The Siren Sea

The ship is one of the most common images found in medieval churches and manuscripts and not just on the coast, but often far inland as well. Nations depend on it for nourishment, safety and wealth but, all too often, it brings ruin and death. It was ever thus.

In this lecture the life of the medieval mariner will be brought to life with his hopes, fears and superstitions. We’ll also look at some spectacular ship-wrecks, some of which changed the course of history, and see how they fought to save their ships and cargo. We’ll learn how they built ships and think about how they navigated: extraordinary journeys were made in a time when no one was completely confident that they wouldn’t simply sail off the edge of the world or into the mouths of dragons. No wonder those returning to safe harbour were so full of tall tales.