New publication from Pulci conference

New publication – Acts of a conference on Pulci:


Luigi Pulci, la Firenze laurenziana e il ‘Morgante’, Atti del convegno Modena, Accademia nazionale di Scienze, Lettere e Arti, 18-19 gennaio, 2018,  ed by L. Bicci Miani and M. C. Cabani (Modena:  Accademia nazionale di Scienze, Lettere e Arti, 2019).


This contains chapters by 3 of the ‘Charlemagne In Italy’ team, as follows:


Franca Strologo, ‘Alcune osservazioni intorno alla wquestione dei rapporti fra l’ Orlando e il Morgante’, pp. 189-208

Annalisa Perrotta, ‘”Boschi” e “boschetti” nel Morgante di Luigi Pulci: poesia, magia, tradizione’, pp. 235-53

Jane E. Everson, ‘Pulci e il Morgante nel Mambriano di Francesco Cieco’, pp. 255-70


Congratulations to everyone involved.





Charlemagne in the Midlands: Marianne Ailes reports

‘Charlemagne in the Midlands’ might seem an unlikely title – but that is what was going on in Walsall on Wed 3rd April. It was clear at our previous family event in Walsall that many in the area knew little about the unique artefacts held by the town’s Leather Museum: the enigmatic ‘Bayard’s Colts’ are a collection of carved staffs including animal and human heads so a further event was organised by Marianne Ailes, of the Charlemagne: A European Icon project at the University of Bristol and Philip Booth in connection with Walsall Leather Museum. The first was with children from Mary Elliot Special School who enjoyed the story of Bayard, the ‘super-horse’ owned by one of Charlemagne’s rebellious barons. The children were then able to make mini-puppets of Charlemagne. The story-teller Cath Edwards returned in the evening when a public audience listened enthralled to two stories of Charlemagne: the story of the Four Sons of Aymon and their horse Bayard, and the tale of Charlemagne, his wife Fastrada and a magic ring. Dr Ailes explained how well known the Charlemagne narratives were in Medieval England, emphasising a number of Midlands connections. Three of the Colts (which are normally kept in storage) were in a special display case, while five more are exhibited in the Museum as part of their current ‘wicked Walsall’ exhibition.

Charlemagne in Toronto

Marianne Ailes reports on the Société Rencesvals International Congress

The ‘Charlemagne: A European Icon’ project was much in evidence at the Société Rencesvals International Congress at Toronto in August. The figure of Charlemagne is key to many of the texts worked on by colleagues in the Société Rencesvals so this was an important congress for the dissemination of findings and to receive useful feedback from well-informed colleagues. Six members of the project team gave papers: Françoise Le Saux (outgoing President of the British Branch of the society), partners in the project; Marianne Ailes and Catherine Emerson from the Charlemagne in medieval Francophonia team; Jane Everson and Leslie Zarker Morgan, working on Charlemagne in Italy; and Albrecht Classen, author of the forthcoming Charlemagne in German and Dutch Literature volume. Overall there were excellent papers at the Congress, from colleagues at all stages of their careers, a convivial atmosphere with excellent opportunities for networking and developing relationships, high quality evening events, and fun on the congress outing to Niagara. Thanks and congratulations are due to Dr Dorothea Kullman, the organiser, and her team of helpers. The University of Toronto’s Victoria College  and St Michael’s College provided good facilities and a satisfyingly medievalist context.


The Conference Excursion to Niagara Falls

Bex Lyons reports on ‘Medieval Myths and Walsall’s Wands’

Saturday 1st September 2018 saw Marianne Ailes and Bex Lyons from the project team in Walsall for an afternoon of Charlemagne-themed family activities at the Leather Museum.

Walsall may seem a surprising place for an event celebrating Charlemagne, but the town boasts a rare, tangible reference to the medieval king. 17 wooden ceremonial clubs and staffs called ‘Bayard’s Colts’, now held at Walsall Leather Museum, include a ‘Charlemagne head’; a horse, thought to be Bayard, the mythical horse belonging to one of his barons (and from whom the clubs derive their name), and other figures. The clubs were probably carried during civic processions, dating back to the fifteenth century.

In a press statement for the event, Dr Ailes said: ‘Bayard first appeared in an early 13th-century epic French epic poem and was a wonder horse capable of carrying four men at a time and of understanding human speech.’

‘Belonging to the knight Renaud, one of Charlemagne’s rebellious barons, the horse is eventually captured by the emperor who ties a large stone to Bayard’s neck and has the horse pushed into the river. Bayard however smashes the stone with his hooves and escapes to live forever more in the woods.’

The afternoon featured Charlemagne-inspired art workshops, including clay modelling, felt and leather working, drawing, and other crafts. Storyteller Cath Edwards retold William Caxton’s version of The Four Sons of Aymon, but with the focus on Bayard the horse. Families also designed their own coat of arms, with the help of heraldry expert Adrian Ailes, visiting fellow at the University of Bristol.

Feedback from the event showed that everyone had a rewarding time. Of the children who filled in a feedback form all gave the event a smiling face for their overall experience, and the average rating was 4.9 stars out of 5.00. None of the adults who completed the form previously knew about the Charlemagne legend and Bayard the horse. 75.5% said they would definitely return to the leather Museum and 25% said it was likely that they would return. The interactive story-telling was rated especially highly by the children.

The Museum itself, housed in a former leather factory, provided a fascinating location and those who arrived early were able to explore Walsall’s tradition in leather-making.

The event was intended to stimulate local interest in these fascinating artefacts, which are now kept in storage. Two of the Colts were on display on the day, and provoked great interest from the adults who were there, most of whom were unaware of Walsall’s unique heritage. It aimed also to inspire other Charlemagne-related events and activities, and to provide meaningful outreach from the project.

Adults also enjoyed learning about Charlemagne at this family event.


It is hoped that the event will inspire other Charlemagne-related events and activities in Walsall and elsewhere.

England’s Bayeux Tapestry by Marianne Ailes

It was a packed church at All Saints, Claverley on Saturday 21st July when more than 120 people gathered to hear a panel of speakers discuss the context and possible interpretations for the unusual frieze of battling knights depicted along the North wall of the aisle. The audience first had the opportunity to look at the wall paintings while enjoying a glass of locally made wine. The local history group had also put up a display showing the 1902 restoration. Dr Matthew Bennett examined the context of what he called ‘Claverley’s Cavalry’ in medieval warfare and tournament. Professor Matthew Strickland delighted the audience with images of other wall paintings which highlighted the importance of the Claverley programme, unique in the UK and rare across Europe. Christopher Barrett (artist and researcher) explored the different interpretations there have been of the paintings over the years since their discovery during restoration works in 1902 and explained how the theme of the Holy cross could be seen as one which united the frieze of knights with the images in the spandrels below. I closed by telling the story of the battle of Roncevaux, alluded to in the paintings with the knight blowing a horn (recalling the famous horn scene of the Chanson de Roland narrative), a flowering lance,and a knight who bears a coat of arms which may allude to the arms attributed to Charlemagne.



For more information on the Claverley paintings see the virtual exhibition on our website; to learn more about Charlemagne’s attributed arms, see the article by Adrian Ailes in the ’further reading’ section of the website.

Marianne Ailes on Charlemagne at Leeds IMC

It has been exciting to see the Charlemagne project grow and interact with other researchers beyond the network. It was particularly good for our panel at Leeds to have two speakers who are from outside the project network: Elizabeth Munro, a research student at SOAS, and Dr Wendy Hoofnagle from the University of Northern Iowa, author of The Continuity of the Conquest: Charlemagne and Anglo-Norman imperialism (Pennsylvania, 2016). We also hosted a reception and exhibition. We are very grateful to the University of Leeds and the Brotherton Library who enabled us to have our exhibits in a room next to the ‘Treasures of the Brotherton’ exhibition, with the reception just outside. The ‘Treasures of the Brotherton’ turned the genealogical roll, Brotherton Library BC MS 100, to display the Charlemagne image (see our ‘Medieval Images of Charlemagne’ virtual exhibition). In an Annex to the ‘Treasures’ we showed images of the All Saints Church, Claverley wall paintings (also now visible in our virtual exhibition) and two of the Bayard’s Colts, early modern ceremonial staffs owned by Walsall Council and now rarely on public display; on display at Leeds were the ‘Charlemagne’ head and a diabolical head. The Bortherton Library also brought out their facsimile of the genealogical roll.

Bruce Saunders on Adam de la Halle’s ‘Or est Baiars’

Nova’s concert in September 2017 was called ‘A Renaissance Menagerie’. Sourcing pieces for inclusion – music about animals or with animals in them – I came across the Baiars song, words and music both likely to have been by Adam de la Halle. The programme already included glorious soaring pieces by late Renaissance composers, so for contrast I wanted something really early that might go well with Hildegard of Bingen’s Columba aspexit, which is bursting with animals. Or est Baiars was perfect – a lively boisterous song in itself, and a very interesting three-part rondeau illustrating the period in European musical history when plainsong was beginning to turn into polyphony, and when performers would undoubtedly have added a regular rhythmic pulse, even though harmonic conventions were still very unstable. At that stage, I had no idea that the shoeless horse had more than one foot in the great Charlemagne tradition, but am delighted to have found it is so.


To listen to Or est Baiars, visit our virtual exhibition page.


Bruce Saunders
Director of Nova Early Music

Jane Everson – Charlemagne in Modena: Literature and Life

The conference held at the Accademia nazionale di Scienze, Lettere e Arti di Modena on January 18 and 19 brought together scholars of the Italian Carolingian narrative tradition and focussed especially on the figure of Luigi Pulci and Il Morgante maggiore. Pulci claims that the stories of Charlemagne have been ‘male intesa e scritta peggio’ (poorly understood and badly written) and it is his intention to rescue Charlemagne from this neglect and produce a worthy account. This claim, and indeed many aspects of Pulci’s poetic output, has often proved puzzling and controversial. It has also often meant that Pulci’s great poem has been neglected by critics who have tended to focus, especially in recent years, on the narratives of Boiardo and Ariosto. It is thus good to welcome a forthcoming set of essays from Brepols devoted to Luigi Pulci.

Pulci was a Florentine, and his poem is profoundly marked by Florentine linguistic usage, so the venue of the conference in Modena may seem strange. But the Accademia holds a unique copy of the first extant edition of the Morgante (1481), which has been digitised to be made widely available. Several of the papers paid attention to the somewhat mysterious history of the early editions of Il Morgante including a discussion by Lorenz Böninger, using historial and archive sources to posit that the first printing of Il Morgante took place as early as 1477, and the exciting discovery, by Neil Harris, of two hitherto unknown editions of the poem. Other studies devoted attention to the complexities of Pulci’s language, while the character of Malagigi was the subject of three complementary studies. The relationship of Pulci’s poem to preceding narratives about the battle of Rencesvals, discussed by Cristina Montagnani, remains, as her title explained, still an open question.

Papers were delivered by three of the contributors to the Charlemagne in Italy volume. The literary links of a Charlemagne narrative to Modena are nicely supported by a historical document from the time of Charlemagne, dated September 782, addressed to the Bishop of Modena and granting legal immunity and tax exemptions to the church of Modena. The document is held in the archives of the cathedral, which also displays, above one of the side entrances, very early evidence of the penetration of Arthurian narratives into Italy (early 12th century), thus making an early fusion of the two cycles that is so characteristic of the later major Italian Carolingian narratives.


Featured image © Archivio storico diocesano di Modena-Nonantola


For a 25% discount on the first three of our publications, download the attached forms and place your order.






Eric J. Goldberg – Charlemagne’s Ghost

Few scholars would disagree that the Frankish emperor Charlemagne (768–814) and his dynasty – the Carolingians – played a fundamental role in the formation of Europe. Yet the long-term consequences of the collapse of the Carolingian empire in 888 are still a matter of debate. On Saturday October 7 this year, medievalists from a range of disciplinary backgrounds and specializations will come together at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to consider the legacy of Charlemagne and the diverse ways in which the inheritance of the Carolingian empire shaped subsequent medieval civilization.

During the conference, entitled Charlemagne’s Ghost: Legacies, Leftovers, and Legends of the Carolingian Empire, papers will consider a wide array of Carolingian legacies in the realms of kingship and political culture, literature and art, manuscripts and material artifacts, the Church and monasticism, as well as Europe’s relations with the wider world. Participants will reflect on the ways in which later medieval rulers, writers, artists, and communities remembered, and forgot, Charlemagne and the Frankish empire and adapted Carolingian inheritances to fit new circumstances. In short, this conference will explore the ways in which Charlemagne’s ghost haunted the medieval world.