I’m so happy that our international conference “The Power of the Bishop” went well.

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We had an astoundingly varied and exciting programme:

Prof. Peter Coss (Cardiff University): Bishops, Chronicles and Historians: the case of Twelfth-Century Coventry THURSDAY KEYNOTE

Pieter Byttebier (University of Ghent): Holy Bishops and the Shaping of Episcopal Discourse in early Eleventh-Century Cambrai

Heidi Anett Øvergård Beistad (The Norwegian University of Science and Technology): Libertas Ecclesiae in the Ecclesiastic Periphery – Árni þorláksoon and the Reform of the Icelandic Church

Andrew Fleming (Oxford University): The Hanged Woman: Christina Cray’s Experience of Episcopal Authority in the Church of St Martin’s, Hereford, in 1294

Charlotte Lewandowski (Birmingham University): New Cathedrals and Old Saints: Negotiating Episcopal Power on a Local Stage

Sorin Damien (Nottingham University): Pope Innocent III and the Cult of St Homobonus

Maria Chiara Succurro (University of Florence): Abbot or Bishop? Episcopal Power in the Countryside: The Case of Twelfth Century Brescia, Northern Italy

Chris Dennis (Cardiff University): The Cult of St Lô and the Restoration of Episcopal Power in the Diocese of Coutances in the Eleventh Century

Melanie Brunner (Leeds University): A Local Church for Local People? Bishop, Dean and Chapter in Sion, Valais

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Stephen Marritt (Glasgow University): Anglo-Norman Bishops and ‘Power’? FRIDAY KEYNOTE

William Aird (Edinburgh University): Just How Bad was Ranulf Flambard? Episcopal Discipline and Reputation in the Early Twelfth Century

Melissa Julian-Jones (Cardiff University): Visual Expressions of Episcopal Power and Identity in Thirteenth Century England

Jelle Lisson (University of Louvain): The Territorial Policies of the Bishops of Liége: the Diocese of Liége and the Duchy of Brabant in the High Middle Ages

Angelo Silvestri (Cardiff University): Bishop Robert Grosseteste: a Research about his Life and Education

Matt Phillips (Nottingham University): Petitions to the Crown from the Bishops of England and Wales, c. 1272-1307

John Jenkins (Oxford University): “Despite the Prohibition of the Lord Bishop”: John Grandisson and the Illusion of Episcopal Power

Francesco Terlizzi (University of Bologna): Norman Anonymous

Christine Axen (Boston University): Bishop Zoen of Avignon and Programmatics of Power

Aaron Hope (University College London): Hireling Shepherds: Bishops’ Deputies and Episcopal Power in Medieval Law

We also had two round tables – the first chaired by Peter D’Sena, the Higher Education Academy [HEA]’s Academy Discipline Lead for History, focusing on teaching Medieval Europe. We discussed, from various perspectives, the difficulties we found in connecting and engaging our students with Medieval History, and ways in which we might engage them in the future.

The second round table was chaired by Peter Coss, discussing the future of the conference and possible themes and topics for the next one.

My experience of the conference was mostly running around preparing the room for the tea breaks and the lunches. It was generally a lot of furniture moving. I got to hear two papers on Thursday, and about five on the Friday!! Next time, we’ll be hiring boy scouts or something. They wouldn’t have to rearrange an entire room under the influence of five glasses of wine. Ahem.

ImageWe turned a room like the one above into a wide open space for our delegates to frolic and feed

I have to say, even though I didn’t hear a lot of the papers, I did get to hear a lot of comments. The written feedback was so gratifying. Next time we shall have a better room away from (a) the trains passing through every 10-20 mins and (b) the building site just behind our department. (Yep – these were also some of my comments on the feedback form which I designed…! All I do is moan moan moan ;P ) Everyone said they got a lot out of the discussions and loved sharing ideas with one another. They all said that the conference was well-organised, too, for which thanks should not only go to Angelo Silvestri, Chris Dennis and myself, but also to Hannah Buckingham and Heather Crowley, without whose hard work behind the scenes it would not have run as smoothly as it did.

One of the things which I loved about it was the fact that three delegates were members of the community, who all thanked us for making the conference an Open Access event. They thoroughly enjoyed both days, and got a lot out of attending. I think that was a real highlight for me. It was great to find that the opportunity had been taken up, and that they were really impressed with the way the conference was organised and the range of papers within it. Just like the HEA element, I think it really highlighted what our research is about – uncovering information and disseminating it.

It was great to have so many from different institutions, and delegates from across Europe and the U.S. One of the comments on the feedback forms said that they appreciated the discussion and exchange of ideas, most of which happened (of course) in the breaks, at dinner, and at the wine reception!

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Sadly, (please prepare the world’s smallest string quartet), as I had to get up and give a paper the following day and was without my laptop – and, I realised, had not prepared my powerpoint – I missed the dinner at The Aegean. Seriously. Next time – boy scouts will be employed. And I shall probably be more prepared with the paper situation.

Who knows what we shall be discussing next time?

Possibilities include:

  • Verbal and non-verbal constructions of episcopal power
  • Medieval Theology
  • What is a ‘bog-standard’ bishop?
  • Shifts in power throughout the period, comparisons across centuries and geographical locations

To name but a few!

We are also looking into publication, and how to create/link up to pre-existing digital projects, and ways to connect the delegates and speakers between conferences. There’s funding available to set up such e-projects, so we’ll be bearing that in mind.

Looking forward to many more conferences to come…!

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