The Medieval Abbot: Expectations & Reality

18 January 2018, 9.00 AM - 19 January 2018, 1.00 PM

The Old Council Chamber, Wills Memorial Building

This international workshop will investigate and exemplify the various roles and activities fulfilled by medieval monastic superiors both on behalf of their communities and in society more generally. Topics addressed by our invited speakers will include the responsibilities of abbots as, for example, spiritual and institutional leaders, masters of corporate ceremony and worship, role models for private spirituality, meditation and contemplation, administrators and supervisors (including their relationship with other monastic offices such as that of the prior), librarians and archivists, providers of books and facilitators of learning and education, historians and chroniclers, pastoral caretakers and guardians of memory, etc. In addition, particular attention will also be paid to the importance of gender by scrutinising the roles and responsibilities of religious women and their abbesses, as well as to the differences and similarities that existed between abbots of different religious orders such as the Benedictines and the Cistercians. By combining these different perspectives, the workshop will shed new important light on the medieval expectations and realities of the abbatial office. 

In so doing, the workshop will bring together a group of distinguished experts from the UK, the European Mainland and the United States, who in their papers will explore and discuss the extent to which the day-to-day realities of these various abbatial roles reflected the wider socio-cultural, political and religious expectations of individuals and communities during the period c.1000-1300. Confirmed speakers include, in alphabetical order: James Clark (Exeter, UK), Laura Gathagan (Cortland, NY, USA), Martin Heale (Liverpool, UK), Emilia Jamroziak (Leeds, UK), Gert Melville (Dresden, Germany), Carolyn Muessig (Bristol, UK), Benjamin Pohl (Bristol, UK), Steven Vanderputten (Ghent, Belgium), Teresa Webber (Cambridge, UK).

The workshop will take place at the University of Bristol over the course of 1.5 days (18-19 January 2018). Attendance is free of charge for all staff and students from the University of Bristol. For all other guests, the fee for attending the workshop is £35 per person, which includes a conference pack, refreshments and two lunches (buffet). The workshop is funded jointly by Bristol’s Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS), the Bristol Institute for Research in the Humanities (BIRTHA), the School of Humanities and the Department of History.

Tickets and registration information is avaliable here:

Contact information

For further information, please contact Benjamin Pohl:

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