CFP: The Myth of Origins. The (Re-)Making of Medieval Sacral Space through Liturgical Reform (Leeds 2015)

Call for Papers for three joint sessions to be submitted for the
International Medieval Congress, Institute of Medieval Studies, Leeds 6-9 July 2015
(special thematic strand: Reform & Renewal)
The Myth of Origins. The (Re-)Making of Medieval Sacral Space through Liturgical Reform
Deadline: 10 September 2014

Ivan Foletti, Universities of Brno and Lausanne
Elisabetta Scirocco, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz–Max-Planck-Institut
Sponsor: Center for Early Medieval Studies, University of Brno

The Myth of Origins. The (Re-)Making of Medieval Sacral Space through Liturgical Reform
i. The Second Vatican Council and Twentieth-Century Historiography
ii. Reformation and Counter-Reformation
iii. Gregorian Reform

elevationDivided into three sections, this proposal aims to reflect the ways in which the sacred space of late antiquity is constructed in a retrospective manner, through the most important reforms in the two millennia of the Western Church. Following a diachronic process in reverse, from the twentieth century to the Middle Ages, the stages identified are: The Second Vatican Council; The Council of Trent and the Protestant Reformation; the so-called Gregorian Reform. All coincide with significant moments of crisis for the Latin Church. In each of these historical phases, the answer to the crisis is found in the mythical past, in the origins of the Early Church. In the liturgical field, this is realized in an attempt to restore some of the distinctive elements of the old liturgy, or elements that were presumed to be so. The changes are associated with a critical rhetorical frame, which legitimized the process by virtue of emphasizing the importance of its supposed “authentic” origins. Thus, the innovative dimension of the reform was often denied: in the words of the reformers, what was being done was not to create a new solution, but going back to original ideals, to a Church fair and immaculate.

The search for “antique” elements and the discourse that accompanied their introduction inevitably ended up building a new past, which is reflected heavily in objects and spaces of the sacred, and in the following historiography.

The proposed sessions focus on the manner in which these “denied” reforms actually build history. The sessions will follow a reverse chronology: (i.) the Second Vatican Council and its historiographical premises, which have their roots in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; (ii.) the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation; and (iii.) the so-called Gregorian Reform of the eleventh century.

Participants are invited to reflect on such issues as: the methods used by the reformers to learn about the past; the manner in which the past is reconstructed and modified (consciously and unconsciously) in the texts and monuments; the impact of the “new past” on studies and on the perception of the ancient liturgy.

Papers from a historiographical and a diachronic art historical perspective are especially welcome.

Paper proposals of no more than one page, accompanied by a short CV, can be submitted by 10 September 2014 to: and

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