Imagining Jerusalem in the Medieval West
University College, Oxford
Monday & Tuesday, 16 & 17 March 2009
A two-day conference supported by the British Academy
Convened by Dr Lucy Donkin, University College, Oxford with the collaboration of Dr Hanna Vorholt, The Warburg Institute, London
This interdisciplinary conference examines the role of the imagination in the production and use of medieval maps and views of Jerusalem. Papers will discuss the representation of the city and its buildings in manuscripts and early printed books from the Jewish and Christian traditions, with an emphasis on city maps and ground plans of the Temple and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The conference responds to widening engagement with medieval cartographic material and sustained interest in the concept of sacred space more generally, bringing together speakers from the fields of history, theology and literature as well as art history and the history of cartography. By focusing on a single location of unique importance, it offers an opportunity to reflect on the disciplinary assumptions that continue to inform our work, establishing common ground and facilitating the exchange of ideas.
Two sub-themes provide specific points of encounter: distance and incompleteness. Maps and views of Jerusalem were often made and used by those who could not go there in person. They drew on descriptions and dimensions as much as the actual cityscape, and were themselves copied and elaborated on. By arranging information spatially, they enhanced understanding of texts concerning Jerusalem. At the same time, they also fulfilled an interpretative function, presenting an essentially partial view of the city which highlighted certain aspects as significant while prompting the imagination to complete the picture.
The conference is accompanied by a display of manuscripts and printed books from the collections of the Bodleian Library, which will be on public view in the Library’s Exhibition Room between 23 February and 21 March.