'The Drive for Purity' Workshop Success

'The Drive for Purity' Workshop Success


Julia Barrow

'The Drive for Purity', the final workshop part of the international project 'Rethinking Reform 900-1150', led and organised by Professor Julia Barrow and Dr Ceri Pitches, proved highly successful.

Rethinking Reform 900-1150

'The Drive for Purity' workshop is part of a larger international project, titled 'Rethinking Reform 900-1150: Conceptualising Change in Medieval Religious Institutions', funded by the the Leverhulme Trust. This project brings together medieval and modernist scholars in an informal environment from across Europe, to discuss how changes in  medieval churches were understood and explained in their own day and how they have been reinterpreted in post-Reformation and especially post-Napoleonic historical writing. 

The project is coordinated by the University of Leeds, with partners from the University of East Anglia (UEA), University of Paris VIII, University of Mainz, KU (Catholic University), Leuven, Ghent University, and Durham University. Previous workshops were held in January 2017 (York), September 2017 (KU Leuven), and April 2018 (Leeds). 'The Drive for Purity' is the final workshop, and was held in September 2018 (Mainz). These workshops gave scholars the chance to reflect on the choice of vocabulary used to define changes between the early Middle Ages and the twelfth century and also the ways in which medieval institutions and individuals created narratives of change. 

Julia Barrow, Professor in Medieval Studies (University of Leeds), is the Principal Investigator of this project (pictured above), and Ceri Pitches is the network Facilitator (University of Leeds) (pictured below). 

Image of Ceri Pitches.

Upcoming Conference

A final conference titled Reconceptualising Reform will bring together the themes of all four previous workshops and conclude the discussion. This conference will be held at Ghent University in April or late May 2019. More details, when available, can be found on the project website

'The Drive for Purity' Workshop 


The workshop 'The Drive for Purity' was held from 13-14 September 2018 at JGU, Mainz. The finalised programme is as follows: 

 Thursday 13 September


Friday 14 September

  • 13:30-14:00. Registration. 
  • 14:00-14:15. Welcome and Introduction. Ludger Korntgen, JGU, Mainz. 
  • 14:15-14:45. Paper 1: Papacy without Theology - a German View of the Reforming Papacy. Jochen Johrendt, Universitat Wuppertal. 
  • 14:45-15:00. Discussion of Paper 1. 
  • 15:00-15:30. Paper 2: Constructing Canonical Authority: Memorializing Gregory the Great in the Early Middle Ages. Rob Meens, Universiteit Utrecht. 
  • 15:30-16:00. Coffee/Tea Break. 
  • 16:00-16:30. Paper 3: L'heresie des Nicolaites a-t-elle quelque chose a voir avec la purete clericale?  Isabelle Rose, Universite Rennes 2. 
  • 16:30-17:00. Paper 4: Purity and and Sodomitic Danger: Revisiting Peter Damian's 'Book of Gomorrah'. Conrad Leyser, University of Oxford. 
  • 17:00-17:30. Discussion of Papers 2, 3, & 4. 
  • 9:00-9:30. Arrival & Tea/Coffee. 
  • 9:30-10:00. Paper 5: The Serpents of Watten. Clerical Celibacy and Notions of Purity in Milieus of Regular Canons (Flanders, c. 1070-c.1150). Brigitte Meijns, KU Leuven. 
  • 10:00-10:30. Paper 6: Purity and Pollution in the English Benedictine Reforms: Language and Narratives. Katy Cubitt, University of East Anglia. 
  • 10:30-11:00. Paper 7: Clerical Marriage and Abstinence in 12th-century Byzantium: Is Your Priest Impure or Simply Distracted? Maroula Perisanidi, University of Leeds. 
  • 11:00-11:30. Discussion of Papers 5, 6, & 7. 
  • 11:30-12:00. Tea/Coffee Break. 
  • 12:00-12:15. Summing Up. Ludger Korntgen, JGU, Mainz. 
  • 12:15-13:00. Roundtable Discussion and Questions.


A total of 27 scholars and postgraduate students participated in the workshop. Eight of the PhD students were supported by a bursary from the project funding. The speakers were from diverse universities in various countries, and scholars and PhD students in attendance also came from universities across Europe and the USA, including: 


  • Jagiellonian University, Poland
  • University of Oxford (multiple colleges)
  • University of St Andrews, Scotland
  • University of Iowa, USA 
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Paris VIII

In addition to the workshop, participants also attended a tour of the excavations in the Johanniskirche, an early medieval church with 10th-century fabric, as well as a tour of the nearby cathedral. Ernst-Dieter Hehl, JGU/Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz, led the cathedral tour. 

Further Information

For more information about 'The Drive for Purity', or about the upcoming conference, see the the 'Rethinking Reform' website, or contact Julia Barrow (J.S.Barrow@leeds.ac.uk) or Ceri Pitches (C.L.Pitches@leeds.ac.uk).