Category Archives: Websites

Gothic Revival, Medieval Art & the Hereford Screen

Issue 5 of British Art Studies features a One Object study of the Gothic Revival Hereford Screen. The 8 tonne metalwork structure was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and manufactured by the firm of Francis Skidmore in 1862. The collection of essays fosters discussion of the screen’s medieval models as well as its Victorian genesis.


The Hereford Screen in Hereford Cathedral, view from North Transept, 19th century. (Image from the V&A website)

As a new and exclusively digital journal, British Art Studies’ virtual platform is celebrated through abundant interplay of text, image and audio-visual material.  It brings together seven scholars who present technical and theoretical perspectives on a single object by means of ‘traditional’ essays and short films.  This brief blog-post aims to draw attention to the medieval content of the study, notwithstanding the overall interest and coherence of all the constituent articles.

The One Object discussion is introduced by Ayla Lepine, in an essay entitled Resurrection, Re-Imagination, Reconstruction:
New Viewpoints on the Hereford Screen.


Essays in the discussion that focus on medieval material are:

The Hereford Screen: A Prehistory, by medievalist Matthew Reeve, guides the reader through a history of the medieval predecessors of the Hereford screen and places its production in the context of the Cathedral space and the architect’s work at Lichfield and Salisbury.

Jacqueline Jung’s contribution, a video essay entitled, The Medieval Choir Screen in Sacred Space, considers the sight-lines and sculptural relationships created by the strategically designed perforations and interior figural programmes of medieval screens and their host churches, focusing on two examples from 13th-century Italy and 15th-century Germany.

The oddly fragile, contentious choir screen, in its many historical manifestations, receives a colourful and polyphonic tribute in this One Object study. As a medieval art blog, links to the most relevant essays are given above but are, for best results, to be enjoyed with their Gothic Revival companions.

Digital library of liturgical sources

Ecclesiastical Map of Western Europe in the Middle Ages

Ecclesiastical Map of Western Europe in the Middle Ages

Digital library of liturgical sources is a new research tool developed by the Research Group of Liturgical History. The Calendar-Project is a comprehensive database of almost 200 representative European liturgical Calendars and Sanctorals. Through browsing Saints and Feasts or Dates respectively, one can gain a statistically relevant sample of where, when and which feasts were celebrated within the medieval territory of the Roman Rite. Methodically, our research is based on the same principles as the whole of USUARIUM, namely that diverse sources based on their undoubted origin provide the best way to study the range of variability of liturgical Uses. Proofreading, corrections, new sources and facilities will follow in the coming weeks.

CONTACT FOR PASSWORD: foldvary.miklos[at]
 dr. Miklós Földváry, H-1088 Budapest,
Múzeum krt. 4/F. 222.

Announcement: Society for the Study of the Church Interior

S.-Maria-gloriosa-dei-Frari-Title-page-1500-500.jpgWhat is the study of the church interior?

The church was a highly meaningful site for pre-Modern European society. As architectural sites accessible to all strata of society, church buildings provided contexts for interaction between social classes and genders, and settings for a wide variety of religious and non-religious activities. From an art-historical perspective, the vast majority of artworks produced in the medieval and Renaissance periods was intended for the many chapels, altars and screens in the church interior.

Yet, despite the obvious importance of these sites, the spatial dispositions of church interiors – and how they evolved over time – are still little-understood. Centuries of restorations and adaptations have radically transformed the appearance and usage of church interiors: screens have been removed; altars shifted position; new liturgical furnishings installed; fresco decoration whitewashed; and seating added or taken away.

Scholars studying the church interior seek to reconstruct the meaning, functions and visual appeal of these sacred spaces. The Society for the Study of the Church Interior seeks to promote this holistic and interdisciplinary approach to researching historic church buildings.

Who are we?

We are a group of scholars who are interested in the material culture, spatial dynamics and multifarious functions of the church interior in the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. We are mainly based in the US, Germany, Italy and the UK, but welcome members from around the world.

Primarily focused on pre-Modern Italy, we are interested in reconstructing aspects of individual churches, but also in broader issues associated with large-scale changes to architectural layouts generally associated with religious reform. In addition to purely art-historical inquiry, we investigate the religious, political or practical motivations behind transformation campaigns and the effects such changes had on the use of church buildings.

What do we do?

Studying the church interior presents complex challenges for the historian, given that documentary, archaeological and material sources can be fragmentary or even contradictory. Our research involves the analysis of several types of primary and secondary source material, which may include:

  • Original archival documentation such as payments, contracts, testaments, etc
  • Liturgical texts
  • Official records of Visitations conducted by bishops and other clergy
  • Historic ground plans
  • Antiquarian guidebooks
  • Modern restoration records
  • Material evidence of surviving architecture
  • Archaeological reports
  • Provenance of objects such as altarpieces and liturgical furnishings

What are the activities of the Society?

The Society promotes broader engagement with the study of the church interior, disseminates research findings and fosters an academic community of like-minded scholars.

In the future, we hope to organize sessions and meetings at major conferences such as the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting.

We are also in the process of establishing an online, collaborative database to collect data on the church interior. Initially concentrating on Italy, where the impact of the Counter Reformation was particularly strong, the database will reveal the broad patterns and chronologies which are currently beyond the grasp of the individual researcher. Members of the Society who wish to contribute to the database will receive a login to access it: please email Joanne or Michael if you are interested.

Sign up for the mailing list here.

Help contribute to this blog!

Medieval Art Research needs new bloggers for the next 12 months – why not help out?! It’s a great way to find out what’s going on, find out where to find out what’s going on, promote events of interest to you, try your hand at writing, and raise your own profile (bloggers get to post their profile on our ‘Research Profiles’ page).

Our volunteer bloggers take responsibility for the blog for a period of one month. It may take two to three hours per week: largely posting events that come through to, but there bloggers are also encouraged to be creative  in writing posts and reviews, or promoting particular activities of interest to them.

Those interested or with questions should contact and we can send you instructions on how to post events to WordPress, and sort out a rota. Join us!

New Website: Walters Ex Libris (Walters Art Museum Manuscripts)

walters-to-deleteNew Website: Walters Ex Libris (Walters Art Museum Manuscripts) online at

Featuring a user-friendly design, the site provides visitors with intuitive search options, including the ability to refine their search by date, geography, subject, culture, and more. It also gives users a chance to coordinate their own online collections by gathering, saving and sharing their favorite masterpieces.
Images include covers and flyleaves, and provided under a Creative Commons 3.0 license that allows visitors to download publication-quality pictures for free.

To date, the Walters has digitized 45 percent of its manuscripts collection.

The manuscripts site, an ongoing project, joins the museum’s growing network of online resources, including its general website,, and its online collection,



The Apocalypse Art Prize

“The first rule of art is beauty.” So begins “A Primer of Pictorial Devices in Medieval Painting” written by artist Gloria Thomas. The primer is a guide to competitors in the Apocalypse Art Prize. The prize is $10,000 and the deadline for entry is December 31, 2015. Complete information about the prize and how to submit an entry can be found on the competition’s web site:

The theme for all entries is Saint John the Divine’s vision of the Apocalypse, the last book in the Christian canon, also called Revelation. The Apocalypse text is filled with metaphorical images that have influenced world literature and art for two millennia. Who has not heard of the “Mark of the Beast”, the “Battle of Armageddon” or the “Harlot of Babylon”? The competition web site lists 86 possible subjects for entrants to choose from the Apocalypse text, offering what Thomas calls “an unparalleled opportunity for imaginative representation.”


Subject matter is not the only criteria. The substantial cash prize will go to the artist who is best able to use analogical principles of composition in his or her work. These principles are described in the instructional videos: Revelations: Ideas in Images (Part I and II) also found on the Apocalypse Art Prize web site. Between the hard copy primer available to entrants at no cost and the plethora of resource materials loaded on the web site, participants have more than enough information to carry out the requirements set by the competition designer.

About the Competition Design
Gloria Thomas has spent more than 40 years researching and implementing the principles of pictorial analogy in her works that grace churches, museums and private homes. She now wishes to pass these principles on to other Christian artists, particularly young artists, as a traditional way of making contemporary religious art. Thomas wants to challenge artists to rethink not only subject matter and style, but also, and more fundamentally, how to convey the indescribable through images of things that can be pictorially represented.

There is nothing novel about the objective. Art is continually born and reborn from the desire to express relationships between the seen and unseen through artifact, music and poetry. What is exceptional about the competition is that participants are required to use the language of analogy in their submissions, and the models used to explain analogy are illuminated manuscripts of the High Middle Ages.


Seven Headed Beast from the Apocalypse Tapestries (1382 AD) created by Jean Bondol, housed in the Château d’Angers

Naturalism vs. Analogical Representation
The amount of art created in the Middle Ages about the Apocalypse is immense. The competition invites artists look to these fabulous examples of image metaphor for inspiration, works like the Abingdon Apocalypse, the Visio Santci Pauli Apocalypse, the Trinity Apocalypse, the Bodlein Douce Apocalypse, and the Angers Tapestries. While the images are highly representational, they share almost none of the aspects of naturalism associated with Renaissance painting. It is not simply because these works preceded the Renaissance; they are of a different order.


Antichrist Assault on the Church from the Abingdon Apocalypse (1270 AD) housed in the British Library, London

The appeal of Renaissance naturalism is in its portrayal of the arrested moment, a freeze frame in one-point perspective that presents an illusion of reality. The illusion created by naturalism is that the viewer is an eyewitness to some event or emotion captured in a work of art. By contrast, Medieval religious art uses representation of figures and things poetically in order to describe physical and metaphysical dimensions on the same surface. It is a picture plane similar to a stage on which it is possible to view at once “not only this world and the next, but the involvement of the entire cosmos.” As Thomas says, “Medieval art is not an illusion of reality, but an analogy of it. Its scenes are not ruled by light and shade as in nature. Everything is equally illuminated to create an analogy with the light of the intellect which sees all thought with the same clarity.” Analogy does not show how things are related to each other materially; it shows how they are “related conceptually” by giving thought material attributes.

A similar purpose is served in Eastern Orthodox iconography with its overlapping treatment of time and eternity and of the horizon-less earthly domain couched between heaven and hell. When the invention of the camera overwhelmed the artistic devices of naturalism, a long retreat from representational art ushered in a movement generally known as Modern Art in its many forms. Ironically, early modernists such as Cézanne, Matisse, Chagall, and Derain turned to the icon as a way of recovering the freedom of space, form and color exhausted by naturalism.

Modernists like Marcel Duchamp, however, preached a kind of militant iconoclasm that persuaded generations of artists to embrace contempt for meaning and beauty. “What I have in mind,” says Duchamp, “is that art may be bad, good or indifferent, but, whatever adjective is used, we must call it art, and bad art is still art in the same way that a bad emotion is still an emotion.”

History of the Apocalypse Art Prize
Thomas rejected this doctrine during her graduate studies at Queens College of the City of New York [1968-1970]. She reached instead for traditional aesthetics and her faith. “Having nearly lost my sanity in art school, I returned to things I loved as a child, the wonderful paintings of scenes from Holy Scripture.” Her first project inspired by this return was a series of paintings based on St. John’s vision of the Apocalypse. In 1994 Viking-Penguin Press published the series under the title “Revelations: Visions of the Second Coming from the Old and New Testaments.” The paintings were accompanied by a text complied from an interplay of biblical prophecy concerning the catastrophes to befall the cosmos at the end of time, leading up to the Last Judgment and the creation of new heavens and new earth.


The Apocalypse Art Prize is a continuation of Thomas’ abiding interest in these themes. It is also a meditation on how art communicates through its “first rule,” that is – beauty. The very notion is heresy in modernist terms of amorphous pigment splatters and just plain “bad art.” Like Thomas, philosopher Roger Scruton is convinced that art has a higher purpose than shock and disposable amusement. “Through the pursuit of beauty,” Sruton claims, “we shape the world as our own and come to understand our nature as spiritual beings. But art has turned its back on beauty and now we are surrounded by ugliness.”

Benefactors of the Apocalypse Art Prize are hoping artists will respond to Thomas’ encouragement to explore an artistic language with a long shelf life as well as a source of subjects with endless opportunities “for imaginative representation.”

Participation in the competition is free and open to all during the year 2015. Winners will be announced June 1, 2016 and awarded prizes according to the age category of the participant.

1. Participants older than 16 compete for a first prize of $7,000, 
a second prize of $3,000, and a third prize of $2,000.
2. Participants between 12 and 16 years of age compete for a $2,000 prize.
3. Participants 12 years old and younger compete for a $1,000 prize.

Persian scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr beautifully articulates the philosophy of the benefactors of the Apocalypse Art Prize and the underlying crisis they seek to address.

“Traditional art is a channel of grace, and the sacred art which lies at its heart in a sense compliments the social and legal norms promulgated by the revelation. It reflects the beauty which guides us to the source of all beauty, to the one who alone is beautiful in the ultimate sense … to gain greater insight into the meaning of religious art in a world which has turned its back upon the very principles that govern all existence.”

For more infomation on the principles behind submissions, to order your free guide to creating your visualisation of scripture, and see the first year’s winners, visit

This article is taken, with permission, from the Orthodox Arts Journal, with updates for the current year’s competition.