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This seminar addresses subjects of common interest to all branches of medieval studies. The seminar particularly encourages interdisciplinary topics and approaches, which will stimulate discussions of issues in the study of medieval culture. One of the great advantages of the seminar is that it brings together representatives of medieval disciplines, from Columbia and elsewhere, who otherwise would have only rare opportunities to talk about questions of common interest.

Professor Neslihan Şenocak

Carolyn Quijano

Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.

Meeting Schedule

09/26/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
Affective Piety in the Eleventh-Century Monastery
Lauren Mancia, Brooklyn College, CUNY


Scholars of the Middle Ages have long taught that highly emotional Christian devotion to a suffering crucified Christ, often called ‘affective piety’, originated in Europe after the twelfth century, and was primarily practiced by late medieval communities of mendicants, lay people, and/or women. Stemming from Mancia’s new book, Emotional Monasticism: Affective Piety at the Eleventh-Century Monastery of John of Fécamp (Manchester, 2019), this talk will trace the early Benedictine monastic history of affective devotion through the life and work of the earliest-known writer of emotional prayers, John of Fécamp, abbot of the Norman monastery of Fécamp from 1028-1078 C.E.. The talk will first examine John’s major work, the Confessio theologica (written ca. 1023-1028), defining the type of affective devotion contained therein. It will then trace the kind of emotional piety found in John’s writing throughout the emotion-filled devotional program of Fécamp’s wider liturgical, homiletic, and intellectual culture. The talk will then briefly address John’s later medieval legacy in famous late medieval examples beyond Fécamp and Normandy, and will ultimately conclude with some thoughts on why we as scholars might be reluctant to place affective piety in the earlier period and in the central medieval Benedictine monastery, and what happens when we neglect to do so.

10/29/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
The Genoese Community in Byzantine/Ottoman Constantinople (14 th -15 th c.)
Özden Mercan, Columbia University


The presence of Italian communities in Constantinople dates back to the late eleventh century when the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I gave certain privileges and concessions to the Genoese and the Venetians. Trade was one of the primary reasons for the Italians to migrate and settle in the Byzantine capital Constantinople, a city that embodied a diversity of cultures, ideas, religions, people and goods. This talk will specifically focus on the Genoese community in Constantinople and examine the dynamics that regulated their relations with first Byzantine and later Ottoman administrations from the fourteenth to the late fifteenth centuries. Establishing a semi-autonomous rule in Pera/Constantinople during the late Byzantine period, the Genoese became important settlers of the imperial city connecting it with the Black Sea and the Mediterranean through their trading networks and colonies. Although the conquest of Constantinople
by the Ottomans in 1453 changed the status of the Genoese community, most of the Genoese families continued to stay in this city and adapted themselves to the newly emerging conditions. By analyzing the evidence from the contemporary chronicles, Genoese notarial sources, and Ottoman documents, this talk will address the experiences of the Genoese under the Byzantine and Ottoman rules and examine how they handled co-existing with a society of differing faith, language and culture. It will also discuss how the Genoese sought to keep their commercial interests and maintain their order in the vibrant and cosmopolitan setting of Ottoman Constantinople.

12/03/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
Re-coining the Eleventh Century: Monetisation, Religion, and Value in Italy
James Norrie, Columbia University


The religious reform movement in Italy against simony which took hold from the 1050s had explosive social and political consequences. While popes and treatise-writers denounced the traffic in religious offices and sacraments, ordinary men and women from Milan to Florence took to the street in riots of anti-clerical violence. While historians have long identified a connection between new anxieties about simony and rising monetisation in the eleventh century, the causes of their precise chronology and geography remain poorly understood. This paper addresses this problem, by looking less at the increased circulation of coinage and more at the changing social roles it was put to. As well as presenting insights from the social anthropology and comparative history of money use, the paper will compare the history of exchange and religious revolt in different Italian cities.

03/09/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
2:00 PM
meeting cancelled