From the Novellae of Pope Innocent IV and Decretales of Pope Gregory IX cum glossis collection, MS-1 Syracuse University. f.79r, Pope hearing a petition

The papacy and communication in the central Middle Ages


After the devastating events in the 11th century following the investiture controversy, the papacy regained its position of power. New special issue of “Journal of Medieval History” presents a series of essays focusing on the communication strategies of the popes in the central Middle Ages (1100 – 1300).

In the 11thcentury, a series of popes embarked on a series of reforms intended to reinvigorate the church and positioning it as an independent power, writes the editors in the introduction to a new special issue of the Journal of Medieval History (August 2018). To a large extent these projects were crowned with success. Papal and lay authorities got together mounting crusades at the same time as the church was reformed through the growth of new religious orders (Franciscans and Dominicans), new learning centres (universities), new artistic programs (Gothic art and architecture) etc. How did the Popes and the papal curia communicate about these new inventions within the church as well as to a wider audience? Across the wide distances of Medieval Europe? And through which media?

Apart from an introduction, the issue introduces us to the world of papal symbols, clothing as communication, art, architecture and the manipulation of space, ritualization and sermonising. In all of this, the key role of “Romanitas” as well as the city of Rome is explored.

The special issue is published by the group behind the research project: Papal Communication in the Central Middle Ages. This project examines a variety of papal communication channels and media, from gift-giving to letters and historical writings. The goal is to provide a synchronic and diachronic view of the multi-faceted and multi-medial communication from the papal curia to the world outside the curia in the period c.1100-1250. A key question is how the curia attempted to promote papal authority through its various forms of communication. The project also assesses how communication was received by its secular and ecclesiastical recipients, and what this may tell us about the local perception and negotiation of papal authority.

The project is funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research (on a DFF-YDUN grant) and has four core participants including two post-docs and one PhD student. It is led by Iben Fonnesberg-Schmidt, Department of Culture and Global Studies at Aalborg University. The group arranges a number of seminars and other events, including an open international conference in Spring 2018 held at Aalborg University.

Special issue:

Journal of Medieval History
Volume 44, 2018 – Issue 3:
The papacy and communication in the central Middle Ages.
Guest Editors: Iben Fonnesberg-Schmidt, William Kynan-Wilson, Gesine Oppitz-Trotman and Emil Lauge Christensen

List of contents:

Introduction: Framing papal communication in the central Middle Ages
Gerd Althoff, Iben Fonnesberg-Schmidt & William Kynan-Wilson
Pages: 251-260

Innocent III and the world of symbols of the papacy
Agostino Paravicini Bagliani (translated by Gesine Oppitz-Trotman)
Pages: 261-279

Clothing as communication? Vestments and views of the papacy c.1300
Maureen C. Miller
Pages: 280-293

Visitor experiences: art, architecture and space at the papal curia c.1200
Iben Fonnesberg-Schmidt
Pages: 294-310

Communication in a visual mode: papal apse mosaics
Dale Kinney
Pages: 311-332

Ritual, what else? Papal letters, sermons and the making of crusaders
Christoph T. Maier
Pages: 333-346

Subverting the message: Master Gregory’s reception of and response to the Mirabilia urbis Romae
William Kynan-Wilson
Pages: 347-364

Roman soil and Roman sound in Irish hagiography 
Lucy Donkin
Pages: 365-379