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27th International Colloquium of the Corpus Vitrearum: ‘Word and Image’, York, 7–11 July 2014

Fig. 3. Delegates enjoying the Chapter House, York Minster

Katie Harrison reports

Fig. 1. Tim Ayers talking about the Five Sisters window, York Minster

Fig. 1. Tim Ayers talking about the Five Sisters window, York Minster

The 27th Colloquium of the Corpus Vitrearum was hosted by the British CVMA in York at the beginning of July. The historic city provided the ideal setting for the international gathering of colleagues and friends to present their recent research and engage in productive discussions. A generous number of scholarships from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art enabled several students, myself included, to avail themselves of the incredible opportunity to attend the colloquium and present posters alongside renowned scholars.

The theme – Word and Image – drew an exceptionally high standard of papers from both well-established and younger scholars and generated fruitful discussions about the multifaceted roles of inscriptions and the interplay between text and image in stained glass. Thought-provoking questions were also raised about how combinations of text and image were conceived, particularly in relation to other media, as well as the way in which various members of medieval society interacted with inscriptions in stained glass. The discrete sessions into which the sequence of lectures was organized were particularly instrumental in encouraging the contemplation of related aspects of the theme together, making the most of the diverse range of approaches to the topic.

Fig. 2. Visiting All saints, North Street

Fig. 2. Visiting All saints, North Street

The lectures were perfectly complemented by the site visits that followed, both those to York Minster and a selection of York’s medieval churches, as well as further afield to Wragby, Studley Royal and Skelton. The York visits were led by CVMA experts Sarah Brown, Tim Ayers, Richard Marks and David O’Connor of Great Britain; Lisa Reilly and Mary Shepard of the USA; and Rachel Koopmans of Canada. Their insightful introductions to the stained glass in each building set the ground for further discussions, whilst also allowing time for delegates to explore independently. This effective approach was also adopted for the visits to churches further afield, which were introduced by Sarah Brown and Brian Sprakes (a British CVMA author), and Stefan Trümpler of the Swiss Corpus Vitrearum. The choice of Wragby, with its overwhelmingly comprehensive collection of Swiss glass, alongside the nineteenth-century sister churches of St Mary’s, Studley Royal, and Christ the Consoler, Skelton, provided delegates with a stimulating and thought-provoking day.

Fig. 3. Delegates enjoying the Chapter House, York Minster

Fig. 3. Delegates enjoying the Chapter House, York Minster

The evening events showcased several of York’s medieval buildings, including the fourteenth-century Hospitium, St Martin-cum-Gregory Church, and York Minster. In particular, the dinner in York Minster’s thirteenth-century chapter house provided further opportunity to consider the significance of the hagiographical band windows, as well as appreciate the acoustics of this revolutionary building. Regarding the latter, Joseph Spooner’s impromptu encore, following his cello performance during evensong, was especially captivating.

Special thanks are due to Sarah Brown, chairman of the British CVMA, and her team for their hard work and dedication in coordinating and hosting such a well-organized and stimulating programme of events. Many delegates remarked on the exceptionally good atmosphere and success of the 27th Colloquium. The 28th Colloquium in Troyes in 2016 is keenly awaited.