Category Archives: Religion and Theology

The Photography for Being a Pilgrim- A Guest Post by Marilyn Deegan

Posted by Corey Boudreau, Sales and Marketing Coordinator

To mark the book’s selection as an Editor’s Choice, Marylin Deegan describes the events which led to the publication of Being a Pilgrim: Art and Ritual on the Medieval Routes to Santiago

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Being a pilgrimThe photography for Being a Pilgrim actually started many years before the project was ever suggested by Lund Humphries.  In 1992 I travelled to Conques, one of the towns on the pilgrimage route and itself a pilgrimage destination to the abbey church dedicated to St Foy, at the invitation of Kathy Ashley and her collaborator Pamela Sheingorn. Kathy and Pam were working on major studies of the cult of St Foy and asked me to take the photographs to accompany their texts. I was very happy to do so.

In 1992, and on our next trip in 1993, the technology I used was all analogue: a Canon EOS 1000fn film camera with a range of lenses and a tripod. The images were to be captured on both black and white film and on colour slides, which meant going around and photographing everything twice. Being only a keen amateur, I didn’t have dedicated cameras for each type of film. And then of course there was the uncertainty of not knowing if everything had been captured properly: was anything blurred?  Was the light right? The external scenes were fine, but inside, where there was little light, long exposures (a minute or more) had to be used, which introduced a great deal of uncertainty.

In the film world, we had to wait until we got home to see what we had produced. Mostly we worked with black and white film, and so I would get the negatives developed, with 3 sets of contact sheets, one for each of us.  Kathy and Pam worked in two different locations in the US, and I was based in Oxford.  Although we had email, we mostly worked on the images by telephone (‘sheet three, image 32a, middle cropped out and darkened a bit’). Then I got them printed and sent them off by post. The colour slides were less of a problem, and we worked from some of these for the images in Being a Pilgrim.

By the time we were commissioned to produce Being a Pilgrim in 2005/6, technology had moved on and we were using exclusively digital photography for new photography. This had many advantages, the main one being instant review of the pictures: it was transformative knowing straight away if we had or had not got a good shot. However, the digital brought problems as well. The ability to take as many shots as we wanted, from all sorts of angles and at different settings, meant that at the end of 3 years of photography trips we had 4000 images and had to choose just 250. And the 4000 was actually a selection of what we had taken, given that each evening when we were travelling, Kathy and I would review the day’s work and reject any images that were obviously flawed. But working together between the US and Europe was much easier—I would email batches of low resolution images and we would chat about them online or by phone. Knowing that we were looking at the same image at the same time made all the difference. The older images that were on slides were scanned in and edited alongside the newer born digital ones.

There were other problems with the photography—a big one was the weather! We had to travel to a fairly tight schedule to visit all the places we needed to see, and sometimes arrived in fog, mist or rain. Certain scenes were enhanced by a bit of atmosphere, most weren’t. So we did the best we could. Sometimes a shot was impossible and we had to get an important image from elsewhere; the famous chapel of Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe perched on top of a steep rock at Le Puy en Velay is a good example. We had to buy an image from Corbis images as the chapel wasn’t even visible the day we were there. Other images that were less than the best they could be because of adverse weather were much improved with Photoshop. Another problem was time of day: sometimes we arrived at a site with only a half day in which to complete that day’s photography and the light wasn’t at the right angle. This necessitated return visits or more Photoshop.

Would I do anything differently now? Well, we finished the photography in 2008, and digital imaging has moved on rapidly. The lens quality and sensitivity of digital cameras are now so good that I can get excellent, publishable images using a handheld semi-professional compact camera like the Canon G15. This would mean for many shots no flash, no tripods, no long exposures, and therefore fewer problems with getting permission to take photographs: there are many churches and museums where cameras are allowed but no flash or tripods. This wouldn’t work everywhere: some very dark interiors needed exposures of a minute or more, with a good deal of post-processing. It would also mean that we might not have to carry so much equipment around: large camera, lenses, tripods, etc.  I’m not sure that the pictures would necessarily be better, but they would be easier to get.

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About the Author: Marilyn Deegan is Professor Emeritus at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King’s College, London. She is a medievalist, and a freelance writer and photographer.

Being a Pilgrim – A Guest Post by Kathleen Ashley

Posted by Corey Boudreau, Sales and Marketing Coordinator

Kathleen AshleyTo mark the book’s selection as an Editor’s Choice, Kathleen Ashley describes the events which led to the publication of Being a Pilgrim: Art and Ritual on the Medieval Routes to Santiago

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Published books almost always result from years of thought, research and writing; however, when I was asked in 2005 to write a book on the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, I can honestly say that the idea had never crossed my mind. Luckily, I had visited Santiago just the year before – a “holy year,” when the saint’s day July 25 falls on a Sunday. During July of holy years, ceremonies in the cathedral are more frequent than usual and the whole town reverberates with performances of music, dance, drama, and processions. Increased numbers of pilgrims and tourists arrive for the festivities, and the excitement continues night and day. With that Santiago experience still fresh in my memory, I was intrigued by the book request.

Being a pilgrimAlthough the subject of pilgrimage had never been my primary research focus, it did intersect with many of the topics I had written about during my scholarly career. A saint’s shrine was the destination of medieval pilgrimage, and I had written two books and many articles about saints and their cults. Pilgrimages typically attract fervent devotees whose personal goals may be at odds with the structures put in place by church authorities; I had always been fascinated by religious phenomena that depended upon an unstable conjunction of popular energy and official control. In particular, the pilgrimage journey — which included traditional stops at other saints’ shrines and local landmarks – demonstrated ritual practices and popular beliefs; exploring the Santiago pilgrimage between the 9th and the 18th centuries would allow me to test my theories about ritual and learn about the folklore alive on the routes. The promise of following my interests with a new focus on pilgrimage was certainly enough to persuade me to take on the project.

I further realized that the Santiago pilgrimage raised larger issues about how we understand history. Who has not wondered when reading about another time and place what it was like to live then? What did pilgrims experience as they traveled across unfamiliar territories and arrived at the shrine in westernmost Spain? I decided to make the pilgrim experience my unifying theme in Being a Pilgrim. I would organize the book by examining the legends of the saint that attracted pilgrims, the individual preparations (both material and ritual) for such an arduous trip, as well as the social infrastructures across Europe that enabled thousands of pilgrims to travel far from home. Imagining them en route, I tried to include the kinds of sights they would have seen – from religious buildings and art to new cities and challenging landscapes – and stories both new and familiar they would have heard. Finally, their arrival in Santiago was surely an exciting culmination of the pilgrimage, with dazzling rituals and festivity in and around the cathedral. To bring the experiences of individuals alive, I could use the many pilgrim narratives produced throughout Europe between the 12th and the 18th centuries.

Once my central concept for the book and a general outline of the nine chapters was accepted by the publishers, the next stage was research and planning for the photography trips along the main pilgrimage routes through France and Spain. I took the trips with my photographer-friend Marilyn Deegan, whose 250 color photos are no doubt the most memorable part of the book. Our travel adventures and the challenges of matching text and image will be the subjects of another blog.

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About the Author: Professor Kathleen Ashley teaches at the University of Southern Maine and has published widely on medieval popular culture, hagiography and cultural history.

A fresh view of religion and society in the Diocese of St Davids since the Reformation

This is a guest post from Professor William Gibson, Oxford Brookes University, editor of Religion and Society in the Diocese of St Davids 1485–2011

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The post-Reformation diocese of St Davids may not at first sight seem a particularly prepossessing topic for a collection of essays. The city of St Davids, with a population of just 1,600 today, lies over seventy miles west of Swansea in beautiful but remote countryside. The diocese of which it is the capital spread over much of south Wales until it was divided in the 1920s. But however remote and distant from the metropolitan centres of England and Wales it was, the diocese was a religious crucible in the post-Reformation centuries. Despite being the place from which Henry Tudor invaded the country in 1485, and in which some Tudor ancestors were buried, St Davids did not avoid the turbulence of the Reformation. Robert Ferrar, bishop in 1555, was burnt in Carmarthen for his stubborn Protestantism. In the following century the diocese was the home of the translation into Welsh of the Prayerbook, for five years it was part of William Laud’s high church ‘laboratory’ as bishop and the source of Rhys Pritchard’s highly influential hymns, Cannwyll y Cymry.

Perhaps more astonishing is how the diocese became the home for three major religious movements: the Welsh Puritan movement of the seventeenth century, the evangelical ‘revival’ of the eighteenth century which made Wales the stronghold of Calvinistic Methodism for two centuries and (in addition to a string of minor revivals in the nineteenth century), the 1904-5 Evan Roberts revival. The reason why the people of South Wales became so committed to revival is unclear but the enthusiasm for them and the effect they had on the lives of the poor has perhaps been underestimated. Equally underestimated is the interest that ordinary people in Wales took in theology and theological differences. Even today many Welsh villages have three, four or five chapels of different denominations; in the past this meant that tradition, teaching, family and other ties drew the past one chapel to worship at another. It is one of the condescensions of history to assume that, in the past, matters of theology and religious ideas were ‘beyond’ the reach of most people. In fact the diocese was home to a long succession of distinguished theologians (Jeremy Taylor, George Bull, Daniel Rowland, Howell Harris, Connop Thirwall, Rowland Williams ). It also housed a series of significant theological institutions: Trefecca College, the United Theological College at Aberystwyth, the Carmarthen Academy, the Memorial College at Brecon and St David’s College, Lampeter. It probably offered more theological educational opportunities than any area in the rest of Britain.

One of the ways in which Welshmen and women identified with their religious and political traditions was through the celebration of St Davids Day and in the nineteenth century, as mass participation in public events grew, the day and the saint were appropriated by all sorts of religious and political groups keen to demonstrate their popularity and association with Wales through celebration of St Davids Day. So groups of all political, social and religious complexion wrapped themselves in the black and yellow flag of St Davids.

In such an environment, disestablishment of the Anglican Church became a ‘project’ of the Nonconformist churches and the Liberal Party. Like other aspects of Welsh history it has become the source of many myths. One of which is to overlook that, despite other claims, the true architect of the new Church in Wales was Bishop John Owen of St Davids –who even came up with the name ‘Church in Wales.’

Religion and society in St DavidsAll these themes, and more, are the subject of essays in Religion and Society of the Diocese of St Davids 1485-2011, edited by John Morgan-Guy and me. And the story is brought up to date with a final essay on the diocese since 1926, surveying the bishops and the principal changes in the area in the last century.

Professor William Gibson, Oxford Brookes University

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Sara Khan on the battle for British Islam

Following the attacks in Paris last week, one of the contributors to our book Sensible Religion, Sara Khan, spoke on the BBC Panorama programme ‘The Battle for British Islam’. The programme is available to UK viewers on BBC iPlayer.

Sara Khan is Director and Co-Founder of Inspire, a non-governmental advocacy organisation (NGO) working to counter extremism and gender inequality. Her chapter in Sensible Religion is entitled “Retrieving the equilibrium and Restoring Justice: Using islam’s egalitarian teachings to Reclaim women’s Rights”.

The chapter examines Islam’s teachings on women’s rights and the purpose of shariah as a dynamic and sophisticated process for establishing equilibrium, securing justice and serving the public interest. It also explores the dominance of a literal decontextualized and patriarchal interpretation of Islam’s religious texts which has influenced sections of Muslim thought. It outlines the historical and contemporary reality of some Muslims, in manipulating and misusing Islam for their own authority whether political, economic or social to those Muslims who through the combined use of modern day Islamic law and international human rights law have secured the rights of Muslim women.

Read the full text of the chapter in Sensible Religion here.

Call for proposals – ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

Posted by Sarah Stilwell, Senior Marketing Executive

Call for proposals – ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

Series Editors: Professor Silvio Ferrari, University of Milan, Italy, (series coordinator); Dr Russell Sandberg, Cardiff University, UK, (series managing editor); Professor Pieter Coertzen, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa; Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Brigham Young University, USA; Professor Tahir Mahmood, Amity International University, India

The ICLARS Series on Law and Religion is a new series designed to provide a forum for the rapidly expanding field of research in law and religion. The series is published in association with the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, an international network of scholars and experts of law and religion founded in 2007 with the aim of providing a place where information, data and opinions can easily be exchanged among members and made available to the broader scientific community. The series aims to become a primary source for students and scholars while presenting authors with a valuable means to reach a wide and growing readership.

The first titles published in this series will be:

  • Religion and Equality: Law in Conflict
  • Church and State in Scotland: Developing Law
  • Religions and Constitutional Transitions in the Muslim Mediterranean
  • Proportionality, Equality Laws and Religion

The series editors are currently welcoming proposals for this new book series on any matter falling under ‘law and religion’ widely defined. Collections arising from important conferences and events are welcome as well as monographs by both established names and new voices (including monographs based on doctoral dissertations). Also of interest are interdisciplinary works and studies of particular jurisdictions.

To submit a book proposal for the series please email Dr Russell Sandberg: SandbergR@cf.ac.uk. For more information on how to submit a book proposal please contact the publisher Alison Kirk: akirk@ashgatepublishing.com.

More information about ICLARS can be found on the website: http://www.iclars.org/

Announcing a new interdisciplinary series, Sanctity in Global Perspective – a guest post from Alison Frazier

Alison FrazierThis is a guest post from Alison Frazier, President of The Hagiography Society

The Hagiography Society is proud to join Ashgate in sponsoring Sanctity in Global Perspective, a series dedicated to multidisciplinary explorations of the concept of sanctity.

Not every global tradition venerates “saints,” as such, but all identify people of extraordinary virtue—of radically ambiguous “power”—whose lives and actions demand to be admired, honored, and imitated.

That veneration marks a potent site of cultural work, a place at once special and quotidian where a community’s ambitions and nightmares settle, where comedy nests with tragedy in the group’s identification of the “saint” and ritual elaboration of cult.

Cult thus finds expression in repetition and improvisation, in luxury and deprivation, in peace and violence, in humble obedience and arrogant defiance, in the chthonic, reliquary body and the ethereal, mystical one. The scholar of sanctity addresses evidence that ranges from the visual, musical, and literary, to the architectural, pedagogical, and political. Cults stretch over many centuries and across disparate geographies. Their stories elicit every emotion, and invite comparison.

As a cultural locus, the “saint” both condenses and challenges a tradition’s beliefs and devotional practices. Sanctity may be put to serve cynical strategies as easily as noble aspirations, may reflect both a community’s optimism and its despair. The saint enfolds a tradition’s attitudes to birth and death, to family and kinship, as well as to institutions and rulers.

Sanctity in Global Perspective welcomes critical scholarship that brings new texts, images, spaces, and ideas into the world’s long conversation about extraordinary virtue. We seek to foster the crosspollination of ideas across traditions, regions, and academic disciplines.

About the series editors: Shahzad Bahir is Lysbeth Warren Anderson Professor in Islamic Studies (Department of Religious Studies) at Stanford University, USA. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski is Professor of French at the University of Pittsburgh, USA. John Stratton Hawley is Professor of Religion at Barnard College, USA.

For more information on how to submit a book proposal to the series, please contact Erika Gaffney, or see http://www.hagiographysociety.org/?page_id=80