How the Anglo-Saxons made sense of the natural world
Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Communities and also in Education
The strategies used by our Anglo-Saxon forebears to visualise the world that lay beyond ordinary vision will be explored in this year’s Brixworth Lecture, ‘Visualising Time and Nature in Anglo-Saxon England’.
The illustrated free public lecture, organised by the University of Leicester’s Medieval Research Centre, will be given on Saturday 27 October at 5pm in the church of All Saints, Brixworth (Northants) by Professor Faith Wallis, one of the foremost scholars of early medieval science. She is currently Associate Professor in the Department of History and the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University, Canada, and her visit to Leicester has been sponsored by the Wellcome Trust.
Cædmon was an illiterate, Anglo-Saxon cow-herd with an exceptional gift for poetry. In the early eighth century Bede, England’s first polymath, recorded Cædmon’s Old English poetry that was full of domestic analogies to describe the wonders of the world that he knew.
Cædmon visualized the heavens as a roof. Bede explained Earth’s climatic zones by imagining a group of men sitting around an open-air fire-pit. Byrhtferth of Ramsey compared the study of time-reckoning to sailing an unfathomable ocean while glimpsing lofty mountains from afar. For the Anglo-Saxons, cosmos and time could be seen with the mind’s eye, through concrete forms and formulations.
Professor Jo Story, Director of the Medieval Research Centre, said, “The Brixworth Lecture is now an established fixture in the academic calendar nationwide, and we’re delighted to welcome Professor Wallis to Leicester for this, the thirtieth in the series. Her expertise on the history of science throughout the middle ages, resonates with the aims of Leicester’s interdisciplinary Medieval Research Centre and with the new Centre for Medical Humanities to provide a world class forum for scholarship.”
The church of All Saints’ at Brixworth, Northants is one of the oldest in the country; the current building was made during the Anglo-Saxon period, and dates from the late eighth or early ninth century (c. AD 800). A long-term study of the Anglo-Saxon building, led by Dr David Parsons, University Fellow and Emeritus Reader, is at press and will be published in 2013.
For more information about the Brixworth Lectures please contact Professor Jo Story:
T: 0116 252 2803