Monthly Archives: June 2015

Taking architectural history to the bridge: International Bridges Group inaugural meeting report

The study of architecture largely focuses on the study of buildings: constructions with their most essential function as shelter for the human body. But architectural history can forget that constructions with other functions are also ripe for interpretation of their structure and ideologies. This is what the ambitiously-named International Bridges Group intends to promote for crossings of all kinds, but beginning with a focus upon the medieval. Hence we at were invited to their inaugural meeting at Westminster Hall on the banks of the Thames, followed by a day of in-depth (hopefully not literally) investigation of medieval bridges in the Nene and Great Ouse valleys. It as an opportunity to experience the fledgling sub-discipline of gephyrology: a neologism which currently only returns fifty results on Google.

Delegates assembled under the flying buttress of Westminster Hall

As the current writer specialises on ecclesiastical architecture, one thing that emerged in the day in Westminster Hall was how similar working on the English bridge is to studying English parish church. Opening lectures from John Blair and John Chandler established thinking about English bridges is closely linked to unravelling the origins and operation of the English parochial system. Many current bridges can be traced back to the increasing importance of kingdoms in the late eighth century, and the establishment of centres of power. Just like churches, sometimes the opportunity to build a bridge was seized upon by institutions, monastic, parochial or secular to make a powerful architectural statement. Equally, institutions could be less responsible: maintenance neglected and pontage tolls embezzled.


David Harrison addresses delegates

Also like English churches, English bridges are uniquely weird and wonderful in equal measure. John P. Allan showed us, via the Exe bridge at Exeter, how independent masons may have been happy to meet in the middle with rounded and pointed arches; while Peter Cross Rudkin showed the English fondness for soffit ribs under the arches, akin to the complicated mouldings of English churches. The rib may have originally had a functional purpose centring the arch before it was built up: especially important for a rounded arch that cannot support itself. But since the ribs are often spaced wider than the length of the stones on top, it would appear that they have assumed the status of a skeuomorph: a decorative form derived from a practical necessity. Having a bridge that had distinctively bridge-like forms was clearly as essential as its structural practicality.

Jana Gajdošová and the tower of the Charles Bridge, Prague

Jana Gajdošová and the tower of the Charles Bridge, Prague

Just as a church spire provided an opportunity to dominate the sky, a bridge provided a powerful opportunity to assert ideology through these unique architectural semiotics. Susan Irvine used Anglo-Saxon literature to consider the bridge as a liminal space: a meeting point between two places. The potential of using this category of space was explored by Jana Gajdošová and Gerrit Jasper Schenk, both presenting papers on bridges rebuilt after disaster. The Gothic Charles Bridge in Prague, with its enormous bridge-tower and scheme of regal architectural sculpture, Jana showed to be a powerful expression of the megalomaniacal ambition of the Holy Roman Emperor. Gerrit compared the rebuilt Ponte Vecchio to the Florentine Bapistery: a pagan monument to Mars reclaimed for John the Baptist, expressed through inscriptions that speak of the enlightened commune of the city.

The final session brought us to how the established concept of a bridge worked in larger societal concepts: Jacopo Turchetto took us to medieval Anatolia, demonstrating how magnificent Ottoman bridges represented much older meeting places of travelling caravans. Roberta Magnusson and David Harrison both gave rich lectures about the bridge in the frameworks of English urban infrastructure and society that proved vital for enlightened conversation on the group’s trip out the Nene and Great Ouse Valleys the next day.


Great Barford, Bedfordshire

Great Barford (Bedfordshire), c.1428

After an early Sunday-morning start, the first bridge the delegates encountered was Great Barford in Bedfordshire, dated by a major bequest of 1428. Much of the problem of looking at bridges is that, unlike a building, it faces not just the usual climatic elements, but also heavy traffic, perpetually flowing water, and wandering boats. Therefore it is inevitable that they fail and are rebuilt. Great Barford was also slightly spoiled by the 1874 widening – a common solution to the problem of increasing road traffic in the Modern age – here achieved by building out the bridge on the west side with a brick refacing.

Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire

Irthlingborough (Northamptonshire), 13th or 14th century

Many medieval bridges are isolated from the main traffic flow: Irthlingborough now has a rather precarious-looking 1930s concrete Art-Deco bypass running alongside it. But in the Middle Ages it was a main road: therefore it was an inevitable structure unlike the grand statement at Great Barford, and probably with much earlier origins. Ditchford, on the other hand, had no such modern rerouting and was very much in use, with signal lights controlling the two-way traffic not used to a group of architectural historians examining its structure (see featured image). This bridge, made largely of attractively-tinged ironstone, was funded by the two parishes of which it lay on the boundary line: charmingly expressed on the central cutwater by the symbols of churches’ dedicatees, St Peter and St Catherine.

Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire

Huntingdon to Godmanchester bridge, corbel table, c.1300-20

Two major urban bridges finished the trip. The very handsome bridge over the Great Ouse outside Huntingdon, called ‘lately built’ in 1322, reveals at close inspection its English eccentricities: different mouldings, designs and widths for every arch. It has the most attractive feature of a trefoil-arched corbel table, very much confirming the early-fourteenth-century date, which may have marked the place of a bridge chapel. Very few of these survived the Reformation: Wakefield, Rotherham, Bradford-upon-Avon and St Ives being the exception. However, we found the chapel over the Great Ouse locked, but had plenty to admire in the St Ives bridge itself: built in the 1420s at the behest of some generous Benedictines.

St Ives, Huntingdonshire

St Ives bridge and chapel, 1420s

While very rich and informative, this meeting established only mere stepping stones to the establishment of gephyrology as an active discipline. If you are a budding gephyrologist, especially of the medieval period (or at least, initially, hanging around with a bunch of medievalists) and would be interested in attending future meetings of this research group, then email Jana Gajdošová with your name, institutional affiliation and a brief description of your studies.

For the full resumé of pictures of the day (including cheeky opportunistic solo church visits) see the Flickr set.

Call for Papers: The Architecture of Death (London, 11 March 2016)

477974-11507-800[1]The Mausolea & Monuments Trust Student Symposium
The Forum, Bloomsbury Baptist Church

Friday 11 March 2016

Call for papers of 20 minutes: for the inaugural student symposium of The Mausolea
& Monuments Trust to be held in The Forum, Bloomsbury Baptist Church, London
on Friday 11 March 2016. This event will provide an opportunity to present an aspect of your research in front of an engaged and extremely well-informed audience, providing ample time for discussion and forging new links and contacts.
The Mausolea & Monuments Trust is a highly regarded institution; acting as
guardian to six important mausolea, campaigning for the preservation of many
more, and running a series of scholarly lectures and visits each year:

The theme of the symposium is deliberately broad ranging, allowing varied
perspectives on the purpose, design, construction, use, importance, care,
conservation, history and legacy of mausolea and monuments. It is hoped that we
will explore the field through a range of interdisciplinary approaches, showcasing
current post-graduate research on a variety of subjects. Papers should be illustrated
by PowerPoint, and speakers should expect to take questions following their
presentation. It is hoped that a selection of papers will be published in a special
edition of the Mausolea and Monuments Trust journal, Mausolus. Speakers coming
from outside London will be offered a £20 contribution towards their travel
expenses. If you are interested in contributing, please submit an abstract of 300
words maximum and a brief biography to Frances Sands: by
Monday 31st August 2015.

CfP: Netherlandish Art and Luxury Goods in Renaissance Spain (Leuven, 4-6 Feb 2016)

Call for Papers deadline 1 Oct 2015

University of Leuven, Belgium, 4-6 February 2016
International conference

Initiated and organized by
Illuminare – Centre for the Study of Medieval Art | KU Leuven

Anonymous (Antwerp), Carved retable of the Passion of Christ, c. 1510. Burgos, San Lesmes, Capilla de Salamanca (Hans Nieuwdorp Archive, Illuminare – Centre for the Study of Medieval Art | KU Leuven).

Anonymous (Antwerp), Carved retable of the Passion of Christ, c. 1510. Burgos, San Lesmes, Capilla de Salamanca (Hans Nieuwdorp Archive, Illuminare – Centre for the Study of Medieval Art | KU Leuven).

In 2010, Illuminare – Centre for the Study of Medieval Art (KU Leuven) acquired the archive of the eminent Belgian art historian professor Jan Karel Steppe (1918-2009). Steppe is internationally renowned for his groundbreaking research on the influx of Netherlandish art and luxury goods in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Spain. By springtime 2016, his documentation will be archived and the inventory made accessible online. To celebrate this accomplishment, Illuminare is organizing an international conference on Steppe’s long-term and much loved research topic.

This conference will focus on a large variety of media, ranging from painting and tapestry to broadcloth and astrolabes. Special attention will be paid to the driving forces behind this export-driven market, such as artists, patrons, collectors and merchants. By taking into account cultural, religious, political and socio-economic dynamics, this conference aims to shed new light on the multifaceted artistic impact of the Low Countries on the Iberian Peninsula in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

We welcome 20-minute papers by established and early career scholars that revisit or expand Steppe’s topics of research and, equally important, enhance these with recent methodologies and theoretical frameworks. The official language of the conference is English, although papers in French might be taken into consideration. Proposals of no more than 300 words and a brief CV should be submitted to drs. Robrecht Janssen ( and drs. Daan van Heesch ( by the 1st of October 2015. Speakers will be invited to submit their papers for a peer-reviewed publication on the topic.

Find out more on their website

Scientific committee

Barbara Baert (KU Leuven), Krista de Jonge (KU Leuven), Bart Fransen (KIK-IRPA, Brussels), Robrecht Janssen (KU Leuven / KIK-IRPA, Brussels), Maximiliaan Martens (Ghent University), Werner Thomas (KU Leuven), Paul Vandenbroeck (Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp / KU Leuven), Jan Van der Stock (KU Leuven), Daan van Heesch (KU Leuven), Koenraad Van Cleempoel (Hasselt University), Annelies Vogels (KU Leuven), Lieve Watteeuw (KU Leuven)

Two Doctoral Positions: research project TEXTILE (Zurich)

University of Zurich, September 1, 2015 – August 31, 2016
Application deadline: Jun 30, 2015

Two part-time doctoral positions, research project TEXTILE

Andrea Mantegna, Man of Sorrows, 1495-1500, Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst (detail)

Andrea Mantegna, Man of Sorrows, 1495-1500, Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst (detail)

The Institute of Art History of the University of Zurich invites
applications for two part-time doctoral positions within the research
project ‘TEXTILE. An Iconology of the Textile in Art and Architecture’
(from the Middle Ages to the present) sponsored by the Swiss National
Science Foundation and directed by Prof. Dr. Tristan Weddigen
( The TEXTILE team works in
collaboration with the partner project ‘NETWORKS. Textile Arts and
Textility in a Transcultural Perspective, 4th to 17th Centuries’,
conducted at the Humboldt-University of Berlin, funded by the Deutsche
Forschungsgemeinschaft and directed by Prof. Dr. Gerhard Wolf

The positions are limited to a maximum of one year. Within this time,
the new project members will have the opportunity to develop their
doctoral theses within the framework of the joint research initiative.
The employment begins on September 1, 2015 and expires on August 31.

Residence in Switzerland, the matriculation as Ph.D. student at the
University of Zurich, and the knowledge of English and/or one Swiss
national language are required. Candidates are invited to submit a
curriculum vitae, a summary of their doctoral project, and, if
possible, writing samples as PDFs by e-mail (in one file) to Dr.
Mateusz Kapustka ( The deadline for the
submission is June 30, 2015. Please consult the website for further
information about the project’s framework.

Images: Signs and Phenomena of Time (Hamburg 12-14 Nov 2015)

 A trans- and interdisciplinary conference at the University of Hamburg, 12–14 November 2015

Simone Martini, Agostino Novello polytych, simultaneous narrative showing resurrection of a child

Simone Martini, Agostino Novello polytych, simultaneous narrative showing resurrection of a child

The capacity to distinguish between past, present, and future plays an important role in the formation of (self-)consciousness. Time is an essential criterion to order the flow of contingent events and experiences and to build up coherence and meaning. In turn, the narratives emerging from such temporal ordering are crucial for the development of identities. However, theoretical concepts of time in philosophy, physics, biology, sociology, or cultural studies are numerous and often opposing. It only remains obvious that humans have the ability to make some sort of experience of time. Images have always played a part in these processes. Moving and still images represent time and duration and contribute to the organisation of temporality or atemporality in many ways. They may represent the flow of time, or singular moments or – through their subjects, modes of representation, or being objects of preferences or dislikes – stand as signs for the period in which they were produced or shown. Often the material body of the images becomes an indicator of time or a trigger of dynamic experiences of time. By means of their modes of representation, images also facilitate various experiential dimensions of time such as eventful or presentist moments and the stretching or folding of time. The relationship between the pictorial representation of time and perception of time is influenced by various factors. Experience of time may be seen in relation to the different senses constituting such experience. On the other hand, it may be influenced by cultural concepts of time, time regimes, practices of perception, and environmental processes. To analyse time experience one may apply semiotic or phenomenological methods or turn to integrative concepts like cybersemiotics, biosemiotics, or theories of embodiment. Therefore, basic questions for the conference could be:

– How do images represent time?
– How is it possible that images represent time or duration?
– How are representations and experiences of time influenced by concepts and regimes of time?
– Which senses take part in the experience of time?
– How are the materials of media involved in the experience of time?

This third conference on visual culture at the University of Hamburg which is organised by students and postgraduates of archaeology, art history, and cultural anthropology will provide lectures on the main topics and opportunities for detailed discussion. We are particularly looking for trans- and interdisciplinary contributions which deal with the above questions in visual media of all kind (still images, sculpture, installation art, film etc.). There is no limitation to certain periods or cultures. The contributions will be published after the conference.

Proposals for lectures (30 min) in German or English may be sent to (organisational team: Jacobus Bracker, Clara Doose-Grünefeld, Tim Jegodzinski und Kirsten Maack) until 31 July 2015. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words. Furthermore, we would be grateful for the inclusion of a short academic CV. We especially encourage young scholars and students of all levels to contribute. Funding of speakers’ travel and accommodation expenses cannot currently be guaranteed. However, participation in the conference is free of any charge. The conference will take place in the Warburg-Haus in Hamburg.

CfP: Memory and Identity in the Middle Ages: The Construction of a Cultural Memory of the Holy Land in the 4th-16th centuries (26-27 May 2016, Amsterdam)

An interdisciplinary conference, 26 & 27 May 2016

The Holy Land has played an important role in the definition of the identities of the three major
Abrahamic religions. Constitutive narratives about the past of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were
largely bound to this shared and contested space. As put forward both by Maurice Halbwachs and Jan Assmann, memory adheres to what is ‘solid’, stored away in outward symbols. The Holy Land is a focal point around which the shared memories of these different groups formed, and has been crucial for defining their identities. Accordingly, the definition of this shared memory can be traced as a process of elaborating a cultural memory: an ‘artificial’ construction of developed traditions, transmissions and transferences. This process of construction was pursued through different media that cast the past into symbols. The period between the age of Constantine and the late Renaissance was formative for constructing this memory. It saw the valorization of Christian holy places under Constantine, the birth of Islam, the construction of an important Jewish scholarly community in the Holy Land, the Crusades, the massive growth of late medieval pilgrimage involving Jewish, Christian and Islamic groups, as well as other crucial events.
The conference aims to bring together scholars who study the memories of the holy places
within these religious galaxies from various disciplinary perspectives, in order to achieve a constructive exchange of ideas. Scholars of all so-called Abrahamic religions are invited to submit proposals, including scholars of Western and Eastern Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The call is open for historians, art historians, literary scholars, theologians, philosophers working on topics ranging from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance.

This conference is organized by the team of the research project Cultural Memory and Identity in the Late Middle Ages: the Franciscans of Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the Representation of the Holy Land (1333-1516): Michele Campopiano, Valentina Covaci, Guy Geltner and Marianne Ritsema van Eck. The project is funded by the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO).
Papers should be 30 minutes long, and will be followed by 15 minutes of discussion. Participants are
asked to send an abstract of 300 words to before December 2015, together with information concerning their academic affiliation. Travel costs and two nights of accommodation will be financed by the project. Please do not hesitate to contact us for
additional information.