Learning in Lincoln

An Icelandic scholar exemplifies the rich cultural exchanges of the Middle Ages. 

City on the hill: the south-west face of Lincoln Cathedral. Illustration by Arthur Wilde Parsons, 1888. © Bridgeman Images.Some time around 1160, a young Icelander arrived in England to study at the cathedral school in Lincoln. His name was Thorlak Thorhallsson. Before coming to Lincoln he had spent a few years studying in Paris; in his future was a career as a bishop back in his native Iceland, then, after his death in December 1193, veneration as Iceland’s first homegrown saint. This short spell in Lincoln was only a brief period in his life, but it provides an intriguing moment of connection between two worlds which were – geographically, at least – very far apart. What did Thorlak make of 12th-century Lincoln and what did Lincoln make of him?

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