Medieval Research Cluster

Historical overview

Bergen has long traditions when it comes to medieval research, all the way back to the foundation of the Bergen Museum in 1825, with its collections of objects from the Middle Ages.

Bergen museum
In 1825 the Bergen Museum was founded. The museum should not only house a collection but also conduct scientific work. Thus the museum became a precursor to what would become the University of Bergen. The museum building was opened in 1865.

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When the University of Bergen was founded in 1946, it was based at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Medicine. Medieval philology soon got a strong position and recieved a professorship in Old Norse in 1953. From the end of the 1950s, medieval history became a separate field of study at the newly established Historical Institute. Some years later, in 1970, the University received a professorship for medieval latin philology, as the only one in the country.

In the 1970s, medieval archeology became a separate field of study with emphasis on urban archeology, as a consequence of the international attention the Bryggen excavations received. Thence the university received a professorship in medieval archeology in 1994.

Interdisciplinary and inter-institutional cooperation characterized the medieval research, with contributions from both humanistic and natural science subjects and from the educational and museum sectors. In the last decades of the 20th century, among others, the "Medieval Forum of the University of Bergen" contributed to this cooperation.

The strength of the medieval communities in Bergen came about when parts of the research communities at the Nordic and Historical Institute obtained the status of a Centre of Excellence Research for the period 2003–2012. The Center for Medieval Studies (CMS) succeeded in attracting external academic environments, had a high and varied publishing activity and obtained a large number of doctoral thesis works.

Although the Center for Medieval Studies has been formally terminated as a Centre of Excellence, medieval research is still a focus area at the University of Bergen. At the Faculty of Humanities, the research has continued in various research groups. These research groups form part of a larger environment at UiB where research and teaching within medieval subjects is conducted. This includes disciplines such as history, archeology, philology, art history and literature.

In addition, the medieval objects and the building culture are central to the work at the collections and the research at the University Museum of Bergen. Here you will find a rich collection of church art from the Middle Ages and from the post-reformational time, as well as scientific competence in the medieval art and culture. The University Museum has got the scientific and administrative responsibility for the collections of medieval archaeological material from Western Norway and the museum has extensive competence in medieval archeology.

The Faculty of Law has expertise within legal history of the Middle Ages, and a plan for a ten-year project on Magnus Lagabøte's national law is particularly relevant. Research collaboration across the faculties and disciplines is a consistent and sought-after characteristic of today's research.