The Auramala Project recently had the very great pleasure of hosting Kathryn Warner, distinguished Edward II biographer, in Pavia. Kathryn was in Italy for a week in late September (see Kathryn Warner’s own posts on the subject here). She first visited Vercelli and Turin with Gianna Baucero and Associazione Chesterton of Vercelli, the city of which Manuele Fieschi became bishop. On the afternoon of Saturday, September 19th, Kathryn gave a hugely successful and well received talk at the Seminar of Vercelli, in the presence of the current Archbishop, Marco Arnolfo. (Since I’m terrible at taking photos, most of those that follow come directly from the Associazione Chesterton page!)
Kathryn Warner (centre) with Archbishop Marco Arnolfo and Gianna Baucero of Associazione Chesterton
We then met Kathryn at – where else? – Sant’Alberto di Butrio, the abbey where, according to Manuele Fieschi’s celebrated letter, Edward II lived out his days in prayer and contemplation. It was an extremely moving moment to meet Kathryn there.
Me meeting Kathryn in front of the tomb at Sant’Alberto di Butrio, said to be that of Edward II.
From left to right, myself, Gianna Baucero and Kathryn Warner.
Kathryn stayed in Pavia for four days, visiting the sites and, most importantly, discussing the evidence for and against the story told in the Fieschi Letter. The biggest day on the agenda was Tuesday 22nd, when we had a very important focus group that lasted three hours in which Fieschi expert Mario Traxino, Auramala Project researcher Elena Corbellini, Kathryn Warner and I all analysed in depth the documents and evidence brought to light so far by the Auramala Project, and our conclusions thus far. Kathryn was extremely informative and encouraging, and we feel that our research has proven quite worthy to stand beside other contributions on the same subject. Of course, what we have managed to publish so far on this blog is just a fraction of the total work done so far!
After the focus group, Kathryn gave a talk in the Salone Teresiano of the University Library of Pavia. Kathryn was introduced and presented to Pavia’s university-oriented public by Professor Renata Crotti, renowned historian of the University of Pavia. It was a memorable occasion, and as usual with Pavian audiences, question time went on for more than forty minutes. When the library closed, debate shifted to Loft 10, in Piazza Cavagneria, where it continued in English, French and German, thanks to Kathryn’s formidable linguistic skills.
The day after, Wednesday 23rd, Kathryn and I headed off to Genoa in the early morning for a visit to the archives of the archdiocese of Genoa. Numerous testaments left by the Fieschi Family are to be found there, but we were looking in particular for that of Manuele Fieschi’s nephew, Papiniano. Why? Well, it would take a long time to explain, so I’ll leave that for another post, but it’s a fascinating story.
At one point, I was just about to pass over a sheaf of documents as irrelevant to the search when Kathryn spotted the name of Papiniano, and we thankfully photographed them. Indeed, those were the very documents that revealed to us the name of the notary among whose documents we must now search.
It was an interesting experience to work with Kathryn for a couple of days on the nitty gritty of history. I was hugely impressed by a number of qualities, that I think the best historians should have. For example, apart from her linguistic skills and flexibility, she is very swift in looking at things analytically and adjusting to circumstances. The Genoese documents we looked at had this oddity: the number ‘3’ was always written back to front, making it look more like the letter ‘E’. It took Kathryn about half a second to spot this and get her eye in, as we scanned document after document. She sought, and very quickly found, the key to the ordering of documents that at first glance seemed put together without rhyme or reason, and was able to dismiss a whole bundle as useless pretty early on. Yes, we did check every single page of it, just to be on the safe side, anyway, but we knew there was no point. Kathryn is also distinguished by her extreme integrity: if it isn’t written in a trustworthy contemporary source, it just didn’t happen. She never lets a ‘might-have’ become a ‘must-have’, and then become a ‘fact’, and she will not tolerate it when other historians do. Either there is a source, or there is not. If there is not, it is hypothesis, and must be called hypothesis. And when it comes to original documents, I can tell you that Kathryn is fast working, efficient, and devastatingly good at finding them, reading them and interpreting them.
Sadly, Kathryn went back home the next day, but we are sure she will come again, and we can’t wait for it! In the meantime, she is giving us a helping hand with some parts of the research, in particular genealogy and the search for Edward II’s descendants, and there will be more on her extremely exciting findings in future posts!
From everybody here at the Auramala Project, a huge thank you to Kathryn for your visit!