ICMS Call for Papers is Published

The ICMS Call for Papers has just been published.  You can see it here:  Sneak Preview

We were awarded six sessions:

Cistercian Liturgy and History

The Intersection of Material and Spiritual Culture in Medieval Monasticism

Cistercian Abbeys of Brittany [co-sponsored with the Ancient Abbeys of Brittany Project]

Memory and Memory Aids in Twelfth-Century Cistercian Writing

Pseudo-Bernard: The Writers, Works,and Readers

The Cistercian and Monastic Inspiration for the Reformation: On the Occasion of the Five-Hundredth Anniversary of Luther’s Theses

This list is a combination of sessions requested by the Congress administration and sessions which the Board chose for various reasons. .

We will be planning to have additional “extra-Congressional” sessions again this year. Please do prepare paper abstracts and send them in by September 1.  I look forward to your submissions!

Further details will be forthcoming when I return from this trip.  Right now, I am in Passau, still working on CCMS projects.  Tschuss!

Sue Steuer

On the Road

For the past five days, I have been traveling through Austria (via Windsor, Toronto and Barcelona) to develop a study-abroad course for upper level undergraduates and M.A. students, which will support our Certificate in Monastic Studies.

Thus far, I have been to Heiligenkreuz and Zwettl, two active monasteries in Austria which were founded in the twelfth century.  I hope to bring students to Heiligenkreuz for several days, since it is not only a wonderful place to experience the liturgy, but also teaches theology.  Zwettl has a fantastic library, as well as a beautiful church and location.  I’ve also been walking around Vienna to visit other monastic churches.

During the next couple of weeks, I’ll combine course development visits, work on our Monastic Gazetteer and Janauschek portal and a little vacation.  I’ll be here near Vienna for a day or two more, then in the area of Passau for a week, take a break to visit family in the Westerwald, then travel north near Hildesheim.  I hope to learn a lot!

Neil Chase is still available to answer any questions about the Cistercian Studies Library materials.  You can contact me by email at ccms_mdvl@wmich.edu.

Sue Steuer, Interim Director



2017 Conference Planning update; sessions submitted to International Congress on Medieval Studies

963951_10200693545834750_1031358324_oThe response to our call for session proposals was wonderful!  We received 12 proposals, which is the maximum number we can submit and the CCMS Advisory Board was very pleased with the thoughtfulness and quality of the proposals.  The application was submitted to ICMS yesterday.  Now we will await the decision of their committee.  Thanks to everyone for their work!

Listed below are the titles we submitted.  More information will be forthcoming once we hear from ICMS, which will be several weeks from now.  In the meantime, please consider whether you would like to submit a paper to one of these sessions, or volunteer to help organize or chair.  We want to encourage everyone to be involved.

Cistercian Liturgy and History

Cistercian Manuscripts Lost and Found

The Influence of Cistercian Writing on Vernacular Authors

Cistercian Saints’ Lives and Exempla: Historical Sources?

The Intersection of Material and Spiritual Culture in Medieval Monasticism

Cistercian Abbeys of Brittany

Memory and Memory Aids in 12th Century Cistercian Writing

Monks and the World:  The Political and Economic Activities of Medieval Cistercian Monasteries

Pseudo-Bernard: The Writers, Works, and Readers

The Cistercian and Monastic Inspiration for the Reformation, On Occasion of the 500th Anniversary of Luther’s Theses

Issues in Cistercian and Monastic Studies

Teaching Monasticism in the Academy and the Abbey

Please do contact me with any questions or comments at the Center’s email address, mdvl_ccms@wmich.edu.

Sue Steuer, Interim Director




2017 Conference Planning

As outlined in the previous post, the Conference on Cistercian and Monastic Studies will be adapting its planning process this year.  The goal of these changes is to work more efficiently within the existing process of the International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS), while retaining the stature of the Conference (CCMS) as a distinct international academic gathering.  The link below leads to a brief document which outlines the process as it is currently envisioned.  This does not mean that we will not need to adapt to developments as we work with these changes, but it provides us with a place to start.

The most significant change is that we are asking our regular attenders to come up with some topics and brief rationales for sessions they would like to develop and serve as organizers.  These sessions will be discussed by the CCMS advisory board submitted for inclusion in 2017 ICMS.  Some sessions outside of ICMS are also anticipated.

Planning process: 2017 Conference on Cistercian and Monastic Studies

Please do contact the office if you have any questions at mdvl_ccms@wmich.edu.  Our phone is only covered intermittently at this time, so email is the best way to reach someone.

2016 Cistercian and Monastic Studies Annual Report

Summary: In August 2015, Dr. Rozanne Elder retired as Director of CCMS. In October 2015, Dr. Susan Steuer was named Interim Director, assigned to CCMS for seven hours per week until August 2017. The Center’s ongoing existence and its placement within WMU’s administration is in some doubt because its two primary assets, Cistercian Publications and the greater part of the book and manuscript collection (on loan from Gethsemani Abbey), are no longer affiliated with WMU, though a number of small loan collections from other houses remain. Steuer has tried to affirm these relationships and bring CCMS operations in line with WMU procedures and policies, as well as organize the office in a new location.


The International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS) granted six panels to the Conference this year, down from twelve in 2015. An additional three independent panels will be held at the Lee Honors College on Thursday, and the ICMS panels will be held Friday and Saturday. Looking forward, a new model for the CCMS panel planning will be attempted this spring to align procedures more closely with ICMS practices. Because the CCMS panels often discuss issues in monasticism which are chronologically outside of the scope of the ICMS, a day of separate panels may be ongoing. This year, a panel was developed with Dr. Diane Riggs (Comparative Religion) on silence in different monastic traditions.

Liturgical services which have traditionally been offered in conjunction with ICMS are being facilitated through CCMS. Steuer has been approached by Orthodox practitioners about providing options for them as well. This may be explored for 2017. Officiants are organized by the interested groups and CCMS organizes service materials, books and liturgical equipment and supplies.

Advisory Board and Outreach

For several years, CCMS has had an advisory board composed of scholars, and monks and nuns from outside of WMU. This Board has no formal charge or mission and no plans for transition of membership, and these issues will be approached this year. The Board traditionally meets during the CCMS conference. One member has stepped down, Dr. Elizabeth Freeman. Dr. Anne Lester has agreed to join the Board in Dr. Freeman’s place this year and nominations for additional members will be solicited, as needed. The goal is to maintain a balance between academics and religious on this board to reflect the traditional strengths of CCMS.

During the past year, Steuer has visited four monasteries: St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA; St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN (primarily speaking with librarians); Mount St. Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham, MA; and Valley of Our Lady Monastery, Prairie du Sac, WI. This has been primarily to introduce Steuer, discuss loan collections and find out the interests and concerns of these organizations. Steuer has also visited several libraries regarding collaboration and advice on digital projects.

Certificate in Monastic Movements

This certificate, which currently requires 18 hours of coursework and Medieval Latin, is in the process of being reevaluated so that the certificate has broader appeal and can include other historical periods. This has been tabled to some extent while issues with the M.A. in Medieval Studies are addressed. The certificate is envisioned to include both eastern and western monastic traditions. Steuer discussed ways the certificate can work with existing strengths in Buddhist monasticism in Comparative Religion with Dr. Steven Covell and Dr. Diane Riggs. A study abroad course on European monasticism is in development, to complement an existing course which visits monasteries in Japan. There seems to be a need for courses to serve monastic communities for formation (particularly for women’s houses), such as the history of the Bible. Further work on the potential audience and marketing for these courses is planned, and they would most likely be offered as asynchronous distance or hybrid courses.

Research Projects

Monastic (formerly Cistercian) Gazetteer. This semantic-web based project has been supported through a FRACAA during the past academic year. $5000 was transferred to MI, as Research Assistant Mallory Heslinger worked extensively on this project and a graduate student in Computer Engineering, Mitul Patell. She will be employed over the summer. A linked-data ontology has been developed for the project and planning for an NEH submission and a Mellon submission is in development in partnership with the WMU Libraries (Sheila Bair), the Upjohn Center for Geographic Change (Kathleen Baker) and the Department of Computer Science (Ala Al-Fuqaha). Bair and Steuer also met with digital scholarship and geography experts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. They discussed ways that the proposed map-based interface can be designed to work smoothly with HMML collections with their staff. An advisory board is being considered and additional meetings will be held regarding the project during the CCMS conference.

Janauschek Portal: This transcription project is currently being developed in a wiki format, but is on hold due to funding issues and because the nineteenth-century German handwriting is outside of the strengths of CCMS. The advisory board for this project (P. Alkuin Schachenmayer, Cornelia Oefelein and Frank Sasama in Germany and Steuer and Elder in the U.S.) has been exploring ways to develop this project using student labor in Germany, where there is more familiarity with the handwriting conventions. The nature of this project links very well with the Gazetteer, so there is an ongoing interest in keeping CCMS involved.

Cistopedia is a website developed by a group in Germany, which is looking for an institutional home for the project. It is a treasure trove of information on the Cistercian Order. Frank Sasama would like WMU to take this over, but it would require financial support for maintenance and updating.

Other projects

Clean up from the Gethsemani deaccession (which was held by WMU by virtue of CCMS) continues. The removal of some 1800+ items from the library occurred in the midst of a transition to a new integrated library system, causing significant problems in removing records. Incorrect records and uncataloged materials were also discovered during this process. CCMS assigned graduate students have evaluated items for cataloging revision in preparation for a major shelving shift following the deaccession, as well as reviewing collections for materials which may have been missed during the process (a handful).
Obrecht Manuscript catalog was submitted to MIP in Fall 2015 and Steuer completed correspondence with the copy editor, who seems to have done a very thorough job, about April 1. A bound mock-up was available during the conference.

Letters of agreement are being developed with monasteries which still have materials on deposit which will be with the WMU Libraries. Additional letters of commitment are being prepared for the Region.

Submitted by Dr. Susan Steuer
May 5, 2016

On the Road and on the Blog

This week, Professors Sheila Bair and Susan Steuer are embarking upon a Cistercian Gazetteer Road Trip.  They will be consulting with representatives who are a part of a variety of projects in the area of digital humanities.  The hope is that some of the projects will have helpful ideas or might be potential partners for our efforts to create a map interface which will connect to materials through the semantic web.

During the last year, we have been busily working on various aspects of both the Januaschek Portal and the Interactive Cistercian Gazetteer.  We have submitted some grant applications, continued to refine data and worked on uploading materials for groups to work on.   Professor Bair has been developing and refining an ontology for the Cistercian Order and she and Steuer have secured a small grant from Western Michigan University to hire a student to help enter the data and check it for completeness and accuracy.   More grant applications will be forthcoming as the team works to address the concerns of the reviewers of earlier proposals.

Bumps in the road are a part of the process of writing grants and developing new kinds of projects, but we are still eager for the trip!