New Publication: Icons of Sound: Voice, Architecture, and Imagination in Medieval Art, edited by Bissera V. Pentcheva

Icons of Sound: Voice, Architecture and Imagination in Medieval Art brings together art history and sound studies to offer new perspectives on medieval churches and cathedrals as spaces where the perception of the visual is inherently shaped by sound. The chapters encompass a wide geographic and historical range, from the fifth to the fifteenth century, and from Armenia and Byzantium to Venice, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela. Contributors offer nuanced explorations of the importance of intangible sonic aura to these spaces, including the temporal and performative nature of ritual music, as well as the use of digital technology to reconstruct historical aural environments.

Rooted in a decade-long interdisciplinary research project at Stanford University, Icons of Sound expands our understanding of the inherently intertwined relationship between medieval chant and liturgy, the acoustics of architectural spaces, and their visual aesthetics. Together, the contributors provide insights that are relevant across art history, sound studies, musicology, and medieval studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction – Bissera V. Pentcheva

01. Singing Doors: Images, Space, and Sound in the Santa Sabina Narthex – Ivan Foletti, University of Lausanne and University of Brno

02. Sights and Sounds of the Armenian Night Office, As Performed at Ani:
A Collation of the Archaeological, Historical, and Liturgical Evidence
– Christina Maranci, Tufts University

03. The Glittering Sound of Hagia Sophia and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross in Constantinople – Bissera V. Pentcheva, Stanford University

04. Transcendent Visions: Voice and Icon in the Byzantine Imperial Chapels – Bissera V. Pentcheva, Stanford University

05. Echoes and Silences of Liturgy:
Liturgical Inscriptions and the Temporality of Medieval Rituals
– Vincent Debiais, Centre de recherches historiques, EHESS-Paris

06. Sound, Space, and Sensory Perception: The Use of Digital Technology in Research into the Liturgy of San Marco, Venice – Deborah Howard, University of Cambridge

07. The Marble Tempest: Material Imagination, the Echoes of Nostos, and the Transfiguration of Myth in Romanesque Sculpture – Francisco Prado-Vilar, Harvard University and Real Colegio Complutense

Epilogue: A Voice from beyond the Grave: Tintoretto and the Art Historians – Alexander Nemerov, Stanford University

Bissera V. Pentcheva is Professor of Art History at Stanford University.

Pre-order the book here.


Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

%d bloggers like this: