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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New Chaucer Society 2014: Session line-up announced

Good news! The Syon Abbey Society sponsored session has been confirmed for the New Chaucer Society Conference next July, 2014, in Reykjavik, Iceland. We are excited to announce a stellar line-up of speakers.

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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Kalamazoo 2014 Call for Papers: Monastic Sexualities

CALL FOR PAPERS

“Monastic Sexualities”

Syon Abbey Society Sponsored Session at the International Medieval Congress, Kalamazoo, MI, 8-11 May, 2014

This session offers an opportunity for scholars to discuss the paradoxical issue of sexuality in medieval monasteries. Though the cloister ostensibly required physical celibacy, monks and nuns found many ways to express varieties of sexuality through their art, writing, and devotion. Christ was lover and spouse; mystical union with him could be figured in terms that would make most lay husbands and wives blush. Desire formed the basis of much metaphorical devotional language, and the praying body became a very much awake and sexualized agent despite the prohibitions against obeying the will of the flesh. The goal of this session is to bring into conversation different case studies of ways in which a variety of sexualities found expression in monastic contexts, throughout medieval Europe.

Please contact Laura Miles (laura.miles@gmail.com) with abstract proposals or any questions regarding this session. Abstracts due Sept. 15th.

For more information on the 2014 Kalamazoo congress, follow this link: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/

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CFP: New Chaucer Society

2014 New Chaucer Society Conference
July 16-20, 2014
Reykjavik, Iceland

A co-founder of our society, Laura Miles, is organizing a paper panel titled “Between the Birgittines: Syon Abbey and Vadstena’s Textual Exchanges.”

One paragraph abstracts can be sent to lsmiles@umich.edu by June 1, 2013.

What began as a political relationship between England and Sweden — the 1406 wedding of King Erik of Pomerania to Philippa, daughter of King Henry IV — soon blossomed into a religious one, when the English were inspired to found a Birgittine monastery like the one they encountered in Vadstena. Syon Abbey, founded in 1415, maintained a close bond with Vadstena, the first house of St. Birgitta’s Order of St. Saviour. Over the next hundred years the two houses enjoyed a frequent exchange of people, letters, and books. Some of these texts were legislative in nature, such as the extensive Responsiones detailing Vadstena’s answers to the Syon brethren’s many logistical and ceremonial questions. They also exchanged works of devotional, catechetical, and visionary literature. For instance, Syon retained one of the earliest versions of St. Birgitta’s Revelations, apparently copied at Vadstena by a visiting English scribe. A more unexpected example: Thomas Fishlake’s Latin translation of Hilton’s Scale of Perfection appears in multiple Vadstena manuscripts, apparently an import from Syon.

The textual transmissions between Syon and Vadstena offer a productive view into the ways monastic allegiances enabled the trans-national dissemination of religious writing in the late medieval period. This session would solicit papers that pursue new avenues of research revealing the exchange of texts between two houses equally renown for their learned members and huge libraries. A myriad of questions regarding translation, adaptation, transmission, and production might drive panelists’ explorations. What can paleographical or codicological approaches reveal about the ways in which texts were exchanged between the Birgittines? A 1453 letter from Vadstena requests that Syon send a scribe to Sweden to copy texts to bring back to England; this appears to have happened in the case of BL Harley 612. What stories do this and other similar manuscripts have to tell? Latin, of course, allowed the Birgittines on both sides of the North Sea to transcend the language barrier of Swedish and English. Did the desire to share texts with international brethren initiate translation? Moreover, how might texts have been adapted for their new cultural milieux? This panel would develop conversation around these questions not only to illuminate the complex relationship between these two prominent houses, but also to advance more generally applicable ways of understanding late medieval monastic culture, its textual communities, and the paradoxically international nature of manuscripts written for enclosed readers.

One paragraph abstracts can be sent to lsmiles@umich.edu by June 1, 2013.

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CFP: Anchoritic Society Conference

5th International Anchoritic Society Conference
22-24 April 2014
Gregynog Hall, Newton, Powys (Wales)

Abstracts of up to 500 words should be sent to Dr Liz Herbert McAvoy at anchorites@swan.ac.uk by Friday, August 30th 2013.

Call for Papers for the 5th International Anchoritic Society conference, which will be held in Gregynog Hall, Newtown, Powys (Wales) on 22-24 April 2014. The theme of the conference is ‘Anchorites in their Communities’ and the event will include three keynote lectures (by Tom Licence [East Anglia]; Diane Watt [Surrey]; and Eddie Jones [Exeter]), a postgraduate/postdoctoral manuscript workshop (led by Bella Millett [Southampton] and Eddie Jones [Exeter]) and a roundtable on the hundred-year legacy of Mary Rotha Clay’s work.

Offers of 20-minute papers are therefore being sought on any aspect of medieval anchorites in their communities including (but not restricted to):

•         Spiritual circles
•         Communities of discourse
•         Anchoritic/lay interaction
•         Anchorites and church reform
•         Networks of patronage
•         Networks of anchorites
•         Anchorite case studies
•         Anchoritic friendship groups
•         Book ownership/ borrowing/ lending/ circulation
•         Communities of texts: ‘anchoritic’ miscellanies/ textual travelling companions
•         Textual translation, circulation and mouvance
•         Non-insular influence
•         Gendered communities

Abstracts of up to 500 words should be sent to Dr Liz Herbert McAvoy at anchorites@swan.ac.uk by Friday, August 30th 2013.

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Kalamazoo 2013 Sponsored Session

The schedule for the 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 9-13 2013, has been posted. Here is the information for the Syon Abbey Society sponsored session:

Friday, 1:30 pm

Session #274 in Schneider 1320

“The Latin Works of Richard Rolle”

Organizer: A. B. Kraebel,  Yale University
Chair: Michael Kuczynski, Tulane University

Andrew Albin, Fordham University
“A Century of Sounding the ‘Melos amoris’”

Tekla Bude, University of Pennsylvania
“The ‘Melos amoris’ and Carthusian Mystical Diaries”

A. B. Kraebel, Yale University
“Rolle’s ‘Latin Psalter’ and New Materials for his Biography”

Michael Van Dussen, McGill University
“New Evidence for the Circulation of Rolle’s Latin Writings in Bohemia”

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CFP: Materializing the Spirit: Spaces, Objects, and Art in the Cultures of Women Religious

5-7 September 2013

Institute of Historical Research, Senate House LONDON

MATERIALIZING THE SPIRIT: SPACES, OBJECTS AND ART IN THE CULTURES OF WOMEN RELIGIOUS

CALL FOR PAPERS

Please submit papers to kate.jordan.09@ucl.ac.uk and ayla.lepine@gmail.com by no later than 1 February 2013.

The History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland Annual Conference will be hosted  by the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, on 5-7 September 2013.

Paper proposals are now invited. Presentations should be 20 minutes in duration, and should address some element of the conference theme, with reference to British and/or Irish contexts.

The devotional and vocational activities of women religious sculpted the physical space of religious houses in unique ways. Patterns of use were etched into the fabric of buildings, guiding structural design and interior decoration. But buildings also shaped practice: whether the formal monastic sites of early or revived enclosed orders or the reused secular buildings of active congregations, women both adapted and adapted to their material surroundings.

A growing body of literature has addressed itself to convent art, exploring nuns as patrons, consumers and manufacturers of material and visual culture. These practices span the history of women’s religious life – from the early Middle Ages to the present day – and suggest a hidden but dynamic tradition of artistic enterprise. This conference explores the creative output of women religious including but not limited to textiles and the decorative arts, illuminated manuscripts and printed books, women’s patronage of painting and architecture, the commercial production of ecclesiastical textiles in the nineteenth-century, production of liturgical and devotional art in recent periods, and the development of unique convent and institutional spaces by and for women religious.

This conference will take a broad and diverse view on what constitutes ‘material culture’, emphasizing the conception, production, and meanings of the many material outputs of convents and monasteries. Papers are welcomed from a diverse range of disciplines: scholars from social and religious history, art and architecture, theology, anthropology, psychology and beyond are invited to offer fresh and innovative perspectives in order to illuminate ways in which women religious in Britain and Ireland created and were formed by material histories for over a thousand years.

Please send 200-word proposals for 20-minute papers to kate.jordan.09@ucl.ac.uk and ayla.lepine@gmail.com by no later than 1 February 2013.

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Call for Interest: 2014 Berkshire Conference of Women’s History

Call for interest for the 2014 Berkshire Conference of Women’s History (known as “Big Berks”) with the theme of “Histories on the Edge.”

We would like to organize either a panel or a roundtable under the sub theme “Politics, Religions/Beliefs, and Feminisms.” The Program Committee encourages panels to be “comparative or transnational” and to invite conversations “across centuries, curltures, locales, and generations.” With that in mind, a starting general topic of the panel might be women and monasticism, either viewed transnationally in the Middle Ages and through the Reformation, or viewed transhistorically, from the medieval period to today.

Please email laura.miles@gmail.com with ideas or paper proposals and we will begin to formulate a session over the coming months. We are hoping to have our panel confirmed by 15 December 2012 (the final deadline for full panel submission is 15 January 2013). For an FAQ on the conference, click here. Also, distribute this call widely to your colleagues in other periods or disciplines that might be interested.

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Additions to the Website

Additions to the website: We are pleased to announce the addition of several new pages to our website under the “Resources” heading.

The Surviving Books List contains an extensive compilation of surviving manuscripts and printed books from Syon Abbey. This list includes each book’s shelfmark, date, connection to the house, contents, and references. We welcome all revisions and additions.

The SARA Bibliography includes material gathered by the Syon Abbey Research Associates. SARA has created an extensive bibliography of sources related to Syon and has generously shared them with us for public posting on our website. For more information on SARA, please email John Adams.

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Kalamazoo 2013 Sponsored Session

The Syon Abbey Society is pleased to announce its sponsored session at the 48th International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 9-12, 2013.

THE LATIN WORKS OF RICHARD ROLLE
Organizer: A. B. Kraebel,  Yale University
Chair: Michael Kuczynski, Tulane University

The following speakers and papers are now confirmed.

Andrew Albin, Fordham University
“A Century of Sounding the ‘Melos amoris'”

Tekla Bude, University of Pennsylvania
“The ‘Melos amoris’ and Carthusian Mystical Diaries”

A. B. Kraebel, Yale University
“Rolle’s ‘Latin Psalter’ and New Materials for his Biography”

Michael Van Dussen, McGill University
“New Evidence for the Circulation of Rolle’s Latin Writings in Bohemia”

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