Post-Doctoral Position: ERC Project ‘SenSArt: The Sensuous Appeal of the Holy Sensory Agency of Sacred Art and Somatised Spiritual Experiences in Medieval Europe (12th-15th century)’, Deadline 8 July 2021, University of Padua

The ERC Starting Grant project SenSArt “The Sensuous Appeal of the Holy Sensory Agency of Sacred Art and Somatised Spiritual Experiences in Medieval Europe (12th-15th century)”, led by Prof. Zuleika Murat (Principal Investigator) is accepting applications by highly motivated candidates to cover four post-doctoral positions, starting on 1st September 2021. The project is based at the University of Padua and is funded for five years by the ERC.

The deadline to apply is 8th July 2021. Details on the project, candidates’ profiles and skills, and application procedure are given below.

The Project
Art moves the eyes. However, is sight the only sense we use to appreciate it? This is a crucial question for Western culture, dominated today by the hegemony of vision and the suppression of the other senses. By challenging the current ocularcentric paradigm and assimilating notions on the cultural values of sensation, SenSArt provides an examination of medieval sacred art from the unconventional lens of its sensory agency.

Between the 12th and the 15th century, Europe underwent an extraordinary artistic evolution and an impressive cultural revitalization, which sparked a reassessment of the role of sensory perception in systems of knowledge and spiritual enlightenment. SenSArt explores and compares different social environments in six selected regions, pursuing three groundbreaking objectives: A) it will analyse quantitatively and qualitatively the perceptual schemes that oriented the reception of sacred art, scrutinizing how art solicited its beholders through multiple sensory inputs; B) it will investigate the notion of ‘sensory agency’ of art, establishing sacred art as a primary actor capable of exerting, through sensorial stimulation or deprivation, a social agency on its audience; C) it will provide an overall phenomenology of experiences on a European scale, by comparing the diverse patterns that different social groups lived on a local, regional and supranational scale.
SenSArt will achieve its goals by developing a new combined approach at the crossroads of Art History, Philosophy and Text Studies; it will establish a multidisciplinary team of scholars to delve into a comparative set of materials, including normative texts on the senses and works of art.

We are looking for four highly motivated and creative post-doctoral fellows, three with an art-historical profile and one with a background in History of Medieval Philosophy. They will work in team with the Principal Investigator, two doctoral fellows, and associate researchers.

In line with the objectives and methodologies of the ERC project SenSArt, the three post-doctoral fellows with an art-historical profile will focus on France, Germany, and Spain respectively. They will examine the types of artworks adopted in the Socio-Sensory Environments of the region surveyed, considering both the survived works of art and those cited in the archival documents and now lost, together with immaterial practices. The study of objects will contemplate different aspects and will focus on two features in particular: 1) the mechanisms through which the artworks stimulated the senses of the beholder; 2) the procedures by which the beholder activated the multisensory potential of the objects, through dynamic devotional practices. In addition to works of art, and in relation to the specific materials of investigation, the post-doctoral fellows will also examine texts about the senses in practice, including records of people’s daily lives and archival materials.

The post-doctoral fellow with a background in History of Medieval Philosophy will work on theoretical and normative texts on the senses and sensory perception, i.e. texts that contain norms meant for shaping the sensoria and establish the interpretive schemes that were intended to orientate the responses of the devotees, including in particular: 1) philosophical and theological texts connected to the Aristotelian tradition, including works produced by a number of scholastic authors; 2) treatises meant at educating the senses. The candidate will focus in particular on two features related to sensory perception: how perception and the senses were to be used, and the kinds of spiritual reactions that the sensory experience was expected to induce in the devotees.

In addition to the above-mentioned research activities, the four post-doctoral fellows will take part in seminars and conferences, and in all the scheduled internal workshops and team meetings. They will present papers and produce on a regular base journal articles and book chapters as envisaged by the project outline. Moreover, they will provide raw data, entries and reports for the envisaged digital archive and website.

Qualifications and Required Skills
– Post-doctoral fellows with an art-historical profile: PhD in Art History, with a focus on the Middle Ages. Good knowledge of French, German, and Spanish respectively, and of Latin, to be able to examine primary and secondary sources. They should also be proficient in English. Candidates are expected to be familiar with the major historical, artistic, spiritual, and socio-cultural phenomena of the region under examination in the selected period. Furthermore, they should have previous research experience in areas related (in terms of objectives, approaches, and methodologies) to those considered by the project, with particular regard to the concepts of art agency, theories of reception, and the multisensory experience of art.
– Post-doctoral fellow with a background in History of Medieval Philosophy: PhD in History of Medieval Philosophy. The ideal candidate needs to have a good command of Latin and should also be proficient in English. She/he should have a background in research topics and methodologies which are in line with the objectives and approaches of the ERC project SenSArt, with specific respect to concepts related to perception and to the senses in medieval philosophy and culture in general.

In addition, applicants should have a taste for interdisciplinary studies, excellent analytical skills, and willingness to work in a team.

Working Conditions and Modalities
– Location: University of Padua, Department of Cultural Heritage. Some travels abroad are required to conduct research.
– Employer: University of Padua
– Type of contract: fixed-term contract
– Duration of contract: 3 years, with a possible renewal of 2 years
– Working time: 100%
– Starting date of the contract: 1st September 2021
– Remuneration: 26.868,59 € per year

How to Apply:
Applications may only be submitted by completing the online procedure at
Instructions on how to complete the application are given at
The application should include:
– A Curriculum Vitae
– Three samples of written works in pdf (PhD thesis and/or published materials)
– A Letter of Motivation, detailing the candidate’s professional skills and reasons for applying
– Names and contact details of two referees

In addition, an interview will be held online (via Zoom) in July (20th – 23rd July 2021).

For any queries please write to: and

More information can be found 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.

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