In ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ chess doubles as a game of life for protagonist Beth Harmon.
Ever since players tweaked the game to reflect the medieval social order, poets and writers have used chess as an allegory for love, duty, conflict and accomplishment.
A 19th-century engraving depicts the Angel of Death descending on Rome during the Antonine plague.
J.G. Levasseur/Wellcome Collection
Societies and cultures that seem ossified and entrenched can be completely upended by pandemics, which create openings for conquest, innovation and social change.
Woodcut, circa 1400. A witch, a demon and a warlock fly toward a peasant woman.
Hulton Archive /Handout via Getty Images
The idea of organized satanic witchcraft was invented in 15th-century Europe by church and state authorities, who at first had a hard time convincing regular folks it was real.
A comet depicted in medieval times in the Bayeux tapestry.
In medieval times natural phenomena, such as comets and eclipses, were regarded as portents of natural disasters, including plagues.
The biblical book of Ezekiel describes a vision of the divine that medieval philosophers understood as revealing the connection between religion and science.
By Matthaeus Merian (1593-1650)
Those experiencing stress and uncertainty amid the coronavirus may find guidance in medieval responses to plagues, which relied on both medicine and prayer.
Enclosing of an anchoress (14th century).
Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 079: Pontifical
Some medieval Christian women locked themselves away in the name of their faith. Here are their insights into self-isolation.
Reporting dreary weather for many centuries.
How science has been used to predict wind and rain for over 1,000 years.
The earliest biblical descriptions do not mention the presence of any barnyard animals, that are part of Nativity displays today.
Nativity scenes showing the birth of baby Jesus first originated in the small Italian town of Greccio.
Throughout history, spirits - like this one from the film A Ghost Story - have had a knack for reflecting our greatest fears.
Wherever and whenever ghost stories materialise, they tend to tap into the things we fear most.
The gargoyles that sit on Notre Dame today were installed as a nod to the cathedral’s past.
Looking nostalgically to the past, a young architect sought to revive the building as a bulwark to the uncertainty of the Industrial Revolution.
Flames and smoke rise as fire rages in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
AP Photo/Thierry Mallet
The Notre Dame Cathedral was long a powerful symbol of church authority - but it wasn't static. The design kept changing to keep up with the changing times.
Margareta, head of the women’s community at Lippoldsberg (in modern-day Germany) clasps hands with an Augustinian monk as he hands her a book.
Lippoldsberg Evangeliary. Kassel, Landesbibliothek, MS theol. 2o 59, f. 73v.
Pope Francis recently confirmed that clergy members abused nuns. Since the early days of monasticism, the presence of nuns led to restrictions that limited contact between men and women.
The HBO series can tell us a lot about how we view the Medieval world.
Pope Paul VI banned contraception for Catholics in the 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.”
AP Photo/Jim Pringle
July marks 50 years of Pope Paul VI's encyclical prohibiting contraceptive use. For many years prior to it, the church had not been so explicit on its stance. How did it become such a thorny issue?
Charlemagne, the decider.
Monarchs and prime ministers have spent centuries working out which decisions need to be made in public.
Detail of ‘Smell’ c1500, from The lady and the unicorn series.
wool and silk, 368 x 322 cm
Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris
Photo © RMN-GP / M Urtado
The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, woven around 1500, have been called the 'Mona Lisa of the Middle Ages'. While they make for breathtaking viewing, their threads are encoded with much meaning.
The tomb of Abelard and Héloise.
Alexandre Lenoir, via Wikimedia Commons
An affair between a philosophy professor and his teenage student became the subject of ballads in the streets of Paris in the 12th century. A scholar asks: Why wasn't it called sexual harassment?
French engraving of a cuckolded husband.
University of Victoria
'Cuck', short for cuckold, is the favoured insult of men's rights activists today. But the term has a long history: from the 16th to 18th centuries it reflected a deep anxiety about women's sexual appetites.
Day of the dead at a Mexican cemetery.
© Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons
Many in the Western world lack the explicit mourning rituals that help people deal with loss. On Day of the Dead, two scholars describe ancient mourning practices.
The virgin martyr Saint Agatha of Sicily.
Wikimedia/Sebastiano del Piombo
The virgin martyrs were slaughtered to stop them speaking out, and yet their stories have prevailed.