“The world-historical significance of Martin Luther simply cannot be gainsaid.” – Author Richard Rex discusses The Making of Martin Luther

“Luther may have been kicking the scholastics in the teeth, but he was standing on their shoulders to do it.”

WHAT: “A major new account of the most intensely creative years of Luther’s career The Making of Martin Luther takes a provocative look at the intellectual emergence of one of the most original and influential minds of the sixteenth century. Richard Rex traces how, in a concentrated burst of creative energy in the few years surrounding his excommunication by Pope Leo X in 1521, this lecturer at an obscure German university developed a startling new interpretation of the Christian faith that brought to an end the dominance of the Catholic Church in Europe. Luther’s personal psychology and cultural context played their parts in the whirlwind of change he unleashed. But for the man himself, it was always about the ideas, the truth, and the Gospel.

Focusing on the most intensely important years of Luther’s career, Rex teases out the threads of his often paradoxical and counterintuitive ideas from the tangled thickets of his writings, explaining their significance, their interconnections, and the astonishing appeal they so rapidly developed. Yet Rex also sets these ideas firmly in the context of Luther’s personal life, the cultural landscape that shaped him, and the traditions of medieval Catholic thought from which his ideas burst forth. Lucidly argued and elegantly written, The Making of Martin Luther is a splendid work of intellectual history that renders Luther’s earthshaking yet sometimes challenging ideas accessible to a new generation of readers.”

WHO: Richard Rex is a historian. He is the Professor of Reformation History at the Faculty of Divinity of the University of Cambridge. He is also the Polkinghorne Fellow in Theology and Religious Studies at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he is Director of Studies in Theological and Religious Studies, Tutor for graduate students, and Deputy Senior Tutor. Although not a frequent performer in the travelling circus of modern academia, he nevertheless makes occasional guest appearances at the Academia Moriae, Amaurote, as well as at universities and schools closer to home.

Richard’s other titles include: ‘The Theology of John Fisher’ (1991); ‘Henry VIII and the English Reformation’ (1993); ‘The Lollards’ (2002); Lady Margaret Beaufort and her Professors of Divinity at Cambridge 1502-1649′ (2003); ‘A Reformation rhetoric Thomas Swynnerton’s The tropes and figures of scripture’ (2004); ‘The Tudors’ (2006); as well as ‘The Making of Martin Luther’ (2017).

MORE? Here!

Why Martin Luther?

The world-historical significance of Martin Luther simply cannot be gainsaid. The Reformation, that shattering of the Latin Christendom of centuries in two or three decades, was not all about Martin Luther. But Luther himself saw truly enough that the throng of other ‘reformers’ who followed after him all poured through the breach he had made in the walls. They would have known nothing, he said, if he had not written first. So no Luther, no Reformation. That’s ‘why Martin Luther’.

Yours is the story of a mind and world view developing and maturing yet we tend to think of Luther as a fixed figure in the intellectual firmament. So as well as WHY Martin Luther, WHEN was Martin Luther?

Martin Luther ‘happened’ in 1518. It was in 1518 that the ‘Ninety-Five Theses’ (originally dated 31 October 1517) actually burst onto the public stage and made him famous in weeks. And it was in 1518, probably in Lent (and certainly by Easter), that he first attained his most fundamental and revolutionary theological insight, namely that the true Christian should believe with absolute certainty that he or she definitely enjoyed the grace of God and was therefore forgiven their sins. This mental state of certainty, summed up as ‘justification by faith alone’, was a new demand, or perhaps better a new offer, in Christian theology, and it was the principle from which all else in his thinking stemmed. In the seven years that followed, Luther worked out the full implications of his insight. His notorious appearance before the Reichstag at Worms in April 1521 marked his definitive break with the Roman Catholic Church. And his outspoken polemic, ‘The Slave Will’ (1525), written against Erasmus’s ‘Free Will’ (1524), marked the final stage in the evolution of his views. His last two decades were characterised by consolidation rather than by the fierce creativity of those seven years. But it began in 1518.

Luther ended his life believing that the Papacy was THE enemy. Did he ever suggest that the Papacy could be defeated by the forces of Reformation? What did he imagine victory might look like?

Luther’s theology was deeply sceptical of the value of human effort. Nobody could do anything to save themselves or to merit their own salvation. He certainly did not expect the papacy to be overthrown by any human power, because he saw it as the temporal embodiment, almost literally the incarnation, of ‘Antichrist’. Even more than most zealous Christians, he seriously felt that he was living in the last days. To reverse the modern cliché, it was the end of the world – if not that minute or that year, then within a century or so. It was precisely his perception of the papacy as the Antichrist enthroned in the temple that convinced him that the end was nigh. So it would not be ‘the forces of Reformation’, but the second coming of the Lord that would settle accounts with the papacy. The only ‘victory’ he expected was the vindication of the elect on the last day.

Keynes described Newton as the last of the magicians rather than the first of the scientists. Was Luther’s a medieval or a modern mind?

The dichotomy is of course too simplistic, and must at some level be resisted. Yet it is structured into our thought, and we cannot resist collaborating with it. The analogy with the Keynesian diagnosis of Newton is strangely apt. One might say, in imitation, that Luther was the ‘last of the scholastics’. Certainly, Erasmus, the stand-out humanist of that generation, thought Luther had more in common with the scholastics than with the more flexible and dialogical approach cultivated by himself and his followers. And Luther’s theology is almost unimaginable without the backdrop of the medieval scholasticism he was confronting. Luther may have been kicking the scholastics in the teeth, but he was standing on their shoulders to do it. The answers he gave were often radically new, and he developed a new vocabulary in which to give them, but the questions that he asked were either traditional scholastic questions or at least near variants upon them. Thus, the question of whether a Christian could be certain (without a special direct revelation from God) that they were in a ‘state of grace’ had been asked for centuries. Luther was simply the first theologian to answer ‘yes’.

Luther had a lot to say about Jews and Judaism. Is there any evidence that he ever actually talked with Jewish scholars or experts?

Not as such. He probably had tuition in Hebrew from Matthias Adrian, a converted Jew who taught the language for a while at Wittenberg. And he had some acquaintance with the tradition of rabbinical exegesis, and very occasional written contact with Jews. But there was no Jewish community at Wittenberg in his time, nor at Erfurt (where he had himself been to university), so he had little opportunity. And his profound hostility towards Jews would not have inclined him to take up any such opportunity had it been presented to him.

How did Luther square his bibliocentric vision with his intense belief in the relatively non-canonical antichrist?

Luther’s unquestioning acceptance of the ‘Antichrist’ myth is one of the most ‘medieval’ aspects of his mindset. Another, of course, was his acceptance of the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture. Though he was capable of acidic and acerbic scepticism at times, he was not by nature a doubter. Doubt was not his default position. Nor was doubt a methodology for him, as it was to be for Descartes. ‘Antichrist’ was too familiar a figure, and played too central a role in his theology, for him to bring to that myth the mindset he brought to indulgences, purgatory, or the sacraments. He did not need to square any circles here, because he saw no difficulty in accepting the biblical foundation of ‘the Antichrist’ – even though he did, characteristically, reshape the doctrine of Antichrist to fit better into his doctrinal perspective.

How did one be (not become) a famous author in the time of Luther? Did he receive income from his writings? Were there book launches, appearances and signings?

The modern rigmarole of authorial book-peddling was undreamt of in Luther’s time. There were no liturgical assemblies of devotees in bookshops or literary festivals to celebrate the cult of the author with handshakes, selfies, and signed copies. For most authors, the tangible rewards from publishing were indirect rather than direct. Publishing a book which sold well brought an author reputation, and this could be traded into lucrative office in church or state. One of Luther’s busiest opponents, Johannes Cochlaeus, was as tireless an author as he, but far less popular – and far less gifted! He often had to pay printers to produce his books, and they were far harder to sell than Luther’s, and far less often reprinted. But the judicious distribution of free copies, or better still of dedication copies, to powerful patrons could pay handsome dividends in cash or office. Duke George of Saxony eventually made Cochlaeus his secretary, and various church authorities bestowed benefices upon him in recognition of his efforts. Another German opponent of Luther’s, Dr Johann Eck, dedicated his widely read refutation of Luther to Henry VIII and came to England to present a copy in person: he left with £25 in his purse – equivalent today to a whole year’s salary, and a very good salary at that.

The direct profits in the publishing industry went to printers, not to authors, and printers throughout Germany rapidly cottoned onto Luther’s commercial value. Yet although Luther’s sales were in the millions, which would have made him a wealthy man today, even he made nothing directly from them. He owed his financial security to the Electors of Saxony – whose university in Wittenberg he had singlehandedly made one of the most famous in Europe. The students who flooded in brought wealth to the city, as did the huge output of his books from its burgeoning printing industry, which he had in effect created. As Andrew Pettegree has shown in his Brand Luther, Wittenberg developed a cutting-edge printing industry on the back of Luther, producing vast numbers of his works in high-quality editions that were distinctively authorised with the ‘Luther seal’ that he devised.

In return, his prince granted him the Augustinian friary as his family home, along with a good salary as the leading professor of theology in the university itself.

Could Luther ever have been neutered or muted with promotion to high ecclesiastical office?

No. He was on the fast track to leadership in his own religious order anyway when he began to develop his new approach to Christianity, and he was not in the least deterred by the obvious damage he was doing to his career prospects. And while he might have risen to be ‘Provincial’ (head of a province), or even perhaps more, in the Order of the Hermits of St Augustine, it is unlikely that his abrasive character would have equipped him for high office in the wider world, so that at a deeper level the question does not arise. Nobody could ever have seen him as, administratively, a ‘safe pair of hands’. The practical details of organising everyday life in the emerging Evangelical Churches of the German Princes were sorted out not by Luther but by his acolytes – Johannes Brenz, Johannes Bugenhagen, and the rest.

Luther was never in any sense ‘an organisation man’. While he was undoubtedly a ‘charismatic leader’, and the experience of being the focus of a personality cult was evidently one he relished, he was not driven by any of the obvious kinds of ambition or careerism. Making him a bishop would simply have given him a bigger pulpit, literally and metaphorically, from which to preach.

You describe how a personal cult began to burgeon around Luther in his own lifetime. Had his worldview admitted of sainthood, and were you the curator of his leading pilgrimage site, what would be the top relics you would want to possess?

History answers that question. For his worldview, and that of his followers, did not manage to exclude the trappings of sainthood quite as cleanly as might be imagined from the theological emphasis on Christ as the unique mediator and on the immediate experience of ‘justification by faith alone’. In a world in which literacy was slowly but steadily increasing, and in which, perhaps thanks to print, respect for books and writing was higher than ever before, later Lutherans particularly valued things he had written – actual letters, ‘autographs’ (in our sense – examples of his actual signature), books he had published (especially early copies of his translation of the Bible) and, in particular, copies of books in which he had personally written.

So if I were running a Luther shrine, I would want it to focus on things he had physically written. There are interesting parallels here, by the way, with the early miracles reported of the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius Loyola. The miracles credited to Ignatius are often associated with examples of his autograph signature. But buildings with which Luther had been associated also came to be highly prized in later Lutheran tradition, in particular two houses in Eisleben: the one in which he had been born, and the other, in which he had died. It would be fanciful to detect here an echo of the Holy House of Loreto, the shrine in northern Italy believed by some to have been the actual Nazareth home of Jesus, miraculously transported to its new location by angels. Yet while Luther’s houses had stronger historical claims, there is a common factor: both traditions embodied in their own ways a new sense of the centrality of the ‘nuclear’ family in western Christianity.

What are you currently working on?

An edition of an exchange of letters between Luther and Henry VIII in 1525-26, an episode hardly ever noticed in biographies of either man. Accompanied by an introduction setting this storm in a teacup within the broader perspective of their interactions over some twenty-five years, this edition will be published by Boydell and Brewer. And a Short History of the Tudors for Bloomsbury Continuum. Maybe one day I’ll get to write a ‘big book’.


Interview: Catch-22 (12 -16 Nov. ’19)


“When I discovered that Heller had done his own stage adaptation I knew it was something I wanted to direct.”

WHO: Hannah Bradley: Director

WHAT: “Captain John Yossarian is a U.S. Army bombardier and the last Assyrian alive, and he would very much like to keep it that way. Convinced that an entire army is trying to kill him, Yossarian desperately tries to evade battle (and the increasing demands of his superior Colonel Cathcart), but finds that there is always a catch. Meanwhile, the unit’s long-suffering Chaplain has found himself inadvertently caught up in a strange war of his own. And everyone is trying to locate the mysterious Washington Irving.”

WHERE: The Biscuit Factory

DATES: 12 – 16 November

TIMES: 19:30

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Why ‘Catch-22’?

I fell in love with ‘Catch-22’ when I read the book in high-school. It’s one of the few novels which has made me laugh out loud. And Heller has such a way with words, it’s like reading a 500-page poem, there’s a unique rhythm which carries you through the story. When I discovered that he had done his own stage adaptation I knew it was something I wanted to direct. The timing has been fortuitous with George Clooney’s mini-series earlier in the year introducing so many more people to these characters. I think that’s why it’s persisted as a classic – the characters are relatable, even with their faults. And they find themselves in situations that we all do, subject to the whim of the machine.

What’s the one thing about this show that everyone should know BEFORE they take their seats?

It’s one of the best satires of the 20th century. So iconic in fact that the term Catch-22 comes from the book.

What makes this production unique?

We’re staging it at The Biscuit Factory which is giving the show a totally different feel. This isn’t some black box or black canvas; it’s industrial, it’s grungy. It’s been a really cool and interesting space to work with and adds another element to the show.

What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of rehearsals?

The challenge of directing 14 actors in 40 parts – that’s been a real learning experience. And how difficult it is to dye silk with tea!


“The best advice I got (and ignored) is grow garlic that’s suited to your climate.” – Author Robin Cherry discusses Garlic, an Edible Biography

“Humans have been eating garlic for least 5,000 years. Three of the world’s oldest known recipes, written in cuneiform (wedge-shaped marks) on clay tablets, include garlic.”

WHAT: Garlic is the Lord Byron of produce, a lusty rogue that charms and seduces you but runs off before dawn, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Called everything from rustic cure-all to Russian penicillin, Bronx vanilla and Italian perfume, garlic has been loved, worshipped, and despised throughout history. No writer has quite captured the epic, roving story of garlic—until now.

While this book does not claim that garlic saved civilization (though it might cure whatever ails you), it does take us on a grand tour of its fascinating role in history, medicine, literature, and art; its controversial role in bigotry, mythology, and superstition; and its indispensable contribution to the great cuisines of the world. And just to make sure your appetite isn’t slighted, Garlic offers over 100 recipes featuring the beloved ingredient.

WHO: Robin Cherry is a Cleveland-raised, Hudson Valley-based writer with a passion for Eastern Europe, undiscovered wine regions, and garlic. She has written for many publications including National Geographic Traveler, Afar, The Atlantic,and Wine Enthusiast. She is the author of Catalog: The History of Mail Order Shopping and Garlic: An Edible Biography: The History, Politics, and Mythology behind the World’s Most Pungent Food. After majoring in Russian history at Carleton College, she almost joined the CIA but she can’t keep a secret.

MORE? Here!

Why garlic?

Initially, I was intrigued by how pervasive garlic was throughout history then I became fascinated by the dark side of garlic — how it was used to discriminate against Jews, Italians, and Koreans. My father was Jewish and the fact that Nazis issued buttons with pictures of garlic bulbs so wearers could broadcast their antisemitism staggered me. I was also intrigued by how many dictators liked garlic (largely because of where they grew up) — Stalin, Mussolini, and Slobodan Milosevic all loved garlic. When Milosevic was in prison, he felt a pain in his chest and asked his fellow inmate for a head of garlic as garlic is regarded as a natural healer in Serbia. Somewhat improbably, the inmate got the garlic but to no avail. Milosevic died the next morning.

How long have humans been eating garlic?

Humans have been eating garlic for least 5,000 years. Three of the world’s oldest known recipes, written in cuneiform (wedge-shaped marks) on clay tablets, include garlic.

Do any animals eat garlic?

I’ve read different things on this so I can’t answer definitively. Most people say garlic is toxic for dogs and cats; some say it isn’t. Most animals don’t seem to appreciate garlic’s many positive properties — leaving more for us.

Have you ever grown your own garlic? What are your top tips?

I have. The best advice I got (and ignored) is grow garlic that’s suited to your climate. I tried to grow a Creole variety in upstate New York and it was too cold. Since you grow garlic from individual cloves, pick the biggest, fattest ones you have. Buy good quality organic garlic from a professional grower; don’t try to grow grocery store garlic as it has often been treated to prevent sprouting. Plant garlic in the fall so the roots can form before the ground freezes and if growing hardneck garlic, cut off the scapes after they reach about ten inches long so the plant’s energy will go to increasing the size of the bulb. (Garlic scapes make a great, mild pesto). Most importantly, don’t be intimidated. Garlic is pretty forgiving and easy to grow.

There are many heirloom varieties of garlic. Which are your top 3?

I love hot food so I go for spicy varieties like Georgian Fire, and Pennsylvania Dutch (plus my grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch). I also like Music — probably the most popular variety as it has good flavor, keeps well and its cloves are large and easy to peel. (Music isn’t named for its beauty — it’s named for Al Music, a Canadian garlic grower.)

You’ve ended up running the kitchen of an especially bad-tempered, omnipotent, but garlic-loving autocrat. They’ve ordered you to cook them garlic for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What’s on each menu?

Great question. For breakfast, I’d prepare garlic bread avocado toast topped with a fried egg and garlic tea with honey and lemon.

For lunch, I’d make a steak sandwich with arugula, provolone cheese, and a garlic aioli served with curly garlic fries and garlic lemonade.

For dinner, I’d prepare Stalin’s favorite dish, Chicken Satsivi — chicken in a rich walnut-garlic sauce from his native Georgia and a strong martini garnished with garlic-stuffed olives so he’d nod off and I could get some rest.

What’s the one garlic accessory that no kitchen should be without?

A chef’s knife and/or a microplane rasp. You don’t need any fancy gadgets and most chefs hate garlic presses as they say they bruise the garlic and make it bitter. Anthony Bourdain even said, “I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic.”

What’s the biggest thing happening in garlic right now?

I think the biggest thing happening in garlic right now is Fermented Garlic Honey which is quite popular. To make it, pour raw honey over lightly crushed garlic cloves in a jar — crushing the garlic will create allicin which helps in the fermentation. Seal the jar and leave it at room temperature for three days. After that, remove the lid and stir the garlic and let it ferment for at least a week (stirring every other day). The mixture can ferment for a month or longer and will become sweeter and mellower over time. Fermented Garlic Honey can be used in marinades, vinaigrettes, and sauces — and some swear that it’s great on pizza — or as an immunity booster during cold and flu season.

What variety of garlic do you think makes the best black garlic?

It doesn’t matter as they all taste the same — delicious — after they’ve been cooked at a low temperature for two to three weeks.

What are you currently working on?

A children’s travel book series that features my young niece, Eden. I’ve been lucky to travel to over 100 countries and the series will feature the places I’ve visited as if seen through her eyes. I’m still trying to come up with a new micro history idea so any suggestions are welcome!


“Adolf Hitler is not dead. Echoes of his racism, anti-Semitism, and blinding nationalism are everywhere.” – Author James Longo discusses Hitler and the Habsburgs: The Fuhrer’s Vendetta Against the Austrian Royals

“Franz Ferdinand was a firm believer in peace, religious tolerance, and European unity.”

WHAT: A stunning work of narrative history revealing how and why Adolf Hitler targeted the children of the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, making the Archduke’s sons the first two Austrians deported to the Dachau concentration camp, and how the family fought back.

Five youthful years in Vienna. It was then and there that Adolf Hitler’s obsession with the Habsburg Imperial family became the catalyst for his vendetta against a vanished empire, a dead archduke, and his royal orphans. That hatred drove Hitler’s rise to power and led directly to the tragedy of the Second World War and the Holocaust.

The royal orphans of Archduke Franz Ferdinand-offspring of an upstairs-downstairs marriage that scandalized the tradition-bound Habsburg Empire-came to personify to Adolf Hitler, and others, all that was wrong about modernity, the twentieth century, and the Habsburg’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Austro-Hungarian Empire. They were outsiders in the greatest family of royal insiders in Europe, which put them on a collision course with Adolf Hitler.

As he rose to power Hitler’s hatred toward the Habsburgs and their diverse empire fixated on Franz Ferdinand’s sons, who became outspoken critics and opponents of the Nazi party and its racist ideology. When Germany seized Austria in 1938, they were the first two Austrians arrested by the Gestapo, deported to Germany, and sent to Dachau. Within hours they went from palace to prison. The women in the family, including the Archduke’s only daughter Princess Sophie Hohenberg, declared their own war on Hitler. Their tenacity and personal courage in the face of betrayal, treachery, torture, and starvation sustained the family during the war and in the traumatic years that followed.

Through a decade of research and interviews with the descendants of the royal Habsburgs, scholar James Longo explores the roots of Hitler’s determination to destroy the family of the dead Archduke. And he uncovers the family members’ courageous fight against the Führer.

WHO: James McMurtry Longo is a native of St. Louis, where he was educated and taught in public schools for over a decade. He graduated from the University of Missouri – St. Louis, then earned his Master’s degree from Webster University and his doctorate from Harvard University. He is an award-winning professor and chair of the Department of Education at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.

As a Fulbright Scholar, James served as the Distinguished Chair of the University Centre for Women’s Studies and Gender Studies at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt in Austria. He has taught in Austria, Brazil, and Costa Rica, and lectured at Harvard, Oxford, Napier University in Edinburgh, Zlin University in the Czech Republic, and throughout the United States.

James has written eight books. When not teaching or writing, he would rather be in a canoe than any other place on earth. He lives in Washington, Pennsylvania, and spends his summers in Suttons Bay, Michigan.

MORE? Here!

Why Hitler and the Hapsburgs?

Adolf Hitler had an enemies list of over 7,000 names he wanted arrested when the German army entered Austria in March of 1938. At the top of that list were the two sons of Archduke Franz Ferdinand whose 1914 assassination triggered the First World War. The Archduke’s sons were the first two Austrians arrested by the Gestapo, imprisoned in Vienna, and deported to Dachau. Why? Hitler’s hatred of them, and what the Habsburgs represented to him fueled the escalating events that led to the Second World War, the Holocaust, and the death of millions. Hitler and the Habsburgs is one of the great untold stories of the twentieth century. It tells the story of Hitler’s obsession with one remarkable family and their struggle to survive.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria gets a very positive press in your narrative. Was he anything more than another uniformed aristo in a feathery hat?

Franz Ferdinand is one of the most misunderstood, maligned, underrated men in history. Despite the Archduke’ prickly personality, Hungarian Bishop Joseph Lanyi described him as “the indispensable man, the catalyst for European peace and unity.” The remarkable group of diverse advisors and peace advocates he gathered around him as his advisors agreed.

So too did the English Duke of Portland who wrote of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination on the eve of the Second World War, “It was criminal and tragic in its senselessness. How desperately sad it is that England would never witness the ascension to the throne of this great Habsburg prince. Would it not have been an immense advantage today of there was an entire strong and peaceful power in the Danubian basin? This noble prince was also a true European and what we see now when it is too late – he saw at the time. In justice to his memory – one must admit how much would have been different had he lived.” Winston Churchill agreed. So too did Adolf Hitler. He saw the Archduke and the multi-cultural Habsburg empire he represented as the major roadblock to “Rassenkrieg” the apocalyptic race war pitting ethnic groups against each other he planned.

Would a great European and world conflict have happened had Franz Ferdinand lived?

Many historians today believe had Franz Ferdinand lived a great European and world conflict, especially in 1914, would never have happened. The Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph did not want war. His heir Franz Ferdinand, was even more determined to prevent war declaring, “External peace for us…that is my profession of faith, for which I will work and struggle as long as I live!” One court observer wrote at the time of his assassination, “Hardly was he in his coffin before all his protégés, all his creatures, friends, and officials were swept out of posts and office. The court cliques and military lords who had been continuously harassed by the Heir to the Throne saw to this being a clean sweep.” The death of the Archduke crushed the peace party. Austria’s war hawks wasted no time in using his assassination as an excuse to fight the war he spent his entire adult life trying to prevent.

You’ve got a time machine and a licence to alter one event in the period you cover. What are you changing and why?

If I could have altered one event in the historic period covered by my book it would have allowed Franz Ferdinand to succeed to the Habsburg throne. He was a firm believer in peace, religious tolerance, and European unity. Winston Churchill wrote the First World War and the fall of the Habsburg empire, “gave the opening for the Hitlerite monster to crawl out of its sewer onto the vacant thrones.”

What surprised you most during your research?

The biggest surprise in my research was the obsessive hatred Adolf Hitler had toward the Habsburgs and the nearly invisible, vital role the women in Franz Ferdinand’s family played in saving their husbands, brothers, and children. Their courage, resilience, religious faith, and remarkable sense of humor was inspiring.

Did you have any support or input from Franz Ferdinand’s family and descendants?

Franz Ferdinand’s great-granddaughters, great-grandson, and two of his grandsons generously spent many hours with me, sharing stories, family photos, and reminiscences most of which had never been shared with other authors. This was invaluable to me in my research and writing.

If you could ask Franz Ferdinand one question, what would it be?

If I could ask Franz Ferdinand one question it would his private thoughts about the mysterious death of his cousin Crown Prince Rudolph. But of course, the reticent Archduke wouldn’t discuss such thoughts with me, or anyone else.

Ignorant people like me are only familiar with Stefan Zweig from Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (2014). Where should we go next to learn more about his life and literary legacy?

I was happy Wes Anderson saluted Stefan Zweig in his movie ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel.’ Zweig was Austria’s most famous, best-selling novelist in the first part of the twentieth century, and as such was a contemporary of Franz Ferdinand and his family. His writing was popular throughout Central Europe, the United States, and South America. He was an astute observer of the imperial Habsburg capital of Vienna, and the unique role the Austro-Hungarian empire played in European society and culture. Zweig’s books provide a genuine sense of a vanished time and place and are worth a read. The World of Yesterday finished two days before his suicide, was written when Adolf Hitler’s power was at its zenith. It is a haunting testimony to Zweig’s life and legacy.

Historians are reluctant to draw overly close parallels between then and now, but what is the most important lesson you hope readers will take from your book?

Adolf Hitler is not dead. Echoes of his racism, anti-Semitism, and blinding nationalism are everywhere. Stefan Zweig’s prophetic words from The World of Yesterday are worth repeating. “Its red hue was really the firelight of the approaching conflagration.” We all have a responsibility to recognize the danger of extremism and speak out against it. As Sue Woolmans co-author of ‘The Assassination of the Archduke, Sarajevo 1914 and the Murder That Changed the World’ wrote of Hitler and the Habsburgs, “We need books like this one to remind us of the black hole of terror into which we can so easily plunge.”

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a memoir of a remarkable woman peacemaker.


+3 Interview: Arlecchino Torn in Three

“Having a long run allowed us to test our show with an international audience and gave us the boost we needed to dive into the Fringe world.”

WHO: Betty Andriolo: Actor

WHAT: “Fancy a trip to Venice in Edinburgh? Join Arlecchino as he takes on two jobs and two masters. Midsummer madness rages! Master number one: Beatrice, disguised as a man, searches for her beloved Florindo and she hires Arlecchino. Master number two: Florindo, accused of murdering Beatrice’s brother, escapes to Venice and he hires Arlecchino. True love or tragedy? At his wit’s end and starving, will Arlecchino ever get his dinner? Three versatile actors, nine roles! Physical storytelling with masks, puppets and music bring Venice to life, blending tradition and innovation.”

WHERE: Greenside @ Infirmary Street – Forest Theatre (Venue 236) 

WHEN: 17:20 (50 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

At home in Venice, we discussed coming to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. After months of planning and crowdfunding, Bottegavaga has fulfilled a dream we’ve had for ages.

It’s our first time to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and we’re here to bring our theatre, closely interwoven with our beloved city, out of Italy, in hopes of sharing Commedia dell’Arte and the genius of Carlo Goldoni abroad. Edinburgh seemed to us the perfect place to make this dream come true!

Edinburgh Fringe is the third-largest ticketed event in the world (after the Olympics and the World Cup). It’s an ‘artistic village’ where we feel part of a cosmopolitan community. We’ve been able to meet artists from Poland, UK, Russia, Japan and beyond: we are inspired to see other artists’ work and to know different artistic ways of approaching theatre.

In the past, Commedia dell’Arte troupes travelled throughout Europe, influencing authors like Molière and popular traditions such as the Punch and Judy shows. We’d also love to go on tour and find new audiences. Commedia dell’Arte is a theatre that conveys delight and celebrates playfulness. In times like ours, we think people need this. There’s a more serious side, too. Venice is a city in crisis due to unsustainable tourism, and we want to show the world Venice’s real soul, its struggle to avoid becoming a museum or a Disneyland. We wish to achieve this, using an international language, while keeping old values alive and making them understandable and appreciated.

So, our Arlecchino Torn in Three is an experiment, and we wanted to see if our modern-day version of Commedia can be enjoyed by a contemporary audience from all over the world. And Edinburgh has been just the place for this. We’ve also discovered that even audiences unfamiliar with masks and Commedia dell’Arte appreciate our show, although some journalists didn’t quite understand that Commedia is a crazy world where anything can happen, even if it ‘doesn’t make sense.’ Our show keeps changing each night, thanks to a dynamic, continuous relationship with the audience.

We’ve learned a lot about the British sense of humour, about how to do flyering (and even sent our producer onto the streets in a Commedia mask). We’ve had a go at street theatre on Virgin Money Stage, and Arlecchino adopted a red phone box for a Dr. Who stunt. We’re baffled by Scottish deep-fried pizzas, enjoyed whisky tasting and are now shortbread addicts. Above all, we’ve had the chance to exchange and network with a lot of extraordinary artists and see their shows. We still have one more week to go, but so far it’s been an amazing experience for us. The Fringe is certainly a challenge, and it’s one we’ve found well worth trying!

We’re also acting teachers, and are leading Commedia workshops for children at the Italian Cultural Institute. What a joyful time: Scottish and English kids had great fun playing with masks and experimenting with different characters in their group.

At the Demarco Foundation, we did Spotlight on Venice and talked about our work and our city, which, like Edinburgh, is in peril. There, we met the legendary Richard Demarco, one of the founders of the Fringe; his love of theatre is truly inspiring.

What we really looking forward to is to make a bridge between Italy and the UK, to create a cultural exchange with like-minded people, to bring our experience in Commedia and physical theatre as a resource for actors who want to train and explore the foundations of theatre. We want to find the time and space for the art and culture of different peoples that can stir and nourish our spirit, stretching beyond all boundaries.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’18?

The biggest thing that’s happened to us last year? In 2018, Bottegavaga performed for a whole season in Avogaria Theatre, an iconic theatre in Venice. It was founded after World War Two by Giovanni Poli, a leading Commedia director, and renowned artists such as Jerzy Grotowski also performed there. Having a long run allowed us to test our show with an international audience and gave us the boost we needed to dive into the Fringe world.

At Avogaria Theatre, we held special Goldoni post-show buffets and this has been great! It’s our ‘theatre research – Italian style’. Our chef Anna Santini recreated dishes from the time of Goldoni. As our guests munched on these delicacies and enjoyed glasses of wine, the company discovered experts and performers  keen on getting to know our work better. It has been a lovely mixed audience experiment… multicultural moments that encouraged us to take part in the Fringe.

Tell us about your show.

Our Arlecchino Torn in Three is an adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters (1746). The original play has a cast of nine, but has been reworked by the director Alberta Toninato to be performed by three actors, who double (or even triple) roles in a fast and furious romantic comedy. Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters has given us the opportunity to work on a very sophisticated comedy for a new audience.

As we created the show, we researched body language and gesture, with the aim of creating a playful script that’s universally accessible. We use traditional Commedia masks with a modern twist to present our ideal kind of theatre: universal, sincere, immediate and essential, without special effects, and highlighting the physical skill of the actor. Thus, our physical storytelling is a showcase for the actors’ creativity and versatility.

Arlecchino Torn in Three offers both entertainment and the pleasure of performing a classic, blending the popular tradition of Commedia dell’Arte with literary and stylistic virtuosity. With the mask, everything becomes a game: mistakes, work, love, even hunger or poverty. Mask characters such as Arlecchino teach us the possibilities for happiness in a confusing and often difficult world.

We’ve re-worked our script for Edinburgh, using both English and Italian. As far back as the 16th century, Commedia dell’Arte deployed what is known as ‘gramelot’, an invented language, full of unknown words and sounds which was highly entertaining. We try to use English in this way, mixing it with Italian and Venetian dialect, creating a sort of new linguistic code for a contemporary audience. The artistic/linguistic research we’ve been passionately carrying out may be very similar to the ‘modernity’ that Carlo Goldoni sought in his plays all his life.

Bottegavaga have been working together for more than ten years, a Venice-based adventure that started back in 2005, exploring Goldoni on one hand and Shakespeare on the other. Actors Betty Andriolo, Vanni Carpenedo, and Christian Renzicchi trained in Commedia and also with Yoshi Oida, Emma Dante and Gabriele Lavia. Alberta Toninato is the director, and the UK producer is Valerie Kaneko-Lucas. Professor Margaret Rose from the University of Milan is our consultant. We’re an Anglo-Italian company. For us, working together has always been an endless quest supported by a strong bond, perfect chemistry and a lot of passion!

Our show has been partially funded by a crowdfunding campaign launched by the company themselves, attracting finders from Italy, the USA and the UK. We’re part of the Italian Cultural Institute’s Italian Artists at the Fringe. The Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh has also supported our Commedia workshops for children.

After the Fringe, we’re working on taking our show to Chicago.  We’ve been invited to take part in the Chicago Physical Theatre Festival in June 2020, and we’d love to get there!

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Paolo Nani’s The Letter – his show is an amazing example of how comedy can be done with no words and just a suitcase of props. We’ve enjoyed seeing him on TV in Italy and were thrilled to see him live in Edinburgh.

The Trial by Stone Crabs – It’s an interactive show where the audience becomes the jury in a trial about LGBT+ rights. Ines Sampaio is a multi-talented young actor-musician doing 6 roles, ranging from the trans protagonist to her crotchety homophobic father.

Limbo – Teresa and Anjrej Welminski were members of Kantor’s troupe, and this show is visually stunning, evoking an infernal waiting room populated by eccentrics.

The Forest – Performed by graduates of the Moscow Arts School, it was a poetic and moving devised show about our disconnection from nature, a Russian take on the environmental crisis.

Zeroko’s Tea Time – a pair of bowler-hatted Japanese guys perform magic with the simplest of props, such as umbrellas and tea cups. It’s a heartwarming and charming show from Tokyo that made us smile on a rainy Edinburgh day.



+3 Interview: Limb(e)s

“Just to be here, presenting a show is a triumph. Technical mishaps have led to creative solutions (after initial periods of debilitating stress). Smaller audiences add up to an impressive number over the course of the festival.”

WHO: Gabrielle Martin: Director and Performer

WHAT: “Aerial dance that offers the darkest hour, and questions what it means to carry or let go of another. Two bodies suspended in the limbo of loss, cradled in the surrogate limbs of rope and the temporary solace of flesh, weighed by conscience, spun by dependency, freed by mortality. This new show by Gabrielle Martin (Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia) and Jeremiah Hughes (Cirque du Soleil, Dragone, So You Think You Can Dance) combines an emotionally raw physicality with a haunting original soundscape to create a hypnotic, destabilizing narrative full of mourning, distant hope, and eerie beauty.”

WHERE: Assembly Roxy (Venue 139) 

WHEN: 21:25 (50 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

Yes! My experience here seems to be a process of reframing the definition of failure and triumph. Just to be here, presenting a show is a triumph. Technical mishaps have led to creative solutions (after initial periods of debilitating stress). Smaller audiences add up to an impressive number over the course of the festival. Every time I’m biking and it’s NOT raining is a small miracle! Overall, I think there’s an incredible open, optimistic, and alive feeling here.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’18?

The show we’re presenting at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe was conceived last summer and so much has come to pass in the year leading up to now. My collaborating partner and I created this show while touring Europe as performers with Cirque du Soleil. We would move to a new city every week and every week we would try to find a new studio to rehearse in. We ended up lost in industrial city outskirts and in studios without heat or air conditioning, often asking ourselves why we were spending our days off in a studio. But something was working because all that spare time spent stuck in confined spaces lead to our engagement and somehow we made a show that’s been nominated for a Total Theatre Award in Physical / Visual Theatre here at the festival.

Tell us about your show.

Limb(e)s was created by myself and Jeremiah Hughes. We met while in the creation for TORUK, a show by Cirque du Soleil, and immediately gravitated towards each other as the only artists on the show with a dance background. We often felt we had more to express as performers and creators and needed to an opportunity see if that was true or not! We couldn’t afford a lighting designer so Jeremiah tried a first stab at it, and when we premiered the work last month at the Montreal Complètement Cirque Festival, the main feedback we received was that no one could actually see what was happening on stage (but we trust they would have loved it, had they seen it!). So in some ways, the real reveal has been here at the Fringe, and from lemons to lemonade the biggest feedback we get now is how incredible the lighting design and aesthetic of the work is! As for future plans, we do not have any dates booked and are not sure whether that’s a blessing or a curse due to the exacting nature of the work!

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

“Lucille and Cecilia” because it’s also a circus-inspired duet, equally dark, but much more witty!
“Goliath in the water” because it’s kinetic and shares themes of the loss and fragility!



+3 Interview: Could It Be Magic?

“We have sold over 1200 tickets already from very strong word of mouth and whilst it’s a comedy show the magic has been getting great reactions and gasps and cheers in all the right places.”

WHO: Paul Aitchison: Writers / Performer / Chief Wizard

WHAT: “In a unique mix of mind-melting magic and bonkers character comedy, one performer plays four contestants in a hilarious and somewhat manic magic competition. This is debut show from Paul Aitchison, as seen/heard performing on BBC Radio 4, West End stages and on your tellybox. Best known to Fringe audiences as co-writer and performer in award-winning sketch act Mixed Doubles (Guardian Top Five recommendation and Dave Comedy Peoples Choice winners). Feel-good comedy meets stupendous sleight of hand, magnificent mind reading, and top draw bamboozlement! It’ll be fun but… Could It Be Magic?”

WHERE: Just the Tonic at The Caves – Just the Fancy Room (Venue 88) 

WHEN: 15:30 (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

My first Edinburgh was back in 2004. I was performing in our school play that was …inexplicably bought unto the fringe for a week, but I remember having the time of my life and thus knowing that both performing and the Edinburgh Fringe were inevitably going to be part of my future.

I’ve performed in 6 Edinburgh Fringe festivals, usually in Improv/Sketch comedy. For several years as part of “Mixed Doubles” an award-winning Sketch comedy act that did well and performed a few times on radio 4 and toured internationally.

It’s my first year doing a magic show, but as people quickly get once they see the show, the focus is as much on the comedy and audience interaction with the 4 characters as it is the tricks.

The response has been pretty overwhelming. We have sold over 1200 tickets already from very strong word of mouth and whilst it’s a comedy show the magic has been getting great reactions and gasps and cheers in all the right places.

It takes a huge amount of effort to bring a show up to the fringe and doing such a technically complicated show as COULD IT BE MAGIC? even more so. There were many nights this year when I got back late from working in theatre only to then Power up the laptop and pull work til 3am to get it all done. So it’s a great feeling when you see it pay off. As someone who’s experienced both successes and failures in their career – it’s a lovely feeling to see a large queue of people waiting excitedly to see a sold-out show, then realise it’s your show.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’18?

Professionally I’ve had some very nice acting jobs come through this year. Some on telly as we speak and others in theatre and a couple to come after the Fringe.

Also getting to put this show on, Something I’ve wanted to do for several years has been a real year highlight.
Going solo is both terrifying and electrifying and there are a few people who have really helped my get to this point.

Including (but not limited to) my wonderful family, Serena Dunn, Jamie Maguniess, John Henry Falle, Chaz Redhead, Will Close and Dianne Roberts. Also, the many magicians who’ve work inspired me to finally do my own.

In my personal life, I got engaged!

Tell us about your show.

I’m proud that the show is pretty novel in concept and execution. I can be confident in saying It’s certainly one of the most unique of the many magic shows on offer at this year’s fringe.

The audience is welcomed to the Magic Ring Magic Society’s Best Magician of Magic – Magic Competition. (TM)

Four Acts present their best 15 minutes of magic to the audience in the hope of winning the immortal trophy. I play all four acts. So there’s lots of quick changes whilst the audience are watching videos introducing the next act. Each act has their own style of magic and humour, so there’s a new energy introduced with each finalist.

The acts this year are:

The Reg kettle, a bitter reject from the working mens club magic circuit now forced to do kids parties. Zantos Thorne, A cocky American mindreader who also sees himself as a Pick-up artist.  Klause Fantastiche, Germanys No1 Illusionist (in his price range) and Famed 1970s TV Double act Colin and Carol.

The aim of the show is to just get the audience to have a really great time and see some unforgettable magic moments.  There are other elements to the show… but those would be spoilers.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

I’ve seen some great shows the year, too many to name but: “Boar” is a triumph. Titania Mcgrath’s show is playing on a treacherous satirical cliff edge but writing and performance are sharp enough to navigate it safely though. One never regrets an evening with The Showstoppers. Ever. Algorithms is at serious risk of being the next fleabag Cirque Bezerk is quite something to see. Holy smokes and “Mr thing” is the best way to end a day at the fringe. It’s got everything; games, nonsense, a banging band and a puppet barkeep…who needs more.