Publication Date



Loca Sancta, Christianity


The paper uses methods from medieval sermon studies to argue that an insularity in “monastic consciousness” can be traced to earlier centuries than the more generally discussed (and better documented) scholastic environments of 13th century monastic and cathedral schools. It assesses how a monastic discourse reliant on Biblical typologies informed the Christian conversion of northern Germanic and Scandinavian peoples (c. 500-1300, including the British Isles and Iceland). Moments of encounter between Christian missionaries and pagan cultures helped delineate this discourse, most apparent in extant records that reveal Christian and Norse perceptions of geography, holy places, deity worship, and eschatological expectations. Sources include remnants of material culture (archaeological remains, runestones, and etymology), evidence of missionary activities (letters, chronicles), sermon evidence, eddic and skaldic poetry, and saga literature. It argues that shifts in a ‘monastic consciousness’ can be gleaned by contextualizing the sermon tradition for antecedent usages of selected topics —in this case, the conflicting cosmologies of Norse mythology and conversionary methods of early medieval Christianity—and also by demonstrating how monastic writers’ characterizations were understood and qualified within their own (and later) times. Methodologically, assessments occur by cleaving to the historical milieus that informed each discrete stage of homiletic development.