Archives par mot-clé : histoire monastique

Séjour de longue durée au CESCM pour un couple de chercheurs finlandais

Marika Rasanen et Teemu Immonen sont Finlandais. Ils nous viennent de l’Université de Turku et sont en séjour de recherche au CESCM pour 18 mois, sur invitation d’Éric Palazzo.

Cliché J.-P. Brouard (CESCM)
Cliché J.-P. Brouard (CESCM)

Marika, Teemu, could you please tell us about your teaching and research activities?

Teemu: My background is in the study of late medieval monastic history and the cult of saints. More recently, I have concentrated on the Golden Age of Monte Cassino under Abbot Desiderius (d. 1087) and the abbey’s impact on the culture of the Romanesque era. I apply a variety of approaches in my research. My doctoral thesis discussed the reconstruction of the pictorial program of the abbey church of Monte Cassino. I am continuing and widening the study of Cassinese artistic culture to the role of pictorial arts in the twelfth-century reform movements in general, and to the relationship between wall painting and book illumination. Yet, I have not abandoned the analysis of textual material. On the contrary, beginning in autumn 2016, I will be working in a research project “Profiling Pre-modern Authors” (PROPREAU) funded by the Academy of Finland and directed by Prof. Marjo Kaartinen. In this project, I work in close connection with Prof. Jochen Johrendt of the University of Wuppertal in order to analyze the changes in the composition of papal letters in the Apostolic Chancery in the late eleventh century, especially the introduction of Leonine cursus in the composition of papal documents, and the relationship of these changes with the school of Monte Cassino.

late 11th-century mural from Sant'Angelo in Formis (Campania)
late 11th-century mural from Sant’Angelo in Formis (Campania)

Concerning my teaching activity, from 2012 till the end of last year, I was responsible for the M.A. Seminar on pre-modern history at the department of Cultural History in Turku. I have lectured on a variety of topics ranging from the cultural history of medieval monasteries to Augustine’s texts, and from the concept of medieval reform ideology to the history of medieval teaching. Earlier, while Marika and I lived in Italy, I conducted tours of Rome and its environs for students, teachers, scholars, and artists staying at Villa Lante, the Finnish Institute in Rome.

Marika: I have been working at the Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies for several years. My tasks have alternated between being a project coordinator and researcher, and I have occasionally also participated in different research projects in connection with TUCEMEMS. Among these projects, I must give special emphasis to Modus vivendi – a project directed by Prof. Marjo Kaartinen, in which both Teemu and I have worked. The aim of the project is to approach late medieval religious reforms and the laity from a variety of viewpoints including book ownership, liturgy, and heresy. During the past year and half I have coordinated the collaboration of our center, the city of Turku, and the diocese of Turku for the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation. My current research interests combine questions of late medieval materiality and spatial sensory experience in connection with the relics of the Dominican saints and other devotional objects both in churches and domestic environments.

Thomas Aquinas's death (15th century) - Santa Maria del Piano, Abbruzzo, Italia
Thomas Aquinas’s death (15th century) – Santa Maria del Piano, Abbruzzo, Italia

My teaching experience covers areas from ancient Roman topography to devotional objects of the Late Middle Ages; I taught the first topic when I worked as assistente scientifico at the Finnish Institute in Rome 2005-2009; the latter topics relate to my current research interests.

What are the topics you have been working on in the past months?

Teemu: During the last months, my most important task has been preparing a book manuscript based on my doctoral dissertation for publication. I have also worked on three articles that address my interest in the impact of Monte Cassino on high medieval culture and the function of images from different points of view. One of the projects concerns the Cassinese and Roman roots of the fresco program of the Upper Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi; another one analyzes artistic and cultural relations between Monte Cassino and Northern Spain; and the third article discusses the function of illustrated frontispieces in Romanesque giant bibles. Two of these articles will be published in books that I am also co-editing.

Marika: My past six months have been fulfilled by different book projects. I am the chief editor of a book entitled Relics, Identity and Memory in Medieval Europe (Brepols), for which I am about to start the proofreading. In December I sent the manuscript of my monograph, entitled Thomas Aquinas’s Relics as Focus for Conflict and Cult in the late Middle Ages: The Restless Corpse to the publisher Amsterdam University Press. This book is based on my PhD dissertation (2013) that analyzes the cult of Thomas Aquinas’ relics in late medieval southern Italy. I am co-editing a book presenting new interpretations of the Lutheran reformation in the diocese of Turku and addressing a wider Finnish-speaking audience. Besides these books I am currently finishing a joint article with Meri Heinonen on materiality and significance of sensory experience in Dominican devotional culture in the late Middle Ages. In addition to writing articles on the early cult of Thomas Aquinas in Fossanova and Thomas’ cult in the Dominican observant reform, I am also working presently with Professor Constant Mews from the Monash University, Melbourne, on an edition of a little known, early text explaining how Thomas Aquinas’ relics were transported from Italy to France in 1368-69.

What do you expect from your fellowship in Poitiers?

We consider ourselves to be privileged to be able to spend our research time at the CESCM, where we can benefit from the exchange of ideas through personal contacts with individual researchers as well as from the CESCM’s diverse and wide-ranging seminar program. We look forward to getting to know colleagues at the CESCM and integrating into the wider French academic community. Our research interests are closely connected to the priority areas of the center. During our stay, Marika will work on building the foundations for her new project on the cult of relics during the Great Western Schism. She is particularly interested in the similarities and differences in the use of relics in Dominican devotional culture under the Avignon and Roman papacy.

We hope to learn about the history of Poitiers and get to know the contemporary city and region. We have visited France several times and even studied for a brief period at the University of Aix-Marseille in the 1990s, but we have never been to Western France before. We are travelling with our six-year old daughter, and the whole family looks forward to learning about the nature and history of the area. For Teemu, the rich Romanesque heritage of the area is a source of professional inspiration and interesting research topics. This is also a unique opportunity for the whole family to revive the vestiges of French language from earlier study and hopefully learn it properly during our stay.

Why did you chose the CESCM for your research?

For a scholar interested in Romanesque period, the CESCM has a well known reputation. The center offers a unique combination of documentation and sources, and of innovative methodological discussions. We come from a tradition that emphasizes cross-disciplinary approach, and we were attracted by the possibility of working in a research institute that welcomes under the same roof scholars from the fields of literary studies, history, art history, musicology, and archaeology.

We have known Éric Palazzo, who invited us to the CESCM, since 2012, when he gave a series of lectures at the TUCEMEMS. Marika is currently leading a research project concerning sensory experience mediated in the liturgy of St. Thomas Aquinas’ medieval feast days (a short English presentation is available at The theme of the project is closely connected to Éric’s work, particularly his recent interest in the five senses in the medieval liturgy. Teemu’s research revolves around questions concerning the relationship between monumental painting and manuscript illumination, and, more generally, the interaction between different visual and textual media in the Middle Ages. In the past, he has benefitted greatly from the exchange of ideas with Éric as well as Vincent Debiais, whose studies of the relationship between inscriptions and images run parallel to his. A willingness to deepen these contacts and the possibility to work in an environment that encourages innovative methodological discussions were major reasons for wanting to come to Poitiers and the CESCM, and we are happy the center has welcomed us so warmly!

Merci à Vincent Debiais pour sa précieuse collaboration