Syon Abbey Sexcentenary Events

Here below is some information from E. A. Jones (University of Exeter) about upcoming events in 2015 in celebration of the 600th anniversary of Syon Abbey.


Syon at Six Hundred

The foundation stone of Syon Abbey was laid at Twickenham on 3 March 1415. This note is to alert you to two conferences dedicated to Syon’s sexcentenary. I will be organising them together with Vincent Gillespie (University of Oxford), Alexandra Walsham (University of Cambridge), and Carmen Mangion (Birkbeck University of London).

7-9 November 2014, Syon House, Syon Park, Brentford.

A weekend workshop held on the site of the medieval monastery. We will focus especially on medieval and reformation Syon, and the transformation of Syon Abbey into Syon House. (Coincidentally, the site passed to its present owner, the Duke of Northumberland, in 1594, the same year that the Syon community arrived in Lisbon.) There will be a chance to ‘Walk about Sion, and go round about her;  and tell the towers thereof’ (Ps. 48:11) in the company of Topher Martyn, head gardener at Syon Park, and Harvey Sheldon (Birkbeck University of London), who directed the archaeological investigation of the site in the 2000s.

22-25 July 2015, University of Exeter.

We will join forces with the Birgittastiftelsen (Birgitta Foundation) for their 2015 Conference, which will include a special focus on Syon during its centenary year. The University of Exeter now holds many resources for the study of Syon Abbey, including the medieval manuscripts and fragments, the early modern books, and the extensive archive. One of our aims is to highlight the potential of these materials for understanding the last 200 years of Syon’s history – a period that to date scholarship has barely touched. The conference will include a formal celebration of the sexcentenary on the feast of St Bridget, 23 July 2015, at which we hope to be joined by Sister Anne (as I am still learning to call the Abbess!).

We would like these events to launch a new phase of Syon studies that will culminate in a new, collaborative history of the community from its foundation until the present day. 

Further details of all these plans and events, and calls for papers, will appear on the Society’s webpages and elsewhere over the coming months.

Eddie Jones, University of Exeter

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Kalamazoo 2015 CFP: “Multidisciplinary Saint Bridget: In Honor of Syon Abbey’s 600th Anniversary”

At the International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo, Michigan, in May 2015, the Syon Abbey Society is happy to be co-sponsoring a panel with the Hagiography Society. Read the description below, and please submit an abstract!

Multidisciplinary Saint Bridget: In Honor of Syon Abbey’s 600th Anniversary

This year, the Syon Abbey Society and the Hagiography Society are teaming up to offer a multidisciplinary panel devoted to Saint Birgitta of Sweden (c. 1303-1373), or Saint Bridget as she was known in England. Bridget became famous during her lifetime for her divine visions, her campaigns to bring the papacy back to Rome, her political activism, and her foundation of the Order of St. Saviour (or the Bridgettine Order as it is often called). The only British Bridgettine house, Syon Abbey, was founded in 1415 and flourished alongside the growing devotional cult surrounding Bridget and her texts in England. Syon Abbey is now recognized as one of the most vibrant literary and cultural monastic centers of late medieval England, and this panel will be one of several events in the US and UK to mark the sexcentenary of its foundation.

We invite abstracts for papers exploring any aspect of Saint Bridget and her cult in England or the Continent. Papers addressing connections to Syon’s sisters, brothers, texts, history, or influence are welcome but not required. We hope to form a panel that reflects a variety of disciplinary standpoints: e.g., music, liturgy, art, iconography, architecture, theology, textuality, manuscripts, textual transmission, early print, monasticism, gender issues, socio-politico-economic contexts.

Please email short abstracts to Laura Saetveit Miles, University of Bergen ( by September 15.

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Second Conference on Birgittine Liturgy: Vadstena, Sweden, 2-3 October 2014

Posted on behalf of Karin Strinnholm Lagergren, Almire Foundation / Linneaus University. 

For full information, please see this PDF link: Cfp Birgittine Conference

Second Conference on Birgittine Liturgy: Vadstena, Sweden, 2-3 October 2014

Birgittine liturgy image

This conference is devoted to the liturgy in the order of St Birgitta of Sweden in its most multidisciplinary sense. The first conference was held in December 2013 at the National Archives in Stockholm. This year it will take place 2-3 October in Vadstena in the Sancta Birgitta Convent Museum ( and expand from a national to an international conference.

Keynote address will be given by Dr. Hilkka-Liisa Vuori (Sibelius Academy, FI): “The Great Responsories of Cantus sororum – their background and a modal atmosphere”

A specialist on Birgittine chant, Vuori defended a doctoral thesis entitled Neitsyt Marian yrttitarhassa. Birgitta- laissisarten matutinumin suuretresponsoriot (In the Herb Gardens of Oure Ladye. The Great Responsories of Matins in Bridgettine Sisters’ Liturgy of Hours) in 2011.

A special session will be devoted to The Birgittine Church in the Middle Ages. The invited speakers for this session include:

Dr. Hans Krongaard Kristensen (archeology, Aarhus University, DK) Dr. Volker Schier, (musicology, Arizona State University, US)
Dr. Corine Schleif, (art history, Arizona State University, US)
Dr. Per Ström, (theology, Uppsala University, SE)

The session will take place in the abbey church (since the reformation the Lutheran parish church) on Thursday 2 October between 13-16. The speakers, with their particular speciality, will discuss the liturgical use of the Birgittine abbey church followed by a discussion with the audience. This session is also open to the public.


Please register by 1 September by sending an email to Karin Strinnholm Lagergren:

The conference will begin at noon on 2 October and end with a closing concert on the evening of 3 October (see below).

The conference (including coffee and conference dinner on Thursday 2 October) is free of charge but the participants pay their own travel and accommodation.

Accommodation can be booked at Vadstena Folkhögskola ( next to the ab- bey church and museum. A single room is 550 SEK and a double room 900 SEK, breakfast included. The rooms can be booked at the following address: Lunch on Thursday and Friday can be booked at 79 SEK/lunch.

Other alternatives for accommodation are: The guesthouse of the Birgittine sisters:

Vadstena klosterhotell:

Dahlströmska gården bed and breakfast:

Concert 3 October: Salve sancta parens anno 1728 with ensemble Gemma

The conference will close on the evening of 3 October in the chapter room in the Convent Museum. Ensemble Gemma will then give a concert with the Birgittine sister’s daily mass Salve sancta parens. The music comes from a manuscript written in 1728 in the Dutch Birgittine abbey Maria Refugie (see image above). Entrance fee is 100 SEK and the concert is open to the public.

This conference takes place within of the postdoctoral research project The Transmission of the Cantus Sororum in the Low Countries and is organised by musicologist Dr. Karin Strinnholm Lagergren in collaboration with the Catholic University Leuven (BE), the Linneaus University (SE), Alamire Foundation (BE), Sancta Birgitta Convent Museum, Svenska kyrkan, Vadstena och Dals församlingar. The conference is financed by the Swedish Research Council/Vetenskapsrådet and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond – The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences.

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Help needed: Editing Thomas Betson’s Herbal

[Posted on behalf of John Adams]

Syon Abbey Herbal, AD 1516: The Last Monastic Herbal in England: Middle English and Mediaeval Latin proof-readers required

Members of the Syon Abbey Research Associates in London have been working for the past two years on the Herbal section in Latin and Middle English of Thomas Betson’s notebook (MS E6, St John’s College Library, Cambridge), with a view to publication later this year. This is the last surviving monastic herbal compiled in England before the Dissolution in 1539. Betson was responsible for the catalogue of the famous library at Syon.

They are looking for researchers with Middle English and/or Mediaeval Latin skills to correct their text and supply the gaps. Betson’s handwriting is at times perplexing, so some palaeographic experience would also be necessary. The transcription is about 95% complete and they also have the original text in digital images, allowing for easy comparison.

They are hoping to split the text between a Mediaeval Latinist and a ME expert, to expedite the work – the two sections seem to be independent. This might perhaps appeal to a PhD student researching Herbals.

They would of course be happy to include an attribution when they finally go to print, in time for the 600th anniversary of the founding of Syon in 2015.

Comments and corrections are needed by around Easter this year – say end April.

For further information contact John Adams, Syon Abbey Research Associates


T: 00  44 (0)208 645 0405

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Kalamazoo International Medieval Congress: Sponsored Session Line-up

We are happy to announce the line-up of speakers for the Syon Abbey Society Sponsored Session at the International Medieval Congress, Kalamazoo, MI, 8-11 May, 2014.

Saturday, 10 May, 10:00 am, Schneider 1280

Sponsor: Syon Abbey Society
Organizer: Laura Saetveit Miles, Univ. i Bergen
Presider: Barbara Newman, Northwestern Univ.

Liz Herbert McAvoy, Swansea University
“Owre lorde putt his . . . mowth to hyr . . . Mowth”: Language as Lack and Metaphor as Presence in the Writing of Mechtild of Hackeborn

Jennifer D. Thibodeaux, Univ. of Wisconsin–Whitewater
The Manly Monk: The Role of Sexualized Chastity in Monastic Gender Identity

Michael G. Sargent, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY
Canor, Calor, Dulcor, Tactus: Nicholas Love’s Erotic Rhetoric

For more information on the 2014 Kalamazoo congress, follow this link:

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New Chaucer Society 2014: Schedule Announced

A session all about Syon Abbey and Vadstena will be featured at the upcoming New Chaucer Society Congress next July, 2014, in Reykjavik, Iceland. The conference organizers have published the congress program, and this session will be held on Saturday 19 July, 1:30-3:00. Mark your schedules if you are attending!

10B Paper Panel: Between the Birgittines: Syon Abbey and Vadstena’s Textual Exchanges
Organizer: Laura Saetveit Miles

1. Elin Andersson, Stockholm University
“Understanding the Birgittine Idea: Exchange and Use of Birgittine Texts in Vadstena and Syon Abbey”

2. Michael G. Sargent, Queens College, CUNY
“Walter Hilton in Vadstena: Two Trails of Transmission”

3. Susan Powell, University of Salford
“The Fifteen Oes at Syon and Vadstena”

4. Vincent Gillespie, University of Oxford
“Life and Liturgy at Syon and Vadstena: The Evidence for the Brethren”


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Ivory Sculpture from Syon sold at Sotheby’s Auction

On 4 December 2013, a medieval ivory sculpture of the Virgin and Child, once owned by Syon Abbey, went up for sale at Sotheby’s Auction House. Erik Bijzet, the head of Sotheby auction sales for European Sculpture and Works of Art, worked to uncover the sculpture’s connection to Syon, and he continues to research a group of medieval objects associated with the Syon nuns’ ninteenth-century return to England.

Virgin and Child Enthroned

For the full description and listing with many photographs, see the Sotheby’s page here.

The sculpture’s story went primetime and was even written up in The Guardian: read the article here.

It sold for 2.5 million GBP – over twice the high estimate. Now it is in the hands of a private owner. Unfortunately it does not seem as though it will be on public view any time soon, though it will remain in London. Proceeds went to charity.

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