The experience of worship in late medieval cathedral and parish church

The experience of worship in late medieval cathedral and parish church

This collaborative AHRC/ESRC project was based at Bangor University and led by the liturgical historian and musicologist, Professor John Harper. Its main aim was to explore ways in which the understanding of late medieval liturgy can be increased through practice-led research and enactment. It sought to elucidate the complex relationships between ritual, devotion,  physical objects, buildings, artistic representation and musical embellishment in order to arrive at as complete a picture of medieval worship as possible. 

Unlike previous projects which have included enactment, the enactments themselves were not the end product of the work, but only a stage on the way, the  experiences of the participants and videos of the enactments creating a new set of ‘texts’ or primary sources for interrogation. Enactments of Sarum-rite rituals were conducted in Salisbury Cathedral, the building for which they were written, and in the small parish church of St Teilo, Llandeilo Tal-y-bont, as reconstructed at St Fagan’s National History Museum. Cardiff, allowing exploration of the kinds of adaptation of the liturgy required for its use in a smaller building, with a very different plan and fewer clergy. A further distinctive element of the project as an attempt to understand the different experiences of the various groups present during the liturgy – the priest, his assistants, servers, choir, clergy and, especially, the laity.

The videos of the liturgical enactments and a large amount of background material for the project  are available at www.experieceofworship.org.uk and www.sarumcustomary.org.uk. The main publication on the project as a whole is Late Medieval Liturgies Enacted: The Experience of Worship in Cathedral and Parish Church, ed. by S. Harper, P. S. Barnwell and M. Williamson (Farnham: Ashgate, 2016). The project was chosen by the AHRC as an impact case study in 2015.