Canterbury Tales and the Arts of Pilgrimage
By Dr Tom Nickson
21st April 2021 6pm
This summer the British Museum will open a major new exhibition on Thomas Becket, 850 years after his dramatic assassination in Canterbury cathedral. This lecture will consider St Thomas’ cult and its artistic consequences within the wider visual culture of pilgrimage in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, covering precious metalwork, sumptuous manuscripts, vivid wall paintings, glowing stained glass windows and sophisticated architecture. Thomas’ cult attracted princes and paupers alike, and its study offers a unique opportunity to think about art production at all levels, from cheap pilgrims’ badges to bejewelled reliquaries. I will also consider the phenomenon of ‘virtual’ pilgrimage, a form of mental pilgrimage for those enclosed in convents and monasteries or otherwise unable to travel. Like them, we will use images to travel in our imaginations, exploring some of the most spectacular sites and objects from medieval Europe and beyond.
Tom is Senior Lecturer in Medieval Art & Architecture at The Courtauld Institute of Art, but first learned to love saints as an AHA student and then tutor. He has published widely on aspects of medieval art and architecture.
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