Category Archives: Medieval Culture

Public lectures

‘Hooked: Art and Attachment’ by Professor Rita Felski (Department of English, University of Virginia). Friday 8 June, 11:30-13:00, Heymanszaal, Academy Building. Professor Felski is an expert in literary theory.

‘The Matter of Touching: Interpreting Signs of Wear in Late Medieval Manuscripts’ by Professor Kathryn Rudy (University of St. Andrews). Monday 18th June, 16:00-18:00, A2 Academy Building.

Contemplative Action – Lecture by Prof. Bernard McGinn

Monday, June 22nd, 16:00-18:00, Courtroom, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) is one of the most noted mystics in Christian history and was declared the first female doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Teresa’s teaching on contemplation and union with God, especially as set forth in her Life and The Interior Castle, remains extremely influential. What is sometimes neglected is that Teresa was also an active reformer of the Carmelite Order, who established seventeen reformed houses in the period between 1562 and 1582. Her own active life led her to reflect on the issue of the relation of contemplation and action, a major theme in Christian mysticism, and to work out a new theory of how to be a contemplative in action, as is evident in her masterpiece The Interior Castle.

Bernard McGinn is Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. He has written extensively in the areas of the history of apocalyptic thought and, most recently, in the areas of spirituality and mysticism. His current long-range project is a seven-volume history of Christian mysticism in the West under the general title The Presence of God, four volumes of which have appeared: The Origins of MysticismThe Growth of MysticismThe Flowering of Mysticism; and The Harvest of Mysticism in Medieval Germany.

Rarer than an eclipse – the funeral and burial of a king

Today, the coffin of King Richard III left the University of Leicester for Leicester Cathedral where it will lie until it is buried on Thursday. Since the bones were discovered under a car park in Leicester in 2012 they have been the subject of a good deal of controversy. In 1485 Richard lost the Battle of Bosworth to the man who would become Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch. At the same time he also lost his reputation as writers of the Tudor period (including Shakespeare) presented him as a wicked, hunch-backed king, a monarch who deserved to lose his throne.

The bones of English monarchs have been reinterred in the past, often to make a political point (they could be reburied in a more or less prestigious place); however, there’s usually not a 500 year gap between burials. Richard’s first burial was an obscure and irreverent one but this time around everyone wanted him and the cities of Leicester (near the battlefield at Bosworth) and York (the home of the king’s family) claimed him. Another quirk of the half-millenium gap is that the bones are being interred in an Anglican cathedral whereas the king had, of necessity, been a Roman Catholic, and perhaps a fairly pious one. Wisely, the Christian churches avoided squabbling over Richard’s remains and ministers of both denominations will have input into the final ceremonies. In the meantime, any internet search will provide you with video footage of one of the most unusual royal funerals in British history (Queen Elizabeth will not be attending, although she has sent a message to be read out), one in which even the mounted, armoured knights accompanying the hearse do not seem out-of-place: Richard’s fate was to live as much in story as in fact.

BBC coverage

Syllabus link: Shakespeare’s Richard III is part of the MA course ‘The Others: Outsiders and Malcontents in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature’.

Richard III
Richard III

Saints & Sinners

BBC4 (TV) has started a series of 3 programmes on medieval monasteries called ‘Saints and Sinners’.  The first episode, focusing on Anglo-Saxon culture, was broadcast last Thursday and began in Ireland with the monks’ cells on Skellig Michael, a rock 10 miles off the coast where the monks lived on a diet of fish and seabirds.  The fact that its use as a set for Star Wars wasn’t mentioned is an index of the programme’s tone and we are spared the shots of local people dressed in recreation costumes that often blights TV history. Episode two will look at the monasteries of Oxford.

Rievaulx, Yorkshire
Rievaulx, Yorkshire