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Department of Archaeology

Spiritual landscapes, architecture and materiality: monasticism as a global dialogue

Christopher Davis

Medieval archaeology and the associated study of monasteries have long been a hallmark of archaeological research at Durham University since the initiation of the Department in the mid-1950s. Founded on key field projects at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow by Professor Rosemary Cramp, FBA, this theme has been augmented by the work of Professor Christopher Gerrard, Dr Pam Graves, Dr Sarah Semple and Dr David Petts who have developed a number of successful research programmes investigating monasticism in Western Europe. In addition, the Department has seen the appointment of Dr Anna Leone, Dr Derek Kennet and Professor Robin Coningham, who have developed research projects in North Africa and South Asia that pursue similar themes of landscapes, ritual practice and monasticism. Combined, and coupled with a vibrant postgraduate community, monasticism now represents a major research initiative on which this Research Dialogue aims to build.

Recent research by staff and students in the Department of Archaeology is challenging and deconstructing many traditionally-held views and assumptions, for example monasteries in North Africa, Sri Lanka and Europe are now being reframed as economic and social centres, foci for urbanism, leaders in colonisation projects and facilitators for resource exploitation. However, this research has largely focussed on specific geographic, religious and temporal contexts, investigated by separate projects and separate individuals. By hosting dialogues into monastic enterprise from a wider perspective we hope to provide a framework to explore and foster a multi-regional and religious comparative approach to the study of monasticism.

For more information about this Research Dialogue please visit: