Archives de catégorie : Religions, contacts religieux, conversion / Religion, religious contacts, conversion

McCullough Jess, Belief and practice in early Norse Greenland

McCullough Jess, Belief and practice in early Norse Greenland, (dir. D. O’Sullivan, N. Christie, University of Leicester)

En cours depuis 2012/In preparation since 2012

Aucun résumé retrouvé/No abstract available

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Barnwell Timothy, Missionaries and changing views of ‘the Other’ from the 9th to 12th centuries

Barnwell Timothy, Missionaries and changing views of ‘the Other’ from the 9th to 12th centuries, thèse soutenue en 2014, (dir. I. Wood, University of Leeds)

Résumé/abstract :

This thesis explores the varying ways in which otherness was imagined and constructed in two clusters of medieval missionary texts: Rimbert’s Vita Anskarii and Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, from the archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen; and Bruno of Querfurt’s Passio Sancti Adalberti episcopi et martyris, Vita vel passio Benedicti et Iohannis sociorumque suorum and Epistola ad Heinricum Regem. Missionaries and the authors who described their work were uniquely concerned with those who lay beyond the geographical, political and spiritual boundaries of Christendom. Accordingly, they provide our principal sources for understanding how such groups were represented. In the first instance, this thesis is concerned with descriptions of groups physically located outside the Carolingian, Ottonian, and Salian Empires, particularly in the Scandinavian and Slavic worlds. But given the fluidity and interconnectedness of early medieval identities, it also encompasses representations of marginalised groups within Christendom such as slaves, women, heretics, Jews and political enemies. Following a brief introduction, the thesis begins by setting out the theoretical foundations of an understanding of otherness based on the expectation of variety. This forms a response to the totalising claims of many recent discussions of otherness. This is followed by a close analysis of each text, beginning with the Hamburg-Bremen material, before moving on to Bruno of Querfurt’s works. The aim is to reflect the peculiar dynamics of each work and, consequently, discussions of these authors’ literary and exegetical concerns form a substantial part of this study. Their presentation of groups within Christendom has also been emphasised; sometimes the other was closer to home. The thesis concludes by emphasising the conceptual variety revealed in each work. Key themes can be identified, but the presentation of otherness in all of these texts is far more diverse and conceptually fragmented than is usually appreciated in existing scholarship.

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Corsi Maria, Elite networks and courtly culture in medieval Denmark

Corsi Maria, Elite networks and courtly culture in medieval Denmark: Denmark in Europe, 1st to 14th centuries, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2014, (dir. Sally N. Vaughn, University of Houston)

Résumé/abstract :

This dissertation advances the study of the cultural integration of Denmark with continental Europe in the Middle Ages. By approaching the question with a view to the longue durée, it argues that Danish aristocratic culture had been heavily influenced by trends on the Continent since at least the Roman Iron Age, so that when Denmark adopted European courtly culture, it did so simultaneously to its development in the rest of Europe. Because elite culture as it manifested itself in the Middle Ages was an amalgamation of that of Ancient Rome and the Geiuianic tribes, its origins in Denmark is sought in the interactions between the Danish territory and the Roman Empire. Elites in Denmark sought to emulate Roman culture as a marker of status, with pan-European elite networks facilitating the incorporation of Roman material items and social norms in Denmark, thus setting the pattern for later periods. These types of networks continued to play an important role in the interactions between Denmark and the successor kingdoms to the Roman Empire in the Early Middle Ages, leading to the development of an increasingly homogenized elite culture in Denmark and on the Continent. Danish elites drew on the material and ideological cultural models of their southern neighbors, using Frankish imports to signify status and power, much as Roman imports had been used earlier. The economic, diplomatic, and military ties that developed in the Early Middle Ages remained important conduits for the adoption of European aristocratic culture into the High Middle Ages, while the conversion to Christianity by the Danes enabled Danish elites to take part in the new educational networks associated with the rise of universities across Europe. All of these long-standing ties meant that the Danish aristocracy actively participated in the development of medieval courtly culture, including cavalry warfare and knighthood, courtly food consumption and feasting, and courtly dress and ornamentation, resulting in increased social differentiation between those who could take part in the new courtly culture and those who could not. Thus, Denmark was never outside of Europe, and when Danish elites adopted medieval chivalric and courtly culture, they did so contemporaneously with their counterparts in other parts of Europe.

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Kapitaikin Lev, The twelfth-century paintings of the ceilings of the Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Kapitaikin, Lev, The twelfth-century paintings of the ceilings of the Cappella Palatina, Palermo, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2011, (dir. J. Johns, University of Oxford)

Résumé/abstract :

The three ‘Islamic’ ceilings of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily, were commissioned by king Roger II around 1143. The grandiose muqarnas (stalactite) ceiling of the nave and the two smaller ceilings of the two aisles were just one part of the opulent, multifaceted decoration of the royal chapel, that included also Byzantine mosaics with Christian scenes and Southern-Italian marble pavements and revetments. As with other medieval chapels of palaces, the Cappella Palatina served concomitantly as a royal audience hall, a thing evidenced by the great throne platform at its west end. The paintings of the three ceilings present ‘Islamic’ figural and ornamental decoration and Arabic inscriptions, the salient subject-matter of which is the Islamic royal banquet, the majlis, centered upon the king. The study presents new stylistic and iconographic evidence to show that the painters of the ceilings came mainly from Fatimid Egypt, and that the paintings could reflect also some impact of the Christian arts of that country, if not the actual participation of Coptic artists in their production. Despite the predominantly Islamic subject-matter of the paintings, their imagery was simultaneously enriched with Christian themes, the models for which were likely provided by Romanesque, Middle-Byzantine, and – to a lesser extent – Coptic artwork. Far from being an alien ‘Oriental’ element incorporated into the otherwise Christian chapel, the designer/s of the chapel actually sought to manipulate the Islamic princely imagery of the ceilings through the insertion of Christian ‘triumphal’ themes and a few crosses in the paintings. The Christian scenes were, moreover, placed in focal programmatic points at the ceilings, and associated spatially with ceremonial and-liturgical features of the chapel, namely: the royal throne platform at the west end, and the entrance to the sanctuary at the east. The ‘Islamicate’ – rather than Islamic – ceilings and their imagery were thus adapted to the Christian setting within the palatine chapel of the Norman monarchs.

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Ihnat Kati, Mary and the Jews in Anglo-Norman monastic culture

Ihnat Kati, Mary and the Jews in Anglo-Norman monastic culture, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2011, (dir. M. Rubin, Queen Mary University)

Résumé/abstract :

Anglo-Norman England saw the development of two parallel and related phenomena: the growth of the cult of the Virgin Mary and increasing engagement with ideas about Jews and Judaism. This thesis looks at the ways in which Benedictine monks contributed to the fashioning of images of Jews in sources related to the Marian cult in the post-Conquest period, 1066-1154. Approaching monastic culture from an interdisciplinary perspective, it examines materials as diverse as sermons, liturgy, theological treatises, and art and architecture for the evolution of the Marian cult after the arrival of the Normans, tracing the reform of liturgical practices that spurred considerable innovation in the cult’s development. It explores these same sources for images of Jews, and finds that Jews were at the centre of reflection on Mary in theological and apocryphal traditions dating back to early Christianity, with Jews acting as prototypical doubters of Mary’s sanctity and virginity. Taken up with renewed interest in Anglo-Norman England, theological consideration of Mary’s place in the Christian narrative was complemented by the first compilation of collections of her miracles, part of an impulse to record the lives and miracles of saints in post-Conquest England. As a fundamental yet little explored element of the Marian cult, the miracles showcase liturgical practices worthy of reward, and contrast her devotees with Jews, portrayed as sacrilegious, blaspheming and violent. Through miracle, sermon, liturgy and theology, English monasteries at the turn of the twelfth century helped to construct images of Jews connected with the burgeoning cult of the Virgin that had a lasting and pervasive legacy.

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Jessen Mads, The sacred space in a time of religious change

Jessen Mads, The sacred space in a time of religious change: Material and conceptual interaction in ritual environments during the Christianization of South Scandinavia, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2012, (Université d’Aarhus)

Sheldon Gwendolyn, The Conversion of the Vikings in Ireland from a Comparative Perspective

Sheldon Gwendolyn, The Conversion of the Vikings in Ireland from a Comparative Perspective, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2011, (dir. A. Orchard, Université de Toronto)

Résumé/abstract :

The history of the Viking invasions in England and what is now France in the ninth and tenth centuries is fairly well documented by medieval chroniclers. The process by which these people adopted Christianity, however, is not. The written and archaeological evidence that we can cobble together indicates that the Scandinavians who settled in England and Normandy converted very quickly. Their conversion was clearly closely associated with settlement on the land. Though Scandinavians in both countries expressed no interest in Christianity as long as they engaged in a Viking lifestyle, characterized by rootless plundering, they almost always accepted Christianity within one or two generations of becoming peasants, even when they lived in heavily Scandinavian, Norse-speaking communities. While the early history of the Vikings in Ireland was similar to that of the Vikings elsewhere, it soon took a different course. While English and French leaders were able to set aside land on which they encouraged the Scandinavians to settle, none of the many petty Irish kings had the wealth or power to do this. The Vikings in Ireland were therefore forced to maintain a lifestyle based on plunder and trade. Over time, they became concentrated into a few port towns from which they travelled inland to conduct raids and then exported what they had stolen from other parts of the Scandinavian diaspora. Having congregated at a few small sites, most prominently Dublin, they remained distinct from the rest of Ireland for centuries. The evidence suggests that they took about four generations to convert. Their conversion differed from that of Scandinavians elsewhere not only in that it was so delayed, but also in that, unlike in England and Normandy, it was not associated with the re-establishment of an ecclesiastical hierarchy. Rather, when the Scandinavians in Ireland did convert, they did so because they were evangelized by monastic communities, in particular the familia of Colum Cille, who had not fled from foundations close to the Viking ports. These communities were probably driven by political concerns to take an interest in the rising Scandinavian towns.

Males Mikael, Mytologi i skaldedikt, skaldedikt i prosa

Males Mikael, Mytologi i skaldedikt, skaldedikt i prosa. En synkron analys av mytologiska referenser i medeltida norröna handskrifter, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2011, (dir. K. G. Johansson, Université d’Oslo)

Résumé/abstract :

I den populära föreställningen härskar Tor och Oden i Asgård, föremål för nordbornas dyrkan före kristendomens ankomst. Kanske har det en gång varit så, men det vet vi inte mycket om. Denna bild av hedendomen konstruerades under medeltiden och fortsätter att prägla vår förståelse av den norröna mytologin. I sin avhandling ger Mikael Males ett annat perspektiv.

Males studerar hur mytologin användes i den norröna skaldediktningen vid tiden för dess nedskrivande, på 1200- och 1300-talet. Till skillnad från de flesta ser han ingen motsättning mellan mytologin och kristendomen. Det fanns flera skäl för de kristna skrivarna att använda sig av mytologin, som på så sätt fortlevde och inlemmades i den kristna litteraturen. Hedendomen kunde anpassas för att likna kristendomen, för att visa Guds hand i världshistorien. Den kunde skildras som satanisk, men också neutralt och rentav positivt, till och med i mötet med kristendomen. Bruket av mytologi kunde också vara en fråga om stil. I skaldedikt hörde mytologiska inslag till den höga stilen, och de är därför vanliga även i lovdikter till Kristus och helgon.

Vi har inga nordiska texter från förkristen tid som handlar om de norröna gudarna. Först när den lärda skriftkulturen etablerades skrevs dikter och berättelser om dem ned. Modellen var Gamla Testamentet, förhistorien till det Nya Testamentets sanning. Föreställningen om en motsättning mellan norrön mytologi och kristendom är modern; medeltidens kristendom absorberade och anpassade främmande element efter sina behov.

Løkka Nanna, Steder og landskap i norrøn mytologi

Løkka Nanna, Steder og landskap i norrøn mytologi – En analyse av topografi og kosmologi i gudediktene av den eldre Edda, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2011, (dir. G. Steinsland, Université d’Oslo)

Résumé/abstract :

I avhandlingen Steder og landskap i norrøn mytologi ‒ en analyse av topografi og kosmologi i gudediktene av Den eldre Edda har Nanna Løkka undersøkt steder og landskap i den norrøne mytologien. Gjennom en systematisk undersøkelse av de mytologiske stedene har Løkka vist at disse utgjør meningsbærende størrelser som kan brukes i forståelsen av den førkristne mytologien. Blant annet viser studien at det er tingplassen som er det viktigste stedet i Åsgård, men gudeheimen kjennetegnes også av andre steder av samfunnsmessig, institusjonell karakter. Jotunheimene derimot mangler slike sosiale steder. Dermed synes skillet mellom det kollektive og det individuelle å være en av de viktigste forskjellene mellom de to heimene.

Undersøkelsen gir ny innsikt i det norrøne verdensbildet, for studien viser at dette hadde en monistisk karakter, i motsetning til en dualistisk. Det betyr at mytologiens omfattende beskjeftigelse med guder og jotner springer ut av en kosmologi, en verdenslære, der begge disse slektene var av avgjørende betydning. Jotnene bør ikke reduseres til onde eller dumme motstandere for gudene ‒ også jotnene har klare funksjoner i opprettholdelsen av verden. Åsgård og jotunheimene eksisterer i kraft av hverandre.

I forskningen på norrøn mytologi er eddadiktenes opphav et viktig spørsmål. Løkkas undersøkelse viser også at diktene er formet over kosmologiske prinsipper som ikke hører hjemme i en kristen mentalitet, dermed styrkes hypotesen om at eddadiktene er formet over et førkristent tradisjonsmateriale.

Converting the Isles

Converting the Isles

Responsables du projet/Project leaders : Roy Flechner (, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (

Établissement principal/Main institution : University Cambridge

Projet en cours/Project in progress

Description :

Conversion to Christianity is arguably the most revolutionary social and cultural change that Europe experienced in late-antiquity and the early middle ages. Christianisation affected all strata of society and transformed not only religious beliefs and practices, but also the nature of government, the priorities of the economy, the character of kinship, and gender relations. It is against this backdrop that the network Converting the Isles was founded, in order to investigate social, economic, and cultural aspects of conversion in the early-medieval Insular world, covering different parts of Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia and Iceland. Histories of conversion in the Insular world are bound up in an intricate web of connections that are well attested in contemporary documentary sources. For instance, we know of Irish missionaries operating in Britain and vice versa, there are cases in which religious centres enjoyed patronage from overseas kings, we occasionally see international political alliances being sealed by baptism, and from the late ninth century we encounter seafaring Vikings, whose ancestors were inimical to the church, beginning to serve as catalysts that contributed to the spread of the Christian religion. The combination of places that the network will focus on reflects our wish to establish a wide comparative framework that will highlight these cross-cultural connections, and cover areas that are of significance to the study of conversion in both the pre-Viking and the Viking era.The last two decades have seen a steady stream of studies devoted to the conversion history of Ireland, Britain and other parts of the Insular world. At the same time, the archaeological map of the region has been significantly augmented thanks to a surge in new finds, some of which—consisting especially of ecclesiastical sites and burials—shed valuable new light on the material culture of newly-converted communities, or communities in a state of religious and cultural transition. This fresh new data is important not only for what it can tell us about individual sites, but also for its cumulative value. Yet most research projects that set out to tap this data have either adhered closely to national and disciplinary boundaries, or else did not approach their subject matter comparatively and collaboratively. Converting the Isles will be different in that its main goal is to foster genuine interdisciplinary dialogue between historians, archaeologists and literary scholars. The interdisciplinary character of the network is meant not only to alert scholars to recent advancements that have been made in other fields, but also to search for ways in which highly specialised disciplines can be made to ‘talk’ to each other. This concern with interdisciplinarity from a methodological perspective, will be of relevance not just to medievalists, but to any historian engaged in interdisciplinary collaboration, and to novice students who are interested in gaining insights into the historian’s craft.

Niblaeus Erik Gunnar, German influence on religious practice in Scandinavia, c. 1050-1150

Niblaeus Erik Gunnar, German influence on religious practice in Scandinavia, c. 1050-1150, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2010, (dir. J.L. Nelson, King’s College London)

Résumé/abstract :

The thesis is concerned with the later stages of Christianisation of Scandinavia, following the missionary period, when the church was consolidated and given secure foundations for worship and pastoral care, including the building and equipment of thousands of local churches, and the creation of a lasting diocesan structure. It argues that the German influence during this period, while often taken for granted, deserves to be investigated in more detail, and has been underplayed in recent scholarship. It is divided into five chapters, the first three more general in scope, concerned with the whole of Scandinavia, the last two more specific studies organised according to geographical area. Chapter one is introductory. Chapter two considers in general and comparative terms the importance of liturgy and books in the process of Scandinavian Christianisation. Chapter three is a consideration of the German interest in Scandinavia as it developed from the eleventh to the twelfth century, first in secular terms, second in religious terms, including a discussion of the clergy with German affiliations who held office in Scandinavia. It also includes an investigation of the clerical ideals of the principal narrative primary source to the period, Adam of Bremen’s History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen. Chapters four and five deal with questions of the introduction of German liturgy and German books into the churches of Denmark and Sweden respectively.

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Nordvig Mathias, Of Fire and Water : The Old Norse Mythical Worldview in an Eco-Mythological Perspective

Nordvig Mathias, Of Fire and Water : The Old Norse Mythical Worldview in an Eco-Mythological Perspective, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2014, (dir. P. Hermann, Agnes Siggerdur Arnórsdóttir, T. Gunnell, Université d’Aarhus)

Résumé/abstract :

What is the constitution of the Old Norse worldview according to the literary mythological sources in terms of man’s relationship with nature? What is the relationship between the conceptual categories of culture and nature, or civilized and wild (byggð and óbyggð, innangarðs and útangarðs) as it is expressed in the æsir’s dealings with the surrounding world in the myth of Þórr’s Fishing Expedition, the Creation Myth, and the myth of the Mead of Poetry in the Edda version? How do the actions of the gods in these narratives express man’s mythical notions of his relationship with the land and sea in the Scandinavian and North Atlantic ecosystems?

To answer this question we must first establish what is meant by the term ‘worldview,’ because this is not at all clear or consistent in Old Norse scholarship. The term is used widely by scholars of different disciplines, from literature and religion to archaeology. The subject has grown in popularity over the past forty decades, and the term ‘worldview’ has become commonplace in scholarship. It often supplants the term ‘cosmology’ in the context of Old Norse mythology in interdisciplinary discussion, or in the juxtaposition of paganism and Christianity. It may also be used to describe a popular understanding of Old Norse religion and mythology contrary to a dogmatic or authoritative one. In other instances, the term is applied by some scholars as a designation for a social ideology that is essentially unconsciously implemented in society and individual life.
The term ‘worldview’ is diffuse and originates in the German philosophical term Weltanschauung as it is used by, among others, Dilthey, Jaspers, and Scheler, to denote an overall comprehension of the world by an individual or a people. This all-encompassing understanding of the world synthesizes, generalizes, and transcends the scientific as well as the non-scientific perception of reality and prescribes social conduct, values, and explanations for the surrounding world. This is a very broad definition and it is thus no wonder that the term finds many uses in Old Norse scholarship. Because of the lack of clarity regarding the term ‘worldview’ and its application, the above question, when paired with the fact that there are no verifiably concrete first-hand sources for the pre-Christian worldview of Scandinavia, brings with it two other important questions, namely:

1) If the literature of Old Norse mythology contains a specific worldview, what is the internal relationship between these texts? And;

2) What is the external relationship of the mythology to the surrounding world?

Vers l’Orient et vers l’Occident Regards croisés sur les dynamiques et les transferts culturels des Vikings à la Rous ancienne

P. Bauduin et A. Musin (dir.), Vers l’Orient et vers l’Occident : regards croisés sur les dynamiques et les transferts culturels des Vikings à la Rous ancienne, Presses universitaires de Caen, Publications du CRAHAM, 2014, 504 p., ISBN : 978-2-84133-499-5, 45 € (Eastwards and Westwards : Multiple Perspectives on the Dynamics and Cultural Transfers from the Vikings to the Early Rus’/ На Запад и на Восток : сравнительное исследование динамики культурного обмена. От викингов к Древней Руси)


Contact et information

Issu d’un projet de recherche franco-russe (CNRS-Académie des Sciences de Russie), ce volume présente les avancées de la recherche récentes sur les Vikings dans une perspective pluridisciplinaire et comparatiste largement ouverte à l’Europe orientale. Il confronte les vues de chercheurs de plusieurs disciplines travaillant sur différentes sources et qui se rattachent à des méthodologies ou à des traditions historiographiques diverses plus ou moins marquées idéologiquement.

L’ouvrage propose de réfléchir sur les dynamiques des échanges culturels analysées comme un processus d’interactions qui franchissent les groupes ethniques ou sociaux, les pays, les croyances et les pratiques religieuses, les générations, les genres. Il s’agit de s’interroger sur les particularités de ces processus et sur les transformations mutuelles des fondations scandinaves ainsi que des sociétés locales (franque, anglo-saxonne, slave, finnoise). Une large part est accordée aux acteurs de ces changements (élites, marchands, hommes d’Église, artisans, femmes, scaldes, historiographes….), ainsi qu’aux lieux ou aux espaces où celles-ci interviennent. La signification de la mémoire historique relative à la présence scandinave dans le passé régional ou national en Europe et l’impact mémoriel sur la formation des représentations de l’autre, des identités et des historiographies médiévales ou modernes sont également abordés. Le volume participe ainsi à une réflexion plus large sur les notions débattues d’acculturation, de transferts culturels, de middle ground dont l’intérêt heuristique dépasse largement le phénomène de l’expansion scandinave à l’époque viking.

The result of a Franco-Russian Research project (CNRS – Russian Academy of Sciences), this publication presents the latest advances of recent research on the Vikings in a multidisciplinary and comparative perspective across Eastern Europe. It confronts the views of researchers from several disciplines working on different sources which reflect diverse methodological or historiographical traditions that have been, to some extent, marked ideologically.

The volume proposes a reflection on the dynamics of cultural exchanges analysed as a process of interactions that have traversed ethnic or social groups, countries, religious beliefs and practices, generations, genders. Questions concerning the specificities of these processes and the reciprocal transformations of Scandinavian settlements and local societies (Frankish, Anglo-Saxon, Slavic, Finnish) are posed. A large part of the volume is devoted to the actors involved in these changes (elites, merchants, ecclesiastics, artisans, women, skalds, historiographers….), and the places or areas where they took place. The significance of historical memory in the European regional or national past concerning the Scandinavian presence and the impact of this memory on the creation of representations of the other, identities and medieval or modern historiography are equally discussed. This publication thus participates to the broader reflection on the notions discussed concerning acculturation, cultural transfers and the “middle ground” whose heuristic interest goes far beyond the phenomenon of Scandinavian expansion during the Viking era.