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Images of Jews and Saracens in Old Danish and Old Swedish sermons and wall paintings: Sources for an investigation of the spread of images and ideas from “continental” Europe and the Mediterranean to medieval Denmark and Sweden
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Scandinavian Languages.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3890-4630
2016 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Jews were not permitted to settle in Scandinavia until the modern era (Denmark 1622, Sweden 1718) and Muslims did not arrive in significant numbers until the late twentieth century. Yet despite the fact that there was no resident population, Muslims and, in particular, Jews can be found in many different literary genres (including sermons) and works of art (including wall-paintings, altar pieces and sculptures). These two non-Christian groups in medieval Scandinavia are thus an example of what Gloria Cigman with regard to England has called “absent-presence”, although in Denmark and Sweden they were not a memory or continuation from a pre-expulsion era but rather manifestations of the imagination that drew upon pre-existing classical and foreign traditions.

This paper surveys the extant vernacular sermon material from medieval Denmark and Sweden that mentions Muslims and Jews and attempts to categorise the different types and uses of the representations. As the extant corpus of sermon material from medieval Denmark and Sweden is rather small, I shall look briefly at the saints’ lives and legends that were often used to fashion exempla in sermons. The paper will also consider the rich treasury of wall paintings and how these pictures reinforced the ideas about Jews propagated in sermons. (There are no unequivocal images of Muslims, Saracens or Turks in medieval Danish and Swedish wall paintings.)

Finally, the paper will attempt to trace the Scandinavian imagery and influences back to ‘continental’ Europe and uncover what sorts of ideas about Muslims and Jews were useful enough to Scandinavians to survive the long journey north.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
medieval sermons, preaching, Jews, Muslims
National Category
Specific Languages History of Religions
Research subject
Scandinavian Languages; History of Religions
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-277939OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-277939DiVA: diva2:905951
Jornadas Internacionales: La predicación en el mediterráneo medieval, Universitat Pompeu Fabra – Casa de Velázquez; Barcelona, February 2016
Available from: 2016-02-23 Created: 2016-02-23 Last updated: 2016-05-11

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Adams, Jonathan
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