York Medieval Lecture, Tuesday 7 March 2017
Professor Kathryn Kerby-Fulton (Notre Dame): ‘Literary Networks of the Vicars Choral and the Clerical Proletariat in Late Medieval York’
When Margery Kempe visited York Minster in 1417 she was befriended by two choral vicarii, John Kendale “and another preste whech song be the bischopys grave.” The grave was Richard Scrope’s, executed under Henry IV, and his semi-suppressed cult still no doubt a matter of some delicacy. Kendale and his unnamed fellow here were likely not only counseling Kempe, but telling her about the Minster’s history and saint’s cults – part of the job of cathedral vicarii. Kendale was also an owner of Piers Plowman, and if we link such information about the literary interests of the vicarii with some of the contemporary Latin writings produced at York Minster, we get a rare view of literary circles of the clerks lower down the ladder in the Minster’s local pride in its history (both legendary and more recent), its saints, and its zeal to protect its power and privileges. Other survivals relate directly to the Scrope execution, such as poems of traumatic mourning in heavily liturgical Latin (his death was personally witnessed by many of his cathedral familia in 1405, as its chronicles show), and fragmentary in-house chronicles – some of it even versified, as if for memorization. Despite the censorship efforts of Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundel, a range of literature sprang up from within the the Minster, giving us a rare chance to look at the multilingual literary production within a normally invisible group. Comparisons will be made to surviving poetry from manuscripts connected to Norwich Cathedral Priory or London’s St. Paul’s, containing poems about the woes of chorister life or clerical isolation.
Professor Kerby-Fulton is the Notre Dame Professor of English. She works in Middle English literature and medieval Latin intellectual history, including religious and political censorship, apocalypticism, visionary writing and women’s mysticism. She has also worked on medieval manuscript studies in England and Anglo-Ireland, history of the book and medieval literary theory, especially in relation to marginalia, text-image relations, and reading practices before print.
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York Medieval Lecture, 25 April 2017
Dr Emma Hornby (University of Bristol): ‘Medieval Psalters as Witnesses to Liturgical s
Song: the Iberian Case’
Christians in medieval Iberia had their own liturgical practices, independent of the Roman liturgy, until the late 11th century. Although about 40 surviving manuscripts and fragments bear witness to the Old Hispanic liturgy, it has remained a niche interest for scholars, in part because of its ‘peripheral’ status. A further, major, challenge is notational: thousands of Old Hispanic chants have been preserved, but in a notation that does not show pitch or intervals. We cannot transcribe or perform this material nowadays; it remains silent.
This lecture presents some of my recent research, in collaboration with Kati Ihnat (Nijmegen University), on this material. We have been exploring the use of psalmody in medieval Iberia. North of the Pyrenees, Benedictine monks sang the entire psalter every week; secular cathedral communities sang the psalter every three weeks. Scholars have argued fiercely about whether the Iberian evidence points towards a three week cycle, or even no psalm cycle at all. In attempting to understand and judge these arguments, we made a close analysis of two Iberian psalters, one from the 11th century and the other from the 12th. (BNE 10001, and LBL add. 30851; images of both manuscripts are now freely available online). As we delved into the contents more and more deeply, we found ourselves completely over-turning previous scholarly ideas about the shape and priorities of the liturgical day on the Iberian peninsula in the early middle ages. We have also been able to interrogate the unpitched neumes in which the psalm antiphons are preserved, resulting in the first attempted understanding since medieval times of the musical logic of the repertoire. Here, I introduce these beautiful and striking manuscripts, their cultural context, and their significance for medievalists, for musicologists, and for those who enjoy a good detective story.
Breaking with Byzantium: Franciscan Artistic Patronage and Piety in Central Italy at the dawn of the Trecento
Speaker: Dr Donal Cooper (Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge)
Monday 27 February 2017, 4.30pm, Berrick Saul Building, Bowland Auditorium (BS/005)
The Franciscan Order can be seen as the primary patronage framework within which different concepts of religious imagery played out in Italy in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. As Hans Belting and more recently Anne Derbes and Amy Neff have shown, the story is complex with the Order’s sensitivity to Byzantine art interacting with its innovative and increasingly empathetic devotional practices, developments most closely associated with the Meditations on the Life of Christ. As Emile Mâle famously commented: “few books have had a greater influence on art…” At the same time the ample historiography on Franciscan art is littered with unsuccessful attempts to relate the paintings and buildings commissioned by the friars with the bitter conflicts over the observation of poverty that gripped the Order in the years to either side of 1300 – when groups of idealistic Franciscans known today as the ‘Spirituals’ resisted the Order’s increasing institutionalization and its patronage of art and architecture. Recent discoveries by manuscript scholars and new finds in the archives – presented here for the first time – on the date and authorship of the Meditations on the Life of Christ invite a reassessment of this core devotional text, its relationship to internal debate within the Order, and its impact on Franciscan artistic patronage. Reviewed in this light, the fresco cycles painted by Giotto and Pietro Lorenzetti at Assisi can be understood as complex responses to the Order’s troubles, which absorbed the same devotional culture that underpinned the Meditations at the same time as they asserted an approved image of Franciscan poverty.
Donal Cooper is Senior Lecturer in Italian Art at the University of Cambridge and has published widely on the art and architecture of late medieval and Renaissance Italy, particularly the artistic patronage of the Franciscan Order. Publications include his co-authored monograph with Dr Janet Robson on the Upper Church of the Basilica of San Francesco at Assisi, The Making of Assisi (Yale University Press, 2013) which won the Art Book Prize in 2014.
This event is organized in association with the Medieval Art and Medievalisms Research School and the Project Exploring Fourteenth-Century Art Across the Eastern and Western Christian World.
Everyone is welcome.