Since April 2022, I am a postdoctoral researcher at Heidelberg University and secretary of the Institute for Franconian and Palatine History (Institut für Fränkisch-Pfälzische Geschichte und Landeskunde).

I obtained my PhD in Medieval History from Trinity College Dublin in 2021. My doctoral thesis, supervised by Dr Immo Warntjes and funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (project code: WILL17), bears the title ‘Beyond Mission: Willibrord as a Political Actor between Early Medieval Ireland, Britain and Merovingian Francia (690-739)’; see below for a brief abstract.

For contact details see the CV below and the website of the Institute for Franconian and Palatine History.


  • 2021: PhD, Medieval History, Trinity College Dublin.

  • 2017: MA, Medieval History, University of Freiburg.

  • 2014: BA, History, University of Freiburg.

Other Publications



Summer, Michel, ‘Review of Rainer Neu, Willibrord und die Christianisierung Europas im Frühmittelalter’, Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique (forthcoming).

Summer, Michel, ‘Review of Sven Meeder and Erik Goosmann, Redbad: koning in de marge van de geschiedenis (Houten, 2018)’, Peritia: Journal of the Medieval Academy of Ireland, 32 (2021), pp. 329-331.

Conference Reports

Summer, Michel, ‘Bericht über die Tagung “Archäologie, Geschichte und Biowissenschaften: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven”, Freiburg 2015’, Zeitschrift für Archäologie des Mittelalters, 43 (2015), pp. 178-80.


Pierre Kauthen, Willibrord: The Model of a Saint (L’Oeuvre St-Willibrord, 2020; from German into English).

MA Thesis

Summer, Michel, “Gefolgschaft”: Interdisziplinäre Untersuchungen zu einem zentralen Begriff der Frühmittelalterforschung, unpublished MA thesis, University of Freiburg, 2017.


PhD project (2017-2021)

The aim of my doctoral thesis is to reassess the political role played by Willibrord (658-739) during his time on the Continent between 690 and 739 and to integrate his missionary activity into the ecclesiastical and political links that existed between Ireland, Britain and the Frankish kingdom in the late seventh and early eighth centuries. Willibrord’s relation to the family of Pippin II (d. 714) has traditionally been portrayed as the first systematic cooperation between religious and political powers in early medieval Europe. Historians still hold the view that Willibrord, Boniface (d. 754) and their companions, in contrast to the Irish and Frankish missionaries before them, adapted a more ‘professional’ strategy by allying themselves with the ancestors of Charlemagne. Following the established scholarly narrative, their cooperation not only rapidly advanced the Christianisation of Frisia and Saxony, it furthermore established a lasting link between the papacy and the early Carolingians, thus paving the way for the formation of the Carolingian Empire.

Since the 1990s, several studies have applied the label of political ‘player’ or ‘agent’ to Willibrord and stressed both his complex cultural background and his involvement with a wide range of factions within Austrasia and its border regions. Willibrord is thus no longer seen as an exclusive supporter (or ‘vassal’) of Pippin II and Charles Martel (d. 741), nor as a representative of the Northumbrian church only. However, his involvement with other groups besides the family of Pippin II is still rarely discussed and, as James Palmer put it (Anglo-Saxons in a Frankish World, p. 109), the ‘precise nature of [his] political role here [in the period between 709-717] is unclear.’

By reconsidering Willibord’s agency (or Handlungsspielraum) as a political actor, the extent of his ecclesiastical and political networks and by detaching both aspects from a teleological framework, which follows the establishment of the Carolingian Empire, the potential arises to reconsider the factors according to which missionary work was carried out in Merovingian Francia at the beginning of the eighth century.

See also the summary on the website of the FNR: https://www.fnr.lu/projects/echternach-and-the-formation-of-carolingian-europe-politics-of-conversion-in-the-time-of-willibrord-7th-8th-centuries-2/


Forschungsportal Englisches Mittelalter und britische Inseln.

Michel Summer

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