The Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
For one day each year, the Middle Ages come alive thanks to a partnership between the UT Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Bearden High School, and the Barony of Thor’s Mountain, a local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
“Part of the Marco Institute’s outreach initiative is to encourage students of all ages to think about the humanities as something exciting and worth exploring,” said Katie Hodges-Kluck, program coordinator for the Marco Institute. “We also want students to know that they can study these and other related subjects in college. Medieval Day is a way to bring medieval culture to middle and high school students and teachers in the Knoxville area.”
Medieval Day has something for everyone. Students watch medieval fighting demonstrations put on by members of the Barony of Thor’s Mountain and get to try their hands at writing with quill pens on parchment – just like medieval scribes.
“We want to give students a chance to experience the medieval world — to see its art, to hear its languages, even to wear its armor and carry its weapons,” said Jay Rubenstein, Riggsby Director of Marco. “Medieval Day is a chance for Marco to give back to the community and introduce students to a rich and wild historical tradition that they might otherwise never get to study in their regular classes.”
UT faculty and graduate students also present research in a conversational setting to help students, teachers, and members of the community understand more about the Middle Ages.
“The medieval period is often viewed as ‘the Dark Ages’ – a monolithic, dirty, violent, backward age full of disease with few laws and barbarians ravaging the countryside at every turn,” Hodges-Kluck said. In reality, the ‘Middle Ages’ encompass a period of approximately 1,000 years, from c. 500 to c. 1500 CE, throughout Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa.
“That’s a huge amount of time and space, full of countless different peoples and cultures, to be reduced into a single stereotype,” Hodges-Kluck said.
Students and teachers who attend Medieval Day have constant reminders that innovations we take for granted today – such as the format of the modern book – were birthed during the Middle Ages. Modern languages like French and Spanish took shape during this era. Medieval thinkers developed religious and philosophical ideas still around today.
“The medieval period was often an era of innovation, exchange, and the creation of works of exceptional beauty,” Hodges-Kluck said. “It is immensely rewarding to open an 800-year-old manuscript and become immersed in the concerns, hopes, and imaginations of the people who created it.”