The Mystery of a Medieval Blue Ink Has Been Solved

Turns out it was hiding in plain sight by the side of a Portuguese road.

During hot, dry summers in southern Portugal, the key ingredient for medieval manuscripts grows by the roadside. It is called folium, or turnsole, and it’s derived from the fruit of Chrozophora tinctoria, a small plant that grows in the region. For centuries, folium was responsible for coloring everything from Bible scenes to, later, the rind of a popular Dutch cheese. AtlasObscura.com

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Folium
Medieval manuscripts were illuminated with folium, and one bore the instructions for recreating the ink. Courtesy Paula Nabais

The Ambitious Plan to Digitize 100,000 Historic Texts in Belgium

Come September, a fleet of secure vehicles will pull up to a 17th-century building in Antwerp, Belgium, receive cases full of heavily protected cargo, and then abscond with the goods to a confidential location. The booty? Five thousand rare, centuries-old books, on their way to a 21st-century treatment. AtlasObscura.com

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Antwerp
The Plantin-Moretus Museum was once Europe’s most active printing business. CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / CC BY-SA 3.0

Take a Virtual Murder Tour of Medieval London

In late October 1323, on the eve of the feast of Saints Simon and Jude and in the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, a heist went awry. According to the coroner’s report, a Frenchman known as John de Chartres had just supped with his accomplices, William of Woodford and his wife Johanna, at their Milk Street residence. They crept over to Bread Street and broke into the home they had targeted, and systematically looted it as planned. But then William noticed that “John was then filled with remorse.” Unable to risk a rat, William politely asked John to light a fire in the kitchen. As John knelt over the flames William hit him with an ax, and then attempted to burn the evidence—namely, John. AtlasObscura.com

Old st Pauls
Old St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was completed in 1314 and destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. In the early 14th century, religious buildings saw as many murders as taverns. Francis Bond/Public Domain

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See Europe’s Ruined Medieval Castles Come Back to Life

Seven virtual reconstructions offer a glimpse at the fortified past.

A team of designers recently looked at the now-ruined castles of Middle Ages Europe, lifting the fortifications up from their dilapidated states and digitally reimagining the structures as they were in their heyday.  atlasobscura.com

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Before its dilapidation, Croatia’s Samobor Castle shifted from Roman-Gothic to Renaissance style. All images courtesy Budget Direct

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