Heavenly bodies: relics and reliquary sculpture in medieval Europe
Time: 18:00 - 20:00
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: VB585
Duration: 5 sessions (over 5 weeks)
What is the course about?
Based on the ancient Christian convictions of resurrection and life after death, the physical remains of holy men and women served to mediate the communion between mankind and God in the medieval world. Thousands of pilgrims travelled huge distances with the hope of divine favour or prophecy in mind and, still more, the relief from illness and hardship, to worship in the presence of these relics.
Reliquaries were the formal and often lavishly-decorated containers within which they were housed. We will survey their many types and functions as well as their long histories and regional evolutions. Enshrined in precious metals, gems and jewels—and often mirroring their sacred contents—in this art history course we will work towards a broad understanding of one of the most remarkable and understudied forms of artistic production from the premodern world.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
• The emergence of bodies and body parts as key elements in early Christian worship.
• Their transformation into one of the most valuable material and spiritual currencies for the period.
• The broad range of European modes and art styles for their display and performance from the ancient world to (roughly) the year 1500.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Discuss how, why and with what impact relics and reliquaries functioned in the medieval world.
• Give an example of how recent scholarship in the fields of art and especially sculptural history has advanced our knowledge of their historic role(s).
• Give an example of where and when a particular type of relic/reliquary was made/worshipped.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This art history course is suitable for all levels.
You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations, hand-outs and health and safety information, and will be invited to take part in group discussion.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
You will be taught online with slide presentations and group discussions. Handouts will be provided by your tutor to support your learning on the course; these handouts will be available online/digitally for download, not printed out for you.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You might wish to purchase a notebook for taking notes. You might wish to buy some of the books on any reading list provided.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
You might also be interested in:
• VB124: Medieval art and architecture
• VB244: In depth: exploring the sources of early Christian images
• VB732: Romanesque and Gothic sculpture: beyond the antique.
• VB555: The Cults of Saints— Martyrs and Miracles in the Middle Ages
• VB582: Sensing Sanctity: Encounters with Art and Architecture in the Medieval World.
Euan McCartney Robson holds an MLitt in Early European Art and Architecture from the University of Glasgow (his thesis on medieval relics and reliquary cultures was awarded a Distinction and the 2010 Robert. E. Cummings Prize). He gained his PhD for his thesis on Durham Cathedral at University College London (UCL) in 2019 and has been lecturing on art history at UCL ever since. He is a Research Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. Before joining City Lit, he worked in research and education, most recently as a Librarian at Christie’s, following two years as a pre-doctoral Research Assistant to the Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.