A five-part series of talks on works – cultural, legal, intellectual – of the year 1517, exploring the world in which the Reformation took shape.
Wednesdays, 7.30-8.30pm in the Old Library (above the Vaults and Garden Café)
2nd week (18th October)
Theology: How to be Saved in 1517
Martin Luther wasn’t the only Christian worried about avoiding the fires of hell. Indeed, the 1510s were a time of great intellectual activity as men and women wrestled with one of the key questions in Christian theology: what must I do to be saved? We’ll look at some of the answers which might have been heard in St Mary’s from humanists, scholastics, and devout laypeople, and consider how they would react to the new ideas coming in from the continent.
Dr Sarah Mortimer is a Tutor in History at Christ Church College.
3rd week (25th October)
Law: Sanctuary and the Benefit of Clergy
1517 was a year associated with disorder, represented famously by the Evil May Day riots in London. A more widespread problem underlying the system of criminal justice was around the same time coming to a head. Murders and felons notoriously enjoyed two means of escape from the ordinary course of justice: benefit of clergy; and sanctuary, which gave protection to anyone able to place themselves within a church.
Sir John Baker QC, FBA, is Emeritus Downing Professor of the Laws of England in the University of Cambridge, and an Honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College. He is also an Honorary Fellow of UCL. Called to the Bar in 1966, he is an Honorary Bencher of the Inner Temple and of Gray’s Inn. He was Literary Director of the Selden Society 1980-2011, and is currently its President.
4th week (1st November)
Poetry: John Skelton and Evil May Day, 1517
Difficult as it is to identify English literary works that date precisely from 1517, a plausible candidate is a poem by John Skelton: The Tunning of Elynour Rummyng. But what has this apparently parochial poem about alcohol to do with political life in England in 1517, and with Erasmus’ Querela Pacis (Complaint of Peace), from the same year?
Mishtooni Bose is Christopher Tower Student and Tutor in Medieval Poetry in English at Christ Church, and Associate Professor in the Faculty of English, Oxford. Much of her published work focuses on the Wycliffite controversies and their aftermath.
5th week (8th November)
Art History: The Stones of St Mary’s
In a series of talks held in St Mary’s Church to commemorate the Reformation, it seems right to consult the witness of the building itself. The fabric of the church is testimony both to a late-medieval reconstruction on a grandiose scale, and to the experience of the arrival of Protestantism.
Gervase Rosser is Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Art History in the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of St Catherine’s College.
6th week (15th November)
Music: Walter’s Geystliches gesangk Buchleyn
The musical outcomes of the reformation spearheaded by Luther reflected his fervent support for the cultivation of musical excellence in worship and his desire to see the creation and widespread use of expanded repertories of German spiritual song as an aid to worship and Christian education. Luther collaborated closely with Johann Walter, including the formation of a new hymn repertory, and set out his views on music in the foreword to Walter’s pioneering collection of polyphonic German sacred song, Geystliches gesangk Buckleyn, published in 1524. This lecture explores the roles of music in the early Lutheran reformation as exemplified by Walter’s works.
Owen Rees is a musicologist and conductor. His research concerns Spanish, Portuguese, and English sacred music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He is Professor in Music at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of The Queen’s College, where he conducts the Choir. He also directs the professional vocal ensemble Contrapunctus.
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