Secrets and Discovery in the Middle Ages

5th European Congress of Medieval Studies

Secret et découverte au Moyen Âge V.e Congrès Européen d’Études Médiévales

Segredo e descoberta na Idade Média Vº Congresso Europeu de Estudos Medievais

25-29.06.2013 Porto (Portugal), Faculdade de Letras

FIDEM Congress 2013

The 5th European Congress of Medieval Studies of the Fédération Internationale des Instituts d’Études Médiévales (FIDEM) is organized by the Gabinete de Filosofia Medieval, Universidade do Porto, Portugal.


Fascination with secrets traverses the Middle Ages. A secret is shared by few and coveted by many, requiring a lot of those who have to keep it, or those who want to disclose it. A secret is power, hence the eagerness to discover it. But as curiosity can lead to the abyss and punishment, discovering secrets also requires prudence and caution. The relationship between secret and discovery expresses itself in the Middle Ages, as in all times, through many other dynamic dualities: mystery and revelation, arcane and evidence, unknown and sought, ignorance and knowledge, esoteric and exoteric, private message and edict, hidden and manifest, conspiracy and complaint. The secret is in the nature, which does everything to hide itself, while he reveals itself in many ways, but only to those who know how to interpret it. So in the Middle Ages there are sciences for all secrets: of God, of elements and things, of the stars, of physiognomy, of women, of happiness, of the delights of paradise, of relics, of holiness, of the inner life, of sin, of power, of distant peoples and lost places, and of countless other things. The secret is itself a big secret. The secret is everywhere, in the narratives of search and discovery, in public or private action, in sciences, in books or encyclopedias. One of the most popular medieval texts, the Secretum secretorum, which collects the secrets of health, politics, nature, astrology, magic, alchemy, becomes a model for the many of the literary works composed to uncover secrets, that thus, paradoxically, cease to be. The secret holds dangerous and valuable knowledge ranging from counterfeiting, to the illusions of the imagination, or the triumph of reason and wisdom. The secret and its avatars were a silent yet strong driving force in almost all aspects of the Middle Ages. The “Secrets and Discovery” Congress proposes to discuss their presence and importance in the imagination, culture, thinking, sciences, politics, religion, and life during the Middle Ages (from the beginning of the 6th to the end of the 15th century).

Congress Sessions

are designed to promote discussion on secrets and discovery from all Medieval Studies domains, in every medieval language, and in different subjects:

  • Confession and Intimacy
  • Conspiracy and Betrayal
  • Government and Diplomacy
  • Health and Life
  • Hermeticism and Transmutation
  • Holiness and Relics
  • Knowledge and Scepticism
  • Mysticisms and Kabbalah
  • Nature and Supernatural
  • Past and Future
  • Planets and Harmony
  • Prophecy and Divination
  • Sermons and Preaching
  • Symbols and Dreams
  • Truth and Fake
  • Unknown Worlds and Lost Places
  • Warfare and Strategy

Keynote speakers

  • Catarina Belo (American University in Cairo), Theories of Prophecy and the Faculties of the Soul in Medieval Islamic Philosophy
  • Enrique Montero Cartelle (Universidad de Valladolid), El descubrimiento de una falsedad: El De stomacho de Constantino el Africano y su fuente árabe
  • Greti Dinkova-Brunn (Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto), The Secrets in Miscellanies: Manuscript Cotton Titus D. XX and its Structure
  • Harvey Hames (Ben Gurion University, Beersheva), Discovering the Secrets of God: Kabbalah as an alternative Theology of Judaism in the Thirteenth Century
  • Luís Miguel Duarte (Universidade do Porto), Secrets and Portuguese Geographical Discoveries
  • Pascale Bourgain (École des Chartes, Paris), “Non sine Mysterio”
  • Pete Biller (The University of York), Medieval heretics: secrets, secrecy and the Secretum

Call for papers

The congress is open to all individual members of FIDEM and to all affiliates of institutional effective members of FIDEM.

All European languages are official languages of the Congress, as is the tradition in FIDEM meetings.


20 minutes + 10 minutes discussion.

Special sessions

If you want to organize a special session (up to 3 presentations each one), a round table, a project presentation, or books discussion or presentation, please send us a proposal.

Online registration and submission of abstracts

Registration at basic rate closes 28th February 2013. For registration after 28th February add + 30% (with paper ony until 31st March); in April to June + 50%.

  • € 50 (with paper); € 70 (without paper); € 25 (students with paper); € 30 (students without paper).
  • Congress Banquet (28th June): € 30 (for payments after 31 March add 25%).
  • One day study visits (27th June): tba

Electronic Payment only. If you are experiencing any dificulty with online payment, please email us following our online form.

Enquiries and Proposals

9 + 2 =

Online Submissions


Participation scholarships

FIDEM will provide scholarships for young participants (under 35) presenting their research, if they are individual members or belong to a member institution of FIDEM, in order to encourage their participation in the Congress. Application letter (accompanied by curriculum vitae and a letter of recommendation signed by a faculty member) must be sent by e-mail, after online registration in the Congress (see above), by 28th February 2013. They should be sent to Prof. José Meirinhos, secretary of FIDEM, at . Candidates will be notified of the outcome on 31 March. No application will be accepted without previous complete registration, including an abstract.

Congress Facilities


Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto / Via Panorâmica sn / 4150-564 Porto / Portugal.


The campus cafeteria will be open to all participants for lunch and dinner at very reasonable prices (€ 3.50, 2012 price).

Other Facilities

Facilities available to the participants include: eduroam wireless network, meeting room projectors, computer’s room, Library, photocopier, etc.

Book Fair

A book fair will be open for the period of the congress, featuring the major publishers in all fields of Medieval Studies.


Information on accommodation is provided on the Congress website. Hotel prices are reasonable, but it is advisable to book accommodation in advance. To be done directly by participants.


One day study visits on Medieval subjects will be organized for Saturday 27 June. You can book and pay for whichever you prefer at the Congress: 1) Medieval Braga-Guimarães; 2) Renaissance and Baroque Coimbra; 3) Medieval Porto and Douro River.

Organizing Committee

Gabinete de Filosofia Medieval – Instituto de Filosofia da Universidade do Porto.

  • José Meirinhos (Director)
  • Ana Lima
  • Filipa Jorge (webmaster)
  • Gonçalo Figueiredo
  • João Rebalde
  • Marco Toste
  • Patrícia Calvário
Advisory Committee
FIDEM’s Bureau.

  • Adriano Oliva (Paris)
  • Greti Dinkova Bruun (Toronto)
  • Jacqueline Hamesse (Louvain-la-Neuve) – Chair
  • José Meirinhos (Porto)
  • Louis Holtz (Paris)
  • María José Muñoz Jiménez (Madrid)
  • Olivia Remie Constable (Notre Dame)
  • Oronzo Pecere (Cassino)
  • Outi Merisalo (Jyväskylä)
Scientific Committee
Faculdade de Letras Medieval Studies Area.

  • Ana Sofia Laranjinha (Romance Literature) *
  • Armando Luís Carvalho Homem (Medieval Political History) *
  • Clara Barros (Medieval Romance Linguistics) *
  • Eleonora Lombardo (Medieval Hagiography) ***
  • João Carlos Garcia (Medieval Geography and cartography) *
  • John Greenfield (Medieval German Literature) *
  • José Augusto Pizarro (Medieval Social and Political History; Genealogy) *
  • José Carlos Miranda (Medieval Arthurian Literature; Romance Philology) *
  • José Meirinhos (Medieval Philosophy; Natural Sciences) [Chair] *
  • Lidia Lanza (Medieval Philosophy; Text edition) ***
  • Lúcia Rosas (Medieval Art History) *
  • Luís Amaral (Medieval Administration and Ecclesiastical Institutions) *
  • Luís Miguel Duarte (Medieval History of Culture; Medieval Sources) *
  • Manuel Lázaro Pulido (Medieval Philosophy; Theology) **
  • Manuel Francisco Ramos (Medieval Latin; Rhetoric) *
  • Maria Cristina Cunha (Medieval History; Diplomatics) *
  • Mário Barroca (Mediaeval Archaeology) *
  • Paula Oliveira e Silva (Medieval Philosophy; Patristic Medieval tradition) **
  • Paula Pinto Costa (Medieval Social and Economic History) *
  • Vera Rodrigues (Medieval Philosophy; Trivium and Quadrivium) ***

* FLUP Professor; ** FLUP Researcher (Ciencia2008); *** FCT post doc GFM

  • Fundação para a Ciênica e a Tecnologia (Compete; QREN, UE)
  • Instituto de Filosofia da Universidade do Porto
  • Universidade do Porto
  • Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto
  • Fédération Internationale des Instituts d’Études Médiévales
  • Centro de Investigação Transdisciplinar «Cultura, Espaço e Memória» (CITCEM) – Universidade do Porto.


After double blind review, the Congress proceedings will be published in FIDEM’s series ‘Textes et études du Moyen Âge’, distributed by Brepols Publishers.