Teaching and practicing the Quadriga in Medieval Norway: A Reading of Barlaams og Josaphats Saga


  • Stefka G. Eriksen Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research




Barlaams saga, Quadriga, cognitive transformation, mise en page, medieval Norway.


The present volume establishes that Christian liturgy and religious rituals were the main tools for the transformation of the self after the introduction of Christianity in various cultural contexts of medieval Europe. The liturgical ritual was the ultimate arena and outer manifestation of the cognitive and behavioral changes required by individuals and which were inspired in them by the Church. In this article, I will discuss whether the same tools for transformation were relevant in medieval Norway and how self-reflection and cognitive change were triggered not only during the liturgy but also through other activities, such as the reading of literature. The primary focus will be on the medium of the book, here exemplified by an Old Norse translation of the pan-European legend about Barlaam and Josaphat as preserved in its main manuscript Holm Perg 6 fol., c. 1250. By Studying the content of the saga, its narratological structure, and the mise en page of the manuscript, I will argue that the text foregrounded the Christian quadriga model of interpreting and may have served to teach this model to its readers, i.e. members of the upper social class in medieval Norway during the second half of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century. This book itself, with its specific mise en page, may thus be seen as a tool assisting in the transformation of the self, in a similar way as the liturgy.

On cover:
Monks singing the Office and decorated initial A[sperges me.]. Gradual Olivetan Master (Use of the Olivetan Benedictines), illuminated manuscript on parchment ca. 1430-1439. Italy, Monastero di Santa Maria di Baggio near Milan, Ca 1400-1775.
Beinecke Ms1184: The olivetan Gradual. Gradual. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.




How to Cite

Eriksen, S. G. (2019) “Teaching and practicing the Quadriga in Medieval Norway: A Reading of Barlaams og Josaphats Saga”, Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia, 31(17 N.S.), pp. 225–244. doi: 10.5617/acta.7809.
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