliph and his territories. They would retain power for a century and...

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Q&A on Friar Francisco de Osuna’s “Norte de los estados” in Modernized Spanish

What inspired you to do this edition? Francisco de Osuna is best known for his influence on the Spanish mystics Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. My purpose in producing the first modern edition of this work was to recover Osuna’s reformist and extraordinary vision of marriage. When I first read his 1531 guide, Norte de los estados, I was struck by its attention to women’s spiritual equality and its open treatment of the body, including sexuality, childbirth, and illness. Relative to other conduct manuals of the era it offers an intimate window into how clergy used confession...

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Personalities behind Everyday Sermons from Worcester Cathedral Priory

What is most intriguing about this collection of early fourteenth century monastic sermons is its rare, and possibly unique, survival. It consists of an unusual mixture of roughly written notes on parchment trimmings, with changes, corrections and marginal additions probably for reuse, neatly finished instructive homilies probably for novice monks, sermons copied from a Dominican sermon manual with some alterations, and several sermons composed for special occasions such as a monastic visitation. How, why and when were they first bound together? The answer to this conundrum can only be surmised. Prior to their initial medieval binding together they may have been...

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