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Henriette Hellinger

Henriette Hellinger is a PhD researcher at the International Research Training Group ‘Baltic Peripeties. Narratives of Reformations, Revolutions and Catastrophes’. She received her bachelor’s degree in History and Scandinavian Studies from the University of Greifswald in 2021 and her master’s degree in History and Culture of the Baltic Sea Region in 2023. Having written her bachelor thesis about gender constructions in early Norwegian Law Codes and her master thesis about celibacy among the Scandinavian clergy in the Middle Ages, her PhD project focusses on expected clerical behaviour, recorded irregularities and the reasons for changing tolerance towards disobeying members of the clergy.

University of Greifswald

IRTG Baltic Peripeties
Anklamer Str. 20
17489 Greifswald

Room: 1.02
+49 3834 420 3592

Chair of Nordic History

Bodies, Violence, Gender Roles: Shifting Expectations of Clerical Behaviour in Medieval Scandinavia (working title)

My doctoral project focuses on the expectations of clerical behaviour, largely dictated by canon law and ecclesiastical discourse of the time. While certain desirable behaviours and lifestyles for members of the clergy were known and promoted by the Scandinavian church from its beginnings, there are numerous accounts of clerical misconduct, regular breaches of canon law and even long-term disregard for certain conventions. The reaction of the papacy and papal legates to these incidents varied from time to time, and at times there was even tolerance of clerical behaviour that was explicitly contrary to canon law. While disasters such as depopulation caused by the plague could lead to greater tolerance of the Catholic Church towards its members, political or ecclesiastical changes could lead to stricter enforcement of canon law. The narrative of the clergy as people on the moral high ground seems clearly separated from the accounts of local clerics.

My project examines the period between the full integration of Scandinavia into the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation and its integration in Scandinavia. Geographically, the focus is on the regions covered by the archdioceses of Lund, Nidaros and Uppsala (which also includes most of modern Finland). The groups considered are higher and lower clerics, with and without ordination, as well as secular and monastic clerics, the latter including nuns as the only group of female clerics. Clerical behaviour and lifestyle dictated by canon law could include sexual and social behaviour, dietary and dress regulations, anatomical or medical requirements, the duty of non-violence, economic restrictions, and matters of character and piety. In addition to canon law, the records of the Apostolic Penitentiary contain a large number of sources on applications for absolution and penance, including those made by clerics. Monastic orders often kept their own records and registers of the conduct of their clergy. Records between the papacy and local archbishops and bishops, as well as records of papal legates, can provide insight in the Church’s tolerance of its members.

University studies and degrees

  • Since April 2024
  • Doctoral Researcher at the International Research Training Group “Baltic Peripeties. Narratives of Reformations, Revolutions and Catastrophes” at the University of Greifswald.
  • 2021 – 2023
  • M.A. History and Culture of the Baltic Sea Region at the University of Greifswald.
  • 2022
  • Erasmus+ semester at Södertörn University Stockholm.
  • 2017 – 2021
  • B.A. History / Scandinavian Studies at the University of Greifswald.

Professional background

  • 2023
  • Participant of “KarriereWegeMentoring” for female graduates with PhD interest.
  • 2021 – 2023
  • Student Assistant for the M.A. programme “History and Culture of the Baltic Sea Region” at the University of Greifswald.
  • 2021 – 2023
  • Student Assistant at the Chair for Nordic History, University of Greifswald.
  • 2020
  • Internship at Kulturhistorisches Museum Stralsund.