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Towards an Art History of the Parish Church, 1200-1399

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The Courtauld Institute of Art

Somerset House

Strand

London

WC2R 0RN

United Kingdom

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Paul Binski, in his 1999 Studies in Iconography article, “The English Parish Church and its Art in the Later Middle Ages,” asked “how, and in what ways, we might place the imagery of the parish church at the centre of the study of medieval visual culture rather than seeing it as some unfathomable, and perhaps embarrassing, epiphenomenon of something that was ‘really’ going on elsewhere.” Though some 8,000 parish churches in England can be said to consist largely of medieval fabric, no overarching study of English medieval church architecture is available. Instead, scholarship is generally limited to descriptions of single buildings and their furnishings, and the broader historical significance of this building type has largely gone unaddressed.

Towards an Art History of the Parish Church, 1200-1399, to be held on 2-3 June, 2017 at The Courtauld Institute of Art, will gather scholars to revisit the question of the parish church and its relationship to medieval visual culture. Participants will contribute to a vibrant discussion of the Gothic parish church, its utility as an object of study, and the insights offered on the subject by diverse methodologies. In particular, the conference will prioritise ways in which scholars might think about Gothic parish churches collectively, profiting from the rapidly expanding technologies of the digital age. We are pleased to announce that Professor Paul Binski has agreed to give the closing remarks for the conference, and reflect upon how scholarship has progressed since his Studies in Iconography article.

The conference draws its temporal focus from the most notable lacuna in scholarship, which concerns the introduction and flowering of Gothic architecture across the English parish church in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The thirteenth century saw a broadly Gothic style replace the Romanesque across England; although this has been studied with regard to great church architecture, the mechanics of what amounts to a major stylistic shift at parish level remain largely uninvestigated. Likewise, the quantity of fourteenth-century work in parish churches further shaped the manifestation of the Gothic style, particularly in features such as sedilia which were originally developed in outside of cathedrals and great monasteries. Given the impact of the English Decorated Style on Late Gothic architectural developments across Europe, the parish church promises to illuminate art historical questions beyond the borders of England. These lacunae are in stark contrast to the smaller corpus of the Romanesque period, which has had a large amount of attention via resources such as CRSBI; and the late medieval church after 1400, which draws on greater availability of documentary evidence.

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The Courtauld Institute of Art

Somerset House

Strand

London

WC2R 0RN

United Kingdom

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