The Medieval Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers an interdisciplinary environment for the exploration of the cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean basin during the Middle Ages, a period spanning Late Antiquity to roughly 1500. Representing faculty from over 18 departments, we offer courses and certificate programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The Program also sponsors events and conferences on topics of interest both to the university and to the community at large.

Upcoming Events

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7: Professor Randall Todd Pippinger and Professor Nicole Pulichene, 2022 Solmsen Fellows

4:00 pm, University Club Room 212: Research presentation

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Research in the Humanities. 

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28: Professor Gregory Bryda (Art History, Barnard College)

2:30 pm, Hagen Room (Elvehjem 150): Workshop for graduate students and faculty. Please contact Claire Kilgore ( to participate.

5 pm, Elvehjem L150: Public lecture: “Painting the Plasticity of the Virgin’s Healing Plants: Grünewald’s Heller Altarpiece in Frankfurt’s Dominican Church”

In Matthias Grünewald’s altarpiece for Jakob Heller in Frankfurt’s Dominican Church, a patron motivated by care for the sick and the medicinal qualities of plants commissioned an altarpiece with a ritual function particular to a specific time of year. During the so-called Virgin Thirty (Frauendreißiger), the approximately thirty days between Mary’s Assumption (15 August) and Birth (8 September), plants came to be laid at the altar to be blessed and thus rendered sanctified. Drawing on intersections of a sanctioned religious tradition and folk practice, this talk unveils a layer of meaning to the altarpiece that has thus far been missed, and a sensitivity on the part of patron, artist, and viewers to the seasonal relationship of plants to the ritual calendar both within and beyond the walls of the church.

Click here to view the event poster.

Co-sponsored by the Anonymous Fund, the Department of Art History, the Religious Studies Program, and the Center for European Studies (CES).


FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11: Professor Sara Ritchey (History, University of Tennessee-Knoxville)

2:30 pm, Hagen Room (Elvehjem 150): Workshop for graduate students and faculty. Please contact Sarah Friedman ( to participate.

5 pm, Elvejhem L150: Public lecture. “From Archive to Repertoire in Late Medieval Women’s Caregiving Communities.”

Drawing on a range of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century French and Latin sources, including saints’ lives, charters, psalters, devotional miscellanies, drama, and poetry, this talk will survey the performance of healthcare that religious women (primarily beguines and Cistercians) provided in hospitals, leprosaria, infirmaries, and bedsides. It speculates on how textual knowledge in these communities was augmented through oral elaboration and suggests ways that medievalists can recuperate submerged healthcare knowledge and practices from manuscript vestiges.

Click here to view the event poster.

Co-sponsored by the Anonymous Fund and the Department of History.


FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18: Professor Arthur Bahr (Literature, MIT)

2 pm, 7191 Helen C. White: Workshop for graduate students and faculty. Please contact Professor Lisa Cooper ( to participate.

5 pm, 7191 Helen C. White: Public lecture, “Speculative Geometry and the Opening Page of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”

Weapons and wounds feature prominently in the first illustration of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which depicts the Green Knight’s entry, challenge, and beheading in a single tableau. As this talk will show, these weapons are more than thematic; they also help create a complex set of embedded triangles whose angles and sight-lines preview the poem to come.  This is significant because the first page of the poem, which appears opposite this illustration on folio 91/95r, is like none other in the manuscript—especially its large, eleven-line gap at the top of the page. Although not representationally illustrative like its facing page, the anomalous text-block of 91/95r nevertheless illustrates the perceptual challenges posed by Sir Gawain’s literary and numerical structures. The 90/94v+91/95r opening thus previews and enacts, in miniature, the challenges and delights of the poem it introduces. Read closely, and speculatively, it offers additional interpretive tools with which to chase the endless, gordian knot of Sir Gawain.

Click here to view the event poster.

Co-sponsored by the Anonymous Fund and the Department of English.