Force of Words: A Cultural History of Christianity and Politics in Medieval Iceland (11th- 13th Centuries)


In Force of Words, Haraldur Hreinsson examines the social and political significance of the Christian religion as the Roman Church was taking hold in medieval Iceland in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. By way of diverse sources, primarily hagiography and sermons but also material sources, the author shows how Christian religious ideas came into play in the often tumultuous political landscape of the time. The study illuminates how the Church, which was gathering strength across entire Europe, established itself through the dissemination of religious vernacular discourse at the northernmost borders of its dominion.

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Haraldur Hreinsson, Ph.D. (2019, Münster), is a historian of religion, specializing in cultural historical approaches to religion and the history of Christian religion in the Nordic region.
List of Figures

1 Introduction
1.1 Historiographical Context
 1.1.1  History of Medieval Christianity in Iceland: A Fragmented Field
 1.1.2  Church and Society in Medieval Iceland
1.2 Theoretical Considerations
 1.2.1  Ecclesiastical Discourse Discourse Discourse: Religious and Ecclesiastical
 1.2.2  Perspective of Empire The Roman Church as an Empire in Medieval Iceland The Perspective of Empire: A Text Oriented Approach
1.3 Source Material
 1.3.1  Textual Sources
 1.3.2  Material Sources

2 The Roman Church in Free State Iceland
2.1 Christianization of Iceland
 2.1.1  The Roman Ecclesiastical Empire The Rise of the Papal Center From Center to the Periphery On the Outskirts
 2.1.2  Expanding Boundaries: Christianization of Scandinavia
 2.1.3  Christianization of Iceland
 2.1.4  Conclusion: Becoming Christian
2.2 Christianization and the Production of Religious Texts
 2.2.1  Background: The Roman Church as a Cultural Hegemon
 2.2.2  Iceland’s Earliest Religious Manuscripts Collections of Hagiographic Material Collections of Sermonic Material Manuscripts with Mixed Content
 2.2.3  Beyond the Manuscripts: The Materiality of Religious Discourse
 2.2.4  Conclusion: Texts in Motion
2.3 Icelandic Ecclesiastics and Their Audiences
 2.3.1  Representing Rome: Ecclesiastics in Iceland Clerics in the Free State: Socially Diverse or Homogenous? Clerical Education: Practical but International In Whose Authority?
 2.2.2  Audiences of All Kinds Audience according to Religious Source Material Audience According to Contemporary Narrative Sources
 2.3.3  Pastor and Flock: Points of Encounter  Translatio Ecclesiae: A Medieval Icelandic Textual Community Social Significance of the Church: Panopticon or a Heterotopia
 2.3.4 Conclusion: Conflicts of Interests
2.4 Ecclesiastical Imagination
 2.4.1  Icelanders in the Sixth Age
 2.4.2  Typological Thought
 2.4.3  Typological Thought in Medieval Icelandic Literature
 2.4.4  Conclusion: Beyond the Written Word

3 Force of Words: Constructing a Christian Society
3.1 Authority
 3.1.1  Teaching The Original Teaching Teaching in the Icelandic Free State
 3.1.2  Apostolic Authority Apostolic Mandate Apostolic Domination
 3.1.3  Hierarchy Primatus Petri Church Hierarchy
 3.1.4  Conclusion: Powering Over
3.2 The ‘Other’
 3.2.1  Enemies of the Church Heretics Heathens Jews
 3.2.2  Encountering the ‘Other’ Expansion of Error Becoming Other
 3.2.3  Conclusion: Making Enemies
3.3 Perish or Prosper
 3.3.1  Peace or Unrest? Performing Peace Peace of the Church Fighting for Peace The Danger of Unrest
 3.3.2  Heaven or Hell? War Anger of God Justice Punishment Rewards
 3.3.3  Conclusion: The Only Way

4 Rome Goes North
4.1 In the Beginning
  4.1.1  Chaotic Beginnings
  4.1.2  Echoes from Rome
  4.1.3  Gizurr’s Age of Peace
  4.1.4  Conclusion: The Chieftain Church Rises
4.2 The Reform of Bishop Þorlákr
 4.2.1  Libertas Ecclesiae in Iceland  Backdrop: Libertas Ecclesiae in Norway The First Clash of Church and Chieftains
  4.2.2  The Authority of the Archbishop
  4.2.3  Enemies of the Church
  4.2.4  Conclusion: On the Other Side
4.3 Reform and Violence: The Rule of Bishop Guðmundr
  4.3.1  Guðmundr’s Rise to the Episcopacy
  4.3.2  Religious Fervour and Armed Battles
  4.3.3  Iceland’s Salvation
  4.3.4  Conclusion: Framing Violence

5 Conclusion

Appendix Manuscript Sources

All interested in medieval Christianity in the Nordic region, the relationship between religion and politics in medieval Iceland, and anyone concerned with the socio-political significance of Christian religious ideas.