The classic board game snakes and ladders (or chutes and ladders) began its life as a demonstration of the Jain ascent towards nirvana and beyond.
After Michelangelo’s death, his friend Daniele da Volterra was employed by the Vatican to paint over the genitalia of the Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgment.
Michelangelo’s statue of Moses has horns, thanks to a mistranslation in the Latin Vulgate Bible.
Steganographia is a late 15th / early 16th century German book of magic… but it’s not actually about magic.
Before we knew about plate tectonics, a zoologist proposed a lost continent connecting Madagascar and India across the Indian Ocean. That hypothesis, now debunked, was nevertheless picked up by Theosophists and Tamil revivalists.
By tradition, the president of Argentina is godparent to all seventh sons and seventh daughters born in the country; in Belgium, the seventh children are named after the reigning monarch, and that monarch also becomes their godparent.
The 105th surah of the Quran relates a battle outside Mecca between Yemeni war elephants and a flock of birds.
There are few pubs in the world that can claim to be the site of the founding of a religious denomination, the creation of a style of beer, and also a murder by a famous gangster. But there’s at least one pub that can.
According to the Platform Sutra, the fifth patriarch of Chan Buddhism held a poetry contest to determine his successor. But it became a contest for the soul of Chan Buddhism itself.
Going from house to house singing Christmas carols is a long-held tradition. But what if the wassailers turn up with a goat or a horse’s head? And what if they take you with them?
The Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas has a deceptive title. The real Wenceslas’ reputation for goodness was mainly posthumous, as was his rank and title. Also he may have been murdered by his brother after a drunken fight.
Around 1730 a German secret society recorded their initiation rituals in an encrypted manuscript. In 2011, that cipher was finally decoded.
Benedict IX has to be one of history’s strangest popes. He was one of the youngest popes ever appointed, he was the pope on three non-consecutive occasions, and he’ll go down in history as the only pope to ever sell the papacy.
The Ethiopian and Coptic Orthodox Churches hold that Pontius Pilate, the governor who condemned Jesus Christ to death, later converted to Christianity himself, and they revere Pilate as a saint.
Wadi al-Salaam, the Valley of Peace, in Iraq is the largest cemetery in the world; more than five million people are buried there.
Glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, occurs sometimes in Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian gatherings. It is supposed to be the language of God – but what does it say?