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Medieval art and architecture

medieval art research

(Prof Paul Binski, Dr Donal Cooper, Professor Richard Marks, Professor Nigel Morgan)

Cambridge has one of the greatest traditions of any UK university in the study of medieval art and architecture, the subject having been founded almost in its entirety by M R James, and developed in the University and Colleges by, among others, C R Dodwell, George Henderson and Michael Camille.

Major research projects are ongoing to study and catalogue the wealth of medieval illuminated manuscripts in Cambridge. These have already led to the major ‘Cambridge Illuminations’ exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum and the accompanying catalogue (edited by Paul Binski and Stella Panayotova, 2005), and a new Catalogue of the Western Illuminated Manuscripts in the University Library (Paul Binski and Patrick Zutshi, 2011). The Parker on the Web project, in conjunction with Stanford University, has recently made the world-famous manuscript collection of the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College available via the Internet. These projects continue to produce significant spin-off opportunities for students wishing to study the medieval book, and gain practical expertise in codicology and paleography. 

Over the last decade, new links have built up with the Hamilton Kerr Institute in connection with the study and conservation of medieval panel painting and Cambridge is now a significant centre for such work. A three-year study on East Anglia's rood screens, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, concluded in 2012 with an international symposium on ‘The Art and Science of Medieval Church Screens’. The medieval heritage of the local area is regularly explored at symposia for staff and graduate students in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, the most recent being in October 2012. 

The medieval art history of the British Isles is a particular departmental strength. Professor Paul Binski is currently (2015-16) Head of Department, but continues to supervise a number of research students. His next book will be on the relationship of the natural and the artificial in the medieval world. Dr Cooper is a leading authority on Italian painting and sculpture and continues to advance the study of art from the period of Giotto through to the High Renaissance.

Affiliated lecturers with research interests in this field include John Munns and Anna Gannon.  John Munns specialises in the artistic culture of England and its neighbours in the long twelfth century, especially in the contexts of theology, liturgy and devotion. Anna Gannon's research deals with early Anglo-Saxon art, particularly around the time of the conversion to Christianity, and she specialises in early Anglo-Saxon coinage. 

The department also has expertise across the medieval world and recent postgraduate research projects have included studies of Norman Puglia, the influence of Romanitas, and the decoration of the Sainte-Chapelle. As well its university teaching officers and affiliated lecturers, the department works with experts from the Fitzwilliam Museum, the colleges, the History Faculty, and elsewhere in Cambridge to foster a vibrant research culture in the study of the art and architecture of the Middle Ages. The teaching staff of the department encourage innovative and wide-ranging styles of engagement with the medieval past and the department holds a regular medieval research seminar for its own students and visitors from elsewhere.