Opening congress of COST Action IS1301: New Communities of Interpretation. Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

As I am writing this, the first Congress of a new European network is being opened: Since last September, COST Action IS1301 has been under way, with over 100 researchers setting out to study ‘Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation’. Many people working on religion and/or book history in the Late Medieval and Early Modern period will already have heard of this COST Action, but for those who haven’t, some basic facts:

COST Action networks are very large research networks financed by the European Union to further issues that are already being researched in many European countries. Obviously, there is much potential in galvanizing themes that are being treated in a disconnected fashion in national and disciplinary research cultures. In our case, the COST Action works as a four-year network established through a series of congresses and workshops – a staggering 6 or 8 a year – with attendant publications and website (under construction). Training schools (Summer schools) and some grants enabling travel will be advertised specifically for young researchers.

The theme of IS1301 – short title „New communities of interpretation“ is uniquely apt to this framework, I think: Put together by a team of scholars under the guidance of Sabrina Corbellini from Groningen, it is basically a federation of individual scholars, research groups and smaller networks all working on the ‘long fifteenth century’ and on religious transformations occurring in the Late Medieval and Early Modern period – transformations that are strongly connected and can only be explained in relation to each other, but which have been seen through the lens of national research perspectives, or, alternately, divvied up between literature, history and other disciplines. Seeing from the vantage point of medieval historian, the network seems to contain an great number of literature scholars – which makes it highly interesting, as there are many different research interests and grand narratives of religious change at work which do not conform with the usual fare of historians. Even though I am not an expert in the field, I am also impressed by what seems a great number of people working very closely with the material texts, not only their content, but also their transmission and mediality.

It is hard to sum up this huge endeavour in short words, but the general idea, to me, seems to be to re-work a field currently marred by the deeply rutted tracks of older grand narratives of ‘the Reformation’, ‘humanism’, ‘modernization’ and so on. To quote from the original application (downloadable from the COST website as ‘Memorandum of understanding’, the period is „traditionally depicted as one of great cultural discontinuity and binary oppositions between learned (Latin) and unlearned (vernacular) and ecclesiastical hierarchy and the lay believers. Challenging stereotypical descriptions of exclusion of lay and non-Latinate people from religious and cultural life the project, with participation of European entities from at least 12 countries, will concentrate on the reconstruction of the process of emancipation of the laity and the creation of new “communities of interpretations”. The project will therefore analyze patterns of social inclusion and exclusion and examine shifts in hierarchic relations amongst groups, individuals and their languages, casting new yet profoundly historical light on themes of seminal relevance to present-days societies.“

After a kick-off meeting at Brussels last fall, this congress is the first big event of the network, and it will mostly be used to set the agenda in our different WGs (work groups ) and discuss approaches. Below I list some of the programme, which is largely mixed between discussion and short presentations.

I hope to be able to write a conference report later….

Programme: Plenary Meeting COST Action IS 1301

New Communities of Interpretation”

Rome, 13-15 February 2014

In collaboration with: Academia Belgica Royal Dutch Institute in Rome British School at Rome

Plenary Meeting COST Action IS 1301, “New Communities of Interpretation Rome, 13-15 February 2014

Thursday 13 February Location: Academia Belgica, Via Omero 8, 00197 Rome

14.00-18.00: Plenary session Welcome by Chair and Vice-Chair

Sabrina Corbellini & John Thompson: Centers, peripheries, individuals and communities: the “behind the scenes” of the COST-Action Pavlina Rychterova: The power of language: late medieval social identities and the vernaculars

Géraldine Veysseyre & OPVS-research team: From Flexibility to Popularity? Or the Other Way Round? Old Pious Vernacular Successes Crossing Borders Bart Ramakers: Collecting, reading, writing, performing: the practice approach


Friday 14 February

9.00-12.00: WG-sessions

Locations: WG1: British School at Rome (Via Antonio Gramsci 61, 00197 Rome) WG2: Academia Belgica (Via Omero 8, 00197 Rome) WG3: Royal Dutch Institute (Via Omero 10, 00197 Rome)

12.00-14.00: Lunch (Academia Belgica, Via Omero 8, 00197 Rome) 14.00-17.00: WG-sessions

Locations: WG1: British School at Rome (Via Antonio Gramsci 61, 00197 Rome) WG2: Academia Belgica (Via Omero 8, 00197 Rome) WG3: Royal Dutch Institute (Via Omero 10, 00197 Rome)

19.00-22.00: MC-meeting (Dutch Institute, Via Omero 10, 00197 Rome) Saturday 15 February Location: Academia Belgica (Via Omero 8, 00197 Rome)

9.00-12.00: Plenary session with presentation of results and ideas from WG-sessions; discussion of future plans and outreach activities; exchange of ideas about joint research activities within Horizon 2020.

Meeting WG1: Theoretical Approaches 14th February 2014, British School at Rome

9.00-10.00: introduction Elisabeth Salter and Pavlina Rychterova

Defining the main tasks of WG1; Basic information on WG members; Possible inclusion of other members; Modes of collaboration with the other WGs

10.00-12.00: Contexts, categories, and terminology (Chair/Discussion leader: John Thompson)


The psychology of literary responses’, Vincent Gillespie

Terminology and category across the “confessional divide”’, Mette Birkedal Bruun

Early medieval vernacularity, Norbert Kössinger

12.00-13.00: Lunch

13.00-15.00: Disciplinary perspectives and interdisciplinary possibilities (Chair / Discussion Leader: Sita Steckel)

Speakers Using historical anthropology’, Gabor Klaniczay

Philological perspectives. Literacy patterns and the transmission of Middle English’, Jeremy Smith (tbc)

The uses of social history approaches (and other methods) for understanding personal religious experience and popular devotion’, Tomas’s Wislicz

15.00-16.00: Research Highlights Reading nuns: complementary or functional bilingualism?’, Gabor Farkas Kiss

The importance of parish studies in understanding the Counter Reformation in the Low Countries’, Michal Bauwens

16.00-17.00: General discussion

Meeting WG2: Strategies of Transformation: Translating, Reading, Writing, Collecting and Performing

14th February 2014, Academia Belgica

9:00-12:00: Welcome, very brief introduction of all present

Presentations of selected projects (10-15 minutes each)

Subarea: Texts

Cécile Caby (CEPAM UMR 7264, CNRS-Université de Nice), ‘Late medieval versions (latin or vernacular) of Vita Honorati

Dávid Falvay (University Eötvös Loránd of Budapest – ELTE), ‘The Multiple Recensions of the Italian Meditationes Vitae Christi

Waldemar Kowalski (Prof., Kielce, Poland), ‘Catechisms in 16th-Century Poland and Their Role in Religious Transformation

Marta Bigus (Ghent University, Belgium), ‘The Decalogue revisited. The Ten Commandments and vernacular moral instruction in the Low Countries, ca. 1300-1550

Delphine Mercuzot (BnF, Paris), ‘Caxton and the printing of vernacular devotional texts

Marie Anne Polo de Beaulieu (EHESS, Paris), Transformations of Medieval exempla through Sermon Performance, Translation and Edition

12.10-14.00 Lunch

14:00-17:00: Presentations of selected projects (10-15 minutes each)

Subarea: People Communities, and Practices

Eyal Poleg (Queen Mary College, London), ‘Performing the Bible, The Bible in Performance: Liturgy Across Print and Reformation

Elizabeth Solopova (Oxford University), From popular piety to liturgical ritual: the ownership of the Wycliffite Bible in the 15th century’

Erminia Ardissino (University of Torino), ‘Women Interpretative Communities in Early Modern Italy

Andreas Pietsch (Münster, Germany, Early Modern History), ‘Spirituality beyond the churches? Domestic devotion and confessional ambiguity in Early Modern Nothern Europe

Adam Poznański, ‘Thomas Rehdiger (1540 – 1576) and his collection of books

Laura Fenelli, Marina Gazzini, Massimiliano Bassetti, Francesco Bianchi: Cultures and Religious Practices in Late Medieval Italy’

Meeting WG3: European Networks of Knowledge Exchange 14th February 2014, Royal Dutch Institute

9.00-12.00: Session I

9.00-10.30 Welcome

Objectives and operating models (Paweł Kras, Chiara Lastraioli)

Presentation of participants 10.30-12.00: Socio-religious transformations of late medieval and early modern Europe

Research proposals and general discussion

12.00-14.00: Lunch 1

4.00-17.00: Session II

14.00-15.30: Current research projects:

  1. Spirituality and religious practice: continuity and change
  2. Moving people and the circulation of religious texts
  3. Intellectual and popular culture

15.30-17.00: Programme and organisation of the first conference in Cracow (26-27 September 2014)


Sita Steckel

Juniorprofessorin (Assistant professor) of Medieval history, High and Late Middle Ages, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster.

More Posts

Author: Sita Steckel

Juniorprofessorin (Assistant professor) of Medieval history, High and Late Middle Ages, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.