Medieval Institute's 75th Anniversary Highlighted in the ND Observer

Author: Lucy Grinnan

This year, the Notre Dame Medieval Institute is celebrating its 75th anniversary since its inception in 1946.

Schneider Facsimiles
Medieval Studies Librarian Dr. Julia Schneider shows facsimiles to students at the Medieval Institute. Photo by Megan Hall.

The Notre Dame Medieval Institute is the nation’s “largest and most prestigious” center for the study of the Middle Ages. It contains fifty faculty members from thirteen different departments and an incomparable library with a growing collection of manuscripts. Students within the Institute become future academics, medievalists and leaders in all spheres of life. Anyone can enjoy conferences and lectures which invite world-renowned scholars to campus.

Professor of history and Medieval Institute director Thomas E. Burman summarized the work of the Institute by reflecting on its history.

“It was founded in 1946, one of the oldest in North America,” he said. “It began as an institute to study the thoughts of the forebears of Thomas Aquinas in the 12th century. And over the years, its remit has expanded very broadly; we still have people studying 12th-century thought, but we are now very strong in areas like Old and Middle English and Old Norse, the language of Iceland and Norway. We study the history of Islamic theology, the history of Islam in the East, medieval Jewish thought and we have scholars studying almost the whole range of medieval topics that one can imagine, running from the North Sea through the far eastern end of the Mediterranean,” Burman said.

And after all these years, Burman said, the program is still going strong.

“From the beginning, we’ve had a graduate program, which has produced about 100 PhD students over the 75 years that we’ve been doing this,” he said. “Probably the majority of those students are from about 1980 onward. They have gone off to leading institutions as scholars of the Middle Ages in English departments, history departments, philosophy departments and theology departments. About 20 years ago we began an undergraduate program. At any time, we have about 40 undergraduate majors or minors. So, that is a thriving aspect of our institution as well.” 

This is an excerpt from an article written by Marcelle Couto and published on September 24th, 2021, in The Observer, the student-run newspaper serving Notre Dame and St. Mary's. Read it here!