Online talks and lectures

Explore topics connected with our churches through our 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.

Upcoming Lectures

Thursday 30th July at 1pm - Matilda of Canossa and the Conservation of Ancient Churches

The medieval countess Matilda of Canossa (1046-1115) left a cultural legacy at her death that includes many of the monuments listed by UNESCO as among the heritage of our world.  These include cathedrals at the center of Florence, Ferrara, Lucca, Mantua, Modena, Pisa, and Volterra.  Known in Italy as the Gran Contessa, her memory is preserved in medieval structures throughout her ancestral lands that stretched from the foothills of the Alps to the northern border of Rome.  Matilda’s name is etched in history because the historic humiliation of the German King Henry IV before Pope Gregory VII occurred at her castle of Canossa.   She did more than make lunch, however.  Her building program supported the policies enunciated by her political ally, Pope Gregory VII, to renew the ancient roots of the Christian Roman Empire.   Matilda’s alliance with papal Rome broke Germany’s feudal hold over northern Italy.  At her death, the history of the free Italian communes begins. 

This lecture will offer highlights of Matilda’s life through images of buildings she built or conserved, along with suggested itineraries for travelers.  

Michèle K. Spike has written and lectured widely on the life and times of Matilda of Canossa including a biography published in English in 2004, Tuscan Countess: The Life and Extraordinary Times of Matilda of Canossa (The Vendome Press, New York, 2004), and in Italian in 2007, Matilda di Canossa: Vita di una donna che trasformò la storia (Aliberti, Reggio nell’Emilia). 

The year 2015 marked the 900th anniversary of the death of the Countess Matilda.  To commemorate that milestone, Spike curated two exhibitions: Matilda of Canossa and the Origins of the Renaissance (February – April 2015), for The Muscarelle Museum of Art, Williamsburg, Virginia, and Matilda di Canossa (1046-1115): La donna che mutò il corso della storia / Matilda of Canossa (1046-1115): The Woman who Changed the Course of History (June – October, 2016) for the Casa Buonarroti in Florence, Italy.   As part of the 900th anniversary events, Spike also published An Illustrated Guide to the ‘One Hundred Churches’ of Matilda of Canossa, Countess of Tuscany (Centro Di, Florence, 2015).

Michèle K. Spike is a member of the Bar of the State of New York and, since 2012, taught as an adjunct professor at the Marshall Wythe School of Law at The College of William & Mary.  Since 1989, Michele and her husband, art historian John T. Spike, have divided their time between the United States and Florence, Italy. 

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Thursday 6th August at 1pm - Stained Glass in the English Parish Church – through the ages - Part One with Dr Jasmine Allen, Curator, The Stained Glass Museum

This talk, in two parts, will draw attention to the enormously diverse collection of stained glass windows to be found in the English parish church, from the medieval to modern era. By looking at a number of windows both in situ and ex situ we will explore the history, stylistic and technical development of this art form in the context of the parish church, uncovering a rich artistic and social heritage. 

Part 1 explores the earliest stained glass to be found in England up to the Reformation era, revealing the evolving use of stained glass in gothic architecture and its role within the medieval church and society. 

Jasmine Allen is Director of The Stained Glass Museum (charity no. 1169842), the only museum dedicated to stained glass in the UK, which is located in Ely Cathedral. She studied at the University of York and has published on the exhibition of stained glass in the nineteenth century. She is also a committee member of the Glaziers’ Trust, Stained Glass Repository, and British Corpus Vitrearum. In her spare time she enjoys walking her border terrier ‘Bramble’ and during lockdown has taken up home brewing, playing darts in the garden shed and learning how to use a sewing machine!

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Thursday 13th August at 1pm - Stained Glass in the English Parish Church – through the ages - Part Two with Dr Jasmine Allen, Curator, The Stained Glass Museum

This talk, in two parts, will draw attention to the enormously diverse collection of stained glass windows to be found in the English parish church, from the medieval to modern era. By looking at a number of windows both in situ and ex situ we will explore the history, stylistic and technical development of this art form in the context of the parish church, uncovering a rich artistic and social heritage. 

Part 2 looks at the Post-Reformation to the contemporary period, exploring the changes brought about during the Civil Wars and the subsequent restoration and revival of the 18th and 19th centuries, and modern renewal and approaches during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Jasmine Allen is Director of The Stained Glass Museum (charity no. 1169842), the only museum dedicated to stained glass in the UK, which is located in Ely Cathedral. She studied at the University of York and has published on the exhibition of stained glass in the nineteenth century. She is also a committee member of the Glaziers’ Trust, Stained Glass Repository, and British Corpus Vitrearum. In her spare time she enjoys walking her border terrier ‘Bramble’ and during lockdown has taken up home brewing, playing darts in the garden shed and learning how to use a sewing machine!

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Thursday 20th August at 1pm - Death and the Maiden: Exploring Erotic Death Art, and the Gender of Death

In this second talk given by Dr Christina Welch, we will explore the 'erotic' proto- and Reformation-era Death and the Maiden artworks produced by the artists known as the Little Masters. It will set these in their historical context and consider how they relate to the perceived gender of Death as male in this socio-religious context.

This talk is given by Dr Christina Welch, Senior Fellow in the Department of Theology, Religion and Philosophy at The University of Winchester. Dr Christina is a leading authority on late medieval carved cadavers, she recently developed a dedicated website exploring those found in England, Wales and Scotland dating from c. 1425 to 1558, as well as carved cadavers found in Ireland. Find out more about late medieval carved cadavers. Dr Christina is also the Programme Leader for the MA in Death, Religion and Culture at The University of Winchester. 

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Previous Lectures

Our lectures are all free to watch and enjoy, we even record them for you to enjoy at a future date or if you can't join us live. Do consider making a donation here of whatever amount you feel comfortable making if you are enjoying these talks.

Friday 29th May at 1pm - Oak Apple Day - Celebrating the only Saint to have been canonised by The Church of England

Do you know much about Oak Apple Day which takes place on 29th May each year? Did you know that King Charles I is a saint? Through this fascinating talk, explore the history of the day along with why King Charles the Martyr is regarded as such and what he did to earn this title.

This talk will is given by Fr Charles Card-Reynolds, Chaplain to The Society of King Charles the Martry and Parish Priest at St Bartholomew's on Stamford Hill

Watch the talk here

Thursday 4th June at 1pm - Did Henry VIII really “break” the Church? 

When we think of the pre-Reformation parish church, prior to King Henry VIII’s supposed “stripping of the altars”, the image conjured is often of an arena of visual delights; filled to the brim with all the smells and bells of traditional Catholicism—a highly sensory type of worship that offered attractions to the eyes and ears, above all. This stands in sharp contrast to the often austere, suppressed perspective of sixteenth-century Protestantism, with its focus on the Word of God through text, prayer-books, and vernacular scripture. We tend to think of the post-Reformation parish church as an austere devotional environment, devoid of the images, relics, incense, music, vestments, tastes, and textures of late-medieval religion. But, how true is this picture? And was Henry VIII, who we love to blame for the changing of our church in the sixteenth century, really the perpetrator? This lecture will unravel the reality of his role—and who might actually be responsible.

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.

Watch the lecture here

Thursday 11th June, 1pm - Images on the Edge - churches, manuscripts, and the world of Chaucer's Japes

Medieval England was famous for its marginal art - bizarre, funny and playful images crowd the borders of illuminated manuscripts and peek out at us in parish churches.  But what were they for?  Did they have deeper political meanings or were they there to amuse?

This talk is given by Professor Paul Binski FBA. He is Professor of the History of Medieval Art at Cambridge University. He has written and lectured extensively on the art and architecture of Western Europe in the Gothic period. After achieving his PhD in History of Art from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1984, he stayed on as a Research fellow until 1987. He has since taught at Princeton, Yale, Manchester, but returned to a post at Cambridge in 1995.

His publications include Gothic Wonder: Art, Artifice and the Decorated Style 1290-1350 (2014), which won 2016 the Historians of British Art Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period before 1800; and Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (1995) which won the Longman-History Today Award.

He is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Society of Antiquaries, and of Caius College, Cambridge. He gave the Paul Mellon Lectures, 2002-2003, at the National Gallery, London and Yale University. He was Associate Editor of the periodical Art History, 1992-1997, and is presently serving as a Foreign Advisor for the International Center of Medieval Art, The Cloisters, New York. An enthusiastic musician, organist and harpsichordist, in his spare he chairs a charity devoted to propagating performance knowledge of organ music, the Cambridge Academy of Organ Studies.

Watch the lecture here

Thursday 18th June at 1pm - Contextualising Carved Cadaver Memorials in England

This talk explores the carved cadaver memorials in England. It places them in their theological and vernacular religious context, as well as providing a little information on where they sit in relation to images of the dead in medieval culture, and their connection to the body. It also touches on how they may have been sculpted. A few of the examples will be explored in some detail and the two at Winchester Cathedral will conclude the talk. There'll be lots of images and the talk will take an inter-disciplinary approach to a very unusual form of English mortuary art.

This talk is given by Dr Christina Welch, Senior Fellow in the Department of Theology, Religion and Philosophy at The University of Winchester. Dr Christina is a leading authority on late medieval carved cadavers, she recently developed a dedicated website exploring those found in England, Wales and Scotland dating from c. 1425 to 1558, as well as carved cadavers found in Ireland. Find out more about late medieval carved cadavers. Dr Christina is also the Programme Leader for the MA in Death, Religion and Culture at The University of Winchester. 

Watch the lecture here

Thursday 25th June at 1pm - Uncommon Prayer - The Tudor Chapel Royal and the High Church tradition

In the 16th century, the Chapel Royal was both at the heart of the Ecclesiastical Establishment as the personal chapel of the Supreme Governor, but at the same time very much outside it, even for a time, maintaining, along with the Royal Colleges of Westminster and Windsor, a form of liturgy that appealed to foreign dignitaries and appalled native puritans in equal measure. This became increasingly important as, under the new Scottish monarch of the joint kingdoms, the Chapel’s influence broadened beyond that of the Court, to the national church, providing a gold standard for how reformed catholic worship ought to be. Despite its huge influence, the Chapel Royal remains something of an enigmatic institution which deserves to be better understood. Canon Anthony Howe, who as one of the Chaplains is a member of the current Chapel Royal will introduce some of the paradoxes that have been part of its life since the reformation, and how it played such a huge part in what became the great religious debate that divided the nations to the point of Civil War.

The Revd Canon Anthony Howe was born in Suffolk and educated in Ipswich, at the same school as Thomas Wolsey. He graduated in Music at The Queen’s College, Oxford before being ordained. Prior to becoming Chaplain in September 2015, he served curacies in Newbury and Barnsley and was for nine years the Vicar of Staincliffe in West Yorkshire. As Chaplain of Hampton Court Palace’s Chapel Royal he is responsible for serving HM The Queen in the Chapels Royal, alongside undertaking services for residents and staff of the palace. His ministry will also extend to palace visitors and regular worshipers.

Watch the lecture here

Thursday 2nd July at 1pm - The Business of Saints

Give me my scallop-shell of quiet, My staff of faith…My scrip of joy…And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

These lines used by John Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress, reveal, quite clearly, the importance of pilgrimage and journeying to visit the relics of saints throughout history. Affecting all walks of life from the lowly peasant to gregarious monarch, these were not only arduous journeys but metaphors for the progress of life from birth to death and from earth to heaven. In this talk, we will discover how the saints came to be such an important aspect of the parish church—and thus how pilgrims and their peregrinations impacted the buildings’ development and evolution over time.

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.

Watch the lecture here

Thursday 9th July at 1pm - Martin Travers and Back to Baroque

Martin Travers (1886-1948) was one of the leading church furnishers and stained glass artists of his generation.

His personal life was complicated but he managed to attract a primarily Anglo-Catholic clientele, particularly in the years after the First World War (when church furnishers were busy as never before or since) even though he was married to a divorcée and had lost his faith (or most of it) during the First World War. He also designed a very large number of memorials to those lost during the War when he himself had been a conscientious objector.

As time went on, his work broadened and the Back to Baroque Movement, which had begun about 1911 as an attempt to make the Church of England look less Anglican and more like the Counter-Reformation, ran its course. Perhaps because of his personal life and his association with Anglican Papalists, he did not receive the prestigious commissions which his talent merited. Then, shortly before his death he was commissioned by HM the Queen to design an altar set for Jersey to commemorate its liberation. He was also asked to prepare a scheme for the enormous east window in the lady chapel of Ely Cathedral, but his design, which would have crowned his career, was shamefully rejected.

Michael Yelton, until he retired earlier this year, was a Circuit Judge in East Anglia. Prior to taking up that appointment he was in practice at the Bar for 25 years and also taught law for some time at Corpus Christi College. He has written extensively on modern Anglo-Catholic history and architecture and on other subjects and organises the Anglo-Catholic History Society’s publication programme and its trips and walks to places of interest. He has visited virtually every piece of work by Travers in this country and some of the few abroad. He has written a comprehensive book on him, entitled Martin Travers: His Life and Work, which was published by Spire Books in 2016.

Watch the lecture here

Thursday 16th July at 1pm - The Ringing Isle: An introduction to bells in Britain

An introductory canter across the centuries, exploring aspects of church bells and bellringing? How did Britain come to have ‘bells so many and so tuneable’ (Thomas Fuller, 1640)? What purposes did they serve? What powers were they believed to have? And how are they faring today? 

Gareth Davies is a postgraduate researcher in history at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. He is currently completing a thesis on the ‘business of bellringing’ - exploring the relative importance of profit and pleasure to ringers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He has been a bellringer himself for over forty years, and his nearest church with bells is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. He currently serves as a member of the History and Archives group on the Central Council of Church Bellringers.

Watch the lecture here

Thursday 23rd July at 1pm - Uncovering the Parish Church’s Naughty Bits

Gazing at the inside or outside of an historic church, your eyes are likely to encounter strange beasts, frolicking figures and twisted foliage staring back at you from doorways, windows, friezes, corbel tables, roof bosses and stained glass – although plenty are just hidden enough to fool the eye. What are these strange images? Hidden messages and tongue-in-cheek depictions were actually widespread throughout medieval churches. Was the period simply rife with satire or did these etchings and carvings hold deeper meanings? Here, we will explore some of the most curious examples.

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.

Watch the lecture here