Liturgy, Literature & History: Oswald of Northumbria and the Cult of Saints in the High Middle Ages

Online: 5th & 6th August 2021

Monks singing the Psalms, from the Peterborough Psalter, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 53, f. 106v

The centrality of the cult of saints to medieval Christianity is reflected in surviving liturgical, historical, literary and administrative texts, material culture and architecture.  Too often, however, disciplinary boundaries mean these sources are studied in isolation from one another.  A multi-disciplinary approach is needed if we are to properly understand both the mechanisms by which saints’ cults spread and also the manner in which veneration of the saints drove other forms of political, cultural and social expression.  This conference, focussed on the cult of Oswald of Northumbria in the high Middle Ages, brings together historians, literary scholars, musicologists and art historians to explore the cult of saints through texts, objects, space, sound and the senses and particularly interrogates the influence of the liturgy on society.  The conference was intended to include a performance of Oswald’s feast-day liturgy drawn from Peterborough manuscripts and enacted in the space for which it was originally envisioned, we hope this recreation will be possible on Oswald’s feast day in 2022.

  • Dr Johanna Dale (UCL)

Conference format

This conference will take place via Zoom Webinar. Video presentations of the papers will be available to view from 2 weeks before the conference and the live element on 5th & 6th August will consist of discussion sessions. 

Delegates will be sent a link to access the video presentations and details of how to join the webinar nearer the time. There will also be an optional informal social/discussion session on Thursday evening – details about how to join this will be shared during the webinar.

All the pre-recorded videos will have the option to turn on professional closed caption subtitles and the discussion sessions will feature live captioning via a Caption Viewer URL. A transcript of the discussion sessions will be available after the conference by emailing with ‘transcript’ as the subject heading.

If you have any other access requirements that could support your involvement in the conference then please email with ‘access’ as the subject heading.


Registration has now closed.

Draft Programme

(All times BST)

Thursday 5th August

14:30 Welcome

14:45 Panel 1

Professor Tessa Webber (Cambridge), ‘Public reading and the celebration of the feast of St Oswald at Peterborough: the knowns and unknowns’

Dr Nicholas Karn (Southampton), ‘Towards a new edition of Hugh Candidus’s Peterborough chronicle’

Chair: Professor Elisabeth van Houts (Cambridge)

15:30 Short break

15:45 Panel 2

Professor David Hiley (Regensburg), ‘Old and new in the liturgical chants for the feast of St Oswald’

Dr Johanna Dale (UCL), ‘King Oswald’s Arm: Liturgy and Material Culture at Peterborough Abbey’

Chair: Dr Helen Gittos (Oxford)

16:30: break

17:00 Panel 3

Professor Julian Luxford (St Andrews), ‘Images and Relics of Oswald in Later Medieval England’

Professor Nicholas Vincent (UEA), ‘Oswald and England’s Kings, 1066-1307’.

Chair: Dr Philippa Hoskin (Cambridge)

18:00 Informal social gathering

Friday 6th August

14:30 Welcome

14:40 Panel 4

Dr Diarmuid O’Riain (Wolfenbüttel), ‘The Lives of Oswald and other English saints in the twelfth-century Magnum Legendarium Austriacum’

Dr Henry Parkes (Nottingham), ‘Oswald’s Office in the Bodenseeraum’

Chair: Dr Jonathan Lyon (Chicago)

15:25 Break

16:00 Panel 5

Dr Sean Dunnahoe (California State), ‘The transmission of Oswald’s liturgy into Scandinavia’

Dr Gerhard Lutz (Cleveland Museum), ‘Oswald and Hildesheim Reconsidered’

Chair: Dr Erik Niblaeus (Cambridge)

16:40 Short break

17:00 Panel 6

Dr Sarah Bowden (King’s College London), ‘St Oswald’s raven: sanctity, sovereignty and animality in the Munich Oswald

Dr Francesca Brooks (York), ‘Falling into precipice of mind and monastery’: Lynette Roberts (1909-95) and the Lives of the Cambro-British Saints’

Chair: Professor Björn Weiler (Aberystwyth)

17:50 Concluding remarks

Organised with support from
The British Academy, Peterborough Cathedral & UCL
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