Upcoming lectures

Explore topics connected with our churches through our free weekly online lecture series

Our lectures are all free to get involved with and we Livestream them via our Facebook page, this allows you to really engage with the talk and to submit your questions live. These lectures are recorded and will be available to watch afterward. Scroll down to find a list of previous lectures. 

These lectures and talks are all completely free of charge for you to watch, enjoy and take part in. If you are enjoying them, please do consider making a donation here of whatever amount you feel comfortable making if you are enjoying these talks. 

In response to the popularity of our lectures, we've launched a special Membership offer just for people who are enjoying our free lectures. If you sign up as a Member by Direct Debit, from as little as just £3.50 a month, we'll send you three, free beautiful guide booklets about three of our churches!

Details of how to become a member, benefits of membership, and how to claim your FREE BOOK can be found here

Upcoming Lecture

Thursday 4th March - TO SHOW THAT THE PLACE IS DIVINE: Consecration Crosses in English Parish Churches with Prof. Andrew Spicer

Consecration crosses can be seen in a number of medieval places of worship, including those belonging to the Churches Conservation Trust. Usually painted on the interior walls of a church, these white discs with a red cross in the centre signified to the congregation that the building was a sacred place, set apart from the rest of the world. Drawing on surviving examples from across the country, this presentation will explore the variety of consecration crosses. It will consider the concepts and rituals that lay behind these markers of holiness and the implications that this had for how medieval churches were regarded and used. The sanctity of places of worship was challenged and rejected during the course of the English Reformation. Amidst the reordering of churches in accordance with the new Protestant aesthetic many consecration crosses, together with wall paintings, disappeared under layers of whitewash. Those that remain serve as a visible reminder of the attitudes and beliefs of patrons, congregations, as well as the ecclesiastical establishment, of the sanctity and significance of these church buildings from time of their foundation.

Andrew Spicer researches the impact of the Reformation on places of worship across early modern Europe with a particular interest in iconoclasm, church architecture, the material culture of worship and liturgical furnishings, as well as rites of consecration and sacred space. He is Professor of Early Modern European History at Oxford Brookes University and his publications include Calvinist Churches in Early Modern Europe (2007) and the edited volumes Lutheran Churches in Early Modern Europe (2012) and Parish Churches in the Early Modern World (2016).

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In this talk we will explore some of the different ways you might come across Vikings while visiting English medieval churches. Today we might think of the Vikings mostly as raiders and pillagers of churches, but the real story is more complex than that: there are also churches across England which were founded by, or in honour of, Viking warriors. We will look at stories of Anglo-Saxon saints who were killed by Vikings, and consider how their dramatic legends have been depicted in church art, from stained-glass windows to wall paintings. However, we’ll also discover the more surprising stories of Vikings who came to be celebrated as saints and martyrs, who also left their mark in England’s medieval churches.

Eleanor Parker is Lecturer in Medieval English Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford, and a regular columnist for History Today. Her book, Dragon Lords: The History and Legends of Viking England (IB Tauris, 2018), explores how the Vikings were remembered in medieval English legend, literature and folklore. https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/dragon-lords-9781350165359/ 

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Thursday 18th March - CURIOSITIES IN CHURCHES AND CHURCHYARDS: Their Bizarre Legends and Weird Folklore

This talk will be a tour of some of the truly bizarre objects found in Britain's churches and churchyards, ranging from pyramid tombs to devils' stones, from the skulls of saints said to have cupped the waters of holy wells to golden orbs set on steeples by occultist aristocrats. Our journey will take in imps frozen in stone by angels, sacred eels, witches' cauldrons, odd epitaphs and evidence of attempts to evade body snatchers. The lecture will also explore the local stories, folkloric motifs and often more sober realities behind these strange items.

David Castleton is the author of 'Church Curiosities: Strange Objects and Bizarre Legends' (published by Shire). He's also a novelist and the winner of the 2019 Go Gothic Short Fiction Prize. On his popular blog 'The Serpent's Pen', he explores the gothic, folklore, fakelore, the obscure and quirky, and the darker reaches of literature and the arts.

You'll be able to purchase David's new book directly from us shortly

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Thursday 25th March - MOST HIGHLY FAVOURED LADY: The Annunciation in the Art of our Medieval Churches

The talk will cover the importance of the date of the Annunciation in the Christian Calendar, the development of devotion to the Mystery of the Annunciation and its expression in the art and imagery of medieval parish churches in England. It will look at the origin of the legends surrounding the early life and the death of the Virgin Mary and how these, too, found visual expression in the devotional imagery once common in our churches. Viewers will learn how St Luke’s account of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary was pictured in medieval art and became a focus for devotion to Mary, as Mother of the Lord, and to the mystery of the Incarnation.
Canon Jeremy Haselock retired in 2017 after eighteen years as Canon Precentor of Norwich Cathedral for the last twelve of which he was also Vice-Dean. He was for ten years a member of the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England, for seven years a member of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England and for a further five years a member of its Liturgical Furnishings Committee. He has served on the Diocesan Advisory Committee of Chichester and Norwich dioceses and remains Stained Glass Advisor to the Norwich DAC. He is a member of the Fabric Advisory Committee of Lincoln Minster. He holds post-graduate degrees in Medieval Art and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He is a Chaplain to Her Majesty The Queen.

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Thursday 1st April - PAINTING THE PASSION WITH PASSION: Giotto and the Easter Story in Padua

Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, painted between 1303 and 1305, constitute one of the most beautiful, most coherent and most complete decorative schemes to have survived the ravages of time, the changes of taste, and the vagaries of flood, fire and other ‘Acts of God’. Telling the stories of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and of Jesus himself, from his birth through to his death and resurrection, all is contained within a framework governed by the Last Judgement and Annunciation, when the Light of the World came into the world. As we reach Easter – and precisely on Maundy Thursday when Christians celebrate the Last Supper and Christ’s washing of the apostles’ feet – we will focus on the frescoes of the Passion, from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection, and go just a little bit beyond, to the Ascension and even Pentecost. Giotto’s storytelling is always compelling, and the paintings profoundly moving – a perfect prelude to the Easter weekend. This lecture is given by Dr Richard Stemp.

Richard graduated from Clare College, Cambridge with a degree in Natural Sciences and the History of Art, and returned to complete a PhD on Sculpture in Ferrara in the Fifteenth Century. After a year at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts he has shared his time between art and acting. He has lectured at the National Gallery for over 25 years, and has also worked on a regular basis at Tates Modern and Britain, the Wallace Collection, Buckingham Palace, and the V&A. As well as lecturing for numerous art societies around Britain, he also teaches on-site across Europe with Art History Abroad. His books include The Secret Language of the Renaissance and Churches and Cathedrals, and he has written and presented two series for Channel Four, Art in the National Gallery and Tate Modern, as well as making guest appearances on programmes as diverse as Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives and CBBC’s X-Change.

Here are links to Richard’s books:

The Secret Language of the Renaissance: Decoding the Hidden Symbolism of Italian Art

The Secret Language Of Churches & Cathedrals

And you might also be interested in his website, which includes an occasional blog, and a diary of other upcoming talks: www.drrichardstemp.com

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Thursday 8th April - DECORATED IN GLORY: Church Building in Herefordshire in the Fourteenth Century

The first half of the fourteenth century witnessed an extraordinary flowering of architecture, art and sculpture in Herefordshire and the central Welsh Marches. Much of Hereford Cathedral was rebuilt in these years, three exceptional parish churches were almost completely rebuilt, and gloriously adorned aisles and side chapels were constructed at the big town churches of Ledbury, Ross-on-Wye and Ludlow. At the same time, the period saw the painting of some brilliant stained glass windows and the commissioning of a number of magnificent tomb monuments. The lecture will explore the social and religious context of this rich cultural achievement, asking who were the patrons of building and what spurred them, how the work was paid for, and why and when it eventually petered out.

Nigel Saul is Emeritus Professor of Medieval History, Royal Holloway, University of London, and author of For Honour and Fame, Chivalry in England, 1066-1500 (Bodley Head, 2011) and The English Gentry and the Parish Church in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 2017).  More recently, he has been drawn into the study of Herefordshire's medieval churches.

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Thursday 15th April - Details coming soon...

Thursday 22nd April - DEFENDER OF THE FAITH? Henry VIII and the Parish Church

What we often refer to as the Reformation actually began far before Henry VIII came into the picture. In 1517, German theologian Martin Luther compiled his Ninety-Five Theses and embarked on a dramatic overhaul of the Catholic Church. But what happened on this side of the Continent? We know that King Henry VIII “broke with Rome”, but do we really understand why? What did Anne Boleyn have to do with it—and, most importantly, how did this all impact religion in England’s 8,000 or so parishes? Was this just a great schism or did Henry’s changes produce ripples of varying depths across the realm? Did devotion simply turn into “Catholicism without the Pope” or was there a far more significant transformation for worshippers? 

In this talk, we will examine just how England was “reformed” by a consideration of various regions in England and how their parishes reacted, and the buildings were impacted, by the changes from above. Were England’s parish churches pawns in this great reformation of the Catholic Church—or was that in fact Henry’s role?

This talk is given by Dr Emma  J. Wells. Dr Emma is an Ecclesiastical and Architectural Historian specialising in the late medieval and reformation parish church/cathedral, the senses, pilgrimage, saints as well as built heritage more generally. She is the Programme Director of the PGDip in Parish Church Studies in partnership with the CCT at the University of York. Her book, Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals, is to be published by Head of Zeus in Autumn 2021.

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Thursday 29th April - EXCAVATING EARLY CHRISTIAN BRITAIN: The Unique and Enigmatical Pillar of Eliseg - A Rare Welsh Survival

Today under Cadw stewardship, the Pillar of Eliseg is a fragment of an early 9th -century cross-shaft set in its original base upon a prehistoric burial mound near the ruins of the later medieval Cistercian house of Valle Crucis, Denbighshire, Wales. The cross-shaft bears a now-eligible Latin inscription commemorating the martial victories of Eliseg of Powys and honouring his legendary ancestors. The inscription states the cross was raised by Elise’s great-grandson Concenn (d. AD 854). What, when, where, how, and why was the Pillar of Eliseg created, by whom? This presentation explores the story of one of Britain’s most important yet enigmatic early medieval monuments, presenting the results of archaeological fieldwork by Bangor and Chester universities (2010–2012) which revealed new insights into the monument’s life-history from prehistory to the present day. The entwined themes of power and faith help us to understand its construction and enduring legacy.

Howard Williams is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Chester and researches public archaeology and archaeologies of death and memory. He writes an academic blog: Archaeodeath. Howard is co-editor of the Offa’s Dyke Journal and former Honorary Editor of the Royal Archaeological Institute’s Archaeological Journal (2012-2017). His recent books include The Public Archaeology of Frontiers and Borderlands (co-edited with Kieran Gleave and Pauline Clarke, Archaeopress, 2020); Digging into the Dark Ages: Early Medieval Public Archaeologies (co-edited with Pauline Clarke, Archaeopress, 2020), Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement (co-edited with Afnan Ezzeldin and Caroline Pudney, Archaeopress, 2019), The Public Archaeology of Death (coedited with Ben Wills-Eve and Jennifer Osborne, Equinox, 2019), Cremation and the Archaeology of Death (co-edited with Jessica Cerezo-Román and Anna Wessman, Oxford University Press, 2017) and Archaeologists and the Dead (co-edited with Melanie Giles, Oxford University Press, 2016). Email: [email protected]

Project Eliseg: https://projecteliseg.wordpress.com/

Archaeodeath: https://projecteliseg.wordpress.com/

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Join us as we explore the history of the interment of kings, queens regnant and lords protector in England – from the Sutton Hoo ship burial in the 7th century down to the burial of the former Edward VIII at Windsor in 1972. This will take us not only to the great royal chapels at Westminster and Windsor, but also to a range of churches, cathedrals and abbeys around the country, some of which are now entirely vanished, and tombs that range from stately monuments to crowded crypts.

Aidan Dodson has taught at University of Bristol since 1996, and has been honorary Professor of Egyptology since 2018. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, he has published extensively on matters-Egyptian, but also has much wider interests in funerary archaeology, and is the author of British Royal Tombs, the second edition of which appeared in 2018.

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The church by law established in England calls itself 'the Church of England', and everyone seems happy with that title. Perhaps, this lecture will suggest, they shouldn't be. The title - and its Latin predecessor, ecclesia Anglicana - is a slippery one, with at least four different meanings, meanings whose ambiguities the Tudors and their successors were able to exploit for their own ends. In the process, this very old title became enmeshed with a new piece of jargon - 'Anglican' - whose meanings were equally slippery. This lecture will retrace this linguistic sleight of hand and argue that, if we see that tangled origins and shifting meanings of these terms more clear, it gives us a fresh perspective on the established Church's ongoing identity crises.

Alec Ryrie FBA is Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University, Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, London, co-editor of the Journal of Ecclesiastical History and president of the Ecclesiastical History Society. He is a historian of the English Reformation and of the wider Protestant tradition, and his books include Being Protestant in Reformation Britain (2013), Protestants (2017), Unbelievers (2019) and The English Reformation (2020). He is also a Reader in the Church of England, serving in the diocese of Newcastle.

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Thursday 20th May - DETAILS COMING SOON

Thursday 27th May - CLOISTERS: Remarkable Cathedral Survivors - our one-year weekly #LunchtimeLecture anniversary 

Medieval cloisters, originally spaces linking monastic buildings, are miraculous survivors of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. English cathedral communities recognised the practicalities of cloisters and experimented with cutting-edge architecture to build, improve and embellish them. The result is that England’s Cathedral cloisters are some of the most extraordinarily beautiful spaces in the world. This talk explores the 20 or so medieval cathedral cloisters in England, with spectacular photos and encourages audiences to venture beyond the nave when they next visit a cathedral.

Janet Gough read History and history of art at Cambridge and worked in the City and then for Sotheby’s auction house for ten years.  Janet was a trustee of the Churches Conservation Trust between 1998 and 2005 and strove to ensure its glorious churches and their treasures become better known.  She then went on to become Director of cathedrals and church buildings for the Church of England and she continues to champion historic churches. She was awarded an OBE for services to heritage in 2017.

Janet has published a book called Cathedrals of The Church of England which you will be able to purchase shortly on our website. 

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Thursday 3rd June - FULL CIRCLE - LIVERPOOL METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL: History and Conservation

This talk will look at the history and recent conservation work on one of the countries most well-known and divisive Post-War buildings. It’s distinctive shape and vast, circular nave make it unique in European architecture, but it has had significant and long-standing issues, some of which Purcell have tried to address through their recent Getty-funded projects. From the competition to design a new cathedral, its’ rapid construction in 1967, to now, this talk will look at the care now being taken to conserve one of the most iconic Post-War churches in the world.

Jon Wright is a Heritage Consultant with Purcell Architects, specialising in the architectural history of and conservation practices for, buildings of the twentieth century. A former case officer for the Twentieth Century Society and now a member of the Working Party for the UK chapter of DOCOMOMO, Jon has worked on some of the country's best-known modern buildings and fought for the survival of some of the most contentious of the Post-War period.

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