Between the Medieval and The Modern

February 22, 2012

Exploring the Medieval Mind for Lent

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frau Magda @ 8:37 am
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Gluttony A couple of weeks ago I went to my eighth ReenactorFest. (Well, it’s called Military History Fest now, but as a non-combatant, I like the old name better…) One of the great things about ReenactorFest is getting to cross-pollinate with other reenactors. I’m particularly grateful that I’ve gotten to meet Bob Charron, because the man just blows my mind.

In the course of translating Fiore dei Liberi’s martial arts manual, Bob decided that in order to truly understand it, he needed to also understand what a martial arts student of the period would have known. So in addition to medieval Italian, he’s spent several years studying geometry, philosophy, rhetoric, and other subjects that a well-educated renaissance man would have known. A few choice quotes from the two-part article I linked to:

“In my opinion… Fiore’s art was intended for educated individuals who would have recognized the basic principles of Aristotle’s physics and Euclid’s geometry within the art. In effect, the educated person already had what he needed for the basics of the art from the trivium and quadrivium – the undergraduate work of the Medieval educational system.”

“Mathematics and geometry and astronomy and music were taught and learned using the same principles, and were seen as highly related to one another.”

So part of the reason why I’m thinking about Bob is precisely because he felt that the best way to fully understand a medieval/renaissance manuscript was to understand all the things that a medieval scholar would have known.

I have spent the past couple of winters trying to get inside my Bavarian alter-ego’s head. Magda lived during a period of religious upheaval that we now call the Reformation. So I think a solid understanding of both the Catholic faith and the heretics that came to be known as Lutherans and Calvinists is necessary if I’m to understand not only Magda, but the times in which she lived. But one of the hardest things for me about playing Magda is probably her Catholicism. I was raised somewhat agnostic. My parents never took our family to church, although I have attended services with friends. At various times in my life I’ve self-identified as agnostic, Unitarian Universalist, and pagan.

The issue is that I don’t feel like I know nearly enough about Christianity in general, and Medieval Catholicism in particular, to fully understand either Magda or the upheaval that was the Protestant Reformation.

So this Lenten season, I’m buckling down and trying to make a serious dent in the pile of books I’ve acquired on medieval diet (since we’re talking Lent) and medieval saints and relics, which are my two main areas of interest. In addition, I’ll probably be doing some other research, perhaps attending a Catholic Mass in Latin.

I’m also giving up Sloth and Gluttony. Because it’s not Lent if you’re not giving up something you enjoy.

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