Call for Papers, Leeds 2023

The Syon Abbey Society and the ReVision Project
Birgittine Texts and Networks
International Medieval Congress, 3-6 July 2023 in Leeds

St Birgitta’s Revelations circulated widely and exercised significant influence in England until the Reformation. Reflecting and complementing the popularity of the Swedish saint, Syon Abbey, the sole Birgittine foundation in the country, promoted a comprehensive programme of pastoral outreach rooted in vernacular preaching and printing. The reputation of the abbey reached its zenith in the sixteenth century as a popular pilgrimage destination, site for obtaining pastoral direction, and centre for the production of devotional literature. The renown of the abbey, however, was anchored in a distinctive spirituality that was promoted in Birgitta’s visions and in the priest-brothers’ literary output—all of which enjoyed a broad readership through diverse networks of circulation and exchange.

As a thematic strand within this year’s IMC 2023 theme of “Networks and Entanglements,” we invite paper proposals on a broad range of topics that explore issues related to the influence, transmission, and circulation of texts by Birgitta and the Birgittines of Syon Abbey which promoted the popularity of the Swedish Saint, her community, and Birgittine spirituality.   

Topics include but are not limited to the following:

  • Birgitta, Birgittines and female piety
  • text, devotion, and reading practice
  • manuscript transmission
  • texts the nuns read
  • networks of readers and dissemination of texts
  • Birgittine texts and the post-Reformation community

Please send abstracts of 250 words for a 20 minute paper either to Laura Saetveit Miles ( or Brandon Alakas ( by 15 September 2022.

Sponsored by the Syon Abbey Society (, director Brandon Alakas, and the ReVision Project: “St. Birgitta and her Revelations in Medieval England,” funded by the Norwegian Research Council, PI Laura Saetveit Miles.

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Newsletter Issue 3, Summer 2022

The Syon Abbey Society’s Newsletter is back! Members will have received it by email. It is available to the public through this link:

Syon Abbey Society Newsletter Issue 3

Please share the Newsletter broadly among colleagues as we hope the society will become a hub for new scholars working on the English Birgittines to find resources, make connections, and begin collaborations!

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Job Announcement: Researcher for Birgitta in Medieval England Project

There is a vacancy for a position as a researcher at the Department of Foreign Languages, by plan starting 1 January 2022 or as agreed. The position is for a fixed-term period of 1.5 years. The opening has just been announced by UiB on Jobbnorge and the deadline is 1 Dec.

The Department of Foreign Languages spans nine different languages, and teaching and research are conducted in the disciplines language/linguistics, literature, cultural studies and didactics ( The Department has around 60 permanent academic staff members, along with around 25 PhD and postdoc candidates and ten administrative members of staff.

The position is affiliated with the ongoing research project “Re-assessing St. Birgitta of Sweden and her Revelations in Medieval England: Circulation and Influence, 1380-1530” directed by Professor Laura Saetveit Miles (PI). The funding comes from the “Young Research Talents” grant from the Norwegian Research Council. The project team has three members: the PI Prof. Miles, one PhD candidate and the vacant researcher position.

This project aims to uncover the full impact of the Swedish saint on late-medieval England by creating an open-access multi-faceted bibliographic database of evidence such as manuscripts and early printed books (Work Packages 1 & 2: project team), editions of Middle English translations (Work Package 3: researcher), and analysis of Birgittine texts and manuscripts (Work Package 4: PI). The project will advance our understanding of how gender, authorship, and religious literature functioned in this period.

The researcher’s role is to help develop the database along with the project team, to contribute generally to the progression of the project as a whole, and most importantly, to contribute to the editing of the major unedited Middle English translation of the Revelations, contained in British Library, MS Julius F.ii. The researcher would collaborate with the project’s previous post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Katherine Zieman (now at University of Poitiers), to continue work on a print edition of the Julius text. A preliminary proposal has already been favourably reviewed by the Early English Text Society for publication. In general the responsibilities of the researcher in relation to the edition will include:

  • Comparing Julius and the other major ME translations to the surviving Latin manuscripts from medieval England to determine the closest relation
  • Collating the Julius translation, as well as the Claudius translation, against the closest Latin witness
  • Collaborating on the preparation of the text, explanatory notes and apparatus
  • If time allows, online digital additions of some excerpted revelations

A more detailed work plan and delegation of editing work will be agreed upon at the beginning of the researcher period, in discussion with Prof. Miles and Dr. Zieman. Archival visits funded by the grant will be an important part of the researcher’s responsibilities.

Candidates should submit a proposal discussing the editorial principles that might be relevant to such a project, and other elements applicants consider important to the researcher’s role as described above. The proposal should not exceed 3 pages (excluding bibliography/works cited list).

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Birgittine Circles Conference 19-21 August 2021

Conference news! Birgittine Circles: People and Saints in the Medieval World, An international symposium will be taking place between 19 and 21 August 2021.

To view the program of this event, please click here.

Those who wish to receive a link to the conference can send a request to this e-mail

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URGENT! Petition to Protect Birgittine Manuscripts at Altomünster

The Birgittine library at Altomünster is at immanent risk. Only recently discovered by scholars, this women’s library contains an irreplaceable ensemble of books and other materials that can extend our knowledge of late-medieval women’s experiences.

To sign a petition go to the following site:

To read more about the situation:

[Notification sent in by Society members Corine Schleif, Michelle Urberg, and Volker Schier]

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Call for Papers, Kalamazoo 2017

The Syon Abbey Society is delighted to be co-sponsoring with the Vernacular Devotional Cultures Group a paper session on “Syon Abbey and Its Associates” at the next Kalamazoo Medieval Congress in May 2017. Please see below for full call details, as well as the other 2 sessions organized by the Vernacular Devotional Cultures Group.


The Vernacular Devotional Cultures Group is sponsoring three sessions at the 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo for 2017:

1)   New Approaches to the Helfta Nuns and Their Contemporaries (contacts: C. Annette Grisé, Barbara Zimbalist)

2)   Syon Abbey and Its Associates [co-sponsored with the Syon Abbey Society] (contacts: Brandon Alakas, Stephanie Morley)

3)  Imitatio Mariae in the Meditationes vitae Christi Traditions across Europe (contacts: Leah Buturain, Laura Saetvit Miles)

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and a completed Participant Information Form to the co-organizers of your selected session by 15 September 2016. Electronic submissions are preferred.

Details of the session topics and co-organizer contact information are found below. Please send general inquiries and requests to join the listserv to Cathy Grisé:


1)        New Approaches to the Helfta Nuns and Their Contemporaries (Organizers: Members of VDCG Committee)

In the second half of the thirteenth century, the female monastery of Helfta played a significant role in the cultivation of Western European mysticism. The circle of nuns comprising three visionaries and their abbess—Mechtild of Hackeborn (1240-1298), Gertrud the Great of Helfta (1256-1302), Mechtild of Magdeburg (1207-1282/94, a beguine who joined Helfta later in life), and Gertrud of Hackeborn (1232-1292, Abbess of Helfta and sister of Mechtild), respectively—were responsible for several important visionary treatises (including Liber Specialis Gratiae, The Book of Special Grace, and Das fließende Licht der Gottheit, The Flowing Light of Divinity) that defined German mysticism for their time: for example, they developed nuptial mysticism using imagery of holy women as Brides of Christ, and dedicated themselves to the Devotion of the Sacred Heart as part of their active program of female education, piety, and community. This interdisciplinary session will allow scholars and students to showcase recent research on the Helfta nuns and explore how these holy women expanded and changed traditional paradigms, as well as to compare this material with that of other late-medieval mystics.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and a completed Participant Information Form to the co-organizers of this session by 15 September 2016. Electronic submissions are preferred.

Session Organizers:

Dr C. Annette Grisé

Dr Barbara Zimbalist



2)       Co-sponsored with Syon Abbey Society: Syon Abbey and its Associates (Organizers: Brandon Alakas and Stephanie Morley)

The Syon Abbey Society and the Vernacular Devotional Cultures Group invite paper abstracts for its joint session “Syon Abbey and its Associates” which treat any aspect of writing associated with the intellectual and spiritual culture that flourished at the abbey. Syon’s reputation as a stalwart centre for orthodox reform and prolific source of vernacular devotional writing since its foundation in 1415 has been well-documented and long-recognised. This session seeks to examine the channels of connection beyond the convent walls, both in terms of the abbey’s impact on contemporary thinkers, patrons, printers, and lay readers, as well as the influence—material and spiritual—the world beyond its walls may have exerted on the abbey.

A nodal point for high-ranking aristocrats and intellectuals in late medieval and Tudor England, Syon attracted a diverse body of individuals ranging from Margaret Beaufort and Katherine of Aragon to Richard Pace, Thomas More, and John Fisher. These connections are often noted but seldom explored. How, for example, were ties forged and maintained between the Birgittine community, secular elites, printers, and the reading public? For over a century, Syon both ministered to and depended upon a vast network of lay support for its pastoral initiatives and its commitment to reinvigorating—and, finally, preserving—monastic life. This session aims to probe the nature of this long-nurtured relationship between the spiritual and the secular which accounts for the formidable authority and longevity of Syon Abbey.

Papers may address the movement and circulation of books to or from the Abbey; consider particular relationships between authors or patrons on either side of the convent walls; or examine specific texts or translations associated with the abbey for traces of broader associations. Any and all disciplinary and methodological approaches are welcome.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and a completed Participant Information Form to either co-organizer of this session by 15 September 2016. Electronic submissions are preferred.

Dr Brandon Alakas

Dr Stephanie Morley

3)       Paper Panel: “Imitatio Mariae in the Meditations vitae Christi traditions across Europe” (Organizers: Leah Buturain and Laura Saetvit Miles)

The pseudo-Bonaventuran Meditationes vitae Christi (MVC) is considered the single most influential devotional text written in the later Middle Ages. This paper panel will explore how the textual tradition of the MVC and related gospel meditations fostered creative forms of imitating Mary, or imitatio Mariae. While imitatio Christi has received scholarly attention, imitatio Mariae merits more fruitful consideration – especially as it compasses texts and images that engage both laity and religious in imitating the Virgin’s virtues. This panel will focus on performative rituals and texts used to recapitulate her life events, such as the Annunciation.  How did imitatio mariae enrich the “devout imagination” of the faithful? How did readers perform Mary’s own performance of speech, silence, and prayer? We hope to solicit abstracts that tap into the variegated traditions of the MVC from across Europe, in Latin and multiple vernaculars.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and a completed Participant Information Form to the co-organizers of this session by 15 September 2016. Electronic submissions are preferred.

Session Contacts:

Dr Leah Buturain
Dr Laura Saetveit Miles


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New Resources from the Syon Abbey Associates

Under the ‘Resources’ menu above, please find several new and very valuable resources generously offered by John Adams of the Syon Abbey Associates (London). They include:

  • An updated “List of Extant MSS and Books.” This is the most comprehensive list of surviving books from Syon yet.
  • A detailed study titled “Syon Abbey: Its Herbal, Medical Books and Care of the Sick: Healthcare in a Mixed Mediaeval Monastery,” by John Adams (2015)
  • A short illustrated guide to the stay of Dame Agnes Jordan and the Bridgettine Nuns of Syon Abbey at Southlands in the post-Dissolution period, 1539-1546, by John Adams
  • A transcription of several folios from Thomas Betson’s notebook, of parts of his work A Ryght Profitable Treatyse, transcribed by Stuart Forbes and John Adams

Thanks to John Adams for making these publicly available!

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Call for Papers: New Perspectives on Catherine of Siena and her Contemporaries

Call for Papers, Kalamazoo International Medieval Congress 2016, 12-15 May

Session: “New Perspectives on Catherine of Siena and her Contemporaries”

Sponsoring Group: Vernacular Devotional Cultures Group

There has been a surge in interest in Catherine of Siena as a result of Heather McWebb’s Speculum article and recent books and articles on Catherine’s life and revelations. This topic provides a useful intersection for many current scholarly concerns, including female-male collaboration, vernacular readers and textual production, prophecy and politics, self-studies, and semi-religious orders and religious vocations, for example. This interdisciplinary session will allow scholars and students to showcase recent ideas about Catherine of Siena and explore how her work expanded traditional patriarchal boundaries, as well as to compare this material with that of other late-medieval female mystics working in the vernacular.

Please submit abstracts for this session to Catherine Annette Grisé, McMaster University,, by September 15, 2015.

Notice of New Society: Vernacular Devotional Cultures Group

Valerie Lagorio’s retirement as editor of Mystics Quarterly has left a gap in the offerings of Kalamazoo sessions for recent work on late-medieval vernacular devotional literature and culture. The sessions presented at Kalamazoo 2015 by Daniel Armenti and Nahir Otano Gracia to celebrate the retirement of Elizabeth Avilda Petroff, a major scholar of European female mystics working in the vernacular, brought together scholars and students who were influenced by her work. These sessions reminded participants of the importance of continuing to highlight the role of vernacular devotional culture–championed by female visionaries, but also written and disseminated by clerics and monks, and read by women religious  as well as by the laity.

We are sponsoring one session in Kalamazoo 2016 for scholars and students of late-medieval, vernacular devotional culture. We wish to complement the work being done by such groups as the Syon Abbey Society, the Lollard Society, and the Anchoritic Society. It is our hope that at the 2016 Congress we will generate enough interest to launch officially a Vernacular Devotional Cultures Group that will have a continued presence at Kalamazoo.

If you are interested in being put on the mailing list for the new Vernacular Devotional Cultures Group please send your contact information, affiliation, and research interests to

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New Book: “A Pictorial History of Marley House, Devon through the centuries”

Jonathan Nicholson, resident of one of the new houses on the Marley estate — formerly the site of the modern Syon Abbey — has self-published a wonderful collection of photographs, maps, and historical descriptions pertaining to the Marley Estate. It begins with the earliest history and contains many details about the Bridgettine sisters’ time there, beginning in 1925, as well as more modern development starting in the ’90s.

Available for purchase here on Lulu (sold at cost).

Jonathan Nicholson can be reached at

[sample photos from the book coming soon!]

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Reminder to register for the final Syon at 600 Workshop: Dartington Conference

“Continuity and Chance in the Birgittine Order,” the third and final workshop for the “Syon at 600” project, will be held at Dartington Hall, Devon, UK, 21-24 July 2015. If you plan to go to this exciting event, please register as soon as possible!

Check out the program of speakers here.

Register for the third workshop here.

A brief account of the Lisbon workshop held in April can be found here. Remember to consult and/or add yourself to the very helpful Researcher Database.

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