Conference on Jón Halldórsson bishop of Skálholt

May 13–14, 2016 in Skálholt


— see below for abstracts

Friday, 13 May 2016

14.30–15.00 Conference opening

15.00–15.30 Christian Etheridge: Jón Halldórsson and the learned environment of Bergen
15.30-16.00 Árni Heimir Ingólfsson: Gregorian Chant and Music Theory in 14th-Century Skálholt
16.00-16.30 Gunnar Harðarson: Music and Writing in Skálholt and Þingeyrar: Jón Halldórsson, Arngrímur Brandsson, and the Second Grammatical Treatise

16:30–17:00 Coffee

17:00–17:30 Karl-Gunnar Johansson: A Dominican Bishop in a Benedictine Manuscript: AM 657 a–b 4to Once More
17:30–18.00 Guðrún Nordal: AM 624
18:00–18:30 Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir: The Chronicle of Martinus Oppaviensis

19:00 Dinner

21:00–21:30 Viðar Pálsson: Bishop Jón Halldórsson and Early Fourteenth-Century Legal Culture in Iceland
21:30–22:00 Marteinn H. Sigurðsson: Jón Halldórsson’s Sermon on the Feast of St. Þorlákr of Skálholt

Saturday, 14 may 2016

9:00–9:30 Gottskálk Jensson: Jón Halldórsson and the 14th-Century Innovations in Saga Narrative
9:30–10:00 Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir – Jón Halldórsson, Exempla and Romance in Fourteenth-Century Iceland

10:00–10:30 Coffee

10:30–11:00 Védís Ragnheiðardóttir: ‘Stropinn strýkur um bringuna’: Klári saga and its possible continental analogues
11:00–11:30 Hjalti Snær Ægisson: When the Scamps Go Marching In: Portrayals of the Trickster Archetype in Medieval Icelandic Exempla



Christian Etheridge, PhD-student, University of Southen Denmark (Odense): Jón Halldórsson and the learned environment of Bergen
The learning of Jón Halldórsson is well attested to in the varied source material we have available on him. Jón was the product of a type of learned environment that was to produce the highest level of scholars during the middle ages. As is well known, he began his education in the Dominican convent of Bergen before travelling abroad to further his studies. Jón studied both at the University of Paris and the University of Bologna before returning to Bergen, where he served as canon in the cathedral chapter before becoming elected as Bishop of Skálholt in 1321, finally taking up his duties in Iceland in 1323. – This paper focuses on the influences on Jón’s intellectual life and his scholarly development. I choose not to focus in depth on his time abroad, but instead focus on his time in Bergen. The city of Bergen was one of the largest cities in medieval Scandinavia and had many centres of learning associated with its ecclesiastical foundations. It was also a cosmopolitan mercantile city and centre of civic and royal authority. The paper explores the most important chapters, schools, monasteries and convents, as well as secular foundations and seeks to find learned influences in Bergen during the time of Jón Halldórsson. My emphasis also lies with written works from this time and I look at the treatises Konungs skuggsjá and Hauksbók, as well as the manuscript GKS 1812 II 4to to further identify the learned environment of both Bergen and Jón Halldórsson.

Árni Heimir Ingólfsson, musicologist, Iceland Symphony Orchestra: Plainchant and Music Theory in 14th-Century Skálholt
Music-making in medieval Iceland remains an under-researched field, partly due to a lack of adequate source material, since many manuscripts were destroyed or mutilated following the Reformation. I intend to survey some of the more important musical sources from 14th-century Iceland, with particular emphasis on the role and transmission of the plainchant repertoire and its theoretical background. This repertoire was pervasive in the entire Roman Catholic world, and the main centers of this tradition, locally speaking, were the cathedrals at Skálholt and Hólar as well as the monasteries and nunneries.
My discussion will include a re-evaluation of Þorlákstíðir, the liturgy for St. Þorlákur, which was the subject of Róbert A. Ottósson’s groundbreaking dissertation in 1959. Furthermore, I will examine previously overlooked sources for music-making and the transmission of music theory in Iceland during the time of Jón Halldórsson. These include a mnemonic verse used for memorizing the psalm tones (found in AM 680a 4to), a translation of Alcuin’s preface to De psalmorum usu (in the so-called Codex Lindesianus), as well as marginal notations in several fourteenth-century manuscripts.

Gunnar Harðarson, University of Iceland: Music and Writing in Skálholt and Þingeyrar: Jón Halldórsson, Arngrímur Brandsson, and the Second Grammatical Treatise
When the dominican bishop of Skálholt, Jón Halldórsson, sent Arngrímur Brandsson to Norway on a mission to defend his position in a dispute with Bishop Laurentius of Hólar, Arngrímur spent most of his time in Niðaróss learning how to build and play an organ which he brought back to Iceland. In addition, Arngrímur, who was a confident of the bishop, may have had a hand in composing the Office of Saint Þorlákr, based on that of Saint Dominic. Arngrímur had become priest at Oddi, in the South, before 1334, and he may have been canon of Þykkvibær around 1340. In 1350, however, he had become abbot of Þingeyrar, in the diocese of Hólar, where the Codex Wormianus of Snorra Edda is supposed to have been written. The Wormianus contains all four grammatical treatises and its version of the Second Grammatical Treatise has some interesting variations as compared to the text in the Codex Upsaliensis. One of them is the introduction of organ playing and chant, as illustrative examples, another is a recomposition of certain passages in a rhetorical style reminiscent of the 14th century Benedictine-school of Þingeyrar.

Karl-Gunnar Johansson, University of Oslo; A Dominican Bishop in a Benedictine Manuscript: AM 657 a–b 4to Once More
The manuscript AM 657 a–b 4to can with some certainty be attributed to the monastic milieu of the Benedictines at Þingeyrar. It contains a collection of exempla or ævintýri which has been attributed to a compiler alpha, tentatively suggested to be one of the two Benedictine brothers Bergr Sokkason or Arngrímr Brandsson. The manuscript also contains the Þáttr of Jón Halldórsson, the bishop of Skálholt. In my presentation I will return to the manuscript, its four scribes and the context where the scribes worked, most likely in close collaboration with the two mentioned brothers, in order to explore the relation between the Benedictine collection of exempla and the Dominican Jón Halldórsson.

Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir, Arnamagnæan Institute, Reykjavik: Chronica Martini in Iceland
The Dominican Martinus Oppaviensis (Martin of Troppau) completed his Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum after the death of Pope Clement IV in 1270. The chronicle went on to become one of the most popular of its kind in the late Middle Ages. It exists in scores of manuscripts, was translated into German, French and Italian in the course of the 14th and the 15th century and was read as far afield as Armenia, Persia and Mongolia. The chronicle also found its way to Iceland and left its mark on Rómverja saga in the ms. AM 595 4to a-b and the universal history contained in AM 764 4to. It is thus a part of the influx of Dominican literature in fourteenth-century Iceland that is also evident in the use of works by Vincent of Beauvais and Hugo Ripelin. In my paper I will introduce Martin’s work and discuss the uses fourteenth-century Icelanders made of it.

Viðar Pálsson, University of Iceland: Bishop Jón Halldórsson and Early Fourteenth-Century Legal Culture in Iceland
According to contemporary sources, Bishop Jón Halldórsson was among the most learned men in Iceland in the early fourteenth century. He studied canon law in Bologna, otherwise the renowned center of studies in Roman and civil law, and headed the bishopric of Skálholt in an age when the legal framework of the Icelandic church was somewhat uncertain. This paper explores the legal culture in which Jón operated as the Bishop of Skálholt and seeks to throw light on his activities and agenda.

Gottskálk Jensson, University of Copenhagen: Jón Halldórsson and the 14th-Century Innovations in Saga Narrative: The Case of Egils saga einhenda ok Ásmundar berserkjabana
In this artfully written saga, as I pointed out in a 2003 article, we can identify two completely novel figures in Icelandic saga narrative: subordinate tales, organized in a narrative frame (Rahmenerzählung), and characters using the passing of time during story telling, i.e. subordinate narrative time, to wait some task or situation out in the frame story. To this we can add the saga’s bridal quest motif, which no less than in Clári saga (cf. M. Kalinke, Bridal-quest Romance in Medieval Iceland, 1990) is here used structurally to achieve narrative unity. All three figures are commonly associated with later 14th-century continental and English narrative (e.g. Boccaccio, Chaucer). But while the text of Clári saga (ed. G. Cederschiöld, 1907) relates itself directly to Bishop Jón Halldórsson, whom our sources describe as an expert Dominican preacher and teller of ‘ævintýri’ (H. Gering, Islendzk Æventyri, 1882), so far no scholar has associated Egils saga ok Ásmundar with our prelate, who so impressed Iceland with his erudition. This might be because Jón’s Latin scientia from the schools of Paris and Bologna appeared to sit less comfortably with the Urnordische elements of the Icelandic ‘fornaldarsaga’ than with the continental matière of Clári saga. In this paper, however, I intend to argue that there are nevertheless good reasons to suspect the involvement of Jón Halldórsson here too, who incidentally arrived in Iceland as bishop of Skálholt, a couple of years before the modern editor, Åke Lagerholm (Drei Lygisôgur, 1927), concluded, on entirely unrelated grounds, that Egils saga ok Ásmundar was written.

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, Arnamagnæan Institute, Reykjavik: Jón Halldórsson, Exempla and Romance in Fourteenth-Century Iceland
Several Icelandic sagas normally categorised as romances, e.g. Clári saga, – attributed to Bishop Jón Halldórsson in its prologue – and Mírmanns saga, have clear Christian overtones and themes, and have been characterised by scholars as generic hybrids situated on the boundaries between romance and devotional literature, i.e. exempla and hagiography. I will examine the secular texts collected in AM 657 a‒b 4to, i.e. Clári saga, Drauma-Jóns saga and Hákonar saga Hárekssonar, and these sagas’ intersections, possibly interactions, with the exempla and other religious material compiled in the same codex. I will ask whether clerics in Iceland, whether Jón or someone in his circle, considered secular genres, in particular the romance, as a productive tool with which to communicate a didactic Christian message, and thus I will place the literary activity in Skálholt in a contemporary cultural context. I will compare this textual cross-fertilisation with similar developments elsewhere in Europe and assess whether Bishop Jón’s episcopate might be considered to have brought about seminal changes in the literary and ideological realms in fourteenth-century Iceland.

Védís Ragnheiðardóttir, PhD-student, University of Iceland: ‘Stropinn strýkur um bringuna’: Klári saga and its possible continental analogues
Klári saga is in its prologue attributed to Bishop Jón Halldórsson, who is said to have found it in Latin verse in France. The saga’s Latin origins were not questioned by the saga’s original publisher, Gustaf Cederschiöld, and until relatively recently the saga has been counted among translated romances. Along with its presumed Latin origins, the attribution to Jón has been questioned by some scholars, who have claimed that the prologue could well be a topos. Recently Shaun Hughes has argued for the saga being an indigenous romance, composed by Jón. While Marianne Kalinke has stated that she finds Hughes’ argument compelling she believes the basic plot to be ultimately based on stories Jón heard in Paris and Bologna, with a presumably Arabian connection.
The saga’s connection to the König Drosselbart fairy tale type (AT 900) was noted by Ernst Philippson in the early 1920s, but this connection has not been fully explored. The Drosselbart tale type encompasses a variety of tales, but the combining crux of the stories is that of a maiden who denies and verbally humiliates a suitor, and the subsequent revenge of the suitor. In the paper I will discuss the different varieties of the König Drosselbart fairy tale type and compare Klári saga to its continental analogues in the hope of shedding some light on the discussion of the possible origins of the saga, as well as its possible author.

Hjalti Snær Ægisson, PhD-student, University of Iceland: When the Scamps Go Marching In: Portrayals of the Trickster Archetype in Medieval Icelandic Exempla
In this paper, I will discuss portrayals of the trickster archetype in medieval Icelandic exempla. The ævintýri collection af AM 657 a–b 4to contains several abnormalities in comparison with traditional moral and ecclesiastical literature of the 13th century. The ubiquity of non-conformist protagonists is a distinctive feature hereof and can be seen as repugnant to the proper goals of sermon exempla. Jóns þáttur‘s description of Jón Halldórsson‘s narratives as „veralldligar ok stórorðar“ is a potential reference to this component which may even have contributed to the church‘s eventual disillusion with the genre. I will compare the exempla-tricksters with similar figures from Old Norse myths and sagas and conclude by considering how their devices correlate to churchly authority, spirituality and sacramentals.

Marteinn H. Sigurðsson, University of Copenhagen: Jón Halldórsson’s Sermon on the Feast of St. Þorlákr of Skálholt
The paper concerns Jón Halldórsson’s legacy as a Dominican (Friar Preacher) bishop of Skálholt in Iceland (1322-1339) and in particular his outstanding preaching and novel use of entertaining and edifying sermon tales (exempla). Three of Jón’s exempla are incorporated into Jóns þáttr Halldórssonar biskups, a brief account of Jón’s life, death and purported sainthood from around 1350 that was evidently composed within the context of Icelandic exempla-collection shortly after Jón’s death. The first two tales in Jóns þáttr pertain to Jón’s education and are set within the scholarly locations of Paris and Bologna respectively. The þáttr’s third and longest tale is an exemplum Bishop Jón is said to have used in a sermon at the church of Staðarhóll in Western Iceland on the (summer) feast-day of Jón’s predecessor in Skálholt, Saint Þorlákr Þórhallsson (d. 1193). The tale in question deals with a just noble who, as he lay on his death-bead, killed his nephew for raping a woman, and who was, unrepentant, subsequently vindicated by God in the presence of a last-confession bishop through a miracle of the Host. According to the þáttr, Jón used the tale to show ‘how just the blessed Þorlákr was and zealous in observing God’s law (at geyma Guðs lög)’. The paper will explore the literary-historical background of the sermon tale Jón used at Staðarhóll and its ties with an exemplum on Pope Gregory VI in order to illustrate how Jón could have applied his Staðarhóll-tale to Þorlákr’s reputation as a just and saintly champion of the Church’s freedom from temporal power in the spirit of ‘Gregorian’ reform.