Royal Women, Cultural Exchanges, and Rus’ Ecumenical Marriages, circa 1000–1250
Royal Women, Cultural Exchanges, and Rus’ Ecumenical Marriages, circa 1000–1250

Research Project by Talia Zajac, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, John Rylands Research Institute and Library, University of Manchester



This inter-disciplinary project investigates the role of royal women as bridge-builders between Byzantine Orthodoxy and Latin Christianity (modern Roman Catholicism), as political actors and as patrons of churches, monasteries, books, and objects. Combining close reading of narrative texts with analysis of charters and visual sources, it focuses on twelve representative case studies of brides in mixed Orthodox-Latin Christian marriages concluded by the ruling clan of Rus’ (medieval Belarus’, Ukraine, and Russia) in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. Despite accepting Christianity from Byzantium in 988/989, the ruling clan of Rus’ continued to intermarry with royal dynasties across Europe, including with the rulers of France, Germany, Scandinavia, Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary.

There are two major planned scholarly outputs from this project:

- The first is a scholarly monograph tracing the political, patronage, and diplomatic ‘bridge-building’ activities of brides such as Anna Yaroslavna (d. 1075/1079) who married King Henry I of France and, after his death in 1060, served as a co-regent for their son Philip I (d. 1108). 

- The second planned output is an English translation and commentary on the texts and images in the prayer-book of Gertruda of Poland (d. 1107/8), who married the Rus’ Prince Iziaslav Yaroslavich (d. 1078). Her prayer-book (Cividale del Friuli, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Archivi e Biblioteca, codex 136) combines Latin texts with Byzantine-style illustrations, exemplifying hybrid devotional practices that could result from ecumenical marriages concluded by the dynasty of Rus’. 

The project thus aims to examine cultural and religious exchanges between Eastern and Western Europe at royal courts facilitated by women traveling to and from Rus’ as royal brides.

Further Reading

Zajac, Talia. “Regina Binomia: Re-Examining the Evidence for Re-Baptism and Renaming of Latin Christian Brides in Pre-Mongol Rus’.” Byzantinoslavica: Revue internationale des études byzantines 77, nos. 1-2 (2019): 264–290. 

Zajac, Talia. “Remembrance and Erasure of Objects Belonging to Rus’ Princesses in Medieval Western Sources: the Cases of Anastasia Iaroslavna’s ‘Saber of Charlemagne’ and Anna Iaroslavna’s Red Gem.” In Moving Women, Moving Objects (400 –1500), edited by Tracy Chapman Hamilton and Mariah Proctor-Tiffany, 33–58. Leiden: Brill, 2019.

Zajac, Talia. “Marriage Impediments in Canon Law and Practice: Consanguinity Regulations and the Case of Orthodox-Catholic Intermarriage in Kyivan Rus, ca. 1000–1250.” In Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, Toronto, 5–11 August 2012, edited by Joseph Goering, Stephan Dusil, and Andreas Thier, 711–729. Monumenta Iuris Canonici Series C: Subsidia. Vol. 15. Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2016.

Zajac, Talia. “Gloriosa Regina or ‘Alien Queen’? Some Reconsiderations on Anna Yaroslavna’s Queenship (r. 1050–1075).” Royal Studies Journal 3, no. 1 (2016): 28–70. Open Access