Academic Session 27: Loughborough 2017

43rd Annual Conference & Art Book Fair
Loughborough University
6th to 8th April 2017
Ritual and Sensory Experience in Medieval Sculpture


Elisa A Foster, Henry Moore Institute,
Jessica Barker, The Courtauld Institute of Art,

Fixed to the facades of great buildings, or nestled within an elaborate architectural surround, medieval sculpture has a reputation as being static, immovable and durable. This session seeks to challenge these assumptions by examining the sensory environment of medieval sculpture and its relationship to ritual and performative practices. Medieval rituals utilised a variety of objects and materials, and stimulated multiple senses through visual, musical and physical aspects of devotion. As incense burned and music filled the air, sculpture often provided a visual and tactile complement to these sensory experiences. The interactive role of sculpture is thus paramount for understanding the social qualities of medieval ritual and its bodily-kinaesthetic relationship to sacred space. Sculpture also provides a tangible link to the study of ritual performance and a means of accessing the ephemeral activities that were central to medieval life. Accordingly, this session hopes to provide stimulating conversations on the study of medieval sculpture that go beyond the visible qualities of the medium.

Papers in this session will focus on two critical categories: ‘tactility’ and ‘animation.’ Papers will discuss these aspects with case studies from across medieval Europe, including examinations of funerary monuments, crucifixes, architectural sculpture, altarpieces and multimedia devotional objects. To supplement this session, we invite all interested conference participants to join us for a visit to Loughborough’s All Saints with Holy Trinity parish church on Saturday 8 April, to continue this conversation in a medieval space (book your place).

This session is supported by the Henry Moore Institute. It will also incorporate the expertise of other medieval sculpture scholars, including Dr Peter Dent (Bristol University and co-editor of Sculpture Journal) and Dr Stacy Boldrick (University of Leicester), who will serve as respondents to this session.

Click here to download a .pdf of this session's paper abstracts

Elizabeth Pugliano (University of Colorado, Denver) The Benediction of Arms and Sculptural Tactility at Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire

Andrew Murray (Independent Scholar) The Sensation and Ritualisation of Pain in Burgundian Mourning Sculpture

Katerina Harris (Institute of Fine Arts, New York University) The Medieval English Cadaver Effigy: A reminder of the dying body

Amanda Hilliam (National Gallery, London) The Three-Dimensional Paintings of Carlo Crivelli and Sensory Worship in the Marches

Respondent: Peter Dent (University of Bristol)

Maeve O’Donnell (The Courtauld Institute of Art) The Animation of Sculpture on the Medieval Iberian Altar through Movement and Applied Ontology

Kamil Kopania (University of Warsaw) Ritual, Religious Theatre, Folk Play and Daily Devotion: The role and functions of animated sculptures in late medieval Poland

Sarah Cassel (University of East Anglia) Lay Piety and Celestial Worship: Sensory experience and parish church roofs with angelic representation in late-medieval East Anglia

Respondent: Stacy Boldrick (University of Leicester)