Guys, Gals and Non-Binary Pals: Gender and Early Medieval Monasticism

Today’s mainstream western culture desperately clings to the male-female binary as an absolute truth. Transphobia is still the norm in many places and the idea of gender as a spectrum is still a taboo in much of the world. But was this binary always so absolute? What happened when monks began thinking of themselves as transcending the worldly order and thus the whole concept of gender altogether?

Mis van de H Gregorius Rijksmuseum
Detail of The Mass of Saint Gregory, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Anynomous, c. 1500

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What the Vikings Looked Like to a Frankisch Monk Chronicler ca. 995

The Viking Age and Viking people in general have been capturing people’s imagination for centuries. Just look at the popularity of The History Channel’s hit series “Vikings”or the numerous ads that pop up online for Viking-related fantasy games. But the Vikings definitely weren’t very popular in their own time. To be fair, sacking and raiding churches and monasteries didn’t generally grant you a good reputation in early medieval Christian Europe. In this post I want to take a look at how one chronicler in particular, Richer of Rheims, described the Vikings in his Historiarum libri IIII.

The British Library-Cott.Tib.Bv f.40v
Norse ship. Anglo-Saxon manuscript, 10th Century. B.M., London. (via Getty)

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