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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Dr Jane Hawkes: The Road to Hell - the art of damnation in Anglo-Saxon sculpture

24th February 2009, 17:30, Seminar Room 1, Department of History

This is the fourth seminar in the Humanity and the Divine Seminar Series.

It is generally accepted that the iconography of Hell, particularly entry into damnation through the Mouth of Hell, emerged in Anglo-Saxon England as a product of the tenth-century monastic reform. Recent studies, however, have demonstrated that visualising death and damnation was of considerable interest among Insular artists of the earlier period: during the eighth and ninth centuries. With this in mind, and drawing on the methodological approach that reviews the visual in terms of text and image, this paper will examine early medieval carvings of death and damnation, focussing particularly on those surviving from Repton in Derbyshire and Rothbury in Northumberland.

These will be discussed, not only in terms of their art historical sources of influence, but will also examine why the scenes (unique in the surviving corpus of medieval Christian art), were compiled in the way they were - under the influence of the extensive literature circulating in the region during the eighth and ninth centuries - in order to demonstrate how the sculptural arts of Anglo-Saxon England could be exploited in an manner that was philosophically and theologically complex, but also powerful and intellectually coherent to a viewing public.

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