Several members of the Department journeyed to Oslo last week to participate in a seminar and workshop on the broad theme of ‘Communication and Cultural Contacts in the North Atlantic Community 1000-1300’, hosted by Professor Jón Viðar Sigurðsson. The focus of this particular event was bishops, saints and Church organisation. Detailed evidence was presented from areas ranging from Ireland to Iceland via the Isle of Man and the diocese of Sodor (and many more besides). In many of the varied contributions, links between both religious and political centres of power were to the fore, Dr Sarah Thomas demonstrating the central role played by Bishop Mark of Galloway in key political negotiations. Such connections were also explored in the accounts of Church organisation in Ireland, Iceland and Norway presented by Dr Colmán Etchingham and Jón Viðar Sigurðsson among others, points of comparison being particularly revealing. The universality of saints, as well as their differences were highlighted in contributions by Professor Ásdís Egilsdóttir and Dr Fiona Edmonds, the latter illuminating a layered nexus of saintly connections crossing the Irish Sea. Such networks facilitated transfer of texts, the influence of some of which we saw at work in the depictions of Icelandic bishop-saints, as well as in the portrayal of St Knud by Dr Jonny Grove. Two days of intense, profitable discussion underlined the importance of analysing the evidence from these areas in tandem. The productive debate will continue in a series of further seminars to be arranged.
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