Schedule

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2006
Monday, April 3rd
7:00 PM

Tradition, Innovation, and the Illuminated Manuscript in the Middle Ages

Michelle P. Brown

Woodward Hall

7:00 PM

"Innovation" was a quality often viewed with suspicion during the Middle Ages-it could even lead to excommunication-yet medieval craftsmen could be remarkably innovative in their work, creating fresh forms and transforming existing ones. The illuminated manuscript, which was both an artistic creation and a means of transmitting knowledge, was among the most remarkable cultural forms to emerge during the medieval period. But the manner in which manuscripts combined text and image varied greatly across the thousand years between ca. 500 and ca. 1500, demonstrating a powerful dialectic between tradition and innovation as scribes and artists experimented and interacted to produce some of the best designed books the world has ever seen. Drawing upon many outstanding examples among the great collections of The British Library, Michelle Brown will explore in this opening lecture how the illuminated manuscript demonstrates the ways in which medieval society perceived itself, its world, and its position in time.

Tuesday, April 4th
4:00 PM

The Lindisfarne Gospels: The Transforming Power of Sacred Text

Michelle P. Brown

Woodward Hall

4:00 PM

Of all forms of human knowledge, sacred texts may seem to be the least open to change over time. However, their enduring role in society can make them a particularly effective mirror for the evolving beliefs of an ever-changing world. In this lecture Michelle Brown will offer a richly illustrated account of the Lindisfarne Gospels, an illuminated copy of the four New Testament gospels made by Bishop Eadfrith at Lindisfarne, the famous monastery located on a tidal island off the north-east coast of England, in the early eighth century. Containing an extraordinarily rich and complex sequence of decorated pages comparable to those of the Book of Kells, the Lindisfarne Gospels displays a fascinating combination of influences stemming variously from the Mediterranean and Celtic worlds. Dr. Brown\'s exploration of this cultural icon will show how an excavation of its various levels of meaning reveals a fast-changing, innovative, and enlightened era that presents a striking contrast to traditional conceptions of the "Dark Ages."

7:00 PM

Medieval Stained Glass: Text and Context

Virginia Chieff Raguin

Woodward Hall

7:00 PM

The development of a method for creating stained glass windows was one of the outstanding technical innovations of the Middle Ages. In his great craftsman's treatise The Various Arts, the twelfth-century monk Theophilus describes how to make stained glass by a process that involved the cutting of a pattern or cartoon, painting the details directly onto the glass surface before firing the design in the kiln, using lead to bond the pieces together, and finally placing the completed window into its metal framework. Stained glass embodied an aesthetic of light that had tremendous appeal in the Middle Ages, establishing the colored window as an essential building element in the great cathedrals: architects designed their elevations with the specific purpose of housing these great "tapestries of light." Story telling was accomplished in stained glass with great dexterity in many Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, and in this lecture Virginia Raguin will present some of the most outstanding examples, including the windows at Chartres Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral, and the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Wednesday, April 5th
4:00 PM

The Twelfth-Century Origins of the University

C. Stephen Jaeger

Woodward Hall

4:00 PM

No institution called a "university" existed in Western education before the late twelfth century. What then were the forces that encouraged the foundation of the earliest universities and their organization into a system of education more or less related to that found in the universities of our own time? Professor Jaeger's lecture will demonstrate the role played by the extraordinary intellectual energy that characterized the twelfth-century cathedral schools. Then, focusing on the University of Paris, he will explore the conflicts and personalities that brought forth a new institution offering a wide variety of disciplines within a single organizational framework. Did the first university arise as a result of the force of ideals or because of social ills caused by the growth of the student population in Paris? Did the new university represent a broadening or a narrowing of the field of studies? The lecture will highlight the influence of Peter Abelard, his conflicts with the old humanistic schools, and the new student culture (represented and satirized in the songs of the Carmina Burana) that typified the Western world's first university.

7:00 PM

'Behold I Make All Things New': Design and Experience in Thirteenth-Century French Architecture

Michael T. Davis

Woodward Hall

7:00 PM

The soaring architecture of the great Gothic cathedrals represents one of the outstanding technical and cultural achievements of Western civilization. The major breakthroughs in building methods that made this architecture possible first took place in France during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, radiating outwards from there to other European countries and establishing a new kind of environment for religious performance and devotion. Analysis of the structure of the Gothic cathedrals has usually focused on the great technical achievements of master masons in creating soaring spaces enclosed by skeletal cages of taut shafts and moldings through the use of rib vaults, flying buttresses, and bar tracery. Professor Davis's lecture will acknowledge the importance of these developments while also considering the role of the cathedrals in creating an essentially new type of multi-media environment that included the buildings' sculpture and stained glass windows. Focusing especially on the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, the papal memorial of Saint-Urbain in Troyes, and Clermont Cathedral, he will show how these magnificent buildings introduced a modern, ahistorical set of forms that composed a framework to organize spiritual ascent rising through a series of measured stages of vision and devotional experience.

Thursday, April 6th
7:00 PM

The Modern Devout and 'Private' Religion

John H. Van Engen

Woodward Hall

7:00 PM

The influential and innovative religious movement known as the Devotio Moderna or "Modern Devotion" first emerged in the Netherlands during the second half of the fourteenth century. It revitalized religious life in much of Western Europe and gave rise to the great spiritual classic, The Imitation of Christ. The movement has been variously interpreted: as the last stand of medieval asceticism, as a pointer toward the "self-fashioning" of the Renaissance, and as anticipating the Protestant Reformation. Professor Van Engen's lecture locates the movement and its purposes firmly within the world of the 1370s, a time of cultural and religious effervescence nearly everywhere in the West, from the Lollards in England to St. Catherine of Siena in Italy. Assessing the Devotio Moderna through historical categories appropriate to the movement's own time and experience, he explores the meaning of "private religion" in the late Middle Ages and examines the resistance that this new concept encountered on all sides, from lay people as well as from church and civic authorities. The lecture highlights the ferment that resulted when the ideals implicit in the Devotio Moderna confronted the realities of late medieval society.