A rendering of Van Gogh's Sunflowers vandalized with an orange liquid

Masterpiece Theater

Climate activist attacks on works by van Gogh, Vermeer, and other art world titans are the latest in a tradition of destruction that hearkens to the early Christian zealots.
The coronation of Charlemagne

Making Sense of the Divine Right of Kings

The United States threw off the yoke of a king more than two centuries ago. Funny how we can't get enough of our erstwhile sovereigns today.
The Visit, 1746, Pietro Longhi

Socially Sanctioned Love Triangles of Romantic-Era Italy

Eighteenth-century Italian noblewomen had one indispensable accessory: an extramarital lover.
A Sea Bishop and a Sea Monk

Martin Luther’s Monsters

Prodigies, or monsters, were opaque and flexible symbols that signaled that God was sending some message.
Paris catacombs

How the Paris Catacombs Solved a Cemetery Crisis

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Paris—the Catacombs—was started as a solution to the intrusion of death upon daily life.
Pope Formosus and Stephen VI by Jean Paul Laurens, 1870

The Cadaver Synod: Putting a Dead Pope on Trial

Why did Pope Stephen VI go to such great lengths to destroy an enemy who was already dead?
arsenic book

Some Books Can Kill

Poisonous green pigments laced with arsenic were once a common ingredient in book bindings, paints, wallpapers, and fabrics. Yikes.
Corsica/Ajaccio bay

The Real First Written Constitution

American often gets credit for having the first written constitution. But the constitution of the short-lived republic of Corsica preceded it by 30+ years.
Charles I royal touch

The Divine Power of Kings to Heal by Touch

Healing ceremonies showed that monarchs ruled by God’s will, as divine power worked through anointed hands.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Knowledge and Nostalgia at the Museum: From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler imagines the museum as a site of hands-on learning and intimacy with the past.