Thursday, 14 May 2015

Mission, Empire and the North: The Archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen, c. 830–c. 1200

Dr Paul Gazzoli writes:

In connection with my British Academy-funded research project to produce a new edition of Rimbert’s Life of Anskar, I and Dr Erik Niblaeus of Durham University are hosting a conference this summer, on the 4th of July 2015 (the Saturday before the Leeds International Medieval Congress). This will focus on Hamburg-Bremen not only in Anskar’s day but through the time of the great chronicler Adam of Bremen up through the end of the twelfth century.

Bremen cathedral

Hamburg-Bremen, and the written sources it produced in the middle ages, are essential to Scandinavian historians: history-writing only began in Scandinavia in the 12th century, and the Icelandic sagas were not written until the 13th century. But Adam of Bremen wrote in the 1070s, and had the Danish King Svend Estridsen (1047–76) as his informant, while Rimbert wrote the Life of Anskar in the 860s or 870s (Anskar was the first Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen and worked as a missionary among the Danes and Swedes from the 820s through the 850s, and his Life records much about Scandinavia during that time). Thus both sources provide extremely valuable evidence for Scandinavia during the Viking Age.

Part of Anskar’s legacy was Hamburg-Bremen’s enduring claim to supremacy over all the Church in Scandinavia. The creation of the archdiocese of Lund in 1104 mostly ended this, but Hamburg-Bremen did try to regain Scandinavia through the twelfth century. As part of this struggle, documents were forged, and sorting out truth from falsehood has many important implications for the history not only of Hamburg-Bremen but of Scandinavia. Scholars have also seen distortions in Adam of Bremen’s work, and recently Eric Knibbs has argued that the falsification of history goes back to the ninth century with Anskar and Rimbert themselves.

Against this difficult background, the conference will be looking at a variety of types of evidence: Dr Britta Mischke (of the University of Cologne) will look at the evidence of diplomas, while Prof. Matthias Hardt (Leipzig) and Morten Søvsø (Sydvestjyske Museer) will be discussing the archaeological traces of Christianisation among the Baltic Slavs and southern Scandinavia respectively. Prof. Hans-Werner Goetz (Hamburg) will be discussing Hamburg-Bremen’s claim on Scandinavia through the 11th century, while Prof. Michael Gelting (Aberdeen/Danish National Archives) will address Hamburg-Bremen’s struggle to control the Nordic church in the 12th century. Dr Erik Niblaeus (Durham) will situate Hamburg-Bremen in its Salian context, while Dr John-Henry Clay (Durham) will set Anskar against the background of earlier missionaries in Germany. I (Paul Gazzoli, Cambridge) will be talking about the transmission and re-writing of the Life of Anskar at Bremen in the twelfth century. All papers will be followed by discussion. 

We hope you can join us to help make for a lively and valuable conference! More information (including the schedule) will be available at while you can register here. Registration is £18 (£13 for students) and includes morning and afternoon tea/coffee, lunch and a wine reception. There will be a conference dinner at St Catharine’s College, priced £35 (with wine £10 extra).

St Anskar, painting from the old Cathedral (torn down in the 19th century) in Hamburg

Monday, 27 April 2015

Announcement and Invitation: Scannáin Gaeilge / Irish Films

This is an open invitation to students, staff and members of the public who would like to view a few Irish language (subtitled) / bilingual films during Easter Term.  The films will be shown in the English Faculty, Sidgwick Site, 9 West Road, Room G-R 05.  All are welcome.

Fear na nOileán        

30 April, 4 pm

English Faculty, Room G-R 05                      
Duration: 55 minutes

Following upon the engaging lecture and memorable performance of  'Songs from Donegal' (and Tory Island) by Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire, Senior Lecturer in the School of Languages and Cultures at University College Galway, there will be a viewing of the Irish documentary Fear na nOileán (Man of the Islands) on 30 April in the English Faculty, Room G-R 05 at 4pm.  The award winning film, directed by Loic Jourdain and filmed on location in Tory Island in 2006, charts the efforts of the islanders and a Jesuit priest (during the 1980’s) to improve water and electricity supplies and educational opportunities for the inhabitants of Tory Island. The islanders took their cause to the European Parliament and the United States Congress and petitioned for houses, jobs, a secondary school and a harbor. Parallels to the struggle of other island communities in Europe are considered, including the evacuation of Scotland’s St Kilda. Fear na nOileán won the Celtic Media Festival Award in 2007.  The film is in Irish (with subtitles) and English.



14 May  5pm 

English Faculty, G-R 05 
Duration:  88 minutes  

Kings is a 2007 award-winning Irish film (bilingual) based on the play The Kings of the Kilburn High Road.  A group of young Irish men who leave the Connemara Gaeltacht and emigrate to England meet  thirty years later for the funeral of their youngest friend.  Flashbacks to Connemara and their youthful hopes for a better life are set against the harsh realities of their lives in England in the 1970s: sporadic work on building sites, unemployment, alcohol addiction, fragile relationships, loneliness. The film won numerous awards, including Best Irish Language Film. Irish actor Colm Meaney was nominated for Best Actor and Tom Collins won the Director's Guild of America / Ireland New Finders Award.  

Colm Meaney in Kings
Conamara, Co. na Gaillimhe

Máirtín Ó Cadhain sa gCnocán Glas  /  + Gearrscannáin (short films)
18 May,  5pm

English Faculty, Room G-R 05

Duration: 30 minutes  (+ 30 minutes for optional Irish 'short-films')

This black-and-white film was produced by RTÉ in 1967 and was restored by the RTÉ Libraries and Archives in 2007.  The script is by Máirtín Ó Cadhain (1906-1970), one of Ireland's most prolific and accomplished writers in Irish, perhaps best known for his novel, Cre na Cille, published in 1949. The film presents a personal portrait of Ó Cadhain, who is filmed in his native village, An Cnocán Glas, in Connemara.  Ó Cadhain introduces the viewer to the places of his youth and the ruins of the house where he was born.  He recalls the native the Irish tales and European literature which influenced his life and work. Ó Cadhain was a political activist, writer, lecturer and Professor of Modern Irish at Trinity College Dublin. The film is in Irish with English subtitles.  A selection of short Irish language films will follow.
Máirtín Ó Cadhain, scríbhneoir