A new AHRC-funded project focused on the office of the bishop in the medieval North has been launched at the Universities of Hull and Aberdeen. Dr Sarah Thomas will be exploring how one was elevated to episcopal sees in Northern Europe by studying the individuals who occupied them, their education and their family and political connections.
We look forward to the insights this project will offer on bishops in their roles as lawmakers. Their considerable influence on medieval legislation, both sacred and secular, is evident throughout the surviving law codes, including the Icelandic Járnsíða which makes specific mention of the division of powers between the bishop and the king:
Nú af því að guðs miskunn sér till þess þörf hversdaglega ótölulegs lýðs og ímis fjölmennis þá hefir hann skipað tveim sínum þjónum að vera augsýnilega hans umboðsmenn … Eru þeir tveir, annar konungur en annar byskup. Hefir konungur af guði veraldlegt vald til veraldlegra hluta, en byskup andlegt vald til andlegra hluta … (II.2, ed. Haraldur Bernharðsson et al.)
Now because God’s mercy sees to the daily needs of countless people and diverse multitudes, he has assigned two of his servants to be his visible agents … There are two of them, one is the king, the other the bishop. The king possesses from God worldly authority over worldly matters, and the bishop has spiritual authority over spiritual matters …
A conference on the lives of medieval Northern bishops is being held at Aberdeen 26-27 May, 2017. The programme is available here.