Archive for February, 2011

British tourist attraction visitors figures: who’s up and who’s down?

33880?ns=guardian&pageName=British+tourist+attraction+visitors+figures%3A+who%27s+up+and+who%27s+down%3F%3AGraphic%3A1523124&ch=News& to Britain’s major tourist attractions are surviving the recession. Find out which galleries, museums and stately homes are getting how many people
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Visits to major British tourist attractions held steady last year, despite the recession, bad weather and the Icelandic volcanic eruption, according to figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, with locations featured in films and television series featuring strongly.

The British Museum topped the visitor numbers for the fourth year running, boosted by the BBC Radio 4 series on A History of the World in 100 Objects presented by its director Neil MacGregor.

Second came Tate Modern and third, the National Gallery. Antony, a National Trust 18thC mansion in Cornwall, saw its visitor numbers quadruple following Tim Burton’s movie Alice in Wonderland, which was filmed there.

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Dancing peasants

Wallpainting by Albertus Pictor in Taby, near Stockholm. Late C15

The fresco was painted by Albertus Pictor, a German from Imminghausen who came to Swe-
den in 1465. He painted alltogether more than 30 churches, most of them in the vicinity of Uppsala and Stockholm. Härkeberga church is regarded as one of his finest works but also the churches in Österunda, Danmark and Härnevi are beautiful.
Albertus Pictor was born in ~1440 and died in 1509.

The Beauty of Books: Medieval Masterpieces

The medieval era was the heyday of illuminated manuscripts. In the 14th and 15th centuries, there was a flowering of religious texts set into beautifully-decorated pages. Among these devotional books were psalters, or books of psalms. Hundreds of these were produced, but the Luttrell Psalter is remarkable for its whimsical, humorous and vivid pictures of rural life and a demonic world that is terrifying and grotesque.

This period also saw the development of literature in English. The great Geoffrey Chaucer, often called the Father of English Literature, took the bold decision to reject literary convention and write in English. His brilliant, bawdy satire, the Canterbury Tales, became a medieval bestseller and, as a result, when William Caxton set up his first printing press in London, he chose Chaucer’s tales as his first major English publication.

These wonderful books contain clever, often mysterious references for their readers and are crucial milestones in the story of the book, charting the last phase of the manuscript and the arrival of the printed book.

The Luttrell Psalter takes its name from its patron, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, a wealthy English landowner in Lincolnshire. Its quality and character suggest that it was produced at enormous cost, and it’s thought to have been commissioned between 1330 and Sir Geoffrey’s death in 1345.

It’s usual for devotional books to be decorated, but these margins are dense with human activity. Almost every aspect of the countryside is depicted. So, are they documentary images or do they carry a more complicated message?

Backstage at The Royal Armouries in Leeds

Guardian Guest blogger Claire Cameron gets up close and personal with some heavy metal backstage at The Royal Armouries as part of an exclusive tour

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Speculum theologiae

Medieval educators gave significant attention to the principles of morality in training their students. Such instruction was closely linked to the cultivation of memory. The individual who came to store edifying texts and moral tenets in his mind was believed to have a solid foundation for future learning, equipped to profitably engage in the loftiest of the human sciences: theology.

The means by which basic moral/mnemonic instruction was delivered changed over time. In the Early and Central Middle Ages, when the learned were mainly monks and elite clergy, its foundations were biblical literature and the texts of the liturgy. In the twelfth century, as education became more analytical and moved beyond the circle of those immersed in the liturgical cycle, new methods of teaching were developed. Ancient mnemonic techniques, stressing the use of specific imaginary spaces as containers of data, began to be cultivated once again. To facilitate learning, teachers developed inscribed diagrams organized according to numerical principles and informed by increasingly sophisticated exegetical methods. Far from supplanting well-established pedagogical tools, these diagrams became important ancillary elements in educational practice.

Beinecke MS 416 is a late thirteenth-century or early fourteenth-century collection of such didactic diagrams from the Cistercian abbey of Kamp in western Germany. It is composed of eight folios of figures that, when found in combination, are often called the Speculum theologiae.