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Update on The Medieval Churches of Norwich Research Project

01/18/2016 in archeology and architecture, art and imagery, British Isles, towns and urban environment

The Medieval Churches of Norwich research project had a productive year in 2015 and is already busy planning luckhurst-nchchurches-3events and pursuing partnerships for 2016. Visit our website to see drafts of the project’s case studies, updates on partnerships and cultural engagement funding, and news and events. The Medieval Churches of Norwich is a three-year project undertaken by researchers from the University of East Anglia. The research activity, its dissemination and communication have been made possible through the support of The Leverhulme Trust and the Norwich Research Park Translational Fund.



08/07/2015 in archeology and architecture, art and imagery, genealogy and family history, households and the domestic environment, Italian Peninsula, landscapes and pilgrimage, Mediterranean, Other, Parish Research Today, Parish sources, preservation and memory, Projects, ritual, devotion and religious change, The Alpine Territories, towns and urban environment

When I visit the numerous churches and chapels in Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland located south of the Alps, I am always struck by their extraordinary artistic and historical richness. One explanation is the flourishing of devotions and religious art which characterised most Catholic countries after the Council of Trent. This is certainly true especially in the Italian area, to whose cultural sphere the Ticino belonged (even though it fell under Swiss political control in the sixteenth century), but there are other reasons. In fact, a crucial further factor needs to be considered: migration. On the one hand, over the centuries, thousands of people associated with the building trades left their homes in the Lake Lugano region to practice their skills as architects, masons, master builders, stucco workers, stonecutters, sculptors and painters abroad. This phenomenon was generally seasonal and whilst staying in their villages, the artisans helped to build or embellish churches and chapels. On the other hand, many migrants associated with other professions donated substantial parts of their earnings to devotional and charitable purposes.

The migrants’ faith and generosity are still visible in many churches and chapels of these territories, particularly in the Pedemonte region, the Centovalli and in the villages surrounding the town of Locarno. Inhabitants of these places had migrated to different Italian cities – especially Livorno, Florence and Rome – for centuries. Exclusively men, they worked as porters (facchini), coachmen (vetturini), chimney sweeps and food-sellers (rosticcieri), to mention just a few professions. In Livorno and Florence they were even able to obtain the monopoly of the porterage trade.

The following pictures shall help to illustrate the impact of migration as it is still tangible today. (Click the thumbnails to enlarge the images.)

§ Figures 1, 2 and 3 – Chapel of S. Rocco (St Roch, 17th century) in the parish church of S. Maria Assunta (Assumption) in Tegna (Terre di Pedemonte, bailiwick and pieve of Locarno)

On the balustrade of many chapels, and in one case even on a confessional box, we can often find the inscription “B.D.L”, an acronym which means “Benefattori di Livorno” (“Benefactors of Livorno”). The migrants active in Livorno gathered in groups and used to collect money for their parishes and brotherhoods.

§ Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7 – Chapel in Verscio (1740) (Terre di Pedemonte, bailiwick and pieve of Locarno); and Our Lady of Montenero in Livorno (14th century)

References to migration and urban experiences also appear in specific devotions. In many churches of this region, even in small chapels deep in the forests, dozen of paintings depicting the Virgin of Montenero can still be found. Here we can see the original painting at Livorno and a very ‘rustic” copy in Verscio. The shrine of Our Lady of Grace of Montenero is located on a hill overlooking Livorno. The Madonna di Montenero, nowadays patron saint of Tuscany, was already widely venerated in seventeenth and eighteen-century century Livorno. In the chapel in Verscio, under the picture of the Virgin Mary and two further saints, we can see details of the port of Livorno (lighthouse and ships).

§ Figures 8, 9 and 10 – Parish church of S. Michele (St Michael) in Palagnedra (bailiwick and pieve of Locarno), Virgin of the Annunciation in Palagnedra (Lorenzo Cresci, altar piece, 1602) and Virgin of the Annunciation in Florence (fresco, 14th century)

A similarly imported devotion concerns the Virgin of the Annunciation of Florence. A copy of the famous and miraculous painting kept in the basilica of the Annunciation in Florence (fig. 8) can still been admired in the parish church of Palagnedra (fig. 9 and 10), a village in the Centovalli, also in the bailiwick of Locarno. This work of art was commissioned by migrants resident in Florence, as recorded in the inscription under the painting.

These are two very good examples of religious and devotional transfers. Further evidence can be found in rural brotherhoods, where migrants followed customs and devotions they had come across in major cities.


Adamoli Davide, Fratelli per l’eternità. Storia delle confraternite nei baliaggi sudalpini in epoca moderna, PhD presented at the Université de Fribourg and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, April 2014 (forthcoming).

Beard Geoffrey, Stucco and Decorative Plasterwork in Europe, London, Thames & Hudson, 1983.

Damiani Cabrini Laura, Seicento ritrovato: presenze pittoriche “italiane” nella Lombardia svizzera fra Cinquecento e Seicento, Milano, Skira, 1996.

Gambi Lucio (ed.), “Col bastone e la bisaccia per le strade d’Europa: migrazioni stagionali di mestiere nell’arco alpino nei secoli XVI-XVIII: atti di un seminario di studi tenutosi a Bellinzona l’8 e il 9 settembre 1988”, in Bollettino storico della Svizzera italiana, vol. 103, fasc. I-IV, gennaio-dicembre 1991.

Muchembled Robert (ed.), Cultural exchange in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006-2007.

Orelli Chiara, “Migrazione e mestiere: alcuni percorsi di integrazione nelle città lombarde e toscane di “migranti” dalla Svizzera italiana (secoli XVI-XVIII)”, in Meriggi Marco, Pastore Alessandro (ed.), Le regole dei mestieri e delle professioni, secoli XV-XIX, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2001.

Rüsch Elfi, I monumenti d’arte e di storia del Canton Ticino IV, Distretto di Locarno IV (La Verzasca, il Pedemonte, le Centovalli e l’Onsernone, Berna, Società di storia dell’arte in Svizzera SSAS, 2013.

The Medieval Churches of Norwich: City, Community & Architecture

07/13/2015 in archeology and architecture, art and imagery, towns and urban environment

The Medieval Churches of Norwich Project Team announces the launch of its new website. The project was undertaken by researchers from the University of East Anglia in September 2014 and is scheduled to run through August 2017. The research activity, its dissemination and communication have been made possible through the support of The Leverhulme Trust and the Norwich Research Park Translational Fund.

Our website offers more details on the project and keeps you up-to-date on our public events. We also welcome comments and suggestions on our case studies and research queries, which we will be posting very soon.

Please have a look and we look forward to hearing your thoughts!


Sulien Books

12/18/2014 in art and imagery, British Isles

I have recently produced three small books on the visual culture of three churches in Wales, and decided to establish a small press to publish similar titles on an occasional basis in the future.

Cover of book.

The Medieval Tiles of Strata Florida

In August I produced a limited-edition picture book based on the medieval grotesques at Gresford to coincide with my summer exhibition at Narberth, ‘Patterns, Monsters and Mysteries‘. A similar limited-edition book of my images of the tiles at the former abbey church of Strata Florida was published last month as the first publication from Sulien Books, accompanying my exhibition at Tregaron in mid-Wales, near Strata Florida.

In September my guide to the stained glass at the Church of St Mary, Tenby, was produced for the Friends of St Mary’s, following the pattern of my guide to the stained glass of the little church at Llanfihangel Genau’r Glyn (2013). I am hopeful that further similar booklets and guides along these lines will be forthcoming from Sulien Books in the future.

Sulien was the most important figure at the eleventh-century scriptorium at the monastic church of Llanbadarn Fawr in west Wales, now situated on the outskirts of Aberystwyth.

Patterns, Monsters & Mysteries

08/05/2014 in archeology and architecture, art and imagery, British Isles, Events, preservation and memory

This new exhibition of contemporary art takes its inspiration from the decorative art of medieval churches in Wales, presenting these patterns and images as digital prints, installation and stained glass.

The sources for these images are patterns and images on ceramic tiles at the former Cistercian abbey church at Strata Florida, patterns on the coving panels of the wooden rood screen at the church at Llananno, and stone grotesques from the exterior of the Church of All Saints, Gresford, one of the finest medieval parish churches in Wales.

An additional exhibition at the same venue is a display of photographs of stained glass form churches in Wales.

Patterns, Monsters & Mysteries:
Images from the edges of medieval art in Wales

Oriel Q
Queen’s Hall Gallery, Narberth
2 August – 6 September 2014
Wednesday – Saturday 10–5

A limited edition booklet with images of the grotesques at Gresford is also available.

Image from the exhibition Patterns, Monsters and Mysteries

Martin Crampin, Llananno Screen I

Image from the exhibition Patterns, Monsters and Mysteries

Martin Crampin, Gresford Grotesque


Stained Glass from Welsh Churches

07/16/2014 in archeology and architecture, art and imagery, British Isles

June 2014 saw the publication of my new book Stained Glass from Welsh Churches. The book covers stained glass from the Middle Ages right up to the present day in twelve chapters, with plenty of illustrative material. The book is available from Y Lolfa publishers at £29.95 with free postage (or contact me for a signed copy).

Stained Glass from Welsh Churches by Martin Crampin.

Cover of Stained Glass from Welsh Churches by Martin Crampin.

I have also started a new blog with news and reviews connected with the book. Visitors and comments are welcome.

Although stained glass is such a ubiquitous art in many parish churches, I have been surprised at the comparative lack of studies of the medium, especially in the modern period. This is my attempt to help remedy the situation, for Wales at least..

Some early modern Gloucestershire bells

05/09/2014 in art and imagery, British Isles, music and drama, Parish Research Today, preservation and memory

In anticipation of our  symposium on ‘Parish Soundscapes’, and having been treated to a preview of the Berkswell Bellringers’ stall, I have been looking into some of the bells of parish churches of my own research area of Gloucestershire. Digging primarily into my favourite local sources, the parish registers, I came across a number of references to bells and the casting of bells.

Bells were, and still are, items of great importance, and symbols of pride and prestige for parish communities. The parishes of Almondsbury, Arlingham, Great Rissington, Lechlade, Quenington, St John the Baptist Gloucester, Standish, and Tytherington all record the casting and repair of their bells in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. We might expect to find these events recorded in churchwarden’s accounts, yet they are here too, amongst baptisms, marriages and burials, written, almost as community members, into the histories of these parishes. The type of bell, how much it cost and who cast it are often recorded. At times this serves as a memorial of the great expense parishes were able to meet: in Great Rissington the 1601 treble bell was commissioned from John Charter, a founder in Reading, and paid for by subscription. The names of each of the 112 subscribers are listed, in a kind of who’s who of the parish pious.

Bells’ roles as monuments to the piety, charity, good neighbourliness and good credit of parishioners are also identifiable in the Gloucestershire registers. Arlingham, a parish in the ‘loop’ of the river Severn, had a near full set of bells cast in 1717. These bells were dedicated to the parish, its ideals, its chief inhabitants, God, and the bells’ founder. The pre-1717 bell bore the inscription ‘Peace and Good Neighbourhood.’ The five new bells cast in 1717 bore the following: 2) ‘Abra. Rudhall bell founder. 1717.’, 3) ‘Prosperity to this Parish. A R. 1717.’ 4) ‘Peace & Good Neighbourhood. A.R.1717.’ 5) John Carter & Richard Fryer, churchwardens. 1717.’ 6) ‘Come when I call/ To serve God all. A. R. 1717.’ The bells then symbolised the ideals of devotion, peace, prosperity and good neighbourhood, and served to venerate the memory of their founders and the men who were likely their procurers. As some of the largest and most expensive movable goods parishes might buy, bells were important items of material culture, and as the loudest, most recognisable noises regularly made in the parish, were highly aurally significant. To have one’s name or motto inscribed upon one was then a great source of pride, renewed and repeated with each practice and peal.

Procuring bells was not always as smooth as at Arlingham however. At Almondsbury in 1573 the tenor bell was broken by some over-enthusiastic ringing, and the ensuing three-decade quest for a replacement was written up in the parish register by incumbent vicar John Paul. One William Bewall, of repute ‘the best rynger in the paresh’ gave the offending pull breaking the bell, and bell caster ‘Old Jeffreys’ of Bristol was recruited to produce a new one. His first attempt ‘faylyng in sound’, Jeffreys senior enlisted Jeffreys junior, and together they cast a further bell in 1575, which ‘with hewyng contynued in some good sort unto the yeere 1603 and then with chymyng dyd rend’. Our talented, boisterous ringer William Bewall caused the ‘myshap’ once again. Having been twice disappointed by the Jeffreys’ bells, the parish sent for John Long of Cirencester, on the recommendation of local man, Mr Chester. Cirencester is 35 miles from Almondsbury, no doubt seeming much longer when laden with the largest and heaviest bell in Almondsbury’s peal. Unfortunately John Long was not able to produce a working bell, casting it twice in 1604, ‘both tymes badd to the domage of the paresh’, before Almondsbury gave up on him too. The register notes that Purdy of Bristol, ‘who shold by bargeyn fyrst have cast the tenor… cast the same as he now ys, but nothyng so sweet in sound as he was 40 yeeres before.’ Here we get a sense of the problems of parochial procurement, and the ‘consumer power’ exerted by communities when purchasing large and important items. Finally having found a bell that fitted and worked, albeit not a patch on the old bell, vicar Paul also happily anthropomorphised it into another member of his flock.

Whilst William Bewall may seem to have been particularly unlucky in managing to break two tenor bells in his distinguished bellringing career, in comparison to John Hale of Hartpury, he was remarkably lucky. Practicing ringing one day in 1692 with his group of fellow ringers, John was pulling the 3 bell. Either through a loose component in the headstock, or a particularly mighty tug on his behalf, the bell came loose and was sent crashing down into the ringing chamber, landing on him and killing him. Bewall died amongst his ringing group, perhaps not the worst way to go. Ringing groups were important centres of sociability, particularly among young, boisterous men. In Cirencester in 1794 a ‘Freindly [sic] Society or Ringing Clubb Held at the Black Horse Cirencester’ was set up, in a rather polite formulation, with its own constitution (yet still meeting in a pub 500 yards from the church…). Edward Sherring of Forthampton also died under a bell, but not in the highly sociable act of ringing. In 1788 he was “killed by the falling of a Bell one of which he went up to turn”.

Such campanological misfortune could come from on high as well as the chamber floor. In 1605 the parish of Olveston was beset by a great storm of thunder and lightning. John Paul, the vicar of Almondsbury, recorded in his register that on 28 November 1605 there was

a great thunder clap and fearfull lyghtnyng with a storme of hayle, in which the towre of Olveston church was rent, the steeple covered with lead was sett on fyre under the bowle of the wethercocke, and the steeple consumed, the lead and fyve sweet belles molt, the chauncell burnt, and the body of the church hardly saved.

Whilst John Paul’s narrative is dramatic and engaging, it tells the story of the destruction of the bells with no real gloss or interpretive flourish. Such flourish was provided by ‘P.S.’, a schoolmaster in Olveston, and the acronymical author of Feareful newes of thunder and lightning with the terrible effects thereof, which Almighty God sent on a place called Olvestone, in the county of Glocester the 28. of November last. This 30-page pamphlet contains just three short pages on the lightening, fire and the damage in the parish. The remaining 27 pages are taken up by lengthy providential proselytizing, with the author at pains to unpick the soteriological implications of the storm and damage, and to link it to the recently-foiled Gunpowder Plot. The destruction of the bells is particularly significant. The parishioners were said to love ‘their sweet ring’, of what the author judged ‘very tunenable but often abused bells’. It was this ‘abuse’ that rankled most for P.S. For him the lightning was a clear sign from God. It supposedly destroyed the strongest parts of the church, yet left the weakest standing, showing ‘that strength to him is weakenesse, and weakenesse to him is strength.’ The thunder was too much for the parishioners, as it ‘ cast one hither, another thither, and some downe’, as people scrambled around attempting to save their possessions from a blaze that was now raging on the church roof, dangerously close to neighbouring houses. The bells were melted and destroyed, as the

wrath of God, would no longer suffer to jangle [them] then or ther for their ignorance of God, and his goodnes, or their unthankfulnes, or for any other sin, which was doth the cause of this, and is the cause of all other his judgements.

It was to the great shame of this parish that after this almighty storm and fire, in which luckily nobody was killed, ‘divers lament the death (as it were) of their Belles, but no one there so much as mention, the guilt or punishment of sinne.’ Bells, as important community symbols were here lamented too much. It should have been to their own sins that the parishioners of Olveston turned, in the mind of P.S. Rather than a source of piety and spiritual instruction, as at Arlingham, these bells, for P.S., symbolised ungodliness and spiritual corruption, perhaps hinting at the culture of those enthusiastic young men who met for practices at places like the Black Horse in Cirencester.

Having given a precis of some of the lives of the early modern bells of Gloucestershire, I would be very interested to hear of comparable examples in other counties, particularly given the social and symbolic significance of the bells collated here.


D18/597, Notes relating to manor and parish of Arlingham

P86/1 SP 1/1, Cirencester Ringing Club general register

P120 IN 1/1, Driffield Parish Register

P146 IN 1/3, Forthampton Parish Register

P154/9 IN 1/1, St. John the Baptist, Gloucester, Parish Register

P165 IN 1/1, Hartpury Parish Register

P197 IN 1/2, Lechlade Parish Register

P261 IN 1/2, Quenington Parish Register

P268 IN 1/1, Great Rissington Parish Register

P305 IN 1/3, Standish Parish Register

P344 IN 1/4, Tytherington Parish Register

P.S., Feareful neuues of thunder and lightning with the terrible effects thereof, which Almighty God sent on a place called Oluestone, in the county of Glocester the 28. of Nouember last : hauing prefixt before it, a short discourse, concerning two other admirable accidents that soone after ensued / truely related by P.S. ; and dedicated vnto the Kings Most Excellent Maiestie. (London, 1606)

Green, A., ‘An Almondsbury Parish Register‘, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 78 (1959), pp. 175-179.

Travel note from the parish of Mareta (South Tyrol)

05/02/2014 in art and imagery, landscapes and pilgrimage, Parish Research Today, The Alpine Territories

It’s been a day of travel. Trains, buses, a bit of hitchhiking and as always at the end, in piedi. But the journey was worth it. My destination was the miners’ church of Sankt Magdalena in the Val Ridanna. It’s is a daughter house of the parish church of Mareta, not far as the crow flies but a lot more once you ascend the sides of the valley on the snaking road. A pit stop at a nearby maso procured the key and the custodian, Caterina, who would do the needful with the alarm – important artworks afoot! Sankt Magdalena lies in the foothills of the Snow Mountain, which bears rich seams of ore. The miners did so well in the 15th century that they reputedly shod their boots with silver nails! They also funded the rebuilding of an earlier church, retaining the dedication to the Magdalen. Two large scale altarpiece, combining painted scenes and sculpted figures were commissioned from leading artists working in nearby Vipiteno/Sterzing. Both were destined for the high altar. Mattheis Störbel’s work of 1509 remains in situ, while Hans Harder’s earlier opus is now in the nave (pics below). To study these works in person was a real privilege, especially after the journey. It was a real connection of landscape, art and devotion, as well as the financial underpinnings of such endeavours. The architecture of the church was simple but well executed. In all, a lasting testimony to the men who laboured in the mountains and the saint who watched over them.

IMG_0438 IMG_0457IMG_0443IMG_0456


CFP – Renaissance Society of America, Berlin 2015

04/28/2014 in art and imagery, Events, Italian Peninsula, landscapes and pilgrimage, Mediterranean, Parish Research Today, The Alpine Territories

‘Artistic Exchange in Unexpected Quarters’: Art, travel and geography during the Renaissance

 RSA Annual Meeting, Berlin, March 26 – 28, 2015

Deadline May 30, 2014

By popular account, Pieter Brueghel the Elder swallowed up the mountains and the rocks when journeying through the Alps, and spat them out again in his work once home. Dürer and Patinir immortalised the landscape in portable media, while for other artists and workshops, Alpine patrons and churches offered gainful employment and with that, diffusion of style and motif.  Such was the power of this geography for artistic creativity. Studies of exchange typically privilege urban contexts or determine influence through the polarities of north and south, east and west but little is made of the transitional zones in between or those at the so-called margins. What potentials did they offer for artistic exchange? Did it lead to unusual artworks, hybrid idioms or iconographies? Was there resistance or revival of local traditions?

It is nearly 20 years since Claire Farago asked whether “the categories into which our discipline [art history] is currently subdivided are really well-suited to analysing questions of intercultural exchange.” Reframing the Renaissance anticipated the global turn, bringing together studies of old and new worlds in an effort to rethink traditional categories and boundaries. More worlds than ever are opening up to Renaissance scholarship. This planned series of sessions borrows its title from Aby Warburg’s 1905 essay as a framework for new research on artistic exchange and diffusion (papers on sites, artworks, approaches are all welcome) in transitional zones across Italy, Europe and wider worlds, 1300-1650.

Please send your title, abstract (150 words max), and keywords, with C.V. to Joanne Anderson by May 30 at:



Conference Ten Commandments

02/27/2014 in art and imagery, Events, literature and the liturgy, theology and church doctrine

On April 10-11, 2014, the conference ‘The Ten Commandments in Medieval and Early Modern Culture’ will take place in Ghent. International speakers will discuss the use of the Decalogue in theology, texts, practice and material culture. The parish is not missing either. For more information, please visit the website There, you will be able to register and find the complete program and a list of abstracts.