Grosseteste meets York Stained Glass Studies

Bishop_Robert_Grosseteste,_1896_(3x4crop)Tom McLeish was invited last week (November 1st) to hold a seminar on Grosseteste’s colour science  with the University of York’s History of Art Department’s Stained Glass Studies Group.  So here (right) is a stained-glass representation of the Bishop to start with.

Tom, an original member of the Ordered Universe project right from the very early days in Durham, has recently joined the University of York as its new Chair of Natural Philosophy.  Although based in Physics, the role has time allocated to the

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Kings Manor of the University of York, the home of its Centre for Medieval Studies

University’s long-standing Centre for Medieval Studies, as well, which is now a partner of the project. The Centre is accommodated in Kings Manor, the former abbot’s house of St. Mary’s Abbey (now ruined) close to the Minster, Museum, Library and Art Gallery in the centre of the city.

The natural starting point for the Kings Manor seminar was Grosseteste’s De colore, his treatise, probably from the mid 1220s that develops his natural philosophy of light into a theory of colour.  Early in the Ordered Universe project’s life we had studies this jewel of a treatise, and found it to be structured in a highly mathematical way. It constitutes the first description of an abstract three-dimensional space for colour.Dimensions of Colour book_ These insights, together with a fresh edition and translation and interdisciplinary commentary, formed the first ‘pilot’ publication from the project, Dimensions of Colour, back in 2013. in only 400 Latin words, Grosseteste carefully identifies colour as the effect of light incorporated in a diaphanous medium, and describes three ‘axes’ along which colour can vary independently. Crucially, two of these depend on properties of light and one on the material within which the light dwells – its ‘purity’ or ‘impurity’. This is turn is related to the quantity of ‘earthiness’ (earth is the only non-translucent of the four Aristotelian elements). The final paragraph of the treatise contains an invitation to try out making colours with different lights and materials, and is one of the pieces of evidence pointing to Grossteste’s involvement in the very early stirrings of experimental tradition.

York stained glass scholar Sarah Brown, who led the scholarly work behind the recent 10-year restoration of York Minster’s Great East Window, was led to think about glass-making right away by this paragraph. Might Grosseteste have witnessed the manufacture of glass?  If so this would not have been in England, but in northern France. Does a thread from light through colour and glass constitute another line of evidence that leads to a presence for him in France in the early 13th century?

The discussion also moved onto lenses and lens making in that era, of which no doubt there will be more news on this blog at a future date…

 

Tours of the Cosmos: From Dante to Dark Matter

The Ordered Universe team tend to find themselves contemplating a dark sky rather than a dark forest and thinking about how the straight paths through the universe were found, rather than the paths through heaven and hell, but this week Ordered Universe team members Giles Gasper and Tom McLeish were Virgil to the audience’s Dante as they led a lunchtime lecture in Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study.

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Report: A Celebration of Robert Grosseteste at Lincoln Cathedral

On the 10th October 2017 Bishop Grosseteste University held its celebration of Robert Grosseteste with its annual public lecture. This year we were delighted to invite Dr Angelo Silvestri from Cardiff University who provided an excellent lecture to an appreciative audience on, ‘From Romanesque darkness to Gothic light: the architectural and artistic role of Lincoln Cathedral in the episcopacies of Alexander of Lincoln, Hugh of Avalon and Robert Grosseteste.’

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Honorary doctorate for Ordered Universe Principal Investigator Dr. Giles Gasper

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Giles Gasper, Principal Investigator of the Ordered Universe Project, has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln for his services to medieval studies in general and for his work on the Ordered Universe Project in particular. The degree will be awarded at a ceremony in Lincoln on July 19th.

19944645_10159090409160464_1539655173337008316_oThose of us who have the privilege to work closely with Dr. Gasper in the Ordered Universe Project, and get to observe and benefit from his scholarship, leadership, and friendship on a regular basis, will know how richly deserved such recognition is. We are very happy to offer out heartfelt congratulations.

New Season, Updates and Events

After the intellectual delights of Porto, we have been busy, variously, on developing the strands of the Durham Grosseteste project. Work on the De luce edition, translation and multi-disciplinary volume is well advanced, and there are other publication projects in the pipe-line, which we’ll post separately on. The main work of the summer has been on the 3D Visualisation project. We now have a draft, a script, voiceovers recorded and arranged from Sally Hodgkiss and Sir Thomas Allen; Nick and Adam have put a huge amount of effort into the 3D rendering, which has been instrumental in evolving a collaborative basis for the film. Continue reading

The Grosseteste Project and being involved as a student

My name is Ulrike, and I just finished the second year of my undergraduate degree in Psychology with Philosophy at Oxford. The first time I heard about the Grosseteste project was at a drinks reception we had with our College tutors. We asked Hannah about the various research strands she is involved in, and it came as a surprise to hear about an interdisciplinary group of scholars and scientists who interpret the scientific writings of a medieval philosopher and theologian. That out of all my tutors, the perception expert would collaborate with experts from the humanities was all the more unexpected, given that perception is probably at the very hardcore science end of the psychology spectrum. I remember asking tentatively what the point of such a joint project would be, (I really hope I found a more subtle way of saying this back then). I don’t trust my memory enough to now quote Hannah’s answer, and I’m sure you are familiar with it anyway. If not, I definitely recommend asking her about it because it was certainly very interesting. Back then, I was definitely very intrigued by this approach of doing both history and science in symbiosis. However, I couldn’t quite picture how this would actually work, and how fruitful the conclusions drawn would be for either field. Continue reading