Lecture at IKGF Erlangen: Abstract and Impressions

On April 16 2013 I had the pleasure to give an invited lecture at the IKGF Erlangen (see previous post). On a wonderful spring day the workshop took place in a beautiful setting, was all together fantastically organized, and surprisingly well attended, seen the rather inviting first sun outside. The speakers (dr Boyle, dr Ehrich, dr Cermanova, dr Holdenried, prof. Schlieben and myself) and the chairs of the workshop (prof. Schmieder and prof. Herbers) discussed thinking about the future in the Middle Ages and also the audience provided some interesting ideas. Though maybe the fact that all speakers of the workshop were female pointed out something about the future of academia, many questions were raised, but non of them could yet be definitely answered. One thing however seems to be clear, despite the medieval more or less strong apocalyptic world view, we find ample evidence that medieval thinkers and writers sought to find more time before the ultimate end, for example by stretching the biblical end time narrative. The vivid discussions led me to new insights and triggered some ideas, definitely enough material to work in future!

There is also a review of the workshop by Andreas Holndonner und  Philipp Winkler:

Workshop: Forming the Future when Time is running short. 16.04.2013, Erlangen, in: H-Soz-u-Kult, 10.07.2013, <http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/tagungsberichte/id=4897&gt;.



Abstract: Making the Future a Better Place: Prophecy as a Means of Reform in Jan van Boendale’s “Boec vander Wraken”

I will focus on the Middle Dutch translation of the Visio fratris Johannis as transmitted in the Boec vander Wraken (The Book of Punishment, 1346-1351) by the Middle Dutch author Jan van Boendale (14th C.). Between the date of origin of the Visio and the moment when Jan van Boendale included it in the Boec vander Wraken, more than half a century had passed. The fact that Jan van Boendale fails to identify any of the prophesied events in his own time indicates that he did not include this prophecy because of its apocalyptic significance, but rather utilizes it to appeal for moral reform. In the prophecy, especially the simonic practices of pope Nicholas III and the Roman curia are described as profound sins, which destroy the fundament of Christian society from within. However, the scope of Jan van Boendale’s criticism extends further. Avarice endangers not only the functioning of the Church, but also the functioning of municipalities, and even worse, the salvation of every individual Christian.
Here, prophecy functions as a means of talking about an alternative, thus reformed, present. While talking about the future, Jan van Boendale gives instructions to gain the grace of God in the Now. His message is, in fact, quite optimistic, as he seems to retain some hope of a general reform of the Church and Christianity. At the end of the prophecy, Jan van Boendale even seems to indicate that the moral reform he requires in the present could delay Judgment Day. In other words, a change from the present wrong conduct will provide more time for Christianity in this world.

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  1. […] It is contained in a collection of articles edited by professor Schmieder who also organized the workshop at Erlangen where the authors discussed these papers first. Unfortunately the publisher Böhlau has a very […]

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