Medieval Masterpieces

Paul Crossley and I were promoted Professor of the History of Art in October 2002. Between that date and February 2006 we had, you may imagine, plenty of time to contemplate our inaugural lectures. What to say? How to say it? Because we were scheduled to speak in a series ‘Distinguished Teachers’ we decided to introduce one another’s lectures. Whatever the audience might have anticipated, it was this decision that set the tone, because how else could one introduce the undisputed master of the hyperbolic introduction (Paul, who spoke first) except by giving him a taste of his own medicine, in part in jest, in part in all sincerity, and always confident in the knowledge that no introduction could upstage the lecture that was to come. Paul’s inaugural, ‘The Integrated Cathedral: Thoughts on ‘Holism’ and Gothic Architecture’ was indeed the anticipated triumph, and rapturously received. But then there were two weeks to contemplate how he (and I – ‘Towards an understanding of the Bibles moralisées’) would respond to the challenge, and the air of expectation was palpable. I escaped Paul’s introduction (relatively) lightly (I think), and turned with relief to my first slides: the aircraft my father was flying on the day I was born and his pilot’s logbook recording the event. Because our lectures were paired we had the opportunity not just to demonstrate, but also to talk about fundamental differences of method in the study of the Middle Ages. The experience was a hugely positive and enjoyable one and the lecture theatre was crowded with enthusiastic supporters for both events. Many kind words were spoken afterwards.

Prof. John Lowden