Monthly Archives: March 2022

MEMS Fesitval 2022: Call for papers

Join us in Canterbury and online for the eigth annual MEMS Festival at the University of Kent.

We invite abstracts of up to 250 words for individual research papers of 20 minutes in length on any subject relating to the medieval and early modern periods. The research can be in its earliest or latest stages of development.

We also encourage 700 word abstracts for proposing a three-person panel, presenting on a cohesive subject or theme in medieval or early modern studies.

If you have any queties, please contact us at

MEMS students enjoy exclusive access to three London exhibitions

On Thursday 10 February, 15 MEMS MA and PhD students enjoyed a special field trip to three exciting collections in London, where we were guided by expert curators through a wealth of exciting portraits, devotional objects, locked letters, and maps. Laura Romain, a MEMS MA student, shares her reflections from these encounters in this week’s blog.

We began the day at the Philip Mould Gallery, where not even the overcast sky could discolour the enthusiasm the eponymous Philip Mould met us with as he gave us a brief introduction about his Gallery and the works of art he and his team of researchers have curated. He then left us in the capable care of Lawrence Hendra, head researcher of the gallery, whose insight and knowledge of the paintings he showed us was insurmountable. We began with the middling talent betrayed by the hands and collars of Four Portraits of the Ffolliot Brothers (pictured above). We learnt much about the relevance of the various coral items the boys were either holding or wearing, and how their posing and the items they held told us about their ages and personalities. What the image fails to capture, however, is the faint outline of a painting underneath one of the portraits, from where it is believed that the artist painted over an old commission after the patron failed to either pay his commission or collect it!

After seeing perhaps the only in-situ painting of Winston Churchill, our attentions were then guided to, what would become, my personal favourite painting in the gallery, the charming, Portrait of a Young Girl in a White Apron by Anthony van Dyke. I like to think that there is something fond in the measured exasperation of her sidelong stare, although, perhaps that is just me leaning too much into the speculation that the girl depicted in this painting is van Dyke’s illegitimate daughter. Whatever the truth of the matter, I think you can agree that this is a truly splendid painting!

Portrait of a Young Girl in a White Apron by Anthony van Dyke mounted on a golden ornamented frame.

Portrait of a Young Girl in a White Apron by Anthony van Dyke

After this, there was a short reprieve before we made our way to the Sam Fogg Gallery. Here we met the wonderful Dr Jana Gajdošová who showed us around the gallery for a very hands-on experience with the various reliquaries and sculptures the gallery had on display. Looking at a charming wooden carving of Saint Sebastian, it was an exciting deviation from the norm when, as Dr Gajdošová was telling us that the remaining arrows stuck into some of the holes riddling Saint Sebastian’s body, she demonstrated that each arrow was made to fit every wound by taking one of the arrows and moving it to a different entry wound!

A wooden carving depicting Saint Sebastian

Wooden carving of Saint Sebastian at the Sam Fogg gallery.

After this, Dr Gajdošová showed a fascinating reliquary of a virgin martyr, fascinating me once again when she told us that sometimes reliquaries such as these would contain the skull of a child. She assuaged any concerns we might have had by promptly removing the top of the head of the reliquary and showing us the, thankfully, hollow insides!

It was really amazing to be allowed to interact with art and sculpture so personally, reminding us that art was not merely made to be looked at, but interacted with.

As we left the gallery to collectively travel to the British Library, the sky at last succeeded in waking the city up for us, bathing us all in the resplendent golds of mid-afternoon sunshine. Spring was in our steps and the crispness of the air, both fitting accompaniments to the reconstitution of the narratives surrounding Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots we would find in the British Library exhibit, Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens. Introducing us to this brilliant show was Anna Turnham, who is a PhD student based in MEMS as part of her CDA with the British Library. And she helped to curate this exhibition!

Being an early modernist myself, and one who is particularly interested in Elizabethan drama, from an early age the life and reign of Elizabeth I has always captured my interest. Needless to say, I found myself in wordless awe through much of the exhibit! From their early lives, so different in experience, but alike in trauma and heartache, it was eye-opening to see the course of their lives plotted out, and the red string of fate tying their lives together, looked to me more like a river of blood.

On a slightly less morbid note, I was especially captivated by the research behind the ciphers used and developed by Mary and her confidants. All brought to life by a digital display which began by unpicking the base of the cipher, revealing how it was made and how it was then applied to the letters Mary wrote and exchanged with those still loyal to her. Secrets and history were to be unravelled before our very eyes.

In all, I believe that this sentiment is the true sum of the day those of us spent in London. A day where hidden gems were found to us, and the history of the world we live in was made richer for all the art, sculpture, and lives we were introduced to.

If you have the chance, please do yourself the kindness of visiting these galleries, as well as the British Library, and may your world be made even a little bigger than it was before.

MEMS students take part in special St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre walking tour

By Jessica Falkner, MA student, Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies

In the early hours of 24 August 1572, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre began. It was a week-long massacre of Huguenots by Parisian Catholics believed to be instigated by Queen Catherine de Medici, mother to King Charles IX. This massacre led to similar massacres in cities throughout France. The total death toll is disputed among historians, with estimates varying between 2,000 – 10,000 in Paris alone. Our walking tour, led by Dr Rory Loughnane (Co-Director of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies) and Prof. Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise (Sorbonne III) gave a sense of the chaos of the massacre within Paris. It is not too hard to imagine that during the time of the massacre, Paris streets were crowded with buildings, with even the bridges containing numerous structures. On our tour on February 10th 2022, MEMS students were joined by students from Sorbonne III who were also learning about the history of Paris.

Our tour began outside the Panthéon which was not constructed yet at the time of the massacre. This area of the modern 5th arrondissement was the outer limits of Paris in 1572. It is situated near the Collège de France where Petrus Ramus was a leading professor of philosophy and a convert to Protestantism. As a result of his role at the Collège, Catholics feared that he, and others at the Collège, would lead a movement to convert others to Protestantism and therefore became a target during the massacre.

We walked from the Panthéon to Rue St. Jacques, where Ramus hid in a bookstore for three days before returning to his lodgings on 26 August. We followed Ramus to Collège de Presles, a secularized chapel at 14 Rue des Carmes, where Ramus was fatally stabbed. As we learned, it is possible that his fame across Europe increased because of his untimely death.

Leaving unfortunate Ramus, we went to Cathédrale Notre-Dame where the wedding ceremony of Henri Navarre, future King Henri IV of France, and Margaret of Valois was performed. The wedding was arranged as a method of peacekeeping between the Catholics and the Huguenots. However, Pope Gregory XIII would not grant a dispensation for the interfaith marriage so Henry and the other leading Huguenots who were there to celebrate the wedding were forced to remain on the square outside the cathedral while a proxy stood in for Henry. This, understandably, irritated the Huguenots.

Professor Rory Loughnane introduces students to Cathédrale Notre-Dame.

Professor Rory Loughnane introduces students to Cathédrale Notre-Dame.

Our next stop was Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, which was known as Place de Grève until early in the seventeenth century. It is in this inviting, lively square that we were reminded of the ever-changing nature of public spaces. Despite its pleasant appearance now, the square was the site of many particularly gruesome executions, including that of François Ravaillac. Ravaillac, a Catholic, assassinated King Henri IV by stabbing and was drawn and quartered in the square.

We moved on to the Hôtel de Guise, home of the Duke of Guise. The Duke of Guise was a leading Catholic and it was here that the plot to massacre the Huguenots was conceptualized. Because of the wedding of Henri and Margaret, many leading Huguenots were in Paris and Guise and others decided to take advantage of the chance to kill them. The first attempt was had when Gaspard II de Coligny, Admiral of France, a leading Huguenot, the day after the wedding, was shot. However, Coligny was only injured. In an attempt to smooth over the heightened tensions the shooting caused, Charles IX sent his doctor to treat Coligny. Unfortunately, Coligny’s shooting just caused the Catholics to fear retributions from the Huguenots.

A stone memorial for Gapard de Coligny

Memorial of Gaspard de Coligny

On our way to the church where the plot came to a head, we passed a couple noteworthy places. First, we passed the spot where King Henri IV was assassinated by Ravaillac, now a busy street with nothing more than a simple sign to mark the important event. We also traveled down Rue de Rivoli, formerly known as Rue de Béthisy, to the spot where Coligny was brought for treatment after he was shot. Unfortunately, once the massacre started, Coligny was stabbed and thrown out a window.

We arrived at the Church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois. It was at this church, located across from the Louvre Palace, that the signal was given for the beginning of the massacre, when its bell was rung in the early morning hours. It was from here that Catholics traveled to the Tuileries Palace, where many of the leading Huguenots were staying, to begin the massacre.

We ended the tour at the Église Réformée de France, the largest Protestant church in France, across the opposite street from the Louvre Palace than the Saint Germain. Here, there was a large statute of Coligny. While it was originally a royal chapel, it was given to the Protestants by Napoleon.

Overall, the walking tour was a great way to envision the history of Paris while also bringing new perspectives about how history has shaped modern spaces.