A replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet produced for the British Museum by the Royal Armouries (cropped)
Historian Cheryl White examines four significant monuments of art and archaeology of medieval England, each of which points to a specific turning point in the historical narrative of the 7th through 14th centuries. This was the period of the consolidation of kingdoms, establishment of monarchy, and the rise of the Church to its peak of power.
9:30–10:45 a.m. The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial
This extraordinary discovery of the 1930s revealed the age of Beowulf, when legend, myth, and history blended for a uniquely emerging national identity. The ship’s treasures brought the pagan 7th-century Anglo-Saxon world vividly into focus through a wealth of artifacts, including a rare and iconic battle helmet, a unique and prestigious double-edged sword designed for the most elite of warriors, and many other priceless masterpieces of early medieval craftsmanship that tangibly link to the transformational historical narrative of the age.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The Lindisfarne Gospels
This richly illuminated Latin manuscript, one of the finest examples of religious art of its period, represents the blending of Celtic Irish and Anglo-Saxon cultures through the Christianization of Britain.
12:15–1:15 p.m. Break
1:15–2:30 p.m. The Bayeux Tapestry
Famously depicting the Battle of Hastings of 1066, this large masterpiece of embroidery is a unique example of secular medieval art that provides important historical clues and context to the Norman invasion of England. Who created this lively panorama, and for whom? What can we still learn from it today?
2:45–4 p.m. Canterbury Cathedral
At the seat of the archbishop and primate of all England since the time St. Augustine led the Gregorian mission to the kingdom of Kent in the late 6th century, there stands a magnificent cathedral bearing witness to some of England’s richest history. Perhaps no other structure better embodies the complex social, political, and religious history of medieval England than the architecture of this unique monument to the past.
White is a professor of history at Louisiana State University, Shreveport.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit*
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