MI Game Day Events Showcase the Wonders of the Middle Ages

Author: Medieval Institute

Shannon Dunne Photo
Irish Dance Performer Shannon Dunne

This year, the Medieval Institute has continued to engage the broader university and South Bend communities through offering Game Day tailgates featuring medieval activities. Our aim with these events is to expand public knowledge of the Middle Ages and of the wide variety of ways in which people today, academic and otherwise, engage with medieval traditions. At the same time, we also want to remind everyone that the Middle Ages can be lots of fun! With this in mind, a key aspect of our programming for this year has been to emphasize interactive engagement and get everyone both physically and mentally involved. Our events this term have attempted to engage all the senses, each truly immersing participants in the medieval world in a different way. 

We kicked off the 2022 season on September 10th with a tailgate featuring Shannon Dunne, an esteemed dance instructor (and graduate of the Medieval Institute!), who led the audience in an interactive performance and dance lesson. The dancing was accompanied by live Irish music, courtesy of Notre Dame's own céilí band. Matthew and Patrick Olwell, master flute makers and historians, both joined in the band's lively and enchanting performance and also informed the audience briefly about the history of the flute in traditional music and the instrument's historical construction. The turnout for the event was impressive, with dozens of students, faculty members, and guests of the university enthusiastically stepping up to take a turn at each round of dance lessons. This tailgate was a collaborative event which was co-sponsored by the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the Department of Irish Languages and Literatures. It was a fun and lively way to kick off the fall season!

Theatrica Gladiatoria Saturday 09-11-21
Jen Pan and Rodney Rice, two members of Theatrica Gladiatoria, demonstrate medieval combat. Photo by Joe Wright.

At the Medieval Institute’s second tailgate of the season, on September 17th, we eagerly welcomed back one of last year’s popular favorites: Theatrica Gladiatoria! Led by Jen Pan and Joe Wright, the troupe reconstructs and demonstrates historical fencing techniques. They thrill audiences with their theatrical—yet historically grounded—swordplay. This time around, the troupe not only delighted the crowd with swashbuckling demonstrations but also brought practice weapons for young and old alike to learn daring swordsmanship drills. 

Saint John's Bible Photo
Saint John's Bible

We closed out the tailgate season on October 22nd with an exciting series of workshops on quill making, medieval calligraphy, and assembling books by hand. All the materials for the workshops were provided, and these immersive activities transported participants directly into the tactile world of a medieval monk. As an added bonus, everyone left the workshop with a piece of their own handiwork to show off! Additionally, thanks to generous co-sponsorship from the McGrath Institute for Church Life, we were also able to give attendees a glimpse of Notre Dame's copy of the Saint John's Bible, a remarkable, hand-written and hand-illuminated Bible begun in 1998 and finally completed in 2011. The opportunity to view this beautiful piece of craftsmanship and the interactive learning workshops both contributed to a fun and educational end to this year's tailgate season.

Learn more about our community engagement work, and save the date to join us next fall for more medieval fun!