The Church in Fourteenth-Century Iceland

The Formation of an Elite Clerical Identity


In The Church in Fourteenth-Century Iceland, Erika Sigurdson provides a history of the fourteenth-century Icelandic Church with a focus on the the social status of elite clerics following the introduction of benefices to Iceland. In this period, the elite clergy developed a shared identity based in part on universal clerical values, but also on a shared sense of interdependence, personal networks and connections within the framework of the Church. The Church in Fourteenth-Century Iceland examines the development of this social group through an analysis of bishops’ sagas, annals, and documents. In the process, it chronicles major developments in the Icelandic Church after the reforms of the late thirteenth century, including its emphasis on property and land ownership, and the growth of ecclesiastical bureaucracy.
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Biographical Note

Erika Sigurdson, Ph.D. (2012), University of Leeds, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland. She has published articles on the Icelandic Church and ecclesistical administration, and produced a forthcoming translation of Lárentíus saga byskups.

Table of contents

Contents Acknowledgements and Spelling Conventions vii List of Tables viii List of Abbreviations iX Introduction 1 Ecclesiastical History in a Scandinavian Context 3 Historiography and the ‘Boring’ Fourteenth Century 4 Methodology and Approaches 7 1 Iceland in the Fourteenth Century 10 Iceland and the Kings of Norway 11 The Aristocracy in Iceland and the Administration of Iceland 16 The Icelandic Church 1264–1300 21 Defining the Period 27 2 Sources and Authorship: The Intellectual Milieu 30 Contemporary Sagas in a Fourteenth-Century Context 31 Bishops’ Sagas 35 Árna saga 38 Guðmundar saga D (Guðmundar saga Arngríms Brandssonar) 40 Jons tattr Halldorssonar and Exemplary Material 42 Annals 47 Skálholtsannáll 53 Brot af Skálholtsannáll 54 Lögmannsannáll 54 Flateyjarannáll 55 Gottskálksannáll 56 Documentary Sources 57 Authorship and Intellectual Milieu 59 3 The Icelandic Church after 1264 62 Parish and Local Structures 64 Staðir 67 Monasteries 69 Jurisdiction 72 Church Officials within Iceland 74 Iceland and Nidaros 83 Foreign Bishops 92 4 Elite Priests in Iceland 96 Stadir, Church Centres, and Benefices 97 Elite Priests in the Norwegian Age (1269–1400) 99 Staðir and Clerical Income 109 Elite Clerical Social Networks 118 Archiepiscopal Benefices 126 Elite Identity: Clerical Identity 129 Clerical Concubinage, Fostering, and the Children of Clerics 130 Clerical Violence and Conflict 136 Conclusion 146 5 Norway and Elite Icelandic Clerical Identity 148 Iceland and Nidaros: Introduction 149 Icelandic Clergy in Norway 153 Icelandic Perceptions of Norway and Nidaros 162 Conclusion 174 Conclusion 177 Appendices Appendix 1: Bishops of Skálholt and Hólar, 1056–1550 185 Appendix 2: The officiales and ráðsmenn of Skálholt and Hólar 187 Bibliography 191 Index 203


Students and scholars of Old Norse/Icelandic Studies, both historians and literary scholars, as well as medieval ecclesiastical historians, who will be interested in the material for comparative analysis.