Carnivalesque #84

Detail from Bruegel's Combat between Carnival and Lent

The King of Carnivalesque, Mikhail Bakhtin, is famous for celebrating François Rabelais’ joyfully satirical world-turned-upside down, in which grotesque bodies eat, belch and excrete their way across a fantasy of early modern Europe. Despite (because of?) his own time spent in Holy Orders, Rabelais was no fan of organised religion: his monks are venal, greedy, and incontinent — and frequently destined for an unpleasant end!

For our conversion Carnivalesque, we’ve tried to bring in both Carnival and Lent, celebrating some great posts which handle religious literature and history, but also remembering that ‘conversion’ itself can embrace ‘Transposition, inversion’ (OED n.4), and extending our gaze to moments of transformation, hybridity and change.

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Conversion Narratives at 10k

Cross-posted on the Conversion Narratives project website.

Last Friday, we welcomed (virtually) our ten thousandth visitor to this blog — a statistic we’re pretty pleased with given the shall-we-say ‘specialist’ nature of this site (now there’s a phrase designed to attract google hits!). We are delighted to be well on our way to our target of 20000 hits by the formal end of the project in September 2013. Most exciting, however, is the global range of our readership. Continue reading

Conversion Narratives to host Carnivalesque

On the 28/29th April the Conversion Narratives blog will be hosting Carnivalesque, the blog carnival for pre-modern history. A blog carnival is a blog-post that contains links to posts on other blogs – acting as a great meeting place for different bloggers with a shared theme.

For our conversion carnival the idea is that bloggers interested in early modern conversion or other religious themes come together. Blogs are nominated – you can of course nominate yourself  – via the carnivalesque site:

If you’re an early modern blogger or if you have a favourite blog let us know – let the conversion carnival begin!

Northern convert artists in Rome


Peter Paul Rubens, St. Gregory the Great surrounded by male and female saints adoring the miraculous image of the Virgin and child, the so-called Madonna della Vallicella, 1606, oil on canvas. Grenoble, Musée de Grenoble, France.

In 1606 the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), who had come to Rome from Antwerp, won perhaps the most important commission of his young career. This was the high altarpiece painting for the Chiesa Nuova, the Roman mother church of the Oratorians, a Catholic reform religious order founded in the papal city during the sixteenth century. That same year, German engraver Mattheus Greuter (c. 1564/1566 – 1638), come to Rome from Strassburg, executed two engravings for the Roman Oratorian congregation that echoed the composition of Rubens’ altarpiece. Continue reading

Conversion and Cake

The symbolic importance of food and food practices (or ‘foodways’ in academic speak) to religious culture is readily apparent at this time of year. During Lent it is traditional for Christians to fast, marking the beginning of the Lenten period by using up fat, eggs and flour in pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. At Easter we consume chocolate eggs  – a pagan fertility symbol hijacked by Cadburys – and hot cross buns – a reminder of the crucifixion. A recent lecture by Eric Dursteler (Brigham Young University) at the University of York on food and conversion in early modern Spain brought to the project’s attention the complex role played by foodways in cultures where large numbers of people converted – willingly or otherwise – from one faith to another. Continue reading