I am a PhD student in Medieval History and Research Assistant at Trinity College Dublin. My doctoral thesis, supervised by Dr Immo Warntjes and funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund, bears the working title ‘Beyond Mission: Willibrord as a Political Actor Between Early Medieval Ireland, Britain and Merovingian Francia (658-739)’; see below for a brief abstract.

For contact details see the CV below.


  • 2017-present: PhD student, History, Trinity College Dublin.

  • 2017: MA, Medieval History, University of Freiburg

  • 2014: BA, History, University of Freiburg

Other Publications

Chapters in Edited Volumes

  • Summer, Michel, ‘”Vassal” or “political player”? Towards a re-assessment of Willibrord’s political activity in Merovingian Francia (AD 690-739)’, in S. Kubisch and H. Klinkott (eds), Power of the Priests: Considerations on the Political Use of Religious Knowledge (Berlin: De Gruyter, forthcoming).

  • Summer, Michel, ‘Early medieval “warrior” images and the concept of Gefolgschaft‘, in G. M. Berndt, L. Sarti, S. Esders and E. Bennett (eds), Early Medieval Militarisation (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2021), pp. 314-330.

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. URL: https://hcommons.org/deposits/objects/hc:24398/datastreams/CONTENT/content.


Pierre Kauthen, Willibrord: The Model of a Saint (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Michel, “Gefolgschaft”: Interdisziplinäre Untersuchungen zu einem zentralen Begriff der Frühmittelalterforschung, unpublished MA thesis, University of Freiburg, 2017.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-present)

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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