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Students join in hybrid field trip in Paris

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) offers its MA students the unique opportunity to study in both Canterbury AND Paris. Some of optional modules, including ‘Gothic Architecture,’ are taught across both sites – the Gothic style emerged in Paris around the mid-twelfth century and continued to develop in Canterbury.

Dr Emily Guerry, module convenor of ‘Gothic Architecture’, is using a Go Pro to help with the delivery of her seminars this term. Due to ongoing public health concerns, the use of a Go Pro enables her to simultaneously live-stream all Gothic site visits for hybrid teaching. This method allows the Gothic field trips to be accessible if anyone needs to shield.

On Monday 31 January, the Gothic MA students enjoyed their first field trip to the basilica of Saint-Denis, built from 1137–1144 under the aegis of Abbot Suger (d.1151). Six staff and students joined in-person and six joined virtually for this exciting examination of the ‘first’ Gothic project.

Lou Docherty, a MA student based in Paris, reports on the experience of visiting this “Gothic masterpiece” in the late January sunshine:

A photograph of

The basilica of Saint-Denis

“We began outside Abbot Suger’s magnificent tripartite doors which, while imposing today, would have originally been made of bronze. The façade of the Basilica had recently been cleaned, giving us the amazing opportunity to see it as it would have been when Abbot Suger oversaw the creation of this Gothic masterpiece in the 12th Century. The central tympanum depicts the Last Judgment, with Christ enthroned in Heaven while bodies resurrect from their graves on the lintel below.

“I particularly enjoyed seeing the image of the resurrection of Suger, the patron, positioned in the lintel as the first to be resurrected (and as the closest to Christ’s nail-wounded foot), alongside an inscription in Latin that calls for his plea to be “numbered among [Christ’s] sheep.

Two photographs of the entrance of the basilica Saint-Denis

The basilica of Saint-Denis’ tripartite doors and tympanum.

“Walking into the church and through the nave, one of my favourite encounters of the day was the sight of the rose windows in the north and south transepts, which have been beautifully restored since 2015 and looked radiant thanks to the winter sunshine! I also enjoyed walking around the Merovingian crypt of the Basilique, where we saw a sea of sarcophagi that once surrounded the martyrium of Saint Denis, the patron saint of the kings of France.

An image of the rose windows and the martyrium of Saint-Denis

The one of the basilica’s rose windows and the martyrium of Saint-Denis.

“We then explored the other major Gothic initiative led by Abbot Suger: The rib-vaulted chevet in the east end, which would have surrounded the new location for the Gothic shrine of Saint Denis. By bringing the martyr’s relics out of the darkness of the crypt and into the light of a new Gothic choir, it glorified the devotional experience. This translatio, according to Suger in his writings On the Administration of the abbey in his time, also accommodated health and safety concerns; he explained that feast days, the small crypt would be so crowded that women would be run on top of men’s heads in attempt to see and touch the sacred relics of Saint Denis.

“Suger’s chevet has elements that typify Gothic architecture, with long, inter-connected, spider-like ribs that lift the weight of the walls and allow for colourful stained glass to fill the surrounding vertical space. In one of the windows, showing the earliest-known representation of the Tree of Jesse in glass, Abbot Suger (once again!) inserted himself into the sacred scene. He appears in the lower right-hand corner of the lancet, holding a miniature version of this very window.

An image of Abbot Suger's chevet, with characteristically Gothic arched vaults and vertical stained-glass windows.

Abbot Suger’s chevet, with characteristically Gothic arched vaults and vertical stained-glass windows.

“Finally, as a lover of royal history, it was amazing to see so many tombs of French kings and queens as Saint-Denis served as the royal necropolis seventh until the nineteenth centuries. The early modern transi cadaver tombs of Henri II and Catherine de Medici and Louis XII and Anne of Brittany were thrilling to see in person. Life-like effigies of their decaying, naked bodies lie in state below idealised statues of the pairs of rulers at prayer, facing the shrine of Saint Denis.

“Overall, it was an enriching visit lead by Dr Guerry, who made the whole tour interesting and even funny in places. If you have the opportunity to visit the Basilique de Saint-Denis I highly recommend it, not just for the history but also for the beauty.”

Dr David Rundle to deliver the University of London’s annual Coffin Palaeography Lecture

Dr David Rundle will be delivering the University of London’s annual Coffin Palaeography Lecture on 15 June at 6pm (via Zoom) on ‘The Long Reach of Paleography.’

Palaeography, simply defined, is the study of old handwriting but that definition tends to hide rather than to announce the discipline’s significance. ‘To study’ is not merely ‘to read’ and the evidentiary power of the skills palaeography teaches us are foundational in so many ways: they allow us to take a manuscript and to read out from it to the human connexions which created it and the cultures it has inhabited. This lecture will address two other fundamental issues with that definition: when does ‘old’ end? And: how does writing relate to other forms of lettering? Answering these questions can take us beyond that male-dominated minority for whom, up to the nineteenth century in much of Europe, full literacy was their preserve. The materials susceptible to palaeographical analysis are not confined to medieval codices held in special collections; palaeography is everywhere.

Dr David Rundle is Lecturer in Latin and Manuscript Studies in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. His research examines the role of books in late medieval and early modern culture in western Europe. He is the author of The Renaissance Reform of the Book and Britain: The English Quattrocento (Cambridge, 2019).

The lecture takes place on the 15th June at 6pm via Zoom.

For more information and registration, please visit the event webpage.

Whittington’s Gift: Reconstructing the Lost Common Library of London’s Guildhall

Led by Dr Ryan Perry, Senior Lecturer in Medieval Literature and Co-Director of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Dr Stephen Kelly, Queen’s University Belfast, Whittington’s Gift aims to demonstrate that London citizens created new programmes of religious education for both the City’s clergy and for literate lay communities that have hitherto gone largely unnoticed by scholarship.

Thanks to the legacy of Richard Whittington (d. 1423), perhaps London’s most storied mayor, an extraordinary resource for religious education emerged under the auspices of Whittington’s innovative executor, John Carpenter, common clerk of London’s Guildhall.

By tracking the transmission of texts that the investigators contend were sourced from the Guildhall Library, the project aims to radically complicate understanding of fifteenth century devotional culture in the capital and beyond. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust (UK), this project will assess systematically what is hypothesised is material evidence that the Guildhall book collection caused a revolution in models for pastoral learning in London.

Created for the use of both the college of priests attached to the Guildhall building complex, but also for those directly involved in lay spiritual instruction – for those described in Carpenter’s will as, ‘sermonizancium communi populo’ (discoursing to the common people) – it fuelled a thriving culture of religio-literary production.

It is the project’s contention that the manuscript record, which reveals an extraordinary explosion in the production of miscellaneous religious books in London, testifies to a pastoral drive, a ‘ground up’ movement driven by the city’s poorer clerisy in concert with an aspirational mercantile citizenry, simultaneously facilitating clerical ministrations and a growing demand for spiritually improving literature amongst Londoners. Two postdoctoral researchers, Dr Hannah Schulhe-Lewis and Dr Natalie Calder, began work at the University of Kent and at Queen’s University Belfast in October 2020, and the project was officially launched in a seminar at the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies on 1 October.

The project will yield a collaboratively-written monograph, ‘Multiplicacioun of manye bokes’: the Guildhall Library and London’s Pastoral Revolution, and a research anthology of fifteenth-century pastoral and devotional literature entitled ‘Meke Reverence and Devotion’: A Reader in Late Medieval English Religious Writing.

The anthology will provide a truly representative assemblage of Middle English devotional and theological writing for the first time since Carl Horstmann’s Yorkshire Writers (1895-96), with up to 50% of its texts never having been edited for publication before.

For further information, contact Dr Ryan Perry ( and Dr Stephen Kelly (

Campus excavations reveal details of Bronze Age, Mesolithic and Medieval occupation

Dr David Walsh and Dr Luke Lavan, Lecturer in Archaeology in the Department of Classical & Archaeological Studies, are currently leading a group of 30 University of Kent students excavating an archaeological site on the northwest edge of the University estate.

For the next two weeks the group will be uncovering the ditches left by Bronze Age burial mounds, alongside traces of Mesolithic and Medieval occupation. The site is available for visitation on Friday 25 September, 14.00-16.00.

The site is located next to Blean Church, which is 10 minutes’ walk from the Oaks Nursery, up the Crab and Winkle path, just beyond the Sports Pavilion.

This dig has been made possible thanks to the support of Paul Dyer and the Parish of St Cosmus and St Damian in the Blean.

You will be able to follow the progress of the Blean dig daily on the site’s blog:

Thomas Becket – Life, Death and Legacy Conference

Thomas Becket – Life, death and legacy

A conference to commemorate the extraordinary life, death and legacy of Thomas Becket will take place between 11-14 November 2020 at Canterbury Cathedral, 850 years after Becket’s martyrdom and 800 years since the translation of his body into a shrine at Canterbury Cathedral.

When Becket was murdered by four of King Henry II’s knights inside Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170, news of the sacrilegious violence spread quickly. In a matter of months, this merchant’s son from Cheapside had transformed into one of the most famous martyrs in medieval Europe.

The Thomas Becket – Life, Death and Legacy conference will provide a platform for showcasing important and innovative new research on Becket. We welcome participation from delegates interested in history, visual and material culture, archaeology, architecture, literature, liturgy, musicology, and/or reception of Becket’s cult both at Canterbury and within a wider European context. In addition to being interdisciplinary, this conference also embraces an inclusive chronology of scholarship on the medieval, early modern, and modern period.

If you would like to share your research on Becket on this special occasion, please submit an abstract of no more than 350 words with your proposed title, name, and affiliation to by Monday 21 October 2019. Each paper will be 30 minutes in length and we are hoping to produce an edited collection after the conference. If you have any questions about this conference, please contact Dr Emily Guerry ( or Professor Louise Wilkinson (

The conference is being co-organised by academic partners at the University of Kent, Christ Church University, and Canterbury Cathedral with support from the British Academy. As well as the conference an exhibition at the British Museum is being planned.

Cassandra Harrington on the Lyghfield Bible workshop

Cassandra Harrington |
PhD Candidate, Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Kent

After a rare opportunity, and successful auction bid in July 2018, the Lyghfield Bible has once again returned to Canterbury. A single volume of impressive craftsmanship, textually complete, with fine Latin script and lavish illuminated initials, this so-called ‘pocket Bible’ was produced in thirteenth-century Paris before arriving in Canterbury, likely in the fourteenth century. Not only is it an exquisitely beautiful example of a medieval manuscript, but an absolute treasure trove of cultural and historical value to the city.

On the afternoon of 4th March 2019 academics and graduate students gathered at the University of Kent for a workshop dedicated to the Lyghfield Bible, which gains its name from the sixteenth-century monk who owned it before the disbanding of the monastery at Canterbury during the Reformation. Co-organised by Kent’s own Drs David Rundle and Emily Guerry in collaboration with Canterbury Cathedral, its aim was to foster conversation and shed light on the Bible’s origins and history with short papers given by scholars from a range of institutions, and encourage the discussion of ideas and opportunities for future research.

Following a very warm welcome from David and Emily, delegates were acquainted with the Lyghfield Bible by Mrs Cressida Williams (Canterbury Cathedral Library). As Head of Library and Archives, she recalled the challenging process of its procurement: from spotting the lot in a Bloomsbury auction catalogue, to the generous funding acquisitions making its purchase possible, and navigating the final task of bringing it back home to Canterbury (via a train from London) after almost 500 years away.

The first session, chaired by Dr Robert Gallagher (University of Kent), set the scene of bustling medieval Paris, with Dr Alison Ray (Canterbury Cathedral Library) contextualising the production of books in the late thirteenth century and Paris’ status as a flourishing city and international centre of learning. This was followed by Dr Emily Guerry (University of Kent) revealing similarities in iconographical trends among the Parisian illustration workshops, and Dr David Rundle (University of Kent) examining what marginal annotations might reveal (or, indeed, don’t reveal!) about the Lyghfield Bible.

Questions came in from all corners of the room, including considerations of provenance, Parisian practices of production and design, usage, literacy, scholasticism, and the interplay between image and text. Could it have been made for a successor of Archbishop Stephen Langton (d. 1228)? How ‘standardised’ are its illuminations, and was there much scope for their customisation? What do the choices of pigments used tell us? Do we have an indication of how many scribes were working on the Bible, and can this offer us a more concrete means of dating it? How does the material evidence and the cleanness of its margins inform our understanding of how the Lyghfield Bible might have been used?

The consensus places the Lyghfield Bible in the last quarter of the thirteenth century (possibly the 1290’s), though the number of scribes working on its script is at present unknown. However, the illuminations remarkably appear to be the work of a singular artist and entirety produced by one workshop. The utilisation of spectroscopy would give us more detailed and definitive information on the pigments used for illumination, but they are undoubtedly distinctive. Interestingly, it was observed that if the Bible had an initial French owner then they were not interested in leaving their mark in any way, as all evidence of marginal annotation is English in attribution.

After some much-needed fortification (in the form of tea, coffee and a selection of biscuits) the second session, chaired by Ms Roísín Astell (University of Kent), explored the context of the Lyghfield Bible’s reception in Canterbury from Paris. Getting things underway, Dr Emily Corran (University of Oxford/UCL) shed light on the tradition of Bible study at Canterbury, while Dr Claire Bartram (Christ Church Canterbury University) presented her findings on the book-culture of Canterbury and its surrounding areas. Lastly, Dr Eyal Poleg (Queen Mary University of London) had the challenging task of discussing the Lyghfield Bible’s place in the history of the Bible in England.

Exactitude in the when and how it came to Canterbury remains unknown, but an assortment of thought-provoking questions got everybody considering the Lyghfield Bible’s equally exciting ‘afterlife’ post-production, and broader aspects of identity and social status. Who would have the means and position to purchase such an elegant textual object? Was it brought over by a visiting scholar from the University of Paris? There is unfortunately no information available on book collecting, and provenance for the Lyghfield Bible in this regard remains obscure. However, interesting observations were made about its usage. Whilst almost certainly designed for personal use, issues with the nomenclature of ‘pocket bible’ were raised: indeed, for a still relatively weighty codex comprised from 590 leaves of vellum, you would need some thick-lined pockets to avoid doing yourself any damage.

After the workshop, delegates made their way down the hill to Canterbury Cathedral for a wonderful opportunity to see the Lyghfield Bible up close in person, and marvel at its size and beauty – a very special treat! The day culminated with a brilliant Annual Archives and Library Lecture entitled ‘Illuminating The Bible in Medieval Canterbury’ by Dr Alixe Bovey (The Courtauld Institute, London), and a celebratory glass (or two) at the drinks reception. The day was not only thoroughly enjoyable for those involved, but also a great success. Animated discussion on the life of the Lyghfield Bible, from its origin in thirteenth-century Paris to its time in Canterbury through the Early Modern period to the present day, explored fresh new perspectives and encouraged the possibility for future interdisciplinary and institutional collaboration. It also facilitated the opportunity for experts across a range of periods and disciplines to meet and reflect on what we know, do not know, and might yet know about the Lyghfield Bible. One thing is for certain, however: the Lyghfield Bible has an enticingly enigmatic past, and holds an equally exciting future, here in the city of Canterbury.

‘Writing Buildings 2016’: a call for papers

Catherine Richardson is co-organising this innovative conference with CREAte, the research centre for architecture and the humanities at the University of Kent.

In collaboration with the Architectural Review, this conference will bring together quite different traditions of writing about historic buildings. The special character of this conference is that speakers will be drawn from both academic and non-academic fields, and from a range of disciplines that touch on architectural experience and history. In this way we aim to offer a new experience for writers on architecture, interior design and urban space.

Papers are now invited from those in Architecture, English, History, Sociology, Film and Drama, Landscape Studies and other academic schools with a specialist interest in writing about buildings and urban spaces or experiences across different time periods. The common theme of the papers will be the uses of a variety of voices in creating architecture culture.

Writing Buildings will be a two-day conference on the subject of alternative ways of writing architectural history which will encourage experimentation in criticism through breaking disciplinary barriers. The programme will include papers from both academic disciplines and non-academic professions which engage with the built environment, for example, journalism, interior design and construction, as our keynote speakers demonstrate:

Iain Sinclair / Writer

Matthew Beaumont, UCL / Psychogeographer

Jonathan Meades / Writer and Film Maker

Alexandra Harris, University of Liverpool / Cultural Historian

Barbara Penner, Bartlett, UCL / Material Anthropologist

Jonathan Reed / Interior Designer

Ben Campkin, Bartlett, UCL / Urban Geographer

Ian Dungavell / former director, the Victorian Society

The conference will host at least one project-based writing event outside the conference hall. This is currently planned to be held in collaboration with Turner Contemporary as part of their innovative Waste Land project.

For updated news about the conference, including information about events, talks and activities, please see the event webpage.


Both previous CREAte conferences have resulted in edited books by leading international academic publishers and we anticipate that this will happen again this time. In addition, the widely read and respected international journal The Architectural Review will promote the conference and intends to publish papers from it.

Conference directors:

Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Kent School of Architecture, University of Kent
Dr Catherine Richardson, School of English, University of Kent
Tom Wilkinson, History Editor, The Architectural Review.

Abstract submission:

Abstracts should be 250 words long.
Abstract submission deadline: 30 September 2015
Notification of acceptance of papers: by 31 January 2015
Conference dates 14th-16th July 2016

Submit your abstract to with the subject ‘Writing Buildings: abstract’.

If you have any questions, please contact: Timothy Brittain-Catlin or Catherine Richardson.

Chaucer talk opens Festival of English

The University of Kent’s ‘Festival of English’ begins this evening (Tuesday, 3rd February) at 6.30pm with a talk by Professor Peter Brown on Chaucer. Held in Canterbury Cathedral’s Reading Room, the talk is open to all and will be followed by a wine reception.

Entitled, ‘Ymad for lewede men’: Writers and Canterbury 1340–1420′, Professor Brown will explore how Canterbury was a centre of Latin literary production throughout the medieval period, whether of saints’ lives, chronicles, or miracles of St Thomas. Around 1340 the first vernacular writings begin to appear, produced by local authors. They extend the repertoire of genres to include moral treatise, lyric and bawdy farce. Writers visiting Canterbury in this period are drawn by its reputation as a pilgrimage centre and champion of religious orthodoxy, and by its association with royalty. Although Chaucer helped to put Canterbury on the literary map, he never wrote directly about the city.

Professor Brown has previously taught at the University of Exeter, the University of California, the University of Connecticut and at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He has published extensively on Chaucer including most recently Reading Chaucer (Oxford and Bern: Peter Lang), and Geoffrey Chaucer for Oxford University Press (World’s Classics). Current projects include a study of the text and context of the imperfect version of Thomas Hoccleve’s Male Regle in Canterbury Cathedral Archives, a survey of literary practice in and around Canterbury during the years 1348 to 1420, and an account of Chaucer’s travels for the courts of Edward III and Richard II.

The full programme of the ‘Festival of English’ is available at the website of The School of English.



2014 Renaissance Lecture to be given by Prof. Patricia Rubin

MEMS welcomes Professor Patricia Rubin, Director of the Institute for Fine Art, New York University, to give this year’s Renaissance Lecture, entitled: (Be)hindsight: Michelangelo, modernity and the spectre of the ideal male nude.

The leccture takes place on the 18 March 2014 at 5:30pm in Grimond Lecture Theatre 3, The University of Kent.

There will be a reception to follow – all are welcome