Friggatriskaidekaphobia at Kalamazoo

22 May

Session 201: Cyril and Methodius: New Research on the Cyrillo-Methodian Mission and Its Aftermath

Session 255: The Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe: Hoarding

Session 319: Miracles and Politics in the Development of Early English Saints’ Cults

Cassian’s Long Shadow

Or if you prefer the Greek form, paraskevidekatriaphobia. I’m a pretty non-superstitious person. I’m mean of course it’s bad luck to walk under a ladder – it might fall on you or the person working up there might drop something. I didn’t see much fear of Friday the Thirteenth going on in Michigan this year either but I like it better than “Kalamazoo: Day 2” as a title, though it may not do much for people doing web searches for ICMS summaries.

After breakfast I walked up to Valley I for the Blogger meetup. I knew of this event last year but didn’t go – I wasn’t sure if it was an academic thing (Medieval academic anyway) and nobody invited me. Since Jonathan Jarrett gave me the thumbs-up, I decide this year I’d show. 1

This was a good move. I got there just about at 8, maybe a touch early and took a seat at a table by myself. I thought I might recognize exactly two of the bloggers and neither of them were there at that point. I didn’t recognize Steve Muhlberger for the second year in a row either. After a few minutes a gentleman came over, asked if I was who I am and it was Steve. Last year Paul Gans, Steve and I were supposed to go out to dinner together. Paul told me the next day that we’d walked right past him. This time I sat 20 feet from him. Must work on my facial recognition skills.

Anyway, Steve and I visited for a bit and other folks started to show up. Lisa Carnell was first. Now if Lisa has a blog, I don’t know what it is but I know she’s the Congress Coordinator so that was way cool. More folks started to arrive. By the time everyone was there, we had Another Damned Medievalist or ADM (who neglected to tell us that she’s thinking of joining The Evil Empire), Jonathan, Notorious Ph.D., Vaulting & Vellum, Larry Swain, and a couple of folks who I don’t remember – I’m thinking Heptarchy Herald was one of them but I’m not 100% on that. Check Jonathan’s blog when he gets his K’zoo stuff up. He’s about 2 months behind by the calendar with his catching us up with what he’s been doing so it may be a little while but I’m sure it’ll be worth it.

This was a good time and I can see why it might have gone over well in a bar. I got to hang out with a bunch of folks who are smarter than me and they managed not to laugh at me (at least I think they were laughing with me). So I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed the Acronym discussion, among others. The bloggers are as smart and entertaining in person as they are on their blogs. 2

After the meetup I drove up to Schneider for Session 201, “Cyril and Methodius: New Research on the Cyrillo-Methodian Mission and Its Aftermath.” 3

The first paper was by Maddalena Betti of the University degli Studi di Padova, “The Rise of ‘Sancta Ecclesia Marabensis’: The Missionary Letters of Pope John VII (872-882).” I’m looking at a page and a half of notes and wondering how to summarize it into a paragraph, which is all the space I’ve given myself for each paper this year. I have a feeling I’m going to violate some rules of grammar in these posts. Betti’s discussion centered around John VII’s letters found in a Monte Cassigno manuscript which she believes shows the Pope’s missionary emphasis. I’m going to gloss over a historiography review she gave summarizing some ways in which history has been misrepresented more recently for various reasons and get to what I considered the most interesting aspect of this. At this point Rome was looking for ways to strengthen its claim against Constantinople for primacy over the Eastern European Church. John’s letters dating from around 873 to Carolingian and Bavarian Bishops use the term “Pannonian” to illustrate, by using the Roman provincial name for (roughly) the region in question, that this region was subject to Rome and should remain so as the church was organized. Later, beginning in 880, in his instructions for how to organize the area into a Metropolitan Church he uses the term, “Moravian” to describe the Church. In Betti’s opinion this was directed to those in the region and would ethnically define the Church. There’s a lot to go through here and entire books have been written about the tug-of-war between Rome and Constantinople over who got their hands on this piece of real estate from an ecclesiastical standpoint. This is one piece of that struggle and shows the ability of the Papacy to tailor its message based on how it wanted to frame a discussion. That last should be no surprise to anyone but the way in which John VII did this is interesting. Lisa Wolverton asked a very interesting question afterwards as to whether the use of the term Moravian would have been an effort to use locally familiar terms rather than a change in the focus of the message. For me, one does not preclude the other and it may have been for both purposes.

Roland Marti of the University des Saarlandes gave a paper, “‘… quasi in signum unitatis Ecclesiae’: East and West in the Cyrillo-Methodian Heritage” which looked at things from the perspective of what the residents of Eastern Europe thought of their new-found religion. They adopted a neutral stance, despite Cyril and Methodius favoring Byzantine interests. The Bulgarians used Slavonic as a language of religion which Marti believes was a means of distinguishing themselves from the Byzantines. Their lettering was Cryllic but they retained the Slavonic for use and the Bulgarian Church showed considerable western influence to the point of their calendars including western saints. Above all, Marti believes they wanted to carve out their own identity and not be either an Eastern or Western Church.

The final paper was, “Interpreting Holy Men: Cyril and Methodius as Saints in the Earliest Tradition and in the Later Bohemian Hagiography (Ninth to Fourteenth Century) by David Kalhous, an Independent Scholar. It took me a while to sink my teeth into this paper. Ultimately, Kalhous wanted to show how the Cyril/Methodius story changed over time and what that meant. Basically, in the earlier recountings the emphasis was on the Church. As described in the stories, the Slavonic liturgy was equal to the Eastern and Western liturgies and the Bulgarian Church was worthy to exist alongside the Roman and Byzantine. The later tradition focused much more on ethnic/nationalistic concerns. All was lost for Moravia until the arrival of Christianity. Much more emphasis was placed on the Moravian nobility and the stories were intended to create a Bohemian identity and engender a sense of worth as a people.

This session was a bit tougher. None of the speakers were presenting in their native language and there was a tendency for them to focus on what they were reading, which took away from the presentation. It was still a good session with some very interesting information.

After that I headed back to Valley for my final shot at the books. All I had left were two used bookstores, Loome and Powell’s. Of course those are two of my favorites. My mistake is that I was wearing a sports coat and left it on, and Friday was another warm one. By the time I’d gone through those two shops and made my final Congress purchases I was pretty well soaked. Fortunately I had a few minutes to get to my room and sit in front of a fan so I wasn’t too repulsive (I hope) by the time I went back to Schneider for Session 255, “The Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe: Hoarding.”

I’m only going to discuss two of these papers. For the second paper I have almost no notes so either it didn’t interest me, I didn’t follow it or, more likely, both. A dim possibility is I pretty well knew the topic already but I’m going to discount that alternative. Marcin Woloszyn of the Instytut Archeologii I Etnologii started things off with a very interesting paper, “Avars, Scandinavians, Slavs and Byzantine Coins: Hoard and Hoarding in East-Central Europe between the Sixth and Eighth Centuries.” This paper examined coin finds from the area which comprised the Avar Khaganate and just north; Eastern Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. He divided the finds into three periods and discussed those finds and their implications. The finds indicate substantial Byzantine influence to the later 7th century, afterwards more Western influence. There are few documented finds of bronze coins though he believes there may be more than have been reported as many museums have finds in their holdings and exhibits, but the finds were so poorly documented at the time of excavation that they tend not to be attributed to the region. An interesting fact is that there are very few finds in the center of the Khaganate, most are from the periphery. He gave two explanations for this, one I agree with and one not. He thinks the Avars had a different way of displaying social status and much of the gold was melted down into jewelry, an explanation I like. He also stated that Charlemagne seized much Avar treasure in wars however, for me, this would have been a reason for Avars to start burying the stuff so he couldn’t find it. Granted, Charlemagne could move swiftly, but not so swiftly as to preclude someone from going into the woods and digging a hole.

The final paper of the session was by Florin Curta, the organizer of this and the previous session, from the University of Florida and someone who, if you feel the urge, you can “like” on Facebook. He also has a Wikipedia page. Each of the last three years I’ve tried to get to his sessions if they don’t conflict with something I’m really interested in. I am interested in this area but it’s not number one on my list. However in my experience the sessions have always been very good. Dr. Curta’s paper was, “Trade or Taxes? Hoards of Iron Implements and Weapons in Ninth-Century Moravia.” In this paper he discusses several Moravian iron finds. One was the site of Pohansko-Lesni Skolka in Moravia where a ceramic container holding a variety of iron tools as a hoard was found in a sunken-floor building however what was of most interest to me were the iron ingots found at a variety of sites. These did not originate from Moravia but came from elsewhere and he believes these were tribute payments, not trade items. I was going to add more but you can read pretty much the entire thing yourself (which I’m going to – I found it because I was looking for an image of the axe-shaped ingots he discussed in his paper to post here). This fits in rather well with an essay of his I read a little while back discussing the 6th century amber trade in Eastern Europe.

For this session the first and third papers were very good and evidently, from my notes, the second one didn’t do much for me.

The next session started half an hour later in the same building and I was fortunate enough to meet Michelle Ziegler of Heavenfield and Contagions fame and chat with her for a few minutes while I re-hydrated from my swim through the book exhibit. I enjoy her blog as I think the Justinian Plague is very interesting, though I don’t have anything close to her knowledge of it.

So I made a 90 degree rotation through Schneider to Session 319, “Miracles and Politics in the Development of Early English Saints’ Cults” – more Dead Holy People!

The first paper was, “Divide and Conquer: West Saxon Relics in the Reign of Cnut,” by Nicole Marafioti of Trinity University. This was a very interesting paper and she gave a nice presentation. Marafioti discussed how Cnut used his treatment of English Saints to indicate his approval/disapproval of a region of England and for political purposes. He had Aelfheah’s relics translated from St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, to Christ Church at Canterbury. London was the Church of Edmond Ironside and a location which held out against Cnut for a long time. The translation may have been a pointed lesson to Londoners. He treated the remains of Edmond very respectfully – and carried them away to be buried 150 miles from London where a cult resistant to him couldn’t form. He also distributed Edward the Marty’s relics to many locations, dispersing his cult. Marafioti also related a story from William of Malmesbury regarding Edith of Wilton and Cnut where on opening her tomb the saint bodily rose up and assaulted the King for disturbing her. The King did not believe that the daughter of so evil a man as Edgar could be a saint. After this Cnut became a patron of her cult and Marafioti believes this story may have been a later story to help legitimize his reign. Good paper.

In looking at my notes, I’m going to refrain from commenting on the other two papers. I took a fair amount of notes for the second one which discussed St. Cuthbert but I didn’t write down any kind of dominant theme and I’m afraid that for the third I was drifting, badly. Bad Geek. But the first paper was very good.

That evening, after a couple of beers, I made a brief foray to the Digital Medieval Poster Session, which I’ve previously mentioned. Then I went to an evening session sponsored by WMU’s Center for Cistercian and Monastic Studies and the American Benedictine Academy, “Cassian’s Long Shadow.”

The first paper was by Duncan Robertson of Augusta State University, “Experientia Praecedente: Cassian on Reading.” This was a good paper but the sum purpose was simply to illustrate that Cassian wanted people to do more than just read but to experience the scriptures. Reading is valueless unless the text is intellectually and emotionally internalized. An interesting sidebar is that Cassian advises teaching children to read very early, even carving out wooden blocks with letters. This may be very 20th century but when I was a kid we had blocks with letters on them so that piece of advice had some legs to it.

The final paper was by F. Tyler Sergent, “Cassian and William of Saint-Thierry on the Incarnation and the Spiritual Union.” In this paper Sergent discusses the use William made of Cassian, focusing primarily on Conferences, X. He wanted people to move from a physical to a spiritual vision of God, to engage in imageless prayer. William believed this was part of the progression of man from an animal, to rational to, finally, a spiritual state. Though man will always be somewhat animal (among other things, he must eat to live) he must move beyond a reliance on the physical senses to a more elevated state. Cassian did not believe in the use of images in worship, thinking these impede seeing Christ spiritually. William picked up on this theme and believed that man, even on Earth, could achieve a unity of spirit with God which, though fleeting, would be a profound experience. These were both good papers though at the end of the second one the questions went in the wrong direction IMO, into a discussion of errors of William. I’ve gone to these before and usually they have a short break and then get into the religious discussions in the sense of orthodoxy of belief, etc. This year they jumped right to it before I could excuse myself. It was still interesting and I learned a fair amount though I don’t know if I’ll ever read Cassian. I pulled out Conferences while writing this and my edition, Ancient Christian Writers Series Number 57, Boniface Ransey, trans., New York: Newman Press (1997), is nearly 900 pages. I think it may have to serve simply as a reference. I read Augustine’s City of God all the way through – isn’t that enough?

That ended my sessions for the day. I went back to my room and called someone to cancel meeting him at Bilbo’s that evening (don’t worry, he had plenty of others going to make up for my absence). Then I started going through my books, mainly so I’d know which sellers I’d need to visit Saturday to pick up display copies. In the process I discovered that rather than buying fewer and better books, I had bought more and better books than usual. Uh-oh.

1 As I’ve mentioned before, I am an academic but it’s an Extension appointment which is kind of a different sort of setup and sometimes hard to explain to those who aren’t in our little corner of the universe (or cult). I feel like I sort of blew off ADM when she asked me what I teach but I’ve never been able to really explain it in under 20 minutes – I have no “official” teaching appointment or load but I teach a lot and I have no research appointment but I do a fair amount of that too. The reason I don’t talk about my real life or job (much) isn’t to hide anything (I have a heckuva sales pitch for anyone thinking of getting into Extension) but because for the most part it isn’t relevant to my Medieval hobby.

2 When I use the term not smart re Medieval History I’m not referring to basic intelligence but to my knowledge level. IOW, I consider myself topically ignorant, not stupid.

3 As a very brief synopsis for those who may not be familiar with this, two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, were sent by the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Byzantine Emperor on a series of missions to the peoples of Eastern Europe to convert them to Christianity in the mid-9th century. They were very successful but, among other things, this gave the Eastern and Western Churches one more thing to fight about.


Posted by on May 22, 2011 in Conferences, Other Blogs


Tags: , , , ,

4 responses to “Friggatriskaidekaphobia at Kalamazoo

  1. Jonathan Jarrett

    December 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Since a bunch of your old posts have just pinged mine (fixing links?) I’m going to acknowledge the welcome pingbacks by answering this:

    I sort of blew off ADM when she asked me what I teach but I’ve never been able to really explain it in under 20 minutes

    Isn’t the short answer `agronomy’?

    I will, I promise, get more blog up soon…

    • Curt Emanuel

      December 19, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      I do – sometimes. But I have a 100% Extension appointment. Which means most of what I teach is not in a classroom, or to students. Most of my clientele are adults. And sometimes all I do is get other folks to come in and teach stuff I don’t know enough about. Plus every now and then I have to go learn something completely new to meet a local agricultural need. It’s a tough system to explain briefly.

      I’m afraid that my re-formatting these older posts are probably throwing pingbacks at folks like crazy. Nothing for it I’m afraid. Or if there is I don’t know how to stop it.

      • Jonathan Jarrett

        December 20, 2012 at 9:49 am

        You can, actually, switch it off in Settings -> Discussion, it’s the first option (on my screen anyway), “Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article”. But I don’t mind, it’s already served to remind several people about my Christmas Charter Madlib just at the right time of year…

        • Curt Emanuel

          December 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm

          One more item of proof that I have poor study habits. Or something. Anyway, the deed is done, I hope. I would like to know why it decided to go wonky over 11 months after I migrated everything but I suspect I won’t know the answer to that one.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: