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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

IMEMS/CVAC Lecture: Pilgrimage, Miracle and Art

11th February 2020, 17:45 to 18:45, Durham Town Hall, Robert Maniura

This lecture will explore the relationships between pilgrimage, miracles and the visual arts in the medieval and early modern periods, focussing on the role of the arts in the generation and maintenance of holy place. The phenomenon of pilgrimage in a Christian context is most closely associated with the sites linked to the life and Passion of Christ and the shrines of high-status saints: Sts Peter and Paul in Rome, St James in Compostela and, nearer home, St Thomas at Canterbury and St Cuthbert in Durham. However, the sites of the Holy Land are, in an important sense, voids: Christ is risen and cannot be directly accessed there. The tombs of the saints appear to promise more direct contact, but the holy bodies were often largely inaccessible to the senses. What was accessible was the often elaborate visual articulation of these sites: the holy was mediated by the arts. But the role of the visual arts in the attempt to access the divine went beyond this in the veneration of images apparently held to be themselves miraculous vehicles of divine power. The lecture will suggest that we can use such images to refine questions about the nature of pilgrimage, the understanding of holy place, and the role of the visual arts in devotion.

There will also be a follow on workshop 12th February 2020, 9.30-11.00.