Medieval Matters: Week 5

The Old English Maxims II tells us that ‘winter byð cealdost’ (‘winter is coldest’) and I’m sure we’re all feeling the chill. It is my civic duty as an Italian to remind you to wrap up warmly to avoid a colpo d’aria, and my academic duty as an Old English scholar to inform you that winter is officially here! In fact, the Old English Menologium (Metrical Calendar) informs us in no uncertain terms that November 7th is the start of the coldest season:

Syþþan wintres dæg wide gangeð
on syx nihtum, sigelbeortne genimð
hærfest mid herige hrimes and snawes

[Six nights after that (i.e. November 1st, the feast of All Saints) Winter’s Day comes far and wide, and seizes sun-bright autumn with an army of ice and snow]

Whilst it might be cold outside, we can all take shelter in the warmth of a medieval seminar, or indeed, in our own homes, joining in online! Here is this week’s selection to keep the cold and the dark at bay:


  • On Monday, November 15, 2021 at 5pm the East of Byzantium Lecture (Maray Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture) will take place on Zoom. The speaker will be Sören Stark, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, ‘Eternal ‘Silk Road’? The Rise of Sogdiana during the 3rd–4th Centuries A.D.’ Advance registration is required. Registration closes at 2pm on November 15, 2021. Register:


Monday 8th November:

  • The Byzantine Graduate Seminar meets at 12.15-2pm on Teams. This week’s speaker is Jessica Varsallona (Birmingham), ‘Michael VIII Palaiologos and the southern shore of Constantinople‘. To register, please contact the organiser at or visit the eventbrite page.
  • The Medieval Latin Manuscript Reading Group meets at 1-2pm on Teams. Contact Matthew Holford, Andrew Dunning or Tuija Ainonen to be added to the Teams call.
  • The Medieval Archaeology Seminar meets at 3pm in the Institute of Archaeology, Seminar Room (limited places must be booked) and on Teams. This week’s speaker is Helen Gittos (Oxford), ‘Sutton Hoo & Syria: The Anglo-Saxons who served in the Byzantine Army?’.
  • The Medieval History Seminar meets at 5pm on Teams and in the Wharton Room. Attendance at the Wharton Room is by advance booking only as the room has a strict Covid-19 capacity limit. Bookings can be made at This week’s speaker is Len Scales (Durham), ‘The Holy Roman Empire: Global Histories 800-1519′.

Tuesday 9th November:

  • The Islamicate Manuscripts and Texts Reading Colloquium 2021 meets at 3pm on Zoom. This week’s speaker is Adam Flowers, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, ‘The Qur’an, Early Arabic Letters, and P.Utah.Ar.120′
  • The Medieval Book Club meets at 3.30pm in Magdalen College, Old Law Library. This week’s topic is ‘Supernatural Natural Sites’.
  • The Early Slavonic Webinar meets at 5pm on Zoom. This week’s speaker is Iulia Nitescu (Universityof Bucharest/New Europe College), ‘Let Your Brother be to youlike a Heathen and a Tax Collector’: Fashioning an OrthodoxDynastic Identity during the Reign of Ivan III of Moscow.
  • The Medieval Church and Culture Seminar meets at 5pm in Old Dining Hall, Harris Manchester College. This week’s speaker is Ian Forrest (Oriel), ‘Fragments of a feminist history of the late medieval clergy‘.
  • The Medieval French Research Seminar meets at 5pm at Maison française d’Oxford. This week’s speaker is Prof. Catherine Croizy-Naquet (Université Paris III), ‘Les Historiens et la langue’.

Wednesday 10th November:

  • The Medieval German Seminar meets at 11.15-12.45 in New Powell Room, Somerville College. If you are interested to be added to the mailing list for the seminar, write to Linus Ubl.
  • The TORCH Book at Lunchtime talk this week is on The Oxford Handbook of Danteedited by Professor Manuele Gragnolati, Professor Elena Lombardi and Professor Francesca Southerden. The talk takes place at 1-2pm, and you can watch live online.
  • The Seminar in Medieval and Renaissance Music takes place at 4.30-6.45pm on Zoom. If you are planning to attend, please register online. This week’s speaker is Paweł Gancarczyk (Associate Professor, Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw), ‘Music in a vanished kingdom: traces of fifteenth-century polyphony in the Teutonic Order State in Prussia‘. The discussants are Lenka Hlávková (Charles University, Prague) and Reinhard Strohm (University of Oxford).
  • The Late Antique and Byzantine Seminar meets at 5pm on Google Meet, followed by drinks at 7pm at Corpus Christi College. This week’s speakers are Theodora Antonopoulou (Athens), ‘Preaching in the Second Iconoclasm. The homilies of Joseph of Thessalonica’, and Stephanos Efthymiadis (Open University of Cyprus), ‘People and Power in Hagia Sophia (532-1204)
  • The Medieval English Research Seminar meets at 5.15pm in Lecture Theatre 2, Faculty of English. This week’s speaker will be Sarah McNamer (Georgetown), ‘A New Setting for the Pearl Poet’. For further information, contact

Thursday 11th November:

Friday 12th November:

  • The Anglo-Norman Reading Group meets at 5pm on Zoom. For texts, joining instructions, and further information, please email Stephanie Hathaway or Jane Bliss.

Saturday 13th November:

  • The Church Monuments Society Lecture Series: Whose Dead in Vaulted Arches Lie meets at 5pm on Zoom. This week’s talk is ‘Death in the Churchyard: Skeletons, skulls and bones on slate tombstones with Elizabeth Blood’. Attendance is free, but places must be booked via Eventbrite.
  • ‘Serata Dantesca’: Performances in Celebration of Dante will take place at 7.30pm at Holywell Music Room, Holywell Street, Oxford. A programme of music, poetry and dance presented in the Holywell Music Room, featuring performers who are almost all Oxford-based teachers, researchers and students. In addition to Italian and English readings and some older choral and solo musical compositions, new translations and settings have been specially commissioned for this commemorative occasion marking the 700th anniversary of the death of the great Italian poet. For tickets, please visit the Eventbrite page.


  • SCRIPTO at St Gall 2022: Medieval Writing Culture (V to XV c.): The Abbey Library of Saint Gall and the Chair for Mediaeval and Renaissance Latin at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg organize their third Summer School Medieval Writing Culture (V to XV century), which will be held from 16 till 20 May 2022. This SCRIPTO Summer School Saint Gall (SSSS) offers an introduction to history, morphology and cultural impact of western script. The application deadline is 1 March 2022. Those applicants accepted to the course will be charged 475€/500CHF (Accommodation included). It may be possible to receive a scholarship – if you are interested in a scholarship, send – an application for it together with your regular application. Further information (including the application form) may be obtained online:

Finally, some more wintery Old English wisdom from Bede:

he on þa tid þe he inne bið ne bið hrinen mid þy storme þæs wintres
[He during the time that he is inside will not be touched by winter’s storm]

I interpret this advice to mean: when it’s cold and dark outside, go to seminars! There might even be warming drinks afterwards…

A Medievalist wrapped up warmly in his winter coat but laments that he forgot his gloves and now has cold hands… Merton College, MS 249, f. 3v.
View image and text in the Taylor Edition by Sebastian Dows-Miller

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