Medievalist Events at Oxford Festival of the Arts

The Art of Illumination: makers and users of medieval manuscripts

Prof Michelle Brown, Patricia Lovett MBE, Dr Andrew Dunning

June 25, Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, 2pm – 4.30pm

It is the brilliance of yellow gold set off by jewel colours that makes so many mediaeval manuscripts so eye-catching.”

Join us for fascinating insight with our festival triumvirate of experts on illuminated manuscripts. Fresh from her involvement in the British Library’s journey from East to West through the dazzling beauty of fifty spectacular manuscripts across cultures for their exhibition
‘Gold’, world-renowned scribe and illuminator, Patricia Lovett MBE will talk about the origin and use of pigments and the mediaeval craft processes that enabled these luminous manuscripts to ‘catch the light’. Professor Emerita of Medieval MS Studies (SAS, University of London) and former Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library, Michelle Brown will discuss these wonders from an historical perspective, using the manuscripts as windows into the lives of those who made and used them, and into the age in which they were made. This evening of medieval wonder is made whole by the display on manuscripts curated by Dr Andrew Dunning, R.W. Hunt Curator of Medieval Manuscripts; Supernumerary Fellow in Book History (Jesus College), who will speak to the manuscripts.

This event was curated to coincide with Sensational Books – a Bodleian Libraries exhibition at ST Lee Gallery, Weston Library.

Details & Booking for THE ART OF ILLUMINATION.



Illuminated Manuscript Workshop with Patricia Lovett MBE

June 26, Magdalen College School Studio, 10am – 5pm

Patricia Lovett MBE is a world-renowned scribe and illuminator who has taught and lectured at many prestigious institutions in the UK and abroad.

This is your chance to join the Festival Glitterati! Spend a day illuminating with real gold leaf and painting an animal from a medieval bestiary (book of beasts). You will be able to choose your own animal to copy from a small selection and be shown how to prepare calfskin vellum for painting, how to apply gold leaf and the sequence of medieval painting for miniatures using a fine Kolinsky sable brush. You will go home with your illumination on vellum ready to frame.

Since this workshop is one which will have a focus on one-to-one instruction, it is restricted to 16 people. We suggest early booking. Anyone taking part in this workshop will need to be contacted by Patricia in advance of the session, so please be aware that email and/or other contact will be required.

Details & Booking for ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT WORKSHOP.


Professor Robert Bartlett: The Middle Ages and the Movies

June 27, Festival Marquee, 8pm

 ‘This book will entertain and intrigue historians and film buffs alike. In a wide-ranging critical study of the creative process that tackles head-on the exchange between historical fact and artistic licence, Robert Bartlett shows how twentieth-century cinema’s variously imagined Middle Ages speak as much to modern sensibilities as to any reconstructed past.’ – Professor Christopher Tyerman

How was Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose translated from page to screen? Why is Monty Python and the Holy Grail funny? And how was Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky shaped by the Stalinist tyranny under which it was filmed?  These, and many more questions will be answered tonight by eminent historian Robert Bartlett, who takes a fresh, cogent look at how our view of medieval history has been shaped by eight significant films of the twentieth century: from the concoction of sex and nationalism in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, to Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Siegfried; the art-house classic The Seventh Seal to Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev and the epic historical drama El Cid.

Robert Bartlett is Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Mediaeval History Emeritus at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. His many books include the Wolfson Prize-winning The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change, 950–1350 (1994), and he has written and presented three television series for the BBC, Inside the Medieval Mind, The Normans and The Plantagenets.

Details & Booking for ROBERT BARTLETT.


Treasures from Around the World at New College Library

July 2, 11am-4pm, Lecture Room 4, New College

More manuscripts survive from the medieval library of New College than from that of any other Oxford or Cambridge college. Today, New College Library holds what is probably the finest collection of medieval manuscripts of any of the Oxford colleges, also holding more incunabula (15th-century European imprints) than any other undergraduate college at Oxford. The Library’s collections of rare and early printed books are likewise spectacular.

View some of the Library’s fabulous manuscript and rare book treasures from around the world. Our world tour starts from 13th-century Catte Street, Oxford with one of the world’s great illuminated manuscripts (now housed just a few hundred metres away from where it was first created), and it takes in gorgeous and resplendent manuscripts and printed books from China to Constantinople, by means of Arabic, Armenian, Belgian, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, and Syrian treasures, which date from the 11th century onwards.

Details & Booking for TREASURES FROM NEW COLLEGE. Entrance is free


British Society of Master Glass Painters

Centenary Touring Exhibition

The Chapter House, Christ Church Cathedral (throughout the festival)

Coming to Oxford from the cathedrals of Ely, Winchester, Wells and Worcester, this touring exhibition of stained glass panels celebrates the centenary of the British Society of Master Glass Painters. Over 90 artists from across the UK and overseas contributed to the exhibition. The tour highlights 60 of these panels that celebrate the unique art of glass. The works have been created using both traditional and modern glass techniques, demonstrating the extraordinary range of stained glass currently practiced.

The artists explore a variety of subjects such as the environment and the beauty of nature. The exhibition portrays an understanding of the concerns of glass artists a hundred years after the society was established to help stained glass remain relevant today. Displayed in the Chapter House of Christ Church Cathedral, this exhibition will also give the visitor the chance to explore the Romanesque doorway and interior.

Founded in 1921, the British Society of Master Glass Painters is the UK’s leading organisation
devoted exclusively to the art and craft of stained glass. In collaboration with Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.


Dr Janina Ramirez in discussion with Peter Frankopan

July 5, 7.30pm, Festival Marquee, Magdalen College School, Oxford

We look forward to a stimulating and lively conversation between two brilliant Oxford historians; Dr Janina Ramirez, cultural historian, broadcaster and author, whose passion for communicating ideas about the past is always conveyed with an infectious enthusiasm, as exemplified in her brand new book FEMINA: A New History of the Middle Ages Through the Women Written Out of It; and the acclaimed historian Peter Frankopan, Professor of Global History and Director of the Centre for Byzantine Research at Oxford University, who is particularly interested in ‘exchanges and connections between regions and peoples’. Peter’s seminal book The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, (Dazzling – The Guardian; Phenomenal – Die Welt) was an international bestseller, topping the non-fiction charts all around the world, followed by The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World, a ‘masterly mapping out of a new world order’ (Evening Standard).

Join us tonight to see the medieval world with fresh eyes and discover why the remarkable women ‘rediscovered’ in Janina’s Femina were removed from our collective memories. This book is a ground-breaking reappraisal of medieval history revealing why women were struck from our historical narrative, and restoring them to their rightful positions as the power-players who shaped the world we live in today.

Details & Booking for DR JANINA RAMIREZ IN DISCUSSION WITH PETER FRANCOPAN.


John Leighfield: Atlases and Maps

July 6, 5pm-7pm, Magdalen College School Studio

Join John Leighfield CBE, for his highly illustrated talk about how the maps of Oxford have developed from the 16th century until the present. Highly respected for his knowledge of the maps of the county and city of Oxford, John has had a passion for maps since his schooldays and has built a marvellous collection, some of which will be on display after the talk.

Details & Booking for ATLASES AND MAPS.

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