Imagining Universal Government at the Edge of the World: Institutional Forms in Norse Bishops' Lives


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Medieval Studies


The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries witnessed the dramatic growth of a legal and governmental apparatus centered at the papal court, as well as the widespread use of document-based forms of administration throughout Christendom. This project examines some of the ways in which writers and communities on the medieval European periphery recruited, refashioned, and repurposed the legal principles and official documents of the universal Church for their own ends. Focusing specifically on a group of medieval Norse texts known as the bishops’ sagas, it demonstrates how Icelandic clerics deployed fictitious papal documents and imagined canonical-legal procedures in order to legitimize some of the thoroughly abnormal practices of Iceland’s native bishops.