Mánaðarskipt færslusafn fyrir: mars 2022

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Dorottya Uhrin

The Spread of Saint Dorothy’s Cult in Central Europe and Scandinavia

A Comparative Analysis

Fimmtudaginn 31. mars, 2022, kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Dorottya Uhrin

Saint Dorothy was a young virgin, who during the reign of Emperor Diocletian suffered martyrdom in Cappadocia in the late Antiquity. Her cult was highly popular in the fifteenth-century Central Europe and Scandinavia. She was, however,  almost unknown a hundred years earlier. This phenomenon is not unique and not limited only to this particular saint and territory. The fourteenth century seems to be the period when the cults and legends of virgin martyrs were rediscovered in Europe. How did their cult re-emerge in these regions? Why did a late-Antique saint become popular in the late Middle Ages? How did her cult spread from Central Europe to North an East?

In my presentation, I will concentrate on how the general changes in society contributed to the birth of a special type of saints, the holy helper, and why did their cults become popular in the above-mentioned regions. By the fourteenth century, the network of parish churches has already been developed, thus the devotees had to find other ways to express their veneration. Thus, her cult’s traces mostly appear as altar dedications, mural paintings and legends. Beside the medieval vernacular German translation of the legends, there are Hungarian and Icelandic translation of her holy life. Thus, the presentation analyzes which circumstances contributed to the proliferation of the cult of virgin martyrs, especially to Saint Dorothy’s cult with interdisciplinary method. Historical, art historical and liturgical sources will help to reconstruct the birth and the spread of the cult.

I will argue, that besides the growing importance of women, the general changes in the cult of saints facilitated the spread of the cult of virgin martyrs. The growing importance of images and sermons contributed to the spread of the old saints’ cult, whose venerations were not connected to certain locations. Moreover, their intimate relationship with the Virgin Mary made them effective intercessors which also subsidized to their popularity.

Dorottya Uhrin is an assistant lecturer at the Medieval History Department of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She graduated in history, religious history and Mongolian studies and earned a Ph.D. from the same university. Also, she has a master’s degree in medieval studies from Central European University. Her main research area is religiosity in medieval Central Europe.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Ben Allport

“To Explain the Present and Promote its Values”

Evolving Strategies of Elite Legitimisation in the Variants of the Frá Fornjóti Origin Myth

Fimmtudaginn 24. mars, 2022, kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Ben Allport

The origin myth Frá Fornjóti ok hans ættmönnum survives in two variants, Fundinn Noregr and Hversu Noregr byggðist, both of which are preserved in Flateyjarbók. Both variants describe the descent from a primordial being named Fornjótr to the siblings Nórr, Górr, and Gói and the brother’s quest to find their sister after she is abducted. Along the way, Nórr conquers the mainland of northwestern Scandinavia and creates the kingdom of Norway, which he bequeaths to his sons. Górr conquers Norway’s coastal islands, becoming a sækonungr ‘sea-king.’ Despite this shared narrative core, significant differences in detail between the two variants attest to their differing histories. Fundinn Noregr survives as the preface to Orkneyinga saga, and is thus dated to, at the latest, that saga’s second production phase in the 1220s or 30s. Hversu Noregr byggðist is attested much later, and in the form preserved in Flateyjarbók shows signs of extensive expansion in the fourteenth century.

Each stage and variant of the Frá Fornjóti myth introduces new themes and political dimensions into the tradition; Fundinn Noregr provides an origin for the jarls of Orkney, who are positioned as the descendants of Górr. The core of Hversu Noregr byggðist explores the dissemination of the regional dynasties of Norway and anticipates the kingdom’s supposed reunification by Haraldr hárfagri; the expansion phase emphasises the importance of female dynasts in connecting the primordial dynasty of Nórr to prominent Icelandic and Norwegian progenitors.

This talk outlines the history of the Frá Fornjóti tradition from the early thirteenth to late fourteenth centuries, summarising and updating previous scholarly interpretations of the tradition. It explores the tradition’s evolving themes and the various interests—Norwegian, Orcadian, and Icelandic—that they served. Medieval origin myths served as a tool by which members of different medieval elites (spiritual, intellectual, political) aimed to legitimise their present social role by marrying their ancestry (sometimes literally) into the origins of the communities they sought to rule. As the late Susan Reynold’s wrote, the primary purpose of such myths was “to explain the present and promote its values.” These words serve as a mantra for my own endeavour to understand and interpret the shifting themes and forms of the Frá Fornjóti myth.

Ben Allport is a researcher on the ELITES-project at the University of Oslo. He was among the first cohort to study the Viking and Medieval Norse MA at the University of Iceland and University of Oslo and received his Ph.D. from Cambridge in 2018. His research focuses on the creation of community in medieval narrative sources

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Annett Krakow

Peculiarities of the Flateyjarbók version of Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta

Fimmtudaginn 17. mars, 2022, kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Annett Krakow

Flateyjarbók (c.1387–1394/95) preserves a version of the younger redaction of the so-called longest saga of the Norwegian king Óláfr Tryggvason. Compared with the older redaction and also AM 62 fol., another manuscript of the younger redaction, the Flateyjarbók version differs with regard to two aspects: First, interpolations related to the retainers who fight with King Óláfr in the decisive sea battle at Svǫlðr. Second, the last part of the saga, which covers the subsequent period of the king’s alleged survival until his death in a monastery.

In my talk, I will in particular focus on the first aspect. Even the older sagas of Óláfr Tryggvason by Oddr Snorrason and Snorri Sturluson named the men who fought on the king’s side, especially on his ship Ormrinn langi. In these sagas and in Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta, comparatively few of these men are referred to in other parts of the saga. In Flateyjarbók, attempts were made to diminish this discrepancy and to portray selected retainers. The modifications comprise additional stories in which they feature (for instance in the case of Þorsteinn uxafótr) and interpolations of names in the lists of retainers. A certain Hallsteinn, for example, is in Flateyjarbók explicitly identified as the son of Hrómundr halti and one of the protagonists in the interpolated Hrómundar þáttr halta. In the þættir, one learns that Hallsteinn and (partly) Þorsteinn uxafótr are of Icelandic descent. The same also holds true for Þorsteinn skelkr, whose name was added in the enumeration of retainers, and who is a character in an interpolated þáttr. Thus, Icelanders are among those men in Óláfr’s last battle, who are granted an intensified presentation in the saga.

Concerning the second aspect, modifications in the last part of the saga, one can, for example, note that chapters on Saint Óláfr and Haraldr harðráði were omitted. Moreover, the position of chapters related to the rule of Eiríkr Hákonarson was changed: placed after Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta, they create a transitional passage to Óláfs saga helga. In this transitional passage, one can find further interpolations. One of these is Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar, the eponymous hero of which participates in a ‘re-enactment’ of the fight on Ormrinn langi.

Annett Krakow works at the University of Silesia in Katowice (Poland). She holds an MA in English and Scandinavian Studies (2004) and a Ph.D. in Scandinavian Studies (2009) from Humboldt University, Berlin (Germany). Currently, her research focuses on Yngvars saga víðfǫrla and its reception in studies on Yngvarr’s expedition.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Jan Alexander van Nahl

The Domestication of Uncertainty

A New Reading of the Old Norse Kings’ Sagas

Fimmtudaginn 10. mars 2022 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Jan Alexander van Nahl

The Sturlungaöld is construed by scholars as a time of sociopolitical crisis, an assumption essentially built on the interpretation of saga literature. This crisis thus appears as something imaginary, fed by desires and fears — the experience of a break in continuity, stimulating the narrative construction of meaning, which reacted upon society. From this point of view, contradictions and ambiguities in the Old Norse sagas can be understood as tokens of time-conditioned instability.

It is against this assumption that my book „Kontingenz und Zufall in den altisländischen Königssagas“ (https://www.degruyter.com/document/isbn/9783110759280/html) focuses on the three grand compilations of Old Norse kings’ sagas: Fagrskinna, Heimskringla, and Morkinskinna. The most important novelty of this study is the radical shift of the theoretical foundation: whereas earlier interpretations of the kings’ sagas have argued against the premise of an outstanding competence of the saga characters (even linked to a vague concept of luck), my interest lies in the framework conditions and thus the bounds of human action. Focusing on relevant histories of mentality, both scholarly and everyday attitudes of the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries are taken into account: sweeping events and developments such as the crusades, the rediscovery of Aristotelian writings, the division of philosophy and theology, as well as the establishment of a new type of fictional literature.

The close reading of the kings’ sagas demonstrates a narrative potential which seems to strive for making sense of the often improbable course of Nordic history. This meaningful construct, however, is embraced by the obvious insight into the limitations of human interpretation. Still, these sagas are hard to dismiss as nothing but a farewell to the past, present and future. After all, uncertainty raises hope regarding the realization of human dreams. Thus, in the face of the narrative de-construction of history, the recipient is urged to find new coordinates in a world of ‘as if’, coordinates that contribute constructively to the relief from the burden of uncertainty.

The (political) message of the kings’ sagas could then be: whoever was competent to be a narrator was particularly qualified to establish order even in real life. However, another message would be: this domestication of uncertainty cannot be brought to a conclusion, the path is not finally determined. This ambivalence of power and powerlessness that defines human life until death is argued to be the significant core of the kings’ sagas.

Jan Alexander van Nahl holds an MA from the University of Bonn, and a Dr. phil. in Scandinavian Studies and Medieval Archaeology from the University of München (2012), where he also finished his Dr. habil. in Old Norse Studies in 2020. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Iceland from 2014 to 2017, assistant professor from 2019 to 2021, and is currently associate professor in medieval Icelandic literature. He has published on Old Norse literature, digital humanities, Icelandic culture, and the societal task of academia. He is a member of the Academy of Sciences and Letters in Agder, Norway.

Streymi/Stream: https://eu01web.zoom.us/j/61490557702

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