NEW Course 26
Beauty, Destruction and Resurrection: Art in England, 1500-1558
Dr Lesley Milner and Dr Michael Carter
Summer School – Online
Monday 19 – Friday 23 July 2021
At the turn of the sixteenth century England could boast some of the finest ecclesiastical art and architecture in Europe. Glorious cathedrals, monasteries and parish churches were home to the full panoply of late medieval religious art in all its splendour. Within half a century, the English landscape was populated with the ruins of the once mighty monasteries, and the cathedrals and parish churches were shadows of their former selves and largely despoiled of their painted and sculptural ornament, stained glass and precious plate.
Until the not too distant past, traditional historiography has viewed this as a price worth paying, as England shrugged off the superstition and tyranny of the Middle Ages to become a modern nation. But while we now generally have a more nuanced – and often regretful – view of what the dissolution of the monasteries meant for Britain, we still do not have a very clear idea exactly of what was lost. This course will help us visualize the nation’s lost treasures, and understand to what extent and in what varieties ecclesiastical art and architecture blossomed in the early decades of the 16th century, before we explore the motives and mechanics of the destructiveness that accompanied the English Reformation. As a conclusion, we shall attempt to determine what long-lasting effects the destructions of the mid 16th century had on the visual arts, and on culture more widely, in England.