CMS Summer Party

On Monday 20 June 2016, we held our annual CMS Summer Party on the lawn at the King’s Manor. Blessed by a unprecedented splash of sunshine, we gathered for strawberries, prossecco and ice creams provided by Paul and his truck!




During the party, we were delighted to announce that Stephanie Montieth is this year’s winner of the £150 Garmonsway Prize for the best academic performance in the first half of the MA in Medieval Studies, as well as the Viking Poetry Essay prize.

We also had the sad task of saying goodbye to Andy and Dawson, two great friends of the CMS who are leaving as the university makes radical changes to the portering arrangements at the King’s Manor. We are very sorry to see them go.


And many thanks to Heidi Stoner for taking the photographs at the event!

A Visit to the Palace of Westminster

Jennifer Caddick is a student on the MA in Medieval Studies and is currently writing a dissertation on Sermons and the Painted Chamber during the Opening of English Parliaments, 1399-1484. At the end of April, she was shown round the Palace of Westminster by Martyn Atkins, Senior Clerk at the House of Commons. Here she reflects on that visit.

For the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed studying a few different aspects of late-medieval English parliaments. Despite this interest, I’d only ever accessed them through the parliament rolls and had never managed to visit the Palace of Westminster as it stands today. Until the end of April, that is. Martyn Atkins was kind enough to take time out of his day to show me around, and I was able to see and learn a great deal about the history of the Palace of Westminster, and hear some interesting stories about parliamentary proceedings today! While I was able to see a large amount of the Palace of Westminster (including the Lords and Commons chambers, and the committee rooms), the visit was incredibly useful in providing me with a better perspective on the site for my MA dissertation on opening sermons and the Painted Chamber between 1399 and 1484.


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Westminster Hall has been central to (what is now) the parliamentary estate since the 11th century. In 1399 during the first parliament of Henry IV’s reign, members gathered for the opening of parliament in “the Great Hall of Westminster” (PROME online). With quite a nice sense of continuity, Westminster Hall is still used for political purposes, and the opening ceremonies for conferences of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and the North Atlantic Assembly have been held there.

From Westminster Hall, we next walked to the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, which is beautiful and definitely worth checking out! Admittedly, it was restored in the second-half of the 19th century, when there were attempts to recreate its medieval decorations in a neo-gothic style. Adjacent to the Chapel as well is a broom cupboard with a plaque inside dedicated to the Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who hid in there overnight during the 1911 census.

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While Westminster Hall provided a brilliant sense of the architecture of the medieval palace, St Stephen’s Hall was useful in terms of getting a better idea of the dimensions of the Painted Chamber. The current St Stephen’s Hall was built upon the foundations of St Stephen’s Chapel, which was lost in the 1834 fire, but which during the medieval period was parallel to the Painted Chamber. Seeing St Stephen’s Hall, however, has made more real for me a problem I was encountering when considering the audience of the opening sermons. The rolls of parliament seem to suggest that everyone involved in parliamentary proceedings would gather before the King. Yet this doesn’t seem to be entirely plausible when considering the dimensions of the building.

When the Painted Chamber panels were uncovered in the early 19th century, copies were made by Stothard and Crocker, whose works were then used by Tristram to reproduce the images. These reproductions were tucked away together away from what I believe is the normal visitors’ groups (we’d definitely gotten away from the school groups at that point at least), and I may not have had the chance to see them otherwise. Although they are reproductions, it was again rather wonderful to be able to see the scale on which these images may have been produced, and the details that may have been implemented.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures at that point, but I was able to snap another picture on the terrace.


And then, one final picture – Martyn and I with Westminster Hall in the background (it had just started raining…).


Thank you again to Martyn for his time and for the opportunity to visit the Palace of Westminster, and thanks also to Craig Taylor for contacting Martyn and making this visit possible.

The Fair Unknown Award winner 2016 – Dr Jenn Bartlett


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Usha Vishnuvajjala presented the 2015 Fair Unknown Award to Jennifer Bartlett on behalf of the selection committee. The citation read:

“Jennifer Bartlett’s 2015 Kalamazoo paper, titled Arthur’s Dinner: Or, Robert Thornton Goes Shopping, reads the Alliterative Morte Darthur‘s early feast scene for what it can tell us about the material world depicted in the text and the material world of the scribe Robert Thornton. Bartlett demonstrates that the seemingly exotic foodstuffs at Arthur’s feast would have been quite available to Thornton in fifteenth-century York, and that familiar, quotidian objects like herbs and spices were regularly imported from so-called “exotic” locations.

The resulting article, published in Arthuriana, 26.1, argues convincingly for rethinking Thornton’s view of the “Oryent.” Just as Arthur imports foreign foodstuffs and domesticates them. Bartlett argues, he must draw on resources from outside Britain to sustain his seeming peerless status in the Alliterative Morte. Not only does the article re-orient the Alliterative Morte‘s relationship to the east, it also gives us a fascinating look at the details of the really weird food served at Arthur’s feast.

Jennifer received her PhD in Medieval Studies from the University of York in 2015.

Congratulations, Jennifer!”

Viking Studies – The Archaeology of Coastal Sites in Viking-Age Continental Europe and Scandinavia

In May the Viking Studies Research Group, sponsored by the Department of Archaeology and the Centre for Medieval Studies, welcomed to York, two of Europe’s leading archaeologists in the study of early-medieval coastal sites, Prof Dries Tys (Free University, Brussels) and Dr Sven Kalmring (Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, Schloss-Gottorf). Here they discuss the archaeology of coastal sites in Viking-Age continental Europe and Scandinavia:

The Development of Borough Customary Law in Medieval Britain, Esther Liberman Cuenca (Fordham University), Tuesday 31 May 2016

The Development of Borough Customary Law in Medieval Britain

Esther Liberman Cuenca (Fordham University)

Tuesday 31 May 2016, 5.30pm in KG/84

This lecture explores the development of borough customary law, or customary practices that took on the force of law within English towns and cities, as it began to appear in royal charters and custumals (or collections of customs) in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Compared to the abundant scholarship on medieval common law and canon law, both of which generated extensive treatises and commentaries by medieval contemporaries who were professionals formally trained in schools, publications on medieval English customary law have been few and far between. Law merchant and manorial customary law have received some attention, but fewer studies have focused on borough customary law, with the notable exception of Mary Bateson’s seminal Selden Society volumes, collectively entitled Borough Customs (1904-6), which focused mainly property rights and the jurisdiction of the borough courts. Building on Bateson’s work, this talk grapples with how borough officials began to develop their own set of customs as both prescriptive guidelines and as laws that helped them intervene in the pressing concerns of their communities. An examination of over fifty charters from the boroughs of Beverley, Bristol, Colchester, Dublin, and Southampton—as well as six stand-alone custumals from Exeter, Ipswich, Lincoln, Newcastle, Northampton, and Winchester— show that the majority dealt with the procedures and jurisdiction of the borough courts, bearing directly on the source of legal power for the urban elite, but that this focus shifts markedly over time to the requirements and particular challenges of holding political office.

This change in focus reveals three crucial features of the development of borough customary law in this early period. First, the appearance of independently produced custumals embodied a shift in the way borough customary came to be conceptualized. Borough customs were not only seigniorial privileges that granted rights, but also a set of laws that ensured officials could exercise these rights with sufficient responsibility, restraint, and consistency. Second, the increasing emphasis in later charters and custumals on the duties, character, and qualifications of holding political office exemplifies a broader trend in the development of customary law, one that signals the maturation and ever-growing influence of towns as loci of power and the power of men tasked with their governance. Lastly, the discourse of borough customary law combined two, inextricably linked conceptions of custom that depended on both seigniorial charters, with privileges handed down or renewed over time, and collections of practices and traditions that were rooted in local context and concerns.

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Bede, the recta fides, and the Lateran Council of 649 – Miranda Wilcox (Brigham Young University & CMS Visiting Professor)

Bede, the recta fides, and the Lateran Council of 649

Miranda Wilcox (Brigham Young University & CMS Visiting Professor)
Tuesday 10 May
5.30pm – King’s Manor KG/84

Fifty years after Archbishop Theodore convened a synod at Hatfield in 679 to demonstrate the orthodoxy of the English in anticipation of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Bede memorialized the synod and its orthodoxy in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Given the contested nature of what constituted the true faith—the recta fides—it is surprising that Bede only quoted portions of the definition of faith made by the English bishops and recorded in a synodical letter to Rome. Bede’s selectiveness raises pressing questions: What did he leave out? Why did he leave it out?

While some have assumed that Bede was ignorant of the theological and historical contexts, particularly the Christological crises, of the seventh century, textual evidence reveals otherwise. Bede’s understanding of what constituted heretical and orthodox Christology, that is how the divine and human are related in the person of Jesus Christ, developed over his lifetime as he acquired sources. I propose a timeline of when Bede gained access to two key Roman sources: The Book of Pontiffs and the acts of the Lateran Council (649), and discuss how these sources changed the trajectory of Bede’s heresiology and Christology. Although Bede was relatively familiar with the competing Christologies which had divided the East and West by the time he completed the Ecclesiastical History in 731, I argue that he purposefully and wisely focused on Trinitarian doctrine in his account of the Hatfield synod, thus shaping the Anglo-Saxon perception of the recta fides for centuries.


Professor Miranda Wilcox is Associate Professor of English at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where she teaches medieval literature. Her research focuses on the intersections of religious and textual culture in early medieval Europe, especially in Anglo-Saxon England. She is working on a book project titled Confessing the Faith in Anglo-Saxon England. This winter she is working on a chapter about definitions of faith made by Anglo-Saxon church councils and continental definitions transmitted to Anglo-Saxon England. She received a master’s and doctorate in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame.

Norse in the North, 4 June 2016

Registration for Norse in the North 2016 is now open!


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The conference will take place on 4 June 2016 and will feature papers on the theme
of ‘Translation and Transmission‘ in Old Norse studies, with a keynote
lecture given by Heather O’Donoghue. The other speakers will be:

  • Ryder Patzcuk-Russell (University of Birmingham): Latin-Old Norse Interaction and Medieval Linguistic Ideologies: The Evidence of Lárentius Saga.
  • Katherine Whitehouse (University of Nottingham): The Viking translation of place in South Yorkshire major names.
  • Annika Christensen (University of Leeds): Seyðabrævið: Old Norse and the language of the Faroe Islands.
  • Sophie Bønding (Aarhus University): The Golden Past and the Glorious Future: N.F.S. Grundtvig’s re-actualisation and dissemination of Old Norse Mythology.
  • Anja Ute Blode (Universität zu Köln): … første Danee konningh war Dan – The transmission of a legendary king in Old Danish historiography.
  • Jon Hui (University of Cambridge): Manuscript Transmission in ‘The Matter of Gautland’
  • Tom Morcom (Durham University): Passing on Stories in Good Faith: the subversive redaction of Gautreks saga.

The cost of registration is £10, which will include lunch and tea/coffee
throughout the day, and can be purchased here. There will also be an optional post-conference dinner, notincluded in the cost of registration, at a nearby York restaurant (to be determined) at approximately 18:30.

For further information, please email .

CFP: The Rood in Medieval Britain and Ireland c.900–c.1500 (University of York, 2–3 September 2016)

Deadline: 18th April

King’s Manor, University of York

The rood – understood as the cross itself, and/or the image of Christ crucified – was central to the visual and devotional culture of medieval Christianity. By the late middle ages, a rood was present in monumental form, either painted or sculpted, at the east end of the nave of every church. Yet roods in numerous other forms could be found in ecclesiastical contexts: as images, in various sizes and media – in manuscript illumination, on textiles, and in stained glass. Images of the rood were also to be found within domestic, civic, and military contexts, from the bedroom to the battlefield.

Following recent scholarship that has focused on early medieval roods (Sancta Crux/Halig Rod series, 2004-2010), and considered monumental roods on the Continent (Jacqueline Jung’s The Gothic Screen, 2013), this conference will bring together established academics, early career and emerging scholars, to share new research and foster debate on the forms and functions of images of the rood in Britain and Ireland c.900-c.1500. To this end, we invite proposals (max. 300 words) for papers of no longer than 30 minutes’ duration from scholars working within the disciplines of medieval Art History, Literature, History, Archaeology and Theology.

In considering the monumental church rood together with its counterparts in other media and contexts, this conference aims to reassess the complexities of the central image within the medieval Christian imagination.

Potential areas for discussion can include, but are not limited to, the rood in relation to materiality; sacred space; the liturgy; emotion/affect; conquest and crusade; the relationship between text and image; patronage, and pageantry/secular display.

Proposals should be emailed to no later than 18 April 2016.

Organisers: Dr Philippa Turner and Dr Jane Hawkes, Department of History of Art, University of York

Meet an Archaeologist – Dr Steve Ashby

Meet an Archaeologist – Dr Steve Ashby

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Steve Ashby is a medieval archaeologist with specialism in the archaeology of portable material culture and the use of animal products in craft and industry. He is trained in geology, zooarchaeology, and artefact studies, and is particularly interested in the relationship between the various regions of Britain and Scandinavia before, during, and after the Viking Age.

Before starting up at York, Steve was employed by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, as Finds Liaison Officer for Northamptonshire, a role that involved working closely with local communities, amateur archaeologists, and metal detectorists in order to preserve by record the vast numbers of chance finds recovered by members of the public. Steve continues his association with the PAS, and is interested in exploiting the potential of the data it produces, particularly regarding early medieval craft, trade, and identity, and battlefield archaeology.

Steve teaches in a range of medieval subjects, as well as in the practical aspects of artefact studies, and is also Chair of the Board of Studies, which means that he oversees all the teaching in the department, and will be one of the members of staff that new students will get to know quite well.

Steve is becoming a regular in the media on matters Viking, most recently recording two series of documentaries in support of the History Channel.

York Medieval Lecture – Prof. David Wallace (University of Pennsylvania) “Europe: New Foundations for an Unknown Future” (Wednesday 9 March)

David Wallace (University of Pennsylvania) “Europe: New Foundations for an Unknown Future

Wednesday 9 March 5:30pm – wine reception, KG/84
6:00pm – Lecture, Huntingdon room

The ‘greatest generation’ of literary historians, headed by E.R. Curtius and cheered on by T.S. Eliot, attempted after World War II to stabilize European literary tradition around tropes and figurae of Rome-centered Latinity. Through intensive philological discipline and the kind of comparatism developed with distinction at York, they encouraged and inspired several post-war generations, and their work continues to be of value. But their vision of European cultural integration, affirmed through creation and expansion of the EU, now seems inadequate to current understanding, or to explain the complexities of the medieval past. At a time when medieval is now routinely coupled with terms such as monstrosity, it is vital to consider alternative methods for mapping the medieval past, to consider how this might contribute to understanding our own difficult European moment, and to show that medieval can indicate a cultural, religious, and literary convivencia that is not to be repudiated, but rather aspired to.

For tickets to this event, please use the university booking website

David Wallace (BA York 1976; Ph.D. Cambridge 1983) has been Judith Rodin Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania since 1996, is Second Vice-President of the Medieval Academy of America, and is most recently editor of Europe: A Literary History, 1348-1418, 2 vols (Oxford University Press, 2016).

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