Rocks as relics and rarities

24 November 2015, 6.00 PM - 24 November 2015, 7.00 PM

Dr Lucy Donkin, University of Bristol

Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ

Whether stones from the Holy Land encased in jewelled reliquaries or geological specimens arranged in miniature landscapes and cabinets of curiosity, un-worked rocks have long been incorporated into works of art. The imagination has also found in nature images to rival those of human craftsmanship, and even interpreted antiquities as deriving from natural processes. Not only have patterned stones been seen to contain imprints of holy figures and skylines of ruined cities, but fossils and engraved gems were understood to be generated within the rock. The lecture will explore these encounters between the creativity of the artist and that of the natural world with reference to cultures of collecting and the relationship between art, religion, and natural history in the Middle Ages and Early Modernity.

Lucy Donkin lectures in History and History of Art at the University of Bristol. Her research is concerned with perceptions of place during the Middle Ages, with particular reference to Italy and the Mediterranean. Her published work so far has focused on sacred space, especially the creation, use and decoration of holy ground, and includes the co-edited volume Imagining Jerusalem in the Medieval West (2012). She is currently working on a new research project on the portability of place, exploring the spiritual and political connotations of moving earth to and from Rome.


This lecture is free to attend and open to all.  Book online.

Other lectures in the Autumn Art Lecture Series: The Art of Nature

Contact information

This series is being organised by Public and Ceremonial Events in association with the University of Bristol Inside Arts Festival.

For general enquiries about the University of Bristol’s Autumn Art Lectures, please contact Public and Ceremonial Events on, +44(0)117 928 8515. If you require additional support at any of these events, e.g. wheelchair access or sign language interpretation, please contact Public and Ceremonial Events at the earliest opportunity and we will endeavour to meet your requirements.

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