Senses of Liturgy conference

Senses of Liturgy, University of Bristol, 21-22 May, 2015

The Victoria Rooms, Queen's Road, Bristol, BS8 1SA

The rites and rituals enacted in the liturgy of the medieval church were a focal point of the lives of both religious professionals and lay people alike. In an attempt to understand how their own liturgical traditions had evolved, medieval theologians analysed the contents of the liturgy, reading diverse meanings into the texts and practices that were part of the Divine Office and mass. These commentaries shed essential light on the ways in which people experienced the liturgy, what it was thought to mean and how people understood it to function. They also sometimes provide the only surviving evidence for liturgical practices, in cases where the manuscripts containing the liturgy itself no longer survive or only in a fragmentary state. Such is the case for the Old Hispanic Office, where the dearth of liturgical manuscripts from the early medieval period is greatly supplemented by the seventh-century liturgical commentary on the ecclesiastical offices, written by the influential theologian and bishop, Isidore of Seville. Isidore’s commentary on the Old Hispanic liturgy is an essential source for the study of the Old Hispanic Office carried out by the ERC-funded team working under the supervision of Dr Emma Hornby in the Department of Music.

Despite the importance of liturgical commentaries for understanding the liturgical record and the experience of religious practice, particularly in the still largely understudied Old Hispanic Office, they have not received scholarly attention as an important genre for the history of medieval religion. The conference “Glossing the Medieval Liturgy” will bring together scholars from across the UK, Europe and the USA over the course of two-days (May 21-22, 2015) in order to discuss the genre from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives (musicological, art historical, theological, historical, manuscript studies). The aim will be on the one hand to discuss methodological approaches: how can liturgical commentaries be studied in conjunction with or in the absence of liturgical sources? What information can they provide to fill in the gaps in the manuscript record? The conference will also seek to incorporate individual liturgical commentaries in their historical and theological frameworks: how did the liturgy interact with theology? Was the liturgy influenced by theological movements or vice versa? The involvement of scholars dealing with liturgical and theological sources from a wide chronological and geographical spread will allow us to engage with current scholarly interest in the history of religious experience and performance through the lens of a highly informative genre.

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