The Institute for Medieval Studies hosted its 33rd Annual Spring Lecture Series this week.
Speakers came from many different universities around the world to talk about elements pertaining to this year’s topic: “Sacred Objects and Places of the Middle Ages,” according to Timothy Graham, director of the Institute for Medieval Studies and regents’ professor at the University of New Mexico.
“We’re...examining that concept of sacred objects and places through four different religious and cultural traditions: the Western European Latin Christian tradition, the Greek Orthodox tradition, the Hebrew tradition and the Islamic tradition,” Graham said. “The individual lectures are going to be talking about particular revered books within those traditions, buildings or locations.”
The speakers included Bernard Meehan from Trinity College in Dublin, Jennifer Pruitt from the University of Wisconsin, Janina Traxler from Manchester University, Annemarie Weyl Carr from Southern Methodist University and Adam Cohen from the University of Toronto.
Cohen said he thinks his talk went very well and that there were many engaging questions from the audience that he enjoyed answering.
“I discussed some aspects of the sacred as expressed visually in several illuminated Hebrew manuscripts of the Middle Ages,” Cohen said. “I emphasized how these books communicated the ideas of the makers/users that their actions as Jews in the Middle Ages were part of a timeless continuum of past, present and future. In specific, I focused on a handful of books, including the Sarajevo Haggadah, the Birds Head Haggadah and the Kennicott Bible.”
Cohen is a scholar of Christian medieval art, but he decided to study and discuss Jewish medieval art, because it is not well-known, he said.
“I wanted my talk to introduce people to a topic that is not well known at all,” Cohen said. “The field of Hebrew manuscript illumination is very rich and deserves to be part of the conversation about medieval culture.”
Meehan gave two lectures in this series — his talk on Monday was about the Book of Kells, “the most famous medieval manuscript in the world,” according to the lecture series program.
“(Meehan) did one thing after he got his Ph.D., which is that he was the keeper of manuscripts at Trinity College Dublin...and that meant that it was his responsibility to look after the Book of Kells, because it’s in that library,” Graham said. “This is a priceless object. You could not put a value on it. It’s like a multi-million dollar value, but it’s basically beyond price. It was his responsibility to make sure that it gets passed on to the future generations.”
The poster for the lecture series featured a picture of a page out of the Book of Kells, Graham said.
“It’s a book that was made around the year 800 by Irish monks who were probably in a monastery just off the west coast of Scotland on the island of Iona,” Graham said. “It’s got all kinds of magnificent artwork and penwork in it.”
The second lecture Meehan will give happens Thursday — “Irish Manuscripts before 800 A.D.” — which was followed by Carr’s “Watching the Birth of a Holy Object: The Icon of the Kykkotissa on Cyprus.”
“I’ll be looking at the emergence and development of the cult of a great miracle-working icon of the Virgin Mary on the island of Cyprus,” Carr said. “The icon has been in the Monastery of Kykkos on Cyprus for all of its known life and is nicknamed after the monastery as the Kykkotissa: the Lady of Kykkos.”
Carr added that no one really knows how the icon gained its veneration as a miracle worker, which will be something that she explores in her talk. She said she looks forward to engaging with the audience.
“Nothing makes scholarship more rewarding than the chance to rub minds with interested and receptive people,” Carr said.
Other topics the speakers discussed this week included: the Holy Grail and Islamic architecture on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. There was also a concert called “Places to Go, Things to See: A Medieval Bucket List” by the UNM Early Music Ensemble, directed by Colleen Sheinberg.
Meehan’s “Irish Manuscripts before 800 A.D.” will be on Thursday at 5:15 p.m. Carr’s “Watching the Birth of a Holy Object: The Icon of the Kykkotissa on Cyprus” will be at 7:15 p.m. the same night. Both will be in Woodward Hall Room 101.
These events are free and open to the public.
Ariel Lutnesky is a culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ArielLutnesky.