The Multisensory World of Vadstena Abbey in the Late Middle Ages

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Multisensory World of Vadstena Abbey in the Late Middle Ages The Multisensory World of Vadstena Abbey in the Late Middle Ages An international team will produce total-immersion virtual-reality reconstructions of the Birgittine liturgy and architecture at late 15th-century Vadstena. Specifically we wish to (re)construct the multisensory experiences of the church. Our goals are scientific exploration, scholarly exchange and public engagement. We therefore wish to address wide and diverse audiences. A Birgittine monastery is an ideal site at which to study the multisensory production of the past using the multimedia digital technology of the present. Saint Birgitta and her followers designed the Birgittine monastery in tandem with the Cantus sororum, the only medieval chant repertoire composed for women. Exacting descriptions of the performance of the liturgy were given in Saint Birgittas writings, which also incorporated stipulations for materials, measurements, and orientations for nearly every aspect of the monastic structure. The fully settled Birgittine monastery was ruled by an abbess and populated by 60 nuns and 13 priests, in addition to 4 deacons, 8 lay brothers, 4 kitchen sisters, servants, and external pensioners. Visiting pilgrims and (potential) donors were likewise important to the abbeys. These historic subjects participated and perceived differently: nuns singing the offices high on their gallery in the center of the eastern portion of the nave, directly under the vaulting of this hall church; the clerics at their altars, in their choir stalls on the west end of the church, and processing through their walkway on the periphery; and lay visitors on the ground level of the nave under the nuns gallery. At its high point in the late fifteenth century at the time of the translation and beatification of Birgittas daughter Saint Katherine of Sweden in 1489, Vadstena housed more than 42, perhaps even as many as 60, altars. Of these, 17 were prescribed in the Rule, and located in the enclosure area of the church. The majority of the altars, however, were lay altars, placed in the central part of the nave. They were privately donated along with a vast and diverse array of lavish furnishings that included manuscripts, vasa sacra, candles, altar cloths of various sorts, vestments for priests, reliquaries, wooden sculptures and small figures.
Effective start/end date1/1/176/13/18


  • OTHER: Foreign University: $94,194.00


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