Tag Archives: Bohemia

Conference Programme: Minority Influences in Medieval Society, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, November 25-26, 2016

tumblr_mpkos7mo2o1ssmm02o1_1280Conference Programme: Minority Influences in Medieval Society, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, November 25-26, 2016.

Friday 25 November

9.45 Welcome (Nora Berend)

Session 1. 10-11.15

Nikolas Jaspert (Heidelberg) Influences of mudejar spirituality on majority Christian religious life

Teresa Shawcross (Princeton) Ethno-religious Minorities and the Shaping of Byzantine Society during the Crusades


Session 2. 11.30-12.45

Annette Kehnel (Mannheim) Minority language, minority culture, minority tradition: Who exactly cares?

Amira Bennison (Cambridge) The Berber imprint on the medieval Maghrib


Session 3.  14.15-15.30

Ana Echevarría (Madrid) Reinventing law codes under foreign conditions: influence, adaptation or endurance in the Iberian peninsula

Eduard Mühle (Münster)  Real and perceived influence of minority groups in medieval Poland (12th-13th c)


Session 4. 16-18 Eva Haverkamp (München) Jews in the high medieval economy: how to evaluate their role

István Petrovics (Szeged) The Role of “Latin”  Guests in the Economic Life and Urban Development of Medieval Hungary

James Barrett (Cambridge) Northern Peoples and Medieval European Trade: Locating Agency


Saturday 26 November

Session 1. 9.30-10.45

Przemysław Wiszewski (Wrocław) Cultural turn in 12th-14th c. Silesia: how the German-speaking minority became the cultural majority

Luciano Gallinari (Cagliari) Catalans in Sardinia and the transformation of Sardinians into a political minority


Session 2. 11.15-12.30

Matthias Hardt (Leipzig) Western immigrants in High Medieval Bohemia

Katalin Szende (Budapest) Iure Theutonico? German settlers, local rulers, and legal frameworks for immigration to medieval East Central Europe  LUNCH

Supported by the DAAD Cambridge Research Hub with funds from the German
Federal Foreign Office (FFO)

How to register: To register for the conference, please email Dr Nora Berend, nb213@cam.ac.uk and send a cheque for £ 7 (or the appropriate cost for one day; an optional charge for lunch can also be added, see below) to her to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge CB2 1RL. Cheques must be made payable to St Catharine’s College. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Registration is £4 for Friday and £3 for Saturday; this is to cover the cost of refreshments during the day. Coffe, tea and biscuits will be available.

Lunch will ONLY be provided for those who order and pay £12 by 10 November, but it will be possible instead to leave during the lunch break to get some food in town.


International Bridges Group in Prague (Symposium Review, 2016)

IMG_20160712_160528This year, the delegates of the International Bridge Group assembled in Prague for their annual symposium. Held over three days, the delegates enjoyed tours of medieval monuments, a day of papers at Vila Lanna, and a day trip to study medieval bridges outside of Prague. The event was a spectacular introduction to medieval Bohemia and – via the none-too-shy monumental decoration of the Charles Bridge in Prague – provided a fascinating insight into the socio-economic ramifications of the campaign of stone bridge construction in the Middle Ages.

Day 1: The Charles Bridge and medieval Prague

A visit to St Vitus Cathedral was one major highlight of this aesthetically munificent event. Dr IMG-20160710-WA0012Klàra Benešovská (Institute of Art History, Czech Academy of Sciences) and Petr Chotěbor (master mason of the cathedral) opened the doors for us an hour before the official opening. Points of particular interest to the IBG included the work of Peter Parler, who took over as master mason from 1356 and who also designed parts of the Charles Bridge. Likewise, St Wenceslas’ chapel, with its lavish decorations, stood out as a relative of Karlštejn Castle’s interior, impressing upon us the ties between court and church in fourteenth-century Prague.

Being in Prague enabled the group to take full advantage of the expertise of IBG’s co-founder, Dr Jana Gajdošová, whose forthcoming book focuses on Prague’s medieval bridges. As visitors populated the cathedral, we made our way to the so-called Judith bridge tower. The 12th century bridge, which was built by King Vladislav I, was destroyed in the St Mary Magdalene flood in 1342; however, fragments of its towers survive, built into the fabric of the later structure. We were granted access to one of the towers which once fortified the west end of the Judith Bridge and where a relief carving of two figures, that once decorated the exterior wall of the tower, survives.

From here we made our way to the House at the Stone Bell, which was probably the private residence of John of Luxembourg and Elizabeth of Přemyslid, and which has a gothic façade bearing formal resemblance to that of the bridge tower.

IMG_-cdlg22The Charles Bridge and its Gothic tower was our last point of call. The tower, built facing the Old Town, greets users of the bridge. Designed by Peter Parler, the decorative scheme includes an elaborate east-facing façade which is decorated with heraldic emblems representing ten lands of the crown of Bohemia and figural statues. Within its central blind arch are statues of Emperor Charles IV, and his son, King Wenceslas IV, either side of the standing figure of St Vitus, one of the patron saints of Bohemia. Gajdošová emphasised the way in which the original sculptures, now in the Lapidárium, would have overlooked the viewer as they passed under the tower.

The bridge was a portal connecting the general populus of the Old Town and the sacred royal centre, as much in the imagination as in practice. Charles IV’s patronage is a testament to the political importance of bridges; far beyond the domestic concerns of the civic sphere, this vast structure, adorned with his likeness, facilitated crucial trade, communication and travel between eastern and western Europe.DSC_0811

The first day ended with a keynote from Prof Christopher Wilson, Emeritus of UCL. It explored the prolific career of the late thirteenth-century architect Henry Yevele and his construction of a chapel of St Thomas Becket on London Bridge. The two-storey apsidal chapel was built according to Yevele’s design between 1384 and 1397. Probably recalling the chapel to Our Lady Undercroft beneath the shrine of St Thomas at Canterbury cathedral, the lower and upper storeys of the chapel were dedicated respectively to the same pair. Eighteenth-century etchings suggest its appearance accorded with the reserved perpendicular style favoured by Yevele in his design for the nave of Canterbury cathedral. The paper drew from medieval and antiquarian sources to build up a picture of the lost edifice.

Day 2: The Papers

On the second day the delegates heard ten papers, divided across three sessions, outlined below.

Session 1: Lost, Destroyed and Re-used Bridges

David Harrison, a co-founder of the IBG, discussed the apparently systematic demolition of medieval bridges during the Georgian period, suggesting the motivations behind the destruction often had as much to do with fashion as engineering. He was followed by Klàra Benešovská, who considered the extensive patronage undertaken by Jan of Dražice, the last Bishop of Prague. The focus was his patronage of the bridge in Roudnice nad Labem and its connections to Avignon, where Master William came from to teach the local builders the bridge building techniques of southern France. The paper was a useful complement to the conference’s emphasis on the legacy of Emperor Charles IV but also to the following paper. For this, Michal Panáček shared his exhaustive research into the building technologies of the medieval bridge in Roudnice nad Labem and the Charles Bridge in Prague. The paper emphasised how much more technologically advanced the bridge in Roudnice was – probably since it had a direct connection with the sophisticated French bridge builders.

Finally, Alexandra Gajewski addressed the medieval afterlife of the magnificent Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard, sharing shocking accounts of how the piers of the second storey of arcading were recessed to enable wagons to cross a bridge never designed for human passage. She explored various reasons – aesthetic, practical, economic – that compelled medieval travelgaers to use this treacherous bridge.

Session 2: Bridges in Art, Sources and Myths

The second session opened with a paper by Gerrit Deutschländer who discussed medieval gates, their relation to bridges and their ability to glorify rulers. Then, Sarah Harrison gave an art historical overview of depictions of bridges as narrative cues, geographical aides or simply as aesthetic motifs. Susan Irvine closed the session with an exploration of the motif of the bridge in late medieval Middle English romance narratives. In her chosen case study, Gawain and the Green Knight, the bridge serves as means of testing the mettle of the chivalric hero and exploring prevailing questions of personal or universal morality.

Session 3: Digital Technologies and Bridges

Engineer Bill Harvey presented to us the usefulness of 3D-imaging medieval stone bridges as means of assessing their structural integrity and, often, saving them from demolition. Although Simone Balossino was unable to attend the event, he had sent us a video which captured the methods used by the Avignon team to digitally reconstruct the medieval Pont Saint-Benezet. Next, the author of this review presented the Digital Pilgrim Project, which is making 3D-images of a selection of the British Museum’s medieval badge collection and uploading them to the museum’s account with the 3D-imaging platform, Sketchfab. Lastly, Jana Gajdošová and David Harrison presented The Bridge Project to the group, funded by the GEO Sea and Currents Fund, which aims to bring awareness to medieval bridges, to plot them on a map and to thus digitally preserve them.

Day 3: Pìsek and Zvikov Castle

Our last day in the old territories of Charles IV took us to the town of Písek. Here we visited its 13th century bridge, the oldest in Bohemia, which survives close to its original form despite a number of floods and thanks to conservation work. The bridge was fortified by two gate towers, neither of which survives; however, the IBG was able to get an impression of these gates by studying the monumental wall painting in the castle of Písek. Viewing the town’s museum and churches was an opportunity to appreciate the reach of the gothic aesthetic in Bohemia during the Middle Ages. This was intensified by a sun-baked walk to the castle of Zvikov, positioned at the confluence of the Vltava and Otava. There, we encountered a moat bridge, an early example of the use of triradials, traceried arcades, and the cool interior of a fourteenth-century chapel with vibrantly restored wall-paintings.

To sum up, the IBG Conference 2016 achieved a balance of action and reflection. Prague, as an extreme case study in terms of the Charles Bridge’s potency as a political tool, proved both fascinating in isolation and a lens through which to consider the multifaceted functions of bridges across medieval Europe. Thanks is owed to Jana Gajdošová and David Harrison for organising this fascinating conference.

Amy Jeffs

Conference: International Bridges Group in Prague (8-10 July 2016)

IMG_2845After the success of the first meeting of the International Bridges Group in Westminster Palace [Ed. note: enthusiastically reviewed by Medieval Art Research here], the International Bridges Group will meet in Prague for our second symposium. The Charles Bridge in Prague, with its spectacular gate tower, makes the city an excellent choice, and will be a major topic of discussion. In addition to that, we have also planned a one day trip to Písek, a charming medieval town outside of Prague and the home of the oldest standing bridge in the Czech Republic.

To take advantage of Prague itself, we will be given a private tour of St. Vitus Cathedral (when it is closed to the public); of the House at the Stone Bell and of several other major sites usually closed to the public. In addition, as 2016 marks 700 years since the birth of Emperor Charles IV, our symposium there would be the perfect opportunity for the delegates to see the spectacularly planned ‘Emperor Charles IV 1316 – 2016’ exhibition in the Waldstein Riding School (see link below).

Our programme will be as follows:

Friday July 8th:
8:00 Cathedral Tour with Klára Benešovská and the master mason of the cathedral, Petr Chotěbor
10:30 Tea in the Old Town
11:00 Romanesque House Tour
12:00 Lunch
13:30 House at the Stone Bell with Klára Benešovská
15:00 Judith Bridge Tower and Charles Bridge withJana Gajdošová
19:00 Evening Lecture

Saturday July 9th:
9:30 Symposium in Villa Lanna
Our speakers / chairs (and their topics) include:
David Harrison (London); Klára Benešovská (Prague): Roudnice Bridge; Simone Balossino (Avignon): Pont Saint- Benezet and the recently completed project on its reconstruction; Alexandra Gajewski (London): Pont du Gard in the Middle Ages; Jana Gajdošová (Cambridge); Gerrit Deutschlander (Hamburg): Bridges and Gates; Bill Harvey(Exeter): Bridge Spans in England; Susan Irvine (London): The Sword Bridge in Medieval Chivalric Romance ; Zoë Opačić (London); Sarah Harrison (London); Tim Tatton Brown (London)

15:30 – Free time to see the exhibition
19:30 Dinner

Sunday July 10th:
Coach to Pisek (included in the symposium fee)
Písek is a lovely south Bohemian town and the home of the oldest bridge in the Czech Republic. This 13th century structure as well as a castle, founded in the same century (with 15th century wall paintings of the town and its bridge), will be the focus of our tour.

The symposium itself will take place on July 9th, 2016 in the Neo-Renaissance Villa Lanna in Prague and the entire event will occur on July 8-10, 2016. The Villa (see link below), with the support of the Institute of Art History (Academy of Science of the Czech Republic), has given us a substantial discount to use their premises and will also give anyone from our group a 30% discount on their rooms. (A single room would be approximately £29.) Should you choose to stay there, please contact Jana to book a room. The event fee is £55 and includes lunch, coffee/ tea and dinner during the day in Villa Lanna, as well as the coach to Písek.
We can only accommodate a limited number of delegates due to the private tours/ coach trip. If you are interested in joining, please email Jana Gajdošová to register at jg744@cam.ac.uk.

We hope that you will be able to join us in Prague!

Best Wishes,
Jana Gajdošová and David Harrison
Exhibition 2016
Villa Lanna