Coffee Morning with Professor William Chester Jordan

The Faculty of History and Oxford Medieval Studies are pleased to invite you to an informal meet and greet coffee morning with William Chester Jordan (Professor of Medieval History,
Princeton University) on the occasion of his reception of an honorary degree of the University of Oxford.
When? Thursday 23rd June, 10.30am-12 noon
Where? The garden of Harris Manchester College (Mansfield Road), or in the Warrington
Room in the case of rain.
Coffee and croissants will be provided.
For catering purposes, please register your attendance here by 14th June:

Bill Jordan gave the 2021 Oxford Medieval Studies keynote lecture “A Thirteenth-Century Polymath Considers the Jews” – watch it here:

Oxford Medieval Studies lecture 2021

OMS Small Grants TT 2022

The TORCH Oxford Medieval Studies Programme invites applications for small grants to support conferences, workshops, and other forms of collaborative research activity organised by researchers at postgraduate (whether MSt or DPhil) or early-career level from across the Humanities Division at the University of Oxford.

The activity should take place between June 2022 and January 2023. The closing date for applications is Friday of Week 5 of Trinity Term (27 May 2022).

Grants are normally in the region of £100–250. Recipients will be required to supply a report after the event for the TORCH Medieval Studies blog. Recipients of awards will also be invited to present on their events at the next Medieval Roadshow.

Applicants will be responsible for all administrative aspects of the activity, including formulating the theme and intellectual rationale, devising the format, and, depending on the type of event, inviting speakers and/or issuing a Call for Papers, organising the schedule, and managing the budget, promotion and advertising. Some administrative and organisational support may be available through TORCH subject to availability.

Applications should be submitted to  using the grant application form. Applications submitted in other formats or after the deadline will not be considered.

Informal enquiries may be directed to

The Oxford Medieval Studies Programme is sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

For more medieval matters from Oxford, have a look at the website of the Oxford Medieval Studies TORCH Programme and the OMS blog!

Image: OMS Small grant being given to John (or: Bamberg Apocalypse, Staatsbibliothek Bamberg Msc.Bibl.140)

Reflections on directing a mystery play in French

by Prof. David Wiles

The French play was part of the Oxford Medieval Mystery Cycle performed on 23 April 2022 in St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford. The Playgroup: Les Soeurs de Sainte-Hilde (avec la participation de quelques paysans d’Iffleï) had been formed for the occasion by director: David Wiles The play is part of a cycle, ‘Le mystère de la passion’, written in the mid C15th by Arnoul Gréban, organist at Notre Dame cathedral, and doubtless also choirmaster. Full text available open access.

People ask me: “Why did you decide to do a play in French?”  Implication: it’s an English-speaking audience, and they won’t understand – middle-English bad enough.  Three responses to this one. 1. Political:  not good to live in a monoglot culture, and unlike modern scholarship the medieval world did not view life through the lens of the nation-state. 2. Theatrical:  to communicate through action and the body is a challenge which forces actors to engage with language on a different level, and reach out to their audience. 3. Intellectual:  venturing into Gréban’s text was a journey of discovery, as impenetrable hieroglyphs yielded slowly through rehearsal into recognisable speech patterns, with every phrase having its theatrical work to do. What looks like literary doggerel turns out to be theatrical gold.

An interesting research question follows – what are the cultural continuities that make Gréban’s mighty four-day passion play recognisably French, when set alongside the familiar English cycles?  Centralisation is one feature – responsibility not subdivided to autonomous guilds, but a single integrated work for an urban community to mount.  Another is the French ability to listen and maintain concentration upon the word.  In the English texts, action typically takes place between stanzas, but in the French text couplets conjoin speeches, so each new speaker has a rhyme to echo in order to come in on cue, a feature we found invaluable.  The sustained rhythmic flow ratchets up the tension, with enough variety of register and poetic form to hold the spectator’s attention. Like the alexandrines of Racine, the eight-syllable medieval line has a lilt that asks to be animated by the arms, so different from English metres which asked to be stamped with the feet.

After seeing the performance, a friend asked me: “What lesson was the play is supposed to impart?”  Implication: medieval theatre was didactic, a case of the church telling the peasants what to think. There is no simple moral to the John the Baptist sequence.  In the artistic structure John’s martyrdom is there because it foreshadows Christ’s.  People didn’t need telling that tyrants are venal, rather, it’s the recognisable social reality upon which a drama is built. Herod has his reasons for acting, and he washes his hands like Pilate. The medieval Salome is an enigma – we are free to draw our own conclusions, not told what to think. The urge to create theatre or art is a human constant, responding to the sensation of life as a cosmic mystery.  The idea that medieval theatre is ‘didactic’ is a handy modernist cliché, serving the narrative of progress, and all the cultural arrogance which that narrative commonly instils.  My preferred picture of the longue durée is one of progressive fragmentation, and I find in medieval theatre a holistic model of how theatre used to embrace and address a complete community in all its diversity, along with the gamut of human experience – comic and tragic, bestial and sublime – before dedicated theatre buildings and professionalism in acting and penmanship locked theatre into its lonely compartment.

David Wiles is Emeritus Professor of Drama at the University of Exeter, and lives in Iffley. He is a theatre historian whose main specialisms have been Greek and Shakespearean drama. He wrote the entry on medieval theatre for the Oxford Illustrated History of the Theatre. His medieval CV includes a student production of the plays of the Wakefield Master in the gardens of Westminster Abbey, Mankynde in the Burton Taylor rooms, a crucifixion on a farmer’s trailer in Buckingham marketplace, staging three plays by the C10th nun Roswitha, and a community production of the N-Town Creation/Fall and York Noah in Iffley.

Repeat performance of the play at Iffley Church on 24 April 2022. Cast: John the Baptist – Laurence Nagy Manasses (disciple) – Alice Hawkins Sophonias (disciple) – Laura Laube Herod – Alex Marshall Herodias – Irina Boeru Salome – Alice Hawkins Groignart A (servant) – Kate Bunn Groignart B (servant) – Andrew Stilborn Amphiarus (noble) – David Wiles Radigon (noble) – Laura Laube God – Henrike Lähnemann Crew: Director: David Wiles Consultant: Sebastian Dows-Miller Head Creator: Andrew Stilborn Filmed by Isabel Reichenbach

The Oxford Medieval Mystery Cycle 2022

23 April 2022, 12noon to 5pm. A cycle of medieval mystery plays performed by various groups around St Edmund Hall. A multilingual medieval experience not to be missed! All welcome (free of charge)! Performed by a variety of groups with links to Oxford Medieval Studies. Full information
Directors: Henrike Lähnemann & Lesley Smith, Manager: Eleanor Baker


The cycle will be streamed via the St Edmund Hall Youtube Channel. Just tune in any time to follow the unfolding drama!

At 12 noon, the chapel bell will ring for the prologue, followed by Creation in the Old Dining Hall. From there the story of mankind will unfold, with the Old Testament being acted out in the Front Quad and the New Testament in the churchyard around St Peter-in-the-East.

Front Quad –
11:45-12:00 midday Musical Entertainment
12:00-12:05 Introduction
12:10-12:40 1. Creation and the Fall of Adam (Faculty of English)
12:45- 12:55 2. The Killing of Abel (Holloway Mystery Players)
1:00 – 1:25 3. Noah (Medieval Studies Students)

Churchyard –
1:30 – 1:50 4. The Visitation (Jasmine and the Kilnsians)
1:55- 2:20 5. The Shepherds’ Play (The Pastoral Players)
2:25- 2:40 6. The Magi (The Wise Women)
2:45 – 2:55 7. Herod the Great (The 5th Week Blues)
3:10 – 3:30 8. John the Baptist (Les Soeurs de Sainte-Hilde avec la participation de quelques paysans d’Iffleï)
3:35 – 3:55 9. Lazarus (Medieval Masters)
4:00 – 4:15 10. The Crucifixion (The Manic Medievalists)
4:20-5:00 11. The Resurrection (The Mercantile Minstrels)

Medieval Coffee Mornings are back!

Medievalists Coffee Mornings back from 22 April @bodleiancsb. Every Friday 10:30-11:30am in the Visiting Scholars Centre in the Weston Library. Access via the Readers Entrance on Museum Road. All bodcard holders welcome!

  • Tea
  • Roof terrace
  • Sneak preview of new acquisitions

@oxmedstud grads: Apply NOW to Chris Fletcher for title of “bibliobarista” to help & pick items for discussion!

Dag Nikolaus Hasse (Würzburg University): What is European? Medieval, Colonial and Postcolonial Perspectives

Friday, 10 June 2022, 5pm, in St Edmund Hall, Old Library

We often talk about Europe, but our traditional ideas about European culture are questionable. This is because we carry views from the colonial and romantic periods that distort our image of history and geography and may prove a burden for future coexistence on the continent. I would like to encourage us to think more openly about Europe, about its broad cultural roots and its intensive relations with its continental neighbours. 
This includes reflecting on medieval clichés: medieval Europe was not a “Christian land” as the Romantics Novalis and Chateaubriand dreamed it. It was much more than that.

If you would like to participate remotely, please contact Henrike Lähnemann to be added to a teams call.

Storyteller (meddah) at a coffeehouse in the Ottoman Empire. The first coffeehouses appeared in the Islamic world in the 15th century. Source: Wikimedia

The legacy of Oxford Palaeographers

The Legacy of Oxford Palaeographers is a one-day workshop that will focus on the palaeographic terminology used by key Oxford palaeographers, organised by Colleen Curran and David Rundle. Register here

About this event

This one-day workshop on 21 March 2022 at the MBI Al Jaber Building, Corpus Christi College, Oxford, will focus on E. A. Lowe, Neil Ker, Malcolm Parkes and A. C. de la Mare. The intention is not to be biographical but to discuss each person’s contribution to the discipline of palaeography, with specific emphasis on the varying terminology they used. Our speakers will focus on these palaeographers’ larger research outputs and the methodologies contained within, how these resources are still fundamental within the field, and what aspects, if any, need to be updated, questioned, or challenged. Therefore, this event will not only be retrospective but will also encourage participants to think about the future directions of the field. We further anticipate that the workshop will facilitate conversations about how we employ palaeography terminology ourselves.


10.45–11.15: Coffee/Registration (Rainolds Room, Corpus Christi College)

11.15–11.30: Introduction (Colleen Curran & David Rundle)

11.30–1: Panel 1: E.A. Lowe

  • Chair: Stephen Harrison  
  • David Ganz 
  • Giovanni Varelli 
  • Jo Story

1–2: Lunch (Rainolds Room, Corpus Christi College)

2–3.30: Panel 2: N.R. Ker

  • Chair: Christopher de Hamel
  • Julia Crick
  • Elaine Treharne
  • James Willoughby 

3.30–4: Tea/Coffee Break (Rainolds Room, Corpus Christi College)

4–5: Panel 3: M.B. Parkes

  • Chair: Pam Robinson
  • Tessa Webber
  • Daniel Wakelin

5–5.15: Comfort Break

5.15–6: Panel 4: A. C. de la Mare

  • Chair: Laura Nuvoloni
  • David Rundle
  • Martin Kauffmann

6–6.30: Respondent: Dáibhí Ó Cróinín

6.30: Drinks Reception (Rainolds Room, Corpus Christi College)

Latin-Old High German Compline

On 17 February 2022, 9:15pm GMT, the St Edmund Consort sings Compline from the crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East, including a bilingual setting of verses from the ‘Christe qui lux est et dies’ from the Murbach Hymnal, MS. Junius 25, by James Whitbourn. Live-streamed via youtube from the Crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East. Booklet with texts.

Compline is the last service of the canonical hours in the Christian tradition, sung before retiring for the night. This version hints at the experience of those who created and used the ninth-century Murbach hymnal (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Junius 25) with their daily exposure to the Divine Office in Latin, making the hymns and liturgical pieces accessible through translation and commentary. The service tonight is not a historically accurate reconstruction of a specific service, rather an experiment to make the soundscape of Latin and Old High German liturgy and hymns accessible to a 21st century audience. We are grateful to the Principal and Fellows of St Edmund Hall for the permission to use the crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East; to James Whitbourn, Director of Music, for setting verses from the Murbach Hymns to music (to the best of our knowledge the first time this has been done for the Old High German interlinear gloss!) and for conducting; to the St Edmund Consort, a recently formed group of fellows, alumni and singers linked with St Edmund Hall; to Luise Morawetz for organising the workshop which inspired this; to Andrew Dunning for typesetting the music; to Christiane Gante who translated the Gloria Patri into Old High German; to Henrike Lähnemann for compiling the text; to all participants of the workshop who contributed their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Programme of the workshop. In association with the Bodleian Libraries and Oxford Medieval Studies, sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH). Image credit: First lines of the Murbach hymns (fol. 122v, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Junius 25). Produced by Tom Revell

Workshop on Medieval Germany

Professor Len Scales (Durham) writes: A one-day workshop on Medieval Germany is being held on 6 May 2022 in the splendid surroundings of the German Historical Institute in Bloomsbury. The workshop will maintain the traditions of friendliness and informality familiar to those of you who have attended before. We expect to be face to face and, on past tradition, to maintain the sociability and discussion in the pub afterwards. Papers of 10-15 minutes are invited, with those exploring problems of work in progress particularly welcome. Chronology and geography generously defined. There will be invited guest papers by Prof. Eva Schlotheuber (Düsseldorf) and Prof. Wolfram Drews (Münster). Attendance is free.

I attach the call for papers, with further details. Please note that the deadline for submitting proposals, to Dr Marcus Meer at GHIL (, has been extended to 31 January 2022. Please see the call for papers also for funding support available for North American (US and Canada) and UK doctoral students wishing to attend.

Hoping we might see some of you in Bloomsbury in the spring.

Report on OMS Activities 2020/21

A group of people

Description automatically generated with low confidence
The first meeting of the 2020-2021 Oxford Medieval Studies team, from left to right, top to bottom: Francis Leneghan (Co-Director), Mary Boyle (Mentor for the MSt Programme), Tom Revell (Events Coordinator), Sarah Bridge (Postgraduate Rep), Mark Williams (Director of the Medieval Studies Master Programme), Caroline Batten (Comms Officer and Mentor for the MSt Programme), Scott Moynihan (Postgraduate Rep), Llewelyn Hopwood (Social Media Coordinator), Alexandra Vukovich (Mentor for the MSt Programme), Henrike Lähnemann (Co-Director)

Oxford Medieval Studies has had another hugely productive year, despite – or even partly because of – the pandemic. Following the excellent advice of TORCH’s Nikki Carter, we decided to expand the team to cover different aspects of communication and online events management (see image and the report on the team). Under the stewardship of Caroline Batten as Comms Officer who developed the weekly email into a poetic artform, a whole wassail of postgraduate medievalists pulled the digital strings, commissioned and wrote blog posts, ran conferences, tweeted, recorded roundtables, and in between used every open air medieval venue around Oxford to meet covid-safe in person. A splendid example for this was the ‘Dark Archives 2.0’ conference which kicked off the academic year (read a report by Llewelyn and Tom about their experience in running the conference); Stephen Pink who organised this for Medium Aevum had already in 2019 conceived this as a digital-born conference ( so that in September 2020 we were ahead of the learning curve of zoomified academic life. We even dared – and pulled off – a medieval Compline, sung in Latin from five locations around Oxford, including the Norman Crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East, the library church of St Edmund Hall.

The Hilary Term Interdisciplinary Lecture, live streamed via the OMS Youtube channel, was delivered by Prof. William Chester Jordan, as was the reflection by Jim Harris from the Ashmolean on the importance of objects for teaching medieval studies. Together, the videos of the OMS channel attracted several thousand views since its start a year ago. The medieval studies booklets have been downloaded over 1500 times, the weekly newsletter has over 700 subscribers and the twitter feed @OxMedStud is reaching nearly 5,000 followers.

With the new academic year, we are starting to bring back in-person events while continuing with online events for outreach purposes. What definitely will be a live all-sensory event is the second edition of the Medieval Mystery Cycle which is planned for 23 April 2021 and will bring together a dozen different groups of medievalists, performing multi-lingually in various locations around St Edmund Hall. Like 2019, it will be directed by Henrike Lähnemann and Lesley Smith who has also now taken on the role as Co-Director. Also new in the team is Luisa Ostacchini who has taken over the Communications Officer role from Caroline Batten and is making the weekly emails even more colourful with newly captioned snippets from Oxford manuscripts.

Henrike Lähnemann (Modern Languages)

Lesley Smith (History)


Description automatically generated
A selection of blog posts from the start of the academic year 2020-21: Medieval advice on social distancing, a how-to guide to applying for a PhD and much more