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WMU's annual Grundler Prize goes to Notre Dame scholar

by Deanne Puca

May 23, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Notre Dame's Dr. Thomas F.X. Noble.
Dr. Thomas F.X. Noble
KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University has awarded the prestigious Grundler Prize to a University of Notre Dame scholar for his book, "Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians."

The prize was awarded at the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies held May 12-15. It was presented to Dr. Thomas F.X. Noble, chair of the Department of History at Notre Dame and author of a number of other works. In his book, Noble offers a new interpretation of the understanding of religious images in both the western and eastern empires in the early Middle Ages.

The WMU Medieval Institute organizes the on-campus congress, which is one of the world's largest annual gatherings of scholars and others interested in the Middle Ages. The Grundler Prize was established to honor the late Otto Grundler, a longtime former director of the institute.

"Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians," published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2009, examines the emergence of a distinctive Christian discourse concerning sacred art in both the East and West from late antiquity through the era of Byzantine iconoclasm and into the Carolingian period. Noble contends that the Carolingians, the dynasty of Charlemagne, made distinctive and original contributions to a long-standing debate over religious art.

Cover art from Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians.
Understanding of religious images in Middle Ages
"'Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians' is the first book to provide a comprehensive study of the Western response to Byzantine iconoclasm," stated the citation for Noble's prize. "By comparing art-texts with laws, letters, poems, and other sources, Noble reveals the power and magnitude of the key discourses of the Carolingian world during its most dynamic and creative decades."

Noble, who earned a bachelor's degree from Ohio University in 1969 and master's and doctoral degrees from Michigan State University in 1971 and 1974, respectively, researches the late antique and early medieval periods. His work has focused on Carolingian history, on the history of the city of Rome and of the papacy and on controversies over religious art.

A National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship recipient, Noble is president-elect of the American Catholic Historical Association. He previously taught at the University of Virginia, Texas Tech University, Michigan State University and Albion College.

For more information about Noble and his book, visit