Second Fiddles in Medieval Rituals

International conference

Second Fiddles in Medieval Rituals

Trondheim 23-24 November 2017

The Nidaros Cathedral, west front

This conference addresses the role, status and performance of secondary actors in medieval rituals, thus enabling us to diversify and deepen our understanding of rituals in pre-modern societies. Although peripheral to the engineering and execution of rituals in a formal sense, the postures and actions of these ancillary players often made their participation vital for the success of the rituals’ primary agents. What roles did secondary actors play in medieval rituals and what were the deeper meanings ascribed to them? What relation did they have to central actors? Did they operate individually on their own volition or as representatives serving broader group interests? How freely could they maneuver within and influence the rituals in which they participated?

Although relegated to a subordinate tier within the formal hierarchy of ritual service, their role and status was not immutable. With every ritual came new opportunities for secondary actors to renegotiate the divisions of service. How and to what end did secondary actors alter their role, status and performance? Can we identify disruptions that challenged the hierarchies of ritual (coups, initiatives), and what was the meaning and purpose for restructuring ritual performances?

Above all, this conference seeks to trace the changing functions and performances of secondary actors over time and in relation to their evolving political and cultural contexts. In doing so, we will also explore the sources for reading medieval rituals, including codifications and narrative portrayals, and the manner in which these works’ authors depicted the role and status auxiliary ritual agents.  While these are some of the suggested avenues for exploration, contributors are invited to enrich the topic with related themes of their choosing.

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Conference Programme

Conference Programme

Day 1: Thursday 23rd November

Place: Scandic Hotel – Strinda room


09:00 – 09:10: David Brégaint (NTNU)


09:15 – 09:45: David Brégaint (NTNU)

Second Fiddles in medieval rituals: issues, theory and research.

09:45 – 10:30: Margrete S. Andås (NTNU)

Processions in the Medieval Townscape. The Norwegian Laypeople as Ritual Agents and Audience.

10:30 – 10:45: Coffee break

10:45 – 11:30: Ana del Campo (St Andrews)

Partners of My Soul: The Poor in Later Medieval Iberian Death Rites.

11.30 – 13:00: Lunch

13:00 – 13:45: Pamela Nourrigeon (CESCM)

Role and Symbolism of the Secondary Ministers in the Illustrations of the Christian Mass.

13:45 – 14:30: Ian Grohse (University of Tromsø)

On the King’s Behalf. Royal Children and their Spokesmen in High Medieval Norway.

14:30 – 14:45: Coffee break

14:45 – 15:45: Lars Hermanson (Gothenburg University)

Rituals, Performatives, and Political Order in Galbert’s of Bruges De multro, traditione et occisione gloriosi Karoli comitis Flandriarum.

20:00: Conference Dinner – Aisuma 20:00

Day 2: Friday 24th November

Place: Scandic Hotel – Strinda room


10:00 – 10.45: Thomas Småberg (Malmö University)

The Lady and the Maid. The Role of Women in the Eufemiavisor.

10:45 – 11:30: Lars Kjær (New College of the Humanities)

Constructing Consensus and Conflict at the Assembly in Medieval Denmark.

11:30 – 13:00: Lunch

13:00 – 14:15: Anne I. Riisøy (University College of Southeast Norway) & Alexandra Sanmark (University of the Highlands and Islands)

Second Fiddles at Viking Age Assemblies.

14:15 – 14:30: Coffee break

14:30 – 15:30: General discussion

Technical issues/Publication

17:30: Visit - Trondheim’s Cathedral

20:00: Conference Dinner – Troll Restaurant

Scientific committee

Scientific committee

Scientific committee of «Second Fiddles in Medieval Rituals».

  • Erik Opsahl (Associate professor, Department for historical studies, NTNU)
  • Roman Hankeln (Professor, Department for historical studies, NTNU)
  • David Brégaint (Postdoc, Research Council of Norway/Department for historical studies, NTNU)



The conference takes place in Trondheim, and is hosten by The Department of Historical Studies at The Norwegian University of Technology and Science (NTNU).

More information to come.