Special Issue "Medieval Monasticism in Northern Europe"
A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 May 2021).
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.
While the Christian monastic tradition and its development on the mainland of Europe has been extensively studied by scholars, medieval monasticism in Northern Europe has gained considerably less attention. However, interest in the topic has grown steadily, as can be observed from the multidisciplinary research that has taken place during the last decades. Therefore, this Special Issue intends to bring together scholars who have recently investigated the monastic houses operating during the Middle Ages in Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, and Finland, and certain areas of the British Isles.
The growing interest in studying medieval monasticism in the North can partly be explained by the current multidisciplinary approaches in academic research, as well as the emergence of studies on material culture and its entwinement with archival material during the last decades of the twentieth century. It may also be further explained by an increased awareness of how North-European historiography—including medieval monastic studies—has been shaped by Catholic and Protestant views since the nineteenth century, albeit in combination with longstanding nationalistic political perspectives. Consequently, depending on current religious and political environments, the medieval monastic tradition has for example either been interpreted as being of the utmost significant value or, as has been the case in Northern Europe, marginalized if not outright rejected. Moreover, the monastic houses have traditionally been approached as separate niches of the Christian societies of Northern Europe, and thus not acknowledged as interactive parts of people’s everyday lives, regardless of their wide-ranging operations and agency in their surrounding society. In addition, there has particularly been a tendency to observe female nunneries as diminutive replicas of the male monasteries, notwithstanding the fact that the nuns actively yielded diverse charitable works in areas such as healthcare and even vocational and theoretical education to the public, despite living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as much as the monks.
Hundreds of monastic houses are known from the Middle Ages on the British Isles. The number is much higher than in other societies of Northern Europe, probably because of a much longer tradition of Christianity there than in Scandinavia and the societies by the Atlantic Ocean. Still, around 240 Christian monastic houses from 15 different religious orders were run in Denmark (including Northern Germany) Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland from AD 1100 until the mid-sixteenth century. Some operated continuously for more than four centuries, while others vanished after a relatively short period of operation. Monasticism endured throughout the Middle ages, influencing the politics and culture of Northern European societies, including people´s everyday life, through religious and lay interaction. These societies functioned symbiotically with monasticism, affecting and modifying one another in important and mutual ways. After the Reformation in 1536, when all the monastic houses were closed, Catholicism was forbidden in most North-European societies and remained banned until the late nineteenth century when freedom of religion was legally established in those regions again. As mentioned earlier, research on medieval monasticism in Northern Europe appears to have been heavily influenced by the current political debates, and there is a growing feeling amongst scholars that medieval Catholicism has been subjected to much bias. Therefore, the topic needs to be revisited, not least due to the growing multinational and religious tolerance apparent in present academic studies of humanities.
This Special Issue intends to bring together scholars from different fields of medieval studies, with the goal of portraying current approaches in studies on monastic houses operating in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages. By highlighting North-European medieval monasticism specifically, the Issue aims to place it in a broader geographical and cultural context as being one of the active agents that formed the Christian worldview of the Middle Ages. The overall ambition of this Special Issue is simultaneously to emphasize and introduce novel approaches to the reciprocal formation of the pan-European monasticism through its shifting localities and temporality.
(1) outline the overall a. focus, b. scope and c. purpose of the special issue;
The focus of the Issue will be on the expansion of papal power to Northern Europe and the contextual movement of monasticism thereto during the Middle Ages. The contributions will be multidisciplinary, but the center of attention will be monasticism in this northernmost province of the medieval Christian Era. The purpose is to emphasize the reciprocal influences monasticism had on all spheres of the European societies, in the northernmost ones as much as further south on mainland Europe. The aim is furthermore to depict how concurrent political and religious movements have shaped approaches to the studies on the topic since the nineteenth century.
(2) suggest how the issue will usefully supplement (relate to) existing literature.
As based on the current re-examination of monasticism, this Issue is intended to be a broadly revised supplement to the existing literature on medieval monasticism operating on the fringes of the medieval Church: Northern Europe during the Middle Ages.
Dr. Steinunn Kristjánsdóttir
Manuscript Submission Information
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- Northern Europe
- medieval monasticism
- Middle Ages
- historiography of monasticism
- culture of writing
- theoretical and vocational education
- cult of saints
- liturgical music
- monastic gardening
- textile production