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Abigail Turner

MA work

Dissertation: Secularising the Sacred: Household Chapels of the Landed Elites in Late-Medieval England

In late-medieval England the elites were ever-present in the memory and prayers of the parish community, and made their lineage, status and wealth evident through material investment and good works in the parish church. Funerary monuments and heraldry proclaimed a family’s pious patronage and their position within the élite and parish community, while their bequests, gifts and loans furnished the altars and enriched the church. This secularisation, personalisation and privatisation of the sacred has been studied in relation to elite piety and patronage, as both religious and secular concerns were manifested in the same spaces, objects and actions. Such good works and pious patronage, however, were not restricted to the parish church, as the household chapel was lavished with equal or greater riches and attention.

This dissertation concerns the household chapel’s layout, ornaments and use. Religious and secular meanings were created, as good works and conspicuous consumption met in a household, as well as a church, context. As the setting for Mass, household chapels of the gentry, peerage and royalty worked within an established liturgical framework. Yet there was room for negotiation and personalisation with private masses, the family’s significant saints’ days and christenings integrating religious and secular ceremony. This provided the opportunity for élite display, heightened and reinforced by the religious context. The design and use of the chapel, its objects and ritual were integral to this personalisation and display, as was the late-medieval porosity between sacred and secular.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2010

  • Dissertation: Secularising the Sacred: Household Chapels of the Landed Elites in Late-Medieval England

    In late-medieval England the elites were ever-present in the memory and prayers of the parish community, and made their lineage, status and wealth evident through material investment and good works in the parish church. Funerary monuments and heraldry proclaimed a family’s pious patronage and their position within the élite and parish community, while their bequests, gifts and loans furnished the altars and enriched the church. This secularisation, personalisation and privatisation of the sacred has been studied in relation to elite piety and patronage, as both religious and secular concerns were manifested in the same spaces, objects and actions. Such good works and pious patronage, however, were not restricted to the parish church, as the household chapel was lavished with equal or greater riches and attention.

    This dissertation concerns the household chapel’s layout, ornaments and use. Religious and secular meanings were created, as good works and conspicuous consumption met in a household, as well as a church, context. As the setting for Mass, household chapels of the gentry, peerage and royalty worked within an established liturgical framework. Yet there was room for negotiation and personalisation with private masses, the family’s significant saints’ days and christenings integrating religious and secular ceremony. This provided the opportunity for élite display, heightened and reinforced by the religious context. The design and use of the chapel, its objects and ritual were integral to this personalisation and display, as was the late-medieval porosity between sacred and secular.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), Art History, University of Nottingham, 2007
  • Experience

  • Learning department internship, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2009/10; Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection internship, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2009; House steward, Ham House, National Trust, London, 2007/8; Internship, Newstead Abbey, Nottingham, 2006
  • Awards

  • Oliver Ford Trust Scholarship, 2008-10