CHIF: Extraordinary Sensescapes: The Sensual World of Late Medieval Nuns

Project: Research project

Project Details


CHIF: Extraordinary Sensescapes: The Sensual World of Late Medieval Nuns CHIF: Extraordinary Sensescapes: The Sensual World of Late Medieval Nuns Portion of paper drawn up for internal use for our project discussions Extraordinary Sensescapes: The Sensual World of Late Medieval Nuns Volker Schier and Corine Schleif revised 1/15 (Re)Constructing the Sensorial Experiences of the Past Using Multimedia Digital Technologies of the Present: Examples from a Late Medieval Birgittine Monastery The Project Background In the 14th century Saint Birgitta of Sweden instituted her reform order, known officially as the Order of the Holy Savior and unofficially as the Birgittines. She sought to curb abuses and correct the shortcomings of all previous orders. Through several normative writings, Saint Birgitta and her immediate followers established a rule and several sets of detailed prescriptions and proscriptions for this, the only order administered by and for women. Everything about the Birgittine order was distinctive. The soaring architecture of the Birgittine church accommodated the nuns choir high above the floor of the nave. As the nuns sang the offices and the Mass chants that were prescribed in the cantus sororum, the only liturgy ever composed for medieval women, the nuns filled all the vast acoustic spaces of the church interior, including those of the choir, that privileged realm reserved for the clergy. A late medieval Birgittine church seems the ideal site at which to study the multisensory production of the past and to re-present it. Not only were these structures conceived specifically to be filled by chants of the Birgittine liturgy, they provided various stages for rituals that were intended not only for the communities of nuns and clerics, but also for visitors, including pilgrims and (potential) donors. In fact, the building and rituals determined the corporate image of the Birgittine communities, which was carefully controlled in the highly competitive setting of the spiritual economy. In addition, the Birgittine normative writings as well as the occasional writings preserved through archival sources that consist of such genre as necrologies, letters and diaries by Birgittine nuns and fathers permit important insights into the production and reception of the specific sensescape. Preliminaries Communal Planning: 1. Skype meetings (participants in the U.S., Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark), in-person visits to view current projects, technical facilities, historic locations (University of Lund, Millesgarden, Simrisham, Marib, Stockholm, Vadstena, Pirita, Nantali), funded by an IHR fellowship, Swedish and Finnish institutional grants, 2012-2014 1
Effective start/end date3/1/1512/31/16


  • Carnegie Corporation of New York: $53,999.00


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