Encountering the Sacred in Medieval Italian Spaces

Recent scholarship has increasingly attended to the spatiality of material objects, considering how paintings, sculpture, and manuscripts impact the viewer through formal and ritual means. Moreover, the potential of objects to convey sacred presence – whether that of a saint or of God – has been given a renewed emphasis through the anthropological turn in art history. Taken together, these approaches prompt a series of questions addressing broader spatial awareness for the localized relationships between places, objects, and the divine.

This session seeks papers which investigate how medieval Italian spaces impacted experiences of the sacred. How did Christians, Jews, and Muslims experience the sacred? In what ways did navigating through medieval religious spaces, homes, governmental spaces, streets and squares, or the countryside inform encounters with the sacred? Did the spatial setting carry ramifications for how different media manifested sacrality? Could space itself articulate a sense of the divine, either through architecture, the presence of sacred objects, or the wilds of nature? In what ways did gender, class, or wealth impact audiences’ ability to engage in different spaces?

Please submit a 300 word abstract by September 15 at:
Organizers: Meredith Fluke and Erik Gustafson
Please contact mfluke@holycross.edu or egustafson.phd@gmail.com for any questions

Drawing Together and Setting Apart: Pulpits and Screens in Medieval Italy

Like ourselves, medieval Christians spent a lot of time looking at screens. Amboni, pulpiti, transenne, pontili and tramezzi were often lavishly built and decorated in medieval Italy. Whether to address a crowd from above by leading them in prayer or delivering a sermon, or to separate the members of a congregation into groups with different prerogatives, screens and pulpits offered a privileged space from which to address an audience with words, images and symbols. Some chancel screens and pulpits were well maintained and are considered masterpieces of their time. Many others were dismantled and are now preserved only in fragments. Over the past twenty years, scholars have grappled with new sets of issues concerning screens, pulpits and their role in the liturgy. Yet many old and new questions regarding these liturgical furnishings remain open and worth exploring further, including how the integration of words and images affected narrative representations on pulpits and screens, how continuities and changes over time influenced their construction or use (while challenging our ability to reconstruct their original appearance and placement), and how significant are regional differences within the Italian peninsula. This session aims to bring together current research on these liturgical furnishings, their arrangement, and the role they played in configuring religious space, establishing boundaries, directing liturgical movement and performance, conveying the sound of prayer and preaching, uniting communities in worship, and proclaiming civic pride and priorities. We seek papers that engage with the study of screens and pulpits from medieval Italy through case studies, comparative analyses, or more theoretical modes of inquiry. Among the issues that we wish to address are gender relations, geographical differentiations, secular and religious connections and divides, and class relations within communities from diverse regional and economic backgrounds.

Please direct inquiries and proposals to Nancy Wu (Nancy.Wu@metmuseum.org) and Ludovico Geymonat (Geymonat1@lsu.edu). The deadline for receipt of proposals is Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

According to the website of the International Congress on Medieval Studies (https://wmich.edu/medievalcongress/submissions#papers), paper proposals comprise:

  • the proposed paper’s title
  • the answers to questions about social media and live recording
  • name, affiliation and contact information for author(s)
  • an abstract (300 words) for consideration by session organizers
  • a short abstract (50 words) for public view on the meeting site

Roundtable: Amy Neff, A Soul’s Journey: Franciscan Art, Theology, and Devotion in the Supplicationes variae
Co-sponsored by The Franciscan Institute and the Italian Art Society

This session continues our practice of hosting a panel on a recent book that brings Franciscan Studies into conversation with other medieval fields.  In this case, we will ask experts in medieval spirituality, codicology, and art to respond to Neff’s study and identify areas for future research.  This book focuses on a unique manuscript from the late thirteenth-century which contains an anthology of devotional texts and includes full-page illustra­tions.  Intriguing, while it does not contain Bonaventure’s foundational text, A Soul’s Journey to God, that work is key to understanding the manuscript’s contents as well as its support for virtual pilgrimages.

Interested panelists should contact Kay Arthur (arthurkg@jmu.edu) and Lezlie Knox (lezlie.knox@marquette.edu)

Because these sessions are sponsored by the IAS, each participant will be required to be a member of the Italian Art Society at the time of the conference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Officers & Contacts