middle ages

Baby Jesus and the Homunculus

We’ve all marveled at the grotesque, oddly-proportioned old man babies in medieval art -- but why did artists of the period pain such creatures? In this special Christmas episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe explore the convergence of the homunculus theory of human reproduction, the nativity and the infants of medieval and renaissance art.

Art Spotlight: The Medieval Christ Child

Robert Lamb shares a number of medieval paintings referenced in the podcast episode 'Baby Jesus and the Homunculus.'

Art Spotlight: Jan Provost's Eye of God

The Stone of Madness

Madness has always intrigued artists, and medieval paintings sometimes presented this malady's treatment via the surgical removal of cranial stone. What was the stone of madness? Was it mere fantasy, metaphor or an actual medical condition? In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe collect their trepanation tools and investigate.

A True Story of Mummies and European Ghouls

Medieval Myths of Menstruating Jewish Men

Robert blogs about antisemitic medieval takes on menstrual blood, male Jews, hemorrhoids and heresy.

This was a big week for aficionados of vampirism and medieval corpse defilement, as archaeologists in Venice discovered the bones of a suspected vampire in a 16th century mass grave for plague victims. No, fangs weren't the giveaway -- it was actually the huge brick shoved into its mouth. The archaeologists suspect that the brick was inserted as a kind of exorcism for the corpse. Medieval Europe wasn't exactly a hotbed of medical science, and human decomposition was poorly understood. Superstition ran rampant. What might a denizen of such a demon-haunted world think upon discovering that a corpse had bloated, chewed through its grave shroud and dribbled bloody purge fluid down its chin? Exactly. You plug the corpse with a brick and move on. At the time, a little local panic was enough to see an entire graveyard exhumed in the hunt for bloodsuckers.