The sacred landscapes of medieval monasteries: an inter-disciplinary study of meaning embedded in space and production

The Sacred Landscapes Project is examining the concept of social and perceptual meanings which have cohered around the places created for religious and sacred periods and the world they inhabited over long periods of time.

Its chosen methodologies begin with the reconstruction of past landscapes at key temporal points to plot the dynamics of physical change and the development of human practice within them. This is being done for three specific landscapes associated with Cistercian and other medieval monasteries: Strata Florida and Abbey Cwm-hir in central Wales; and seven monasteries along the western edge of the Lincolnshire Limewoods.

Principal Investigator David Austin introduces the project in this short video

The objective is to make comparison between lowland and highland landscapes, between pre-state and state polities and their institutions, and between English and Welsh perceptions in the context of colonialization and European superstructures. The purpose will be to explore differences in landscape perception and use beyond the simply economic and into long-term embedded understandings of land and its role in identity and self-worth.

The project is also working in an inter-disciplinary way with historians and literature scholars to explore how the meaning of landscape and environment is revealed within contemporary poetry and its frameworks of imagery and within historical narratives and attitudes. The Strata Florida and Lincolnshire projects have been working for over 20 years gathering data and working on the key sites and the present programme is allowing us to build on solid foundations with major publications well underway.

The Strata Florida project in particular is linked with the Strata Florida Trust established to develop a collection of listed buildings into a Centre for community, visitors, education and other economic activity using the narratives generated in this programme. Both Abbey Cwm-hir and the Lincolnshire work closely with community organisations in the heritage and historical fields.

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