Tag Archives: relics

Deadline 15 November: The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium: Collecting (in) the Middle Ages, 16 February 2018

HolyofHoliesReliquary

Call for papers: The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium: Collecting (in) the Middle Ages, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 16 February 2017
Deadline: 15 November 2017

The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium invites speakers to consider the nature of medieval collections, the context of their creation and fruition, and their legacy — or disappearance — in the present.

Inspired by objects such as a cedar box chest once kept in the Holy of Holies of the Lateran, this colloquium seeks to explore a diverse set of topics surrounding medieval practices of collecting. This wooden box may seem simple, but once opened it reveals a priceless collection: fragments of rock and wood from the Holy Land, each labelled with its precise place of origin by a sixth-century hand. Here and there, stones have fallen out, leaving imprints in the soil. The wooden relic chest is an object of small size and almost no material value, but has nevertheless been treasured for centuries by one of the largest and most powerful institutions of the medieval world.

The study of medieval collecting raises a variety of questions. How and why were objects collected, practically and conceptually? What was their expected time-span and what enabled their survival? How have medieval collections impacted modern scholarship, and how do modern collecting and display practices influence our interpretation of the past?

Applicants to the colloquium are encouraged to explore these issues from a diverse range of methodologies, analysing objects from the 6th to the 16th century and from a wide-ranging geographical span. Possible areas of discussion might include:

  • Collecting through time: How do we define the medieval collection/collector? How did medieval objects take on new meanings in medieval collections, ie. in the case of spolia? How has scholarship on medieval art been influenced by varying collecting practices and curatorial strategies across time?
  • Collecting in space: can the idea of the ‘collection’ be expanded to include objects, places and spaces spread across different geographical locales? Could objects or spaces communicate their commonality across a distance? How did pilgrimage routes, travel narratives and travel guides conceptualize their surroundings and weave a thread through geographical and historical difference?
  • Collectors, intermediaries, and craftsmen: how did institutions and single collectors acquire and expand their collections? For example, did they rely on a merchant network to acquire foreign objects or new relics? Did they collect newly commissioned objects, and display them in purpose-built spaces?
  • Collections and Legacies: how did inheritance impact the notion of collecting, looking forwards as well backwards? How did the meaning of objects change as they were passed down through families and dynasties? What happened to collections when familial lines ended? How did individuals link themselves to courts or dynasties through collections?
  • Accessibility: When, how and why were collections visible? Were there different levels of accessibility and interaction and who was allowed to ‘access all areas’? How were restricted collections advertised and open collections protected? And did objects themselves interact with each other, for example in specific displays or assemblages?
  • Organising Collections: What were the systems for assembling a collection, and for how they were curated? How did purpose-built spaces impact the growth of collections, and vice-versa? What were the roles of documents in collections, and how have medieval recording practices influenced modern views of the medieval collection?

The Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium offers an opportunity for research students at all levels from universities across the UK and abroad to present, discuss and promote their research. To apply, please send a proposal of up to 250 words for a 20 minute paper, together with a CV, to costanza.beltrami@courtauld.ac.uk and maggie.crosland@courtauld.ac.uk no later than 15 November 2017.

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Deadline Extended: The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium: Collecting (in) the Middle Ages, 16 February 2018

HolyofHoliesReliquary

Call for papers: The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium: Collecting (in) the Middle Ages, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 16 February 2017
Deadline: 15 November 2017

The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium invites speakers to consider the nature of medieval collections, the context of their creation and fruition, and their legacy — or disappearance — in the present.

Inspired by objects such as a cedar box chest once kept in the Holy of Holies of the Lateran, this colloquium seeks to explore a diverse set of topics surrounding medieval practices of collecting. This wooden box may seem simple, but once opened it reveals a priceless collection: fragments of rock and wood from the Holy Land, each labelled with its precise place of origin by a sixth-century hand. Here and there, stones have fallen out, leaving imprints in the soil. The wooden relic chest is an object of small size and almost no material value, but has nevertheless been treasured for centuries by one of the largest and most powerful institutions of the medieval world.

The study of medieval collecting raises a variety of questions. How and why were objects collected, practically and conceptually? What was their expected time-span and what enabled their survival? How have medieval collections impacted modern scholarship, and how do modern collecting and display practices influence our interpretation of the past?

Applicants to the colloquium are encouraged to explore these issues from a diverse range of methodologies, analysing objects from the 6th to the 16th century and from a wide-ranging geographical span. Possible areas of discussion might include:

  • Collecting through time: How do we define the medieval collection/collector? How did medieval objects take on new meanings in medieval collections, ie. in the case of spolia? How has scholarship on medieval art been influenced by varying collecting practices and curatorial strategies across time?
  • Collecting in space: can the idea of the ‘collection’ be expanded to include objects, places and spaces spread across different geographical locales? Could objects or spaces communicate their commonality across a distance? How did pilgrimage routes, travel narratives and travel guides conceptualize their surroundings and weave a thread through geographical and historical difference?
  • Collectors, intermediaries, and craftsmen: how did institutions and single collectors acquire and expand their collections? For example, did they rely on a merchant network to acquire foreign objects or new relics? Did they collect newly commissioned objects, and display them in purpose-built spaces?
  • Collections and Legacies: how did inheritance impact the notion of collecting, looking forwards as well backwards? How did the meaning of objects change as they were passed down through families and dynasties? What happened to collections when familial lines ended? How did individuals link themselves to courts or dynasties through collections?
  • Accessibility: When, how and why were collections visible? Were there different levels of accessibility and interaction and who was allowed to ‘access all areas’? How were restricted collections advertised and open collections protected? And did objects themselves interact with each other, for example in specific displays or assemblages?
  • Organising Collections: What were the systems for assembling a collection, and for how they were curated? How did purpose-built spaces impact the growth of collections, and vice-versa? What were the roles of documents in collections, and how have medieval recording practices influenced modern views of the medieval collection?

The Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium offers an opportunity for research students at all levels from universities across the UK and abroad to present, discuss and promote their research. To apply, please send a proposal of up to 250 words for a 20 minute paper, together with a CV, to costanza.beltrami@courtauld.ac.uk and maggie.crosland@courtauld.ac.uk no later than 15 November 2017.

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CFP: The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium: Collecting (in) the Middle Ages, 16 February 2018

HolyofHoliesReliquary

Call for papers: The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium: Collecting (in) the Middle Ages, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 16 February 2017
Deadline: 30 October 2017

The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium invites speakers to consider the nature of medieval collections, the context of their creation and fruition, and their legacy — or disappearance — in the present.

Inspired by objects such as a cedar box chest once kept in the Holy of Holies of the Lateran, this colloquium seeks to explore a diverse set of topics surrounding medieval practices of collecting. This wooden box may seem simple, but once opened it reveals a priceless collection: fragments of rock and wood from the Holy Land, each labelled with its precise place of origin by a sixth-century hand. Here and there, stones have fallen out, leaving imprints in the soil. The wooden relic chest is an object of small size and almost no material value, but has nevertheless been treasured for centuries by one of the largest and most powerful institutions of the medieval world.

The study of medieval collecting raises a variety of questions. How and why were objects collected, practically and conceptually? What was their expected time-span and what enabled their survival? How have medieval collections impacted modern scholarship, and how do modern collecting and display practices influence our interpretation of the past?

Applicants to the colloquium are encouraged to explore these issues from a diverse range of methodologies, analysing objects from the 6th to the 16th century and from a wide-ranging geographical span. Possible areas of discussion might include:

  • Collecting through time: How do we define the medieval collection/collector? How did medieval objects take on new meanings in medieval collections, ie. in the case of spolia? How has scholarship on medieval art been influenced by varying collecting practices and curatorial strategies across time?
  • Collecting in space: can the idea of the ‘collection’ be expanded to include objects, places and spaces spread across different geographical locales? Could objects or spaces communicate their commonality across a distance? How did pilgrimage routes, travel narratives and travel guides conceptualize their surroundings and weave a thread through geographical and historical difference?
  • Collectors, intermediaries, and craftsmen: how did institutions and single collectors acquire and expand their collections? For example, did they rely on a merchant network to acquire foreign objects or new relics? Did they collect newly commissioned objects, and display them in purpose-built spaces?
  • Collections and Legacies: how did inheritance impact the notion of collecting, looking forwards as well backwards? How did the meaning of objects change as they were passed down through families and dynasties? What happened to collections when familial lines ended? How did individuals link themselves to courts or dynasties through collections?
  • Accessibility: When, how and why were collections visible? Were there different levels of accessibility and interaction and who was allowed to ‘access all areas’? How were restricted collections advertised and open collections protected? And did objects themselves interact with each other, for example in specific displays or assemblages?
  • Organising Collections: What were the systems for assembling a collection, and for how they were curated? How did purpose-built spaces impact the growth of collections, and vice-versa? What were the roles of documents in collections, and how have medieval recording practices influenced modern views of the medieval collection?

The Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium offers an opportunity for research students at all levels from universities across the UK and abroad to present, discuss and promote their research. To apply, please send a proposal of up to 250 words for a 20 minute paper, together with a CV, to costanza.beltrami@courtauld.ac.uk and maggie.crosland@courtauld.ac.uk no later than 30 October 2017.

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Reflections on the Thomas Becket Study Day, 7th June 2017, Canterbury Cathedral

There could scarcely be a more appropriate setting for a study day on the theme of Thomas Becket than Canterbury Cathedral, the location of the archbishop’s martyrdom nearly 850 years ago on the 29th December 1170. In the Cathedral Library and Archives, just metres from the site of Becket’s murder in the North West Transept, experts from universities, museums and Canterbury heritage organisations gathered to discuss the saint’s life and cult.

The day began with a series of ‘quick fire’ presentations, each focusing on one theme or object related to Thomas Becket. The range of material gave an immediate sense of the scale and popularity of Becket’s cult in the Middle Ages and beyond. Some objects discussed have likely existed in the vicinity of Canterbury since they were produced, including a fragmentary sandstone ampulla mould discovered in the garden of 16 Watling Street (Dr Paul Bennett, Canterbury Archaeological Trust), a thirteenth-century cartulary made for Christ Church containing charters for the shrine of Thomas Becket (Professor Louise Wilkinson, Canterbury Christ Church University), the seal of Archbishop Simon Sudbury showing Becket’s martyrdom (Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, University of Kent), and the spectacular miracle windows in the Trinity Chapel of the Cathedral itself (Professor Michael A. Michael, Christie’s Education).

Thomas Becket ampulla (or vessel), now in the British Museum, similar to the kind that would have been produced by the Watling Street mould discussed by Dr Paul Bennet. See more 3D models of pilgrim souvenirs here

Image 2, Sens Chasuble

Chasuble in Sens Cathedral treasury thought to have been worn by Thomas Becket and venerated as a contact relic

Other delegates discussed geographically dispersed objects which originated or were believed to have originated in Canterbury. For instance, pilgrim souvenirs depicting Becket were bought by visitors to Canterbury and, it would seem, lost on the way home. These badges, with their intricate and compelling imagery, would have been worn on the bags, hats and garments of pilgrims as signs of their visit to Becket’s shrine and are now excavated from sites across Britain and Europe (Amy Jeffs and Dr Gabriel Byng, University of Cambridge and convenors of The Digital Pilgrim Project). Likewise, Dr Emily Guerry (University of Kent) discussed a series of vestments owned by Sens Cathedral that were reputedly worn by Becket and possibly used at Sens as contact relics.

 

A number of  significant objects pertaining to Becket originated from further afield, both geographically and chronologically. Dr Tom Nickson (Courtauld Institute of Art), for example, presented on a c. 1200 altar frontal depicting Becket’s martyrdom found in the church of San Miguel in Almazán, which bears early witness to the popularity of Becket’s cult in Spain.

Image 1, San Miguel altar

Altar frontal from the church of San Miguel in Almazán, showing Becket’s martyrdom

Becket’s later legacy was then examined. Lloyd De Beer (British Museum) assessed the sixteenth-century political and religious connotations of the saint’s martyrdom through the lens of Alberti’s The Martyr’s Picture (1581), displayed in the Venerable English College in Rome, and Naomi Speakman (British Museum) discussed Becket’s memory in post-Reformation England and his representation as an anti-martyr.

These evocative objects and themes provoked a lively concluding discussion that centred on the international nature of Becket’s cult and the extent to which the art associated with it imitated and/or innovated in order promote the saint and potency of his cult as a political tool.

Image 4, Cathedral Archives

Examining the Professions of Obedience in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives

This discussion was followed by an opportunity to see first-hand some of the extraordinary items associated with Becket. Cressida Williams, head of the Cathedral Archives and Library, had organised for an array of Becket-themed documents and objects from the Cathedral collections and various heritage organisations in Canterbury to be displayed together in the reading room of the Cathedral Archives. Among this impressive collection were two fragments of pink Tournai marble, discovered during excavations in the Cathedral grounds, which are thought to have come from the shrine of St Thomas himself. Also on display were a number of medieval seals from the Cathedral’s collections, including those of Archbishops Hubert Walter and Stephen Langton, which both depict Becket’s martyrdom. Dr Helen Gittos from the University of Kent discussed a particular treasure of the Cathedral Archive, the Professions of Obedience, a series of 170 documents now bound into a single volume that record the vows made by bishops during their consecration. These small vellum statements, which would have originally been sewn together in a continuous roll, contain the dates of bishops’ consecrations, and are thus immensely helpful in dating other contemporary documents based on a comparison of their palaeography. Becket’s entry is especially marked in the Professions by a statement in red noting his archiepiscopal status.

 

The later half of the afternoon saw the group move to the Cathedral stained glass studio, where Leonie Seliger, Head of the Stained Glass Conservation Department, led us in a discussion of the representation of Becket in the Cathedral glass. Notably, only three original thirteenth-century panels depicting Becket’s head survive, which Leonie encouraged us to find among her printed reproductions – a task that proved surprisingly difficult. We also had the opportunity to see some of medieval stained glass currently under restoration in the studio, and to hear from Leonie about the techniques that would have gone in to making these panels. A particular highlight was seeing how the colour of nine hundred year old stained glass was still bright and vivid when held up to the light.

Image 7, Sudbury's tomb

Kneeling at the resonant prayer niches in Archbishop Sudbury’s tomb, Canterbury Cathedral

A subsequent tour of the Cathedral offered a chance to see the miracle windows we had discussed in the glass studio in situ, along with the site of Becket’s shrine and several archiepiscopal and royal tombs. The tombs of Archbishops Sudbury and Mepham in the south aisle of the Choir afforded a particularly interactive experience; kneeling down at one of the vaulted prayer niches carved into the tombs’ exterior, penitents (or indeed academics) can experience an amplification not only of the music performed in the nearby Choir, but also their own whispered prayers and thoughts.

 

Professor Paul Binski (University of Cambridge) brought the study day to a close with a public lecture entitled ‘Thomas Becket and the Medieval Cult of Personality’. Drawing on many of the objects seen and discussed throughout the day, Professor Binski reflected on the idea of Becket’s ‘persona’ (as opposed to the modern notion of ‘personality’) and its importance in the formation and development of his cult. Much like a mask that can be put on or taken off, the medieval concept of an individual’s persona was related to their outer countenance, and formed by certain archetypal characteristics – both good and bad – often rooted in character types in biblical stories or saint’s lives. Becket’s persona and outer image, Professor Binski argued, was imitated in the art and architecture produced in response to his martyrdom, an aspect that was vital to the rapid dissemination and spread of the cult. Due in part to the accessibility of this image through objects made both for the elite and for the ordinary person, Becket’s persona transcended social as well as geographical boundaries, transforming his cult into a widespread, international phenomenon. Professor Binski’s concluding remarks on the appeal of the Becket’s cult in the Middle Ages had a particular resonance amidst of the full lecture theatre where the lasting legacy of Thomas Becket’s life and death was still very much felt.

Sophie Kelly

PhD Candidate, University of Kent

 

New Publications: Relics, Identity, and Memory in Medieval Europe  Edited by M. Räsänen, G. Hartmann, E. J. Richards 

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Relics, Identity, and Memory in Medieval Europe 

Edited by M. Räsänen, G. Hartmann, E. J. Richards 

ISBN 978-2-503-55502-7 BREPOLS PUBLISHERS

This volume contributes to current discussions of the place of relics in devotional life, politics, and identity-formation, by illustrating both the power which relics were thought to emanate as well as the historical continuity in the significance assigned to that power. Relics had the power to ‘touch’ believers not only as material objects, but also through different media that made their presence tangible and valuable. Local variants in relic-veneration demonstrate how relics were exploited, often with great skill, in different religious and political contexts. The volume covers both a wide historical and geographical span, from Late Antiquity to the early modern period, and from northern, central, and southern Europe.

The book focuses on textual, iconographical, archaeological, and architectural sources. The contributors explore how an efficient manipulation of the liturgy, narrative texts, iconographic traditions, and architectural settings were used to construct the meaningfulness of relics and how linguistic style and precision were critically important in creating a context for veneration. The methodology adopted in the book combines studies of material culture and close reading of textual evidence in order to offer a new multidisciplinary purchase on the study of relic cults.

More Info: http://bit.ly/2dvhp2M

International Workshop: Relics @ the Lab, KIK-IRPA, Brussels, October 27-28 2016.

relics to deleteInternational Workshop: Relics @ the Lab, KIK-IRPA, Brussels, October 27-28 2016.
Over the past decade the scientific interest in relics and kindred artifacts has grown enormously. Without any doubt relics as well as relic shrines and associated objects have played a prominent role in European history since the introduction of Christianity. While in the past primary, secondary as well as tertiary relics were merely studied in relation to their religious and (art) historical background, recently the rise of a more scientific and archaeological approach is noticed. Nowadays researchers become more interested in the origin and nature of these sacred objects and ask different questions:
  • What information can relics give us about the people buried in the shrines? Who were these people? What do we know about the way they lived? When did they live? What about diseases and other disabilities?
  • What information can be retrieved from the objects kept with the relics and made of textile, wood, stone or metal. What was their purpose? Are they contemporaneous to the relic or are they older or younger additions? Why would they have been added? How should we preserve them?
Scientists of many different disciplines are involved in the study of relics and kindred artefacts, but till now there was no real forum for these people to exchange ideas and discuss methods. Therefore the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA, Brussels) is organising a two-day workshop on the scientific study of relics.
During this meeting we want to give analytical scientists, textile specialists, conservators, anthropologists, historical researchers, people involved in 3D-reconstruction as well as radiocarbon dating specialists a forum to exchange ideas about relics.

A full programme can be found here
Tickets: The registration fee is €75. This includes two lunches, coffee, tea and refreshments during the breaks and a book with the summaries of all the oral presentations and posters. Click here to register.

Illuminating Becket?

Canterbury chasse, Met Museum NYOn 7 June 2016 a group of Becket scholars and enthusiasts met for a one day workshop, ‘Illuminating Becket’ at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, which ended with a fascinating public lecture by Rachel Koopmans (York University, Toronto) on the relationships between narratives in the ‘miracle’ windows in Canterbury cathedral’s east end and the structure of contemporary miracle collections. The workshop and lecture are one of a series of events planned in the lead up to 2020, the 800th anniversary of Becket’s translation to a new shrine in Canterbury cathedral (details of an earlier handling session at the British Museum are available here). During the workshop discussants were asked briefly to present one ‘eloquent‘ object, text or space that raised key issues for understanding Becket’s life and cult, and one ‘unexpected‘ object, text or space. You can see their proposals by clicking the links, and new proposals for other ‘eloquent’ or ‘unexpected’ objects, texts or spaces are warmly invited (if you’d like to send an image, just send as an attachment, with a full caption, to mail@medievalartresearch.com)!