New Communities of Interpretation:

Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

The Action coordinates research activities being currently developed at several European universities and research institutes and creates a virtual centre of expertise for the study of religious culture in late medieval and early modern Europe. This period is traditionally depicted as one of great cultural discontinuity and binary oppositions between learned (Latin) and unlearned (vernacular) and ecclesiastical hierarchy and the lay believers. Challenging stereotypical descriptions of exclusion of lay and non-Latinate people from religious and cultural life, the project concentrates on the reconstruction of the process of emancipation of the laity and the creation of new "communities of interpretations". The Action analyzes patterns of social inclusion and exclusion and examines shifts in hierarchic relations amongst groups, individuals and their languages, casting new yet profoundly historical light on themes of seminal relevance to present-days societies.

COST is a European organization that funds large networking grants (“Actions”) to promote cooperation in Science and Technology; it also includes many non-EU countries. Its calls are highly competitive (well under 10% success ratio). The Action unites more than 200 researchers from 22 countries. The host institution of the action is the University of Groningen; the Institute for Medieval Research of the Austrian Academy is one of the four institutions at which the proposal was developed and the European cooperating network created. Pavlína Rychterová is member of the managing and the steering comittee of the Action and leader of Working Group1, “Theories and Methods”, which coordinates the methodological debate. The Action holds workshops on a regular basis and implements a great variety of activities. The support and mentoring of young scholars is a key activitiy carried out in workshops, training schools and short term mission scholarships (awarded on competitive basis within the project). Several senior and junior scholars at the Institute for Medieval Research participate in these activities. For instance, two scholarships were gained in the last three years.