Tag Archives: Shrines

Conference: Holy Bodies, Sacred Spaces (York, 2 May 2015)

University of York
Berrick Saul Building
Bowland Auditorium

The praesentia of holy bodies, the material remains of saints, is a
seminal aspect of late antique and medieval Christianity and has long
received scholarly attention. The art-historical debate on the eleventh
and twelfth centuries has focused, in particular, on pilgrimage, from
the monumental 1923 monograph by Arthur Kingsley Porter to the most
recent studies that examine the relationship between architecture and
pilgrims’ pathways in approaching holy bodies and venerated relics.
The idea of pilgrimage, however, unveils only a part of the richness of
the topic. In this conference, sponsored by the Department of History
of Art and the Centre for Medieval Studies of the University of York,
and funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Foundation Small Grant,
speakers are invited to reflect on the different layers of meaning
associated with the praesentia of holy bodies. What was, for example,
the ecclesiological relevance of the possession of holy bodies at a
given site? To what extent did the praesentia of a saint have an
institutional, or even political importance? And, finally, in which
ways have these aspects been materialised in architectural structures
or visualised in images?


10.30       Introduction
MICHELE LUIGI VESCOVI (University of York)

Image, Architecture and Memory
Chair: M. L. Vescovi

10.45    Transformative sculptures: the ‘graven image’ and the human
figure in Anglo-Saxon sculpture
JANE HAWKES (University of York)

11.15    Architectural provision for secondary saints, prospective
saints and the blessed
RICHARD PLANT (Christie’s Education)

11.45    Inscribing memory: Bernward and Saint Michael of Hildesheim
WILFRIED E. KEIL (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg)

12.15    Discussion

Locating Holy Bodies
Chair: T. Ayers

14.00    Moving the body of a saint: St John of Beverley and the
architecture of Beverley Minster
CHRISTOPHER NORTON (University of York)

14.30    Absent body, double bodies: visualizing Bologna’s civic cults
JESSICA N. RICHARDSON (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz –

Holy Bodies and Pilgrimage

15.00    The Apostle is present! A new setting for pilgrims in the
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
MANUEL CASTIÑEIRAS (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

15.30    Ubi populo, qui huius miraculi fama magnus in ecclesia
confluxerat, omnia hec sunt narrata. Saint-Gilles-du-Gard and
Saint-Trophime at Arles: recent archaeological investigations on two
major Romanesque pilgrimage churches in Southern France
ANDREAS HARTMANN-VIRNICH (Laboratoire d’Archéologie Médiévale et
Moderne en Méditerranée, LA3M UMR 7298 Aix-Marseille Université

16.00    Discussion

For further queries please contact the organiser, Michele Luigi Vescovi


Conference review: Microarchitecture and Miniaturized Representation of Buildings (INHA, Paris 8-10 Dec 2014)

Search for “microarchitecture conference” on Google, and you will mostly be returned results concerning gatherings of computer programmers. This would doubtless make the concept of a conference on medieval microarchitecture entertaining to many. Even ignoring this parallel nomenclature, the sort of microarchitecture art historians are interested in is not an easy concept to explain, and perhaps one of the primary goals of the conference held at the Institut Nationale d’Historie d’Art in Paris was to actually work out what we had all come together for. I doubt wasn’t the only one who wondered whether my own material actually qualified.

Professor Timmermann with his pocket cathedral

Professor Timmermann with his pocket cathedral

Achim Timmermann (University of Michigan), a man who could indeed be dubbed “Mr. Microarchitecture”, gave an exciting overview of the concept in Early, High and Late Middle Ages, so epic in its scope of fantastic structures that the screen ought to have expanded into Imax proportions. His account demonstrated how microarchitecture transformed from the idea of a “pocket cathedral” into such an isolated ontological sphere that it crossed into convolute monstrosity with its self-mimesis by the late fifteenth century. An alternative and quite staggeringly rich oration, based on his new book Gothic Wonder, was given by Paul Binski among the medieval statuary in the ancient Roman baths of the Museé de Cluny. For Paul, the medieval intellectual aesthetic condensed great and small, magnificent and minificent, into an idea characterised by a single playfulness of embellishing surface with ornament. A more formal account, jointly delivered by Javier ibàñez Fernandez (Universidad de Zaragozza) and Arturo Zaragozá Catalán (Universidad de Valencia), introduced a 7-part taxonomy of microarchitecture in Spain: from functional maquettes to decorative miniaturisation of large-scale forms.

Sebastian Fitzner and some extraordinary medieval tile ovens

Sebastian Fitzner and some extraordinary medieval tile ovens

In this framework of ideas of categorisation, many new genres of object were introduced to the conference room. The present writer, of course, had packed a selection of sedilia, which by now I am certain always prove novel to continental audiences. But we also had stone tile ovens like traceried office blocks from Sebastian Fitzner (LudwigMaximilians-Universität München), Orthodox chivots for Eucharist reservation that mimic the forms of their parent building from Anita Paolicchi (Università di Pisa) and Renaissance elevation drawings that were originally intended to be folded and constructed into paper models from Giovanni Santucci (Università di Pisa).
These models are sort of things we would love to have more evidence for in the Middle Ages to explain the transmission of ideas, but alas, even presentation drawings and plans are difficult to come by. The miniaturisation of large forms into the decorative or representational was covered in papers by Sabine Berger (Sorbonne) on votive churches in the hands of donor statues and Peter Kurmann (ETH, Zurich) on relationship of tabernacle canopies to the geometry and form of great chevets.

Matthew Sillence with cardinals' seals

Matthew Sillence with cardinals’ seals


Final panel with Alexander Collins, Julian Gardner (chair), Sophie Cloart-Pawlak and Sarah Guérin

There was also consideration of the desirability of microarchitecture and its meaning beyond the artists’ play with novel forms. Matt Ethan Kalaver’s (University of Toronto) account of the earliest transmission of classical forms into the Netherlands by the high nobility on their tombs was reflected in the earlier centuries considered by Julian Gardner (University of Warwick) and Matthew Sillence (University of East Anglia). Their papers both focused on how influential medieval prelates and cardinals were for spreading new forms on their seals, which, quite thankfully, was a big part of my paper where also bishops seem the first to stick pointy gables over sedilia in chantry chapels they have endowed.
Perhaps one drawback about the novelty of much of the material is that it is only in retrospect to draw many of these parallels across sessions. One panel however that held together very well that at the end of the final day, between Sophie Cloart-Pawlak (IRHiS, Lille), Alexander Collins (University of Edinburgh) and Sarah Guérin (University of Montréal) who all explored the function and symbolism of microarchitecture on the spectator.
This was my first international conference, and it was a highly convivial experience with high-quality papers throughout. There was a healthy mix of postgraduates, early career researchers, established scholars and some legendary old hands. It is planned that the proceedings will be published, and therefore it should provide a much-needed general framework for the minificent microcosm of the fiddliest bits of the decorative arts.

The international conference Micro-architecture et figures du bâti au Moyen-Âge: l’échelle à l’épreuve de la matière was at the Institut Nationale d’Historie d’Art from the 8-10 Dec 2015. Here is our original post of the call for papers, the full programme and the INHA’s official page.

We also had a bit of fun tweeting the conference because we’re so Web 3.0.