Tag Archives: Adoptionism

Society for the Medieval Mediterranean 2015 (in Lincoln), part 1

Medieval depiction of the city of Genoa

Masthead image from the conference website, a medieval depiction of Genoa whose source I can’t track down

We’re back into term and there’s even less time available for blogging than usual, but there is a huge backlog still, and so I suppose it behoves me to slog onwards. I went to a lot of conferences the summer before last, and it’s the, er, fourth of them that’s up next, which was the 2015 meeting of the Society for the Medieval Mediterranean, held at the University of Lincoln over the 13th to 15th of July. The title of the conference was Law, Custom and Ritual in the Medieval Mediterranean. Despite this, I hadn’t straight away wanted to go, mainly because it fell straight after the International Medieval Congress and I rightly expected to be exhausted, but Lincoln is nice and the conference programme was also full of people from Spain I wanted to meet or be met by. Also, in retrospect, since of the fifty-four papers five, at a stretch, mentioned Catalonia, and one of those only Catalunya Nova, I almost had to speak just to show the flag… So I was there, and this was a good decision.

West front of Lincoln Cathedral

The cathedral is at least five good reasons to go to Lincoln, but I seem not to have taken a camera with me, so you’ll have to make do with this one by Anthony Shreeve, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

We began at a civilised hour on the 13th, which is to say after lunch, and then I made what will immediately seem an obvious decision for those who know me, which was to go and hear Wendy Davies. The session broke down like this.

Judicial Practices in Early Medieval Northwestern Iberia (1)

  • Wendy Davies, “Partial (? and Impartial) Records of Judicial Practice in Northern Iberia pre-1000”
  • Isabel Alfonso, José M. Andrade and André Evangelista Marques, “Recording Judicial Information: a comparative approach”
  • Wendy set up a distinction between full records of court proceedings, which in her tenth-century north-western area as in my tenth-century north-eastern one tend to be full-size formal records redacted by the winners with an often extensive narrative explaining how the winner was right (sometimes not so extensive, but…) and, on the other hand, informal notes of process which we find, when we look, quoted in other texts or jotted in the margins or on the dorses of our more formal charters, less constructed but sometimes more formulaic, sometimes being verbatim copies of oaths, agreements to come to a further hearing and so on. I seem to have asserted, as per usual, that we could find this in Catalonia too, but looking back now (at a point when I am running unusually dull of brain, I should admit) I struggle to think of some and it sounds as if Wendy has more. All good reasons to read her new book, anyway!1

    A marriage pact of 951 witnessed by the newly-succeded King Ordoño II in 951, Madrid, Archivo Historical Nacional, Carp. 1430 N.16

    This is not a charter of the right sort, but it is at least a charter from the right monastery, Celanova, and the right period, being a marriage pact of 951 witnessed by the newly-succeded King Ordoño II in 951, Madrid, Archivo Historical Nacional, Carp. 1430 N.16. and what a charter it is!

    The second paper I was keen on seeing just because I have used José Andrade’s work, had occasional second-hand encouragement from him and wanted to meet the man, and he and his colleagues turned out to be presenting a new database, which should now be live though I can’t find it I’m afraid, and this had meant them having to think very hard about categories (which is, of course, one of the problems with that otherwise noble endeavour). They wound up with nine categories of which one was ‘mixed records’, which is how that usually works; it turns out that what people did doesn’t fit what we want to see… The database, anyway, includes the documents from the monastery of Sahagún as was and the much smaller but in some ways more interesting one of Otero de las Dueñas; Otero’s sample is much smaller (including physically) but far more of their records are judicial, and show a generally lower social level of action, local courts with decisions made by local worthies whereas Sahagún increasingly went to the king for its resolutions. Other components of the sample are the monasteries of Samos and Celanova, where the situation is partly inverse in as much as royally-founded Samos has much less information for us. Again, however, the smaller house preserved a greater proportion of lawsuits, including ones where they lost. The final components are the gathered samples from what is now Portugal, handled by André Evangelista, who compared the monasteries of Moreira and Guimaraes to a very similar effect: Guimaraes has less stuff but 40% of it is judicial records, all admittedly after the event, formal records as Wendy would have it. A short conclusion might be: if as a monastery you didn’t have wealth, you held power more aggressively.2

Interior view of the cloister at the Pousada Mosteiro de Guimaraes

The current state of the monastery of Guimaraes, which is to say, a rather expensive hotel

In discussion, however, the speakers were all keen to stress that the situation they had depicted changed a great deal in the eleventh century, not least because of King Alfonso VI. Here again, I feel sympathy; there is a divide between the societies I study and those of 1100 onwards that is, I think, why I find some kind of feudal transformation narrative compelling even as I disbelieve it in detail. People did things differently thereafter… Anyway, then after coffee from the mundane to the eternal, in subject matter at least.

Orthodoxy and Deviance

  • Elena Nonveiller, “‘Paganism’ in the 7th Century in Byzantium: the dynamics of exclusion and inclusion that defined Orthodoxy”
  • Laura Carlson, “Written & Oral Forms of Public Penitence during the Adoptionist Controversy”
  • Ms Nonveiller gave us a close analysis of the Council of Trullo of 692, in which Emperor Justinian II (of whom we have heard) tried to do a general regulation of belief that included, among other things, measures against Judaism and pagan practices. The word used for pagan in the council acts (which never got actually cited, so I can’t tell you where to find them) is apparently ‘hellenikos’, i. e. Classical Greek, but many of the usages they sought to ban were not Classical as far as we can tell, things like leaping over a fire at your door for the new year. Ms Nonveiler sought to reimpose the separation of origins that syncretism had, for her, by this time erased, and suggested that this custom was probably Jewish or Slavic; I saw no reason why it shouldn’t be local to wherever the relevant churchmen had found it, myself, and in general thought that tracking this stuff through texts was unlikely to relate much to what the people doing it actually thought. Ironically perhaps, Ms Nonveiller closed by noting that many of these provisions had to be repeated in the next council, and so were perhaps too theoretical to affect practice! But, warned by Carolingian precedent, I asked whether much of the council’s condemnations were themselves repeated from earlier texts, and of course it turned out that many of them were. A Western perspective would probably see this much less as active legislation and much more as an imperial performance of orthodoxy, speaking out against well-recognised bad things whether they were still happening since their first condemnation three centuries before or not, and I’m not sure that Westerner would be wrong.3

    Bibliothèque Carnegie de Reims, MS 385, fo. 134r

    The beginning of the profession of faith of Bishop Felix of Urgell, in Reims, Bibliothèque Carnegie de Reims, MS 385, fo. 134r

    Laura, meanwhile, had found in a single Reims manuscript apparently (of course, constructed for Archbishop Hincmar) a copy of Bishop Felix of Urgell’s final profession of faith.4 For those who don’t know him, Felix had been both the Carolingians’ main bishop in Catalonia when they took it over and, as they saw it, a dangerous heretic, being part of the Adoptionist movement that had grown up in the peninsular Church. He was repeatedly made to disavow this belief but somehow remained in office with it until 799, which is the date of this letter. And it is a letter, to his canons (who are listed, very exciting for me), assuming the state of a penitent and thus demitting his office. Laura proposed that this was effectively a public penance by letter, making it known through to all that he was defeated and that he admitted Adoptionism was wrong, effectively pouring poison into his network but also, as I argued in discussion, opening the way for a Carolingian-approved election at Urgell. By contrast, his previous two confessions could have been considered ‘private’, a compromise intended to allow him to stay in office as the Carolingians’ agent. In 799 that was apparently decided insufficient and he was made to take this step of self-removal, but as Laura also pointed out, since the Carolingians were then reforming the practice of penance, by 800 it would have been impossible.5 Nonetheless, the situation and the fact that Felix quotes the profession of faith of none other than Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, as condemned before Emperor Theodosius II at Ephesus in 431, made this council of 799 a kind of mirror of that one in which Charlemagne got to play Theodosius ending the divisive heresy in his lands. Again, I wonder how much Felix’s real practices mattered here against the possibility of the soon-to-be-imperial performance of orthodoxy…

    Alfonso X of Castile and his court, as shown in the 12th-century Libro de los Juegos

    Alfonso X of Castile and his court, as shown in the 12th-century Libro de los Juegos; from Wikimedia Commons

    Finally that day, we were treated to a keynote address by Professor Simon Doubleday, entitled “Illegitimate Concerns”. This was a lecture about bastardy, with specific reference to King Alfonso X of Castile, the Wise. Although his father Fernando I reportedly advised him to remain chaste, this seems to be something Alfonso had trouble with; as well as being betrothed to Yolanda, daughter of King Jaume of Aragón in 1246, marrying her in 1248 and starting to have children soon after, he was by then already father of one Beatriz by a long-term partner. At the point of Alfonso and Yolanda’s marriage, therefore, poor Beatriz, aged 8, was shipped off to Portugal to marry King Afonso III, despite him already being married. It’s complicated, as they say. But the point of the lecture lay in the relationship that King Alfonso and Beatriz maintained, especially after the coup that temporarily deposed him, during which time she came to live with him (although one may suspect that the 300 troops she apparently brought with her gladdened the king’s heart nearly as much). It doesn’t seem to have been a problem for the king to recognise that tie, nurture it with gifts of lands along the Portuguese border or exploit it in time of trouble, even though the law, to which of course Alfonso added, was pretty clear that children born out of wedlock had no real rights in the face of those legitimately born. Professor Doubleday wondered, therefore, where we’d lost this relative generosity to the illegitimate, and with those musings we wound up the day and headed for the wine reception, with brains pleasantly full.


    1. You didn’t know Wendy had a new book out? She does, and it is W. Davies, Windows on Justice in Northern Iberia, 800-1000 (London 2016). I need to read it before the end of term somehow, too…

    2. This must also be cyclical, and relate to Jinty Nelson’s long-ago point about how it takes time for monasteries to grow roots in the community, so they start by buying lands and only then go on to receiving donations and fighting people for their rights; see Janet L. Nelson, “Women and the Word in the Earlier Middle Ages” in W. J. Sheils & Diana Wood (edd.), Women in the Church: papers read at the 1989 summer meeting and the 1990 winter meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society, Studies in Church History Vol. 27 (Oxford 1990), pp. 53-78, and indeed for early medieval Iberia Jonathan Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the Nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2005 for 2003), pp. 229-258.

    3. That Westerner would only have had to read Patrick Wormald, “Lex scripta and Verbum regis: legislation and Germanic kingship, from Euric to Cnut” in Peter Sawyer & Ian N. Wood (edd.), Early Medieval Kingship (Leeds 1977), pp. 105-138, but let’s remember how long it took me to do so I suppose…

    4. As in the caption above, this is Reims, Bibliothèque Carnegie de Reims, MS 385, fos 134r-138r and followed by a letter of his fos 138r-140r. If you care about such things, Archbishop Hincmar of Reims signed the bottom of fo. 136r…

    5. See Rob Meens, “The Frequency and Nature of Early Medieval Penance” in Peter Biller & A. J. Minnis (edd.), Handling Sin: Confession in the Middle Ages (Woodbridge 1998), pp. 35-61, and on the controversy over Felix and his beliefs, John C. Cavadini, The Last Christology of the West: Adoptionism in Spain and Gaul, 785-820 (Philadelphia 1993), a book I wish Pennsylvania University Press would reprint as there is so little else in English on this and it’s really expensive to get now.

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Rereading for improbable heretics

[The first draft of this was written on the train towards an IHR Earlier Middle Ages seminar, 7th March 2012. Yeah, I know, sorry.]

Approximately the first real charters I read for my work on Catalonia were the church consecration acts from the diocese of Urgell, well up in the Catalan Pyrenees.1 They are fantastically interesting documents, but I always go back to them with a certain trepidation because what I thought was significant then often wasn’t, and I missed quite a lot of stuff that should have leapt out at me. I just didn’t have a sense of what was usual and what wasn’t in this material then, basically. The continuing effort to read Michel Zimmermann’s Écrire et lire en Catalogne has brought me up against one of these hidden significances, but it is honestly one I would never have thought of and it’s fantastic, as well as being unique, I think, if he’s right.2

Urgell charter of sale of 839 on parchment

A sale document of 839 from the Urgell archive. A consecration act would be bigger and have more capitals in it but wouldn’t necessarily be any tidier…

The situation as Zimmermann tells it is this. Some time before 901, Bishop Nantigis of Urgell, who was a busy man during his time in office, as we have eighteen church consecrations by him and one set of council acta where he signed, as opposed to only six charters of any other sort, came out to Guils del Cantó in Alt Urgell to consecrate the church of Sant Fruitós there. A guy called Adeudat features quite large in the document, which stresses his many sins and his need to atone with alms. He and his parents had more or less set up this church, and now he wanted to finish the job. There had been one before, but it was “tiny and rustic”, and so Adeudat did “whatever I could to make it great and installed a peal of bells there” and got the bishop to come along and consecrate the new building. So, fairly obviously Adeudat and his parentes, which might mean only kinsmen, rather than his father and mother, were big people in this little place. There are no other donors mentioned, and his family kept the lands round the church; the document that tells us all this is Adeudat’s will, in which he bequeathed the church, its property and liturgical tackle and the lands around the church to his nephews.

So, it seems inarguable that Adeudat had been the priest of the villa up to this point. He stresses, furthermore, that Nantigis had appointed him priest at the cathedral of Urgell, and that he carried out the rebuild project at Nantigis’s orders, but equally, he and his family were pretty clearly rooted in the area. They had presumably gone to Nantigis to get their status quite literally enshrined in the wider hierarchy. That to me is fascinating, and I didn’t see it first time round, but this isn’t where Zimmermann goes with it, because he instead concentrates on the unusual levels of guilt about sin that Adeudat expresses (“I Adeudat the priest, an unhappy sinner, and as I may truly say a sinner above other men”—super, does he mean that he is superior in sin, or that he is a sinner and is also in authority over other men, eh?) and on the liturgical gear that Adeudat leaves to the church.3 The explanation for Zimmermann is in two of the books Adeudat gave, which are quite unusual. As well as “the better antiphonary in the church, the missal which is the new mystery, the conspectus of the Evangelists, a sermonary” and a hymnal, there is a “chronicle” and a “Toledan service-book”. The Latin is “ordo toletanum”.

Page from the so-called Visigothic Antiphonary of León

Adeudat’s books are unlikely to have been quite this snazzy, but you know, worth bequeathing apparently…

Now, this I did notice when I first read it, indeed I eagerly mailed both Rosamond McKitterick and Jinty Nelson to ask what they thought, partly because I thought they might know but also because I was keen to let them know I was doing work and finding stuff. It could be said that my impostor syndrome takes odd forms. Anyway, I was then interested in the ‘chronicle’, which we can’t really guess at although my guess if I had to would be Isidore of Seville’s Greater Chronicle.4 Perhaps, however, I should have picked up on the Toledan ordo, because actually this is the kind of time that the old ‘Mozarabic’ liturgy was being phased out in this area in the general Carolingian spirit of correctio, being replaced with a new Gallo-Roman hybrid that the Carolingian court felt was the ‘real thing’.5 That, in turn, is presumably what is represented by the “missal which is the new mystery”, missalem qui est novo mistico, and later in the book Zimmermann cites work that identifies these texts, which turn up more widely too, as a codex mixtus, a miscellany of liturgical bits much like the later breviaries, by which your Visigothic Church priest might have carried round all he needed for an average year’s work.6 So OK, he has Visigothic liturgical books, that’s interesting but, out in the wilds like this, maybe not so odd, and perhaps they belonged to his parents, who knows?

This is, however, also not just the time but the area where the Carolingians had had to come down quite heavily on the heresy known as Adoptionism, the idea that Christ was not of his physical self divine but chosen to house divinity by God.7 The chief proponent of this locally had been none other than Bishop Felix of Urgell, Nantigis’s predecessor-but-three-or-four, and of course the other big figure in it had been Bishop Elipand of Toledo. So, carrying round a Toledan service book may have some awkward implications at this exact spot and time.

The church of Guils de Cantó, Alt Urgell, Catalonia

The Romanesque church of Guils de Cantó that presumably replaced Adeudat’s work… BURYING WHO KNOWS WHAT SCANDAL! Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Zimmermann goes all the way with this, in a couple of elegant sentences. Many a church in this area was founded by immigrant Hispani clerics, presumably fleeing from the darkening situation for Christian clergy in al-Andalus. For Zimmermann, Adeudat is best seen as one of them, Toledo-trained (which his library does seem to suggest) and quite possibly heretical, and Nantigis made him pretty clear that that was not the way. His sins that provoked his donation, though this was a topos used by almost all donors to the Church, especially churchmen, may therefore have been quite specific, preaching what he hadn’t realised was held to be heresy to his flock, and his efforts to atone sincere, even if calculated to retain his local status.

I’m not quite sure about a couple of aspects of this. The biggest of these is that if the books in question were heretical, they surely would have been destroyed. If they weren’t, however, there’s no reason to suppose that Adeudat was. After all, they were apparently still suitable gifts for the church in 901, and Nantigis was still around then because Adeudat commended all his property to the bishop to make sure that the church got what it needed to continue in his family’s management. It seems more likely to me, therefore, that the ordo was just a regulation ‘Mozarabic’ liturgy. In that case, the effort to replace the Mozarabic liturgy clearly wasn’t very sincere or thorough here yet. The other thing is that Adeudat’s family were all here too. I don’t really see how we can imagine that these Toledan fugitives came north carrying a rook of books, liturgical even though the main man wasn’t yet a priest, and somehow became the dominant interest in a whole village. Although it must be said that that might be what they were doing by setting up the church with the bishop’s backing, it seems a lot more likely to me that they were locals. In which case, the books don’t tell us about an Andalusi training and the whole thing comes to bits. So I’m not sure that it’s methodologically sound, at all, but I like the story it tells so much that I’m reluctant to abandon the chance of placing a recanting Toledan Adoptionist high and rich in the Pyrenees.


1. Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Les actes de consagracions d’esglesies del bisbat d’Urgell (segles IX-XII)” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 1 (Montserrat 1978), pp. 11-182, and idem (ed.), “Set actes més de consagracions d’esglésies del bisbat d’Urgell (segles IX-XII)” in Urgellia Vol. 2 (Montserrat 1979), pp. 481-488, now united with new numeration as Les actes de consagracions d’esglésies de l’antic Bisbat d’Urgell: segles IX-XII (Urgell 1986).

2. M. Zimmermann, Écrire et lire en Catalogne (IXe-XIIe siècles), Biblioteca de la Casa de Velázquez 23 (Madrid 2003), pp. 496-497.

3. Please don’t ask me what a villa was at this time; there’s a reason I haven’t translated it…. Some kind of rural circumscription of which the church might be the only focal point, how’s that?

4. This text has been re-edited since I first had to wonder about its presence in Urgell: for a translation and more details see Sam Kanto & Jamie Wood, “The Chronica Maiora of Isidore of Seville: an introduction and translation” in E-Spania Vol. 6 (Paris 2008), DOI: 10.4000/e-spania.15552, online at http://e-spania.revues.org/15552, last modified 15th December 2008 as 0f 15th June 2013.

5. On the problems with the word ‘Mozarab’ and its derivatives, see Richard Hitchcock, Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain: identities and influences (Aldershot 2008). For the correctio ideology I suppose most influential on me is probably Karl-Ferdinand Werner, “‘Hludowicus Augustus’. Gouverner l’empire chrétien : idées et réalités”, in Peter Godman & Roger Collins (edd.), Charlemagne’s Heir: new perspectives on the reign of Louis the Pious (Oxford 1990), pp. 3-123. I should note, though, that the Catalan scholarship tends to blame the final push on the liturgical front on Bishop Frodoí of Barcelona (862-890, not known to have been a hobbit), canonically said to be a Frank pushing Charles the Bald’s agenda; I know of no evidence for either of these things. On the evidence that there is, see Gaspar Feliu, “Els inicis del domini territorial de la seu de Barcelona”, in Cuadernos de historia económica de Cataluña Vol. 14 (Barcelona 1976), pp. 45-61 at pp. 46-48.

6. Zimmermann, Écrire et lire, I pp. 526-530.

7. See John C. Cavadini, The Last Christology of the West: Adoptionism in Spain and Gaul, 785-820 (Philadelphia 1993).

Leeds report 4 and final (Thursday 16th July 2009)

The last day of the International Medieval Congress at Leeds is a half-day, unless you’re on one of the excursions. I never do these because of being conscious that I could visit the Royal Armouries or Conisborough Castle any time I liked, and more specifically when it didn’t clash with conference papers, and yet of course left to myself I never do. Anyway. It was the last day, there were only two sessions, and I went to one each.

The first of these was perhaps a mistake. I always regret that there isn’t more archæology presented at Leeds, but often when I go and seek it I find that the papers aren’t very good. I have yet to work out whether this is just because I am a historian and see merit in papers differently from archæologists, or because I am trained to expect quite a lot of analytical rigour and don’t always get it from archæology as presented, in easy-to-consume chunks, for historians. Anyway, my first venture was this:

1522. Hagiography and Archaeology: contrasts and convergences (4th-11th centuries)

  • Sébastien Bully, “Entre vitae et archéologie : le case des tombes saintes des abbés Lupicin (Ve siècles et Valbert (VIIe)”
  • The main lesson from this one is that if you have too much material, even switching unannounced back out of English (which annoyed two Scandinavians in the audience who were there expressly because it was French archæology in English—one’s audience in Leeds is not all English and US no matter how much the comments make it seem so, and a lot of people are already listening in their second language) will not prevent you over-running. I got far less of this than I should have because it’s a long time since I’ve had to listen to scholarly French and scholarly French delivered nervously at high speed is not the best way back in. I think the guy had a really interesting site in which one cult more or less appropriated the space used by another older one, but I’m not sure about this or about anything I wrote down. My poor language skills mostly to blame, but also his lack of preparation.

  • Michèle Gaillard, “The Tomb of the Martyr Quentinus from the 4th to the 10th Century: hagiographic evidence and recent archaeological investigations”
  • A particular Picardy site where archæological digging has substantiated two different Merovingian saints’ lives by finding the saints’ burials, though the modern church is basically as restored after the Great War and therefore full of its own complications of periodization; a real link between past memory and living memory here.

  • Pascale Chevalier, “The Tomb and the Miracles of the Cluniac Abbos Maieul and Odilo in Souvigny in the 11th Century: a confrontation of texts and material evidence”
  • Basically the exploration of a particular possession of Cluny which came to hold the bodies of two of Cluny’s most famous abbots, and the points where their lives and histories tie up with the actual archæogical evidence for cult, which the monks of Souvigny progressively separated from the general public with screens and translations out of the public area of their church where the cults were first established. Lots for someone to draw out of this.

The Cluniac abbey of Souvigny, west front

The Cluniac abbey of Souvigny, west front

Then coffee then the last session of the conference, It was good to see a decent showing for this, in fact, especially given that two of the speakers were relatively unknown locally, but the first one may have helped make up the difference, or it may just have been the interest of the theme:

1629. Methods of Christianization

  • Julia Barrow, “How Coifi Pierced Christ’s Side: another look at Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, II, 13
  • Occasionally Dr Barrow brings a voice of authority to comments here and now she was doing the same to the famous episode in Bede’s History where King Edwin’s court converts, arguing that it hadn’t been seen allegorically enough and that the whole thing is a Biblical reference to John spiced with symbolism. I asked stupid questions showing that I don’t know either text well enough but it was really interesting, and while distancing us inevitably from the actual conversion brought us that bit closer to Bede, which rarely seems like a bad thing.

  • Cullen Chandler, “Orthodoxy in Doctrine and Practice in the Carolingian Spanish March”
  • Cullen is of course my principal rival in print, and so far he’s winning. This is the first time I’ve actually seen him present, and of course I had quarrels with it but it was an interesting attempt to show how the Carolingians, here as with many other places, brought an ideological conquest as well as a political one, and how here also as elsewhere the former wound up taking a deeper root than the latter. I felt that the biggest thing missing here was an awareness of the parallel battlefront between Adoptionism and Carolingian-style orthodoxy being waged in Asturias, which fed into the Carolingian one at both ends—Alcuin responds to Beatus of Liébana as well as Felix of Urgell and the Asturian kings and clergy seem to have used the new orthodoxy as part of their legitimation process.1 But as Cullen said, in twenty minutes you can only cover so much, one can be excused for not suddenly moving two hundred miles east for five minutes only to conclude that more work needs to be done.

  • Asya Bereznyak, “From Paganism to Heresy: the conversion of Bulgaria as an example of Byzantine Christianization Methods”
  • I can’t help feeling that this is the paper the session was originally built round: it was certainly the one that most closely addressed the session title. The principal focus was a study of what themes most interested Bulgar converts—principally the Apocrypha it seems—but also by way of passing pointing out that Christianity in Bulgar territories seems to have predated the Byzantine missions to an extent, and so we don’t really know what kind of background those missionaries were pushing against. This fits quite nicely with work of other sorts I’ve mentioned here before and when my most relevant colleague gets back from digging bits of the relevant area up I’ll have to pass this on…

And so it was over. Lunch with Cullen, at which we both agreed to vilify each other in print like Vroomfondel and Majikthise so as to keep each other on the gravy train for life, was followed by a very kind lift back home by one of the many Cambridge ASNaCs with whom I seem to have friends in common by other routes, which, as my bicycle managed to find a nice piece of glass to skewer its tyre with even as I rode up to the car, was much appreciated, and then a scant few hours of gossip and philosophy later, I was at home considering what I’d achieved.

I think chief among achievements was having fun, to be honest. I haven’t always managed this and even at this one I felt quite glum about my place in the whole history business, or indeed life more widely at times, but there were people around who helped me feel better. After this long chasing the impossible some of the people in the same pursuit are genuine friends, and several of them were there. I won’t embarrass them by naming them as such, also but I owe specifically academic thanks to Julio Escalona, Wendy Davies (as ever), Alex Woolf and Teresa Earenfight, and it was good to meet Jeffrey Cohen, Eileen Joy and Mary Kate Hurley of In the Medieval Middle, Stuart Airlie, Cullen Chandler (know thine enemy! :-) ), Anine Madvig Struer, and a bunch of other people too who deserve better than to be anonymised like this, sorry. And of course especial thanks to those who either spoke in or moderated my sessions and thus saved me all the nerves that could be saved. And I managed a publisher’s meeting, two (I think) invitations to submit to a journal, a lot of well-chosen but ill-timed book purchasing and only a sensible amount of drinking, and recognised the references of most if not all of Guy Halsall’s t-shirts, which probably means that I get onto some special hitlist or something. I’m not sure I did so much of meeting people as introducing people I knew to other people I knew (someone complimented me on my memory for the catalogue of research interests I seemed to be carrying round in my head, which only goes to show that not all of these people knew me very well) and that’s also good.

All the same. I’ve kind of done this now. I’ve run sessions, I’ve given papers, I’ve networked, and ultimately though it is important to be seen, it is still not winning me the game. And, despite widespread advice that it is vital to do, it may not really be the best use of my time. I think I need to be working on stuff for print almost to the exclusion of everything else. A friend of mine brought this home by being much less well-known than I am, but still getting an interview while we were there for a job that I didn’t; the main difference between us in their favour is recent publication and I can only assume that’s what swung it. People are asking me if I’m running sessions again next year and I don’t know. I don’t myself have anything I can think of to present for it, because my sessions are not on my core research topic; I wouldn’t mind doing a paper that was, but it would have to be for someone else’s session. I don’t have enough speakers to make much of a showing of Problems and Possibilities for next year. People higher up structures than me across the pond are now wondering whether they really need to do Kalamazoo; I think I may have squeezed all the immediate use out of Leeds. Ironically, I am likely to be doing Kalamazoo for the first time just as they all quit. But in this game, or the European instance of it at least, it really isn’t teaching experience as long as you have some, or outreach or activity at conferences though again it’s wise to have those items on the CV somewhere. From where I am nothing counts so much as print. Now, by next year—though how many years have I been saying this?—my print presence will be much advanced, by hopefully three papers and a book. And it would be nice to rock up and see my book on sale, I’ll admit. But, the work that needs to be done now to attend then is probably not the best use of my time. I must communicate with other people about this, and we’ll see.

Bit too much like catharsis there again, sorry. But when it clearly isn’t working one starts looking for things to change. It’s a pity though, because it seems to me that this sort of exercise is what research and international collaboration should be about, but as with many of the things we actually want to do in our jobs, or the jobs we want for those of us that don’t have it yet, it’s not something that the system rewards.


1. I have in fact just been reading something about this that I should have read ages ago, Julio Escalona, “Family Memories: inventing Alfonso I of Asturias” in Isabel Alfonso, Hugh Kennedy & Julio Escalona (edd.), Building Legitimacy: Political Discourses and Forms of Legitimation in Medieval Societies, The Medieval Mediterranean: Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400-1500, 53 (Leiden 2004), pp. 223-262, and now I know that there is much more for me to know about this subject even though there is so little evidence and that my “Neo-Goths, Mozarabs and Kings” still has a long way to go before it’s ready to submit, alas.