The Adventures of a Foreign Land

By Hayley Carroll.

Hayley and Evan Carroll

Hayley and Evan Carroll in York

Planes, trains, buses, and taxis. Everywhere I look, there are people. The streets are constantly filled with cars and bikes and the sidewalks are filled with busy people navigating their way through the crowd. Horns honk and people yell and there is never a moment of silence. The hustle and bustle of the city never stops. I am not used to this; I come from a farm on the outskirts of a quiet little town in Missouri. This is a whole new world that I have nothing in common with. My main mode of transportation is the underground train. I have never even taken a train or subway at all, and I have never heard “mind the gap” so many times in my life. Everything is new to me in London. [Read more…]

The London Experience

By Audrey Hofherr

Audrey at ParliamentLondon is a city with history buried all around it with customs and cultures that have evolved over the centuries. For anyone who visits, it is an experience into both the past and the future of what a city and country has been and will evolve into. The city not only holds modern attractions such as the London Eye, but also the Tower of London, started almost 1,000, years ago. The city has an outlay that is old and jumbled but at the same time accessible for modern technology. It holds new pizza places next to the three-hundred-year-old bars. London, for me, has been an experience that has allowed me to stand where the founders of Great Britain have stood, to see the greatest Audrey having tea2treasures that England’s royalty has, and to hear Shakespeare is it was originally played. The trip has let me see through the eyes of kings, touch the same walls as thousands of people for hundreds of years. The city of London has opened my eyes to where civilizations and cities have started and how they have evolved into the cities we know today. It has shown me the way insular culture became influenced by the Romans, Anglo Saxons, Vikings, and Normans to become something new and unlike any other country or city in the world. The country itself is the original melting pot of cultures and customs, coming together at a much slower rate to become the example for other cities, the original empire. London has been changed into a modern city but the remains of its past are all around and underneath what has been built in a place where people have gathered and lived in for more than two thousand years.

Paris-London Challenge: Don’t Mess with Henry VIII

Here’s one last parting shot here in our Paris-London group photo challenge.  We were unable to find St. Pat’s gear in London, so we thought we’d leave with a reminder that you shouldn’t mess around when you’re at Henry VIII’s palace at Hampton Court.

Hampton Court Carriage2

Vikings and Medieval Castles

By Evan Carroll

Evan at Clifford's Tower

Evan Carroll at Clifford’s Tower in York

I have now been within the borders of the United Kingdom for exactly one week. In that time I have become more knowledgeable of Medieval and Renaissance England and certainly more affected by this new knowledge than I had expected before departing from the states. By use of daily historic site visits, our instructor, Dr. Bruening, has facilitated a course that is both inspiring and informational.

Evan, Sutton Hoo

A reconstructed helmet from the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo treasure at the British Museum

The site visit of day two was to the British Museum. To recount all of the items I found beautiful and revealing related to our course held within its walls would be impossible in this setting, let alone the items from other periods and regions. Of the British Museum exhibits related to the British Isles in the middle ages, I found the Viking Exhibit to be singular. Before taking this course, I was ignorant of the cultural impacts of the Danes on Britain outside the well known raids on the coastal monasteries. It was enlightening to learn of how the feelings of resentment the Danes had for people of the Christian faith had been fostered and how this initial targeting of the British coast led to Danish settlement and control of much of Britain, heavily influencing language and culture of the island.

On a more superficial note, I find it interesting that, while at that time most of the rest of the world used gold as the base of their currency, the Viking peoples placed much more value in silver and used it as their currency base, as exemplified in the exhibited artifacts.

On Thursday, our site visit consisted of a day trip to the northern town of York. We have learned that, like most cities of England, York is an ancient city with a tumultuous history. In medieval Britain, whoever controlled York, were it the Romans, Vikings, English, or Normans, controlled the North. At York one can find York Minster cathedral, the York City Walls, and Clifford’s Tower. Built by William the Conqueror in 1068 as a statement of power in the region, Clifford’s Tower, wooden at the time, only stood for a little over a century before it was burned to the ground with about 150 Jews inside.  It wasn’t until 1245, when the structure was again destroyed, this time in a storm, that Henry III had it rebuilt in a stone quatrefoil shape of French influence. At this time, the shape was unique in England.  The origin of the tower’s name is either due to the fact that Roger de Clifford was hanged there for opposing Edward II, or the claim of being hereditary tower constables by the Clifford family.

With one week down and one week to go, I am happy for all I have experience and learned and I can hardly wait to see what treasures, old and new, will be revealed to me in the coming days.


Miners in (Old) York

By Laura Riegel

Laura in York

Laura Riegel climbing the York Minster

My favorite site that we have visited so far is the York Minster Cathedral, which is a Gothic style building with flying buttresses and a vaulted ceiling. The extra support for the roof allows the walls to hold stained glass windows. There are many spectacular, vibrant windows on all sides of the cathedral.  Some of the windows were the Rose window, Five Sisters, and the Great East Window. Some the windows depicted God, saints, angels, prophets, patriarchs, creation and fall, the Old Testament, St. John, and the book of Revelation. The Great East window is currently being restored and will take a couple of years to complete.

The construction of York Minster started in about the 600s and it was burned down and rebuilt multiple times. It wasn’t until about the 12th century that the Gothic-style church began to be erected. Since the construction continued through different eras, the final design of some parts of the building did not quite line up perfectly. There was an underground crypt where you can see some of the tombs. During the English Reformation, Elizabeth I called for the destruction of the tombs and parts of the cathedral in her effort to destroy the Roman Catholic church.

Laura, York Minster

The York Minster

You can also climb a seemingly never-ending spiral staircase up to the top of the central tower. The view at the top was well worth the extra £5. From the top you can view the whole town of York and many of its historical buildings such as the city walls and Clifford’s Tower, which is the oldest building in York, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. The wall around the city was first built by the Romans in about 71 A.D., additions were made around 867 when the Danes ruled the area, and the wall was restored in the 12th century.

Laura and gang up the Minster

Magna Carta

By Bryan Widener

Bryan and Tower Bridge_c

Bryan Widener in front of Tower Bridge

England’s history is a long and interesting one. England boasted the most powerful navy in the world for over a century and for centuries was the world’s largest and mightiest empire.  Having the opportunity to see the results of the actions taken by the leaders of such a long-standing world power is as much an honor as it is interesting. [Read more…]

Reliquaries and Spoons

Written by Madison Morris:

I’ve been outside the United States a few times, but I have never been to London.  The first day here was such a culture shock!! Not only were people driving on the wrong side of the road, but everything was so busy! People were rushing everywhere, and Dr. Bruening’s walk around to help us figure out “the lay of the land’ only made me shocked. London is so incredibly huge and absolutely awe inspiring. On the mini tour alone I saw buildings that predated our country’s birth. So far we have visited the Tower of London, the British Library, the British Museum, the city of York, and Westminster Abbey. All of the locations house so much history. Being here is amazing and all of the interesting things we’ve learned in the short time is great.

Madi and Beefeaters_c

Madi Morris with the Yeoman Warders

I’ve seen so many cool things since I’ve been here. Every place that we’ve been to has been full of history dating back as far as the 9th century. At the Tower of London I saw the crown jewels, and I was blown away by not only their size and beauty, but by how old they were. The Coronation Spoon that they had on display thought to date from the 14th century!! Not only was it gorgeous and filled with rich gemstones, but it was delicately and intricately carved with beautiful designs. I was really shocked that it will not only still be used in future coronation ceremonies, but it literally cost more than my car. I was able to see something eight hundred years old, absolutely gorgeous, and really important that I would never have been able to see if I hadn’t been in London on this trip.

Also, when we visited the British Museum I was able to see something called the Holy Thorn Reliquary. This reliquary [a reliquary is a container, often quite ornate, for holding holy relics] was made in the late fourteenth century, and contains a thorn that was believed to be from the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head during his crucifixion. I was amazed that you could actually see this tiny thorn inside the reliquary; not only that, but it was sitting on top of a sapphire the size of a dime. The reliquary is very important because it not only shows the importance of Christianity to medieval England, but it shows how much this item was appreciated since it has lasted this long. The reliquary is absolutely gorgeous, and being able to see such an important artifact to not only Christianity but also medieval London was amazing.

All of these experiences have been amazing, and I’m really glad I decided to come on this trip! I’ve seen more history in the last week than I’ve probably seen in the last ten years, and that’s a really weird concept to wrap my head around. This trip was a great decision, and I’m so excited to have another week not only to learn more about London, but also to see the city.

Paris-London Challenge: Here Be Dragons

While our friends in Paris just seem to be jumping around like maniacs, we are dealing with some very serious stuff here at the Tower of London:



But thanks to the Yeoman Warders (or “Beefeaters”), we all made it out alive.


Arrival in London

For the next couple of weeks, I am leading a summer course in London on the History of Medieval and Renaissance England.  There are nine students enrolled in the course, eight of them from Missouri S&T.  They are majoring in everything from Petroleum Engineering to Biology to History.  Over the next few weeks, they will be sharing their experiences in London on this blog.

All of the students have now arrived in London.  Yesterday, when most of them arrived, we walked all over London, to give them a glimpse of some of the best known sites in the city… and to keep them awake after their (mostly sleepless) overnight flights.  We ended the day with a well-deserved traditional “English roast” meal, which was followed by some excellent live Irish music in the restaurant.

Students (l-r): Bryan Widener, Crystal Ford, Evan Carroll, Hayley Carroll, Madison Morris, and Audrey Hofherr

Students (l-r): Bryan Widener, Crystal Ford, Evan Carroll, Hayley Carroll, Madison Morris, and Audrey Hofherr

This morning the class started in earnest.  Much of the course will be focused on visits to sites that either date from the Middle Ages and Renaissance or contain objects from the period.  Today, we went to the British Library, which has many priceless manuscripts and books on display, including the sole surviving manuscript of Beowulf and one of the illustrated Gutenberg Bibles.  The library also currently has a special exhibit on the Magna Carta, whose 800th anniversary is this year, including two of the four surviving original manuscripts from 1215.

Remaining site visits will include the British Museum, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, Hampton Court, out-of-town visits to Oxford and York, and a performance of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice at the rebuilt Globe Theatre.  Stay tuned!

– Professor Michael Bruening