National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: John Soderberg

Affiliation: Denison University

John Soderberg is Visiting Assistant Professor with the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Denison University,and holds his degrees from Middlebury College, Boston College (MA), and the University of Minnesota (PhD).  He has excavated sites in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. His main research interest is the archaeology of religion, with a focus on the development of large religious centers in Ireland from the Iron Age into the Middle Ages. Other interests include the development of cities, medieval Northern Europe, zooarchaeology, and three-dimensional scanning of artifacts.


Sanctuaries cities have been very much in the news recently. Debates about them arise from very contemporary issues with immigration, race, and economic inequality. But, sanctuary cities have also been around for millennia. In medieval Ireland, monastic “cities of refuge” were among the largest and most economically complex settlements of their day. Yet, they were also sacred places that offered sanctuary from undue vengeance and refuge to strangers. This talk explores why medieval Irish sanctuary cities developed this complex set of roles. What parts did sanctuary cities play in the social, economic, and religious challenges of their day? Reflecting on concepts of sanctuary in the Middle Ages may help untangle today’s conversations.

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