"Earthly Paradise": Convent Reflectories in Context, a Medieval Studies lecture by Caitlin Bass
Date: Friday, October 26th, 2012
Time: 4:00 pm
Location: Logan room, Wright Museum of Art
Sponsored by: Medieval Studies Program / Contact: Ellen Joyce
In 1501, the nuns of Kloster Lüne described their recently renovated refectory as “painted so beautifully ... that one cannot but think one is in an earthly paradise.” This letter provides a glimpse into the ways in which the nuns of Lüne perceived one of the central communal spaces of their monastery. The images of saints on the walls and in the windows make the heavenly reference appropriate, and reflect and reinforce the nuns’ self-image as prospective members of the celestial throng. The reference to an earthly paradise, however, also brings up the question of how Lüne’s new refectory compared to secular models for prestigious rooms. Monastic refectories, in their decoration and use, combine aspects of secular upper-class dining practices with religious ritual and sacred symbolism. They also are one of the few spaces within the convent to which outsiders were occasionally admitted. Their architecture and decoration thus plays a central role in defining and reinforcing the identity of a monastic community, both for the nuns themselves, and for guests. This paper examines the late medieval appearance of the refectory of Kloster Lüne in Lower Saxony, in comparison with secular dining halls in upper-class houses of the region. This contextual approach reveals the combination of earthly and heavenly aspirations that made up the communal identity the nuns of Lüne chose to present, and provides insight into the ways these nuns and their contemporaries might have understood their social and religious status.
This event is free and open to the campus community.