The International Congress on Medieval Studies goes virtual

Medieval scholars from around the world will meet virtually this week, as the 56th session of the International Congress on Medieval Studies begins online.

Typically held on the campus of Western Michigan University, this is the world’s largest conference for medievalists. However, it has moved to a virtual format during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be running for six days starting on Monday, May 10th.


Session topics this year range from historical sword fighting, reflections on the death of saint and martyr Thomas Becket, language and writing in the eastern Mediterranean and the study of past pandemics. The sessions are in a variety of formats, many taking the form of a series of academic paper presentations. Special events include two plenary lectures, the annual lecture on the reception of the classics and a virtual talent show.

It is not the traditional format for the congress, which in the past has attracted thousands to campus to mingle, visit and purchase medieval books and sundries from vendors. Still, organizers plan to immerse participants in medieval culture and connect them to others with similar interests and intellectual curiosity, says Medieval Institute Director Dr. Jana K. Schulman.


“We’ve created a truly interactive experience, including features that facilitate making connections with other registrants outside of the context of the academic program,” explains Schulman. “With six days of events live on the internet followed by two weeks in which more than 200 sessions recorded during the week of live events are available to registrants, the 56th congress promises a cornucopia for all those interested in the Middle Ages.”

All events—live and prerecorded—including sessions, the virtual Exhibits Hall and the virtual talent show, are available exclusively to those registered for the congress. Online registration is open through Saturday, May 29, which is the last day recorded sessions will be available to view.

Click here to view the program

Plenary lectures:

“Marco Polo and the Diversity of the Global Middle Ages,” presented by Dr. Sharon Kinoshita, University of California, Santa Cruz

“The Black Queen of Sheba: A Global History of an African Idea,” presented by Dr. Wendy Laura Belcher, Princeton University


Click here to register for the congress

Top Image: Photo by Nenad Stojkovic / Flickr