Skip to main content
The Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English

QMCRLE Seminar Series 2021-22

All seminars take place on Thursdays evenings from 5 – 7pm online via Zoom. Meeting links will be sent on registration.

 Our programme for Autumn/Winter 2021-22 focusses on religious environments in early modern cities. Papers will investigate church building and decoration, processes for authorising religious worship, lay involvement in urban religious life and diverse methodologies for researching religion in the city (including archival research, book history and locative apps). 

Thursday 11 November 2021: Religious Architecture & Visual Culture after the Fire of 1666
speakers: Matthew Walker (QMUL) and Mark Kirby (Oxford). Register here

Thursday 9 December 2021: Ways of Knowing Religious Sites in Early Modern Cities
speakers: Kathleen Lynch (Folger Shakespeare Library) and Fabrizio Nevola (Exeter). Register here


11 November 2021: Religious Architecture & Visual Culture after the Fire of 1666

Matthew Walker (QMUL), ‘Rethinking Nicholas Hawksmoor’s London Churches: Antiquity, Nature, and the Architecture of Eighteenth-Century Anglicanism’

In this paper I will rethink the designs of the six famously striking churches that Nicholas Hawksmoor designed for the New Churches Commission in London beginning in 1715. Although it has been recognised in the past that some of the churches – especially Christ Church Spitalfields – might represent some form of response to the growing non-Anglican protestant communities of London (the Huguenots specifically), the implications of implementing a specifically Anglican program of church design in London has not been fully thought through by architectural historians. Here I will argue that Hawksmoor used numerous references to antiquity in the churches as a way of indirectly referencing nature and, therefore, using the buildings to remind worshippers that Anglicanism was, in the face of the rise of Calvinism in the city, the truest form of Christianity, and the one closest to God’s design. The paper will ultimately show that architectural design was a crucial front in the wider theological conflict between London’s religious communities in the first half of the eighteenth century.

Matthew Walker is a historian of seventeenth and eighteenth-century British architecture and Lecturer in History at Queen Mary University of London. He is the author of Architects and Intellectual Culture in Post-Restoration England, (Oxford University Press, 2017).


Mark Kirby (Oxford), ‘Furnishing Sir Christopher Wren's churches: people and place’

When the churches of the City of London were rebuilt after the Great Fire, parishes were given little input to the design of their buildings. Furnishing them was another matter. Quite apart from the quality of much of what was made, and the iconographical sophistication of the reredos, pulpit and other furnishings, the furnishing exercise itself reveals an Anglican ecosystem at work. Parish patrons, bishops, clergy, vestrymen, benefactors, and parishioners all played a role in making the new churches what they were. In this paper, Mark Kirby looks at how these people operated, and the decisions they made in furnishing their churches. Particularly striking is the way in which parish committees of (mostly) laymen were able to decide upon and commission carved work which presented complex theological and ecclesial messages.

Mark Kirby is Child Shuffrey Fellow in Architectural History at Lincoln College, University of Oxford, where he is currently writing the architectural history of the College’s early seventeenth-century chapel. He is also Chairman of Council of the Ecclesiological Society, and a member of the Fabric Advisory Committee of St Paul’s Cathedral. 



9 December 2021: Ways of Knowing Religious Sites in Early Modern Cities

Kathleen Lynch (Folger Shakespeare Library), ‘“Till a more convenient place can be found”: Licensing non-conformity in 1672 London’
Following King Charles’s Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, a procedure was quickly stood up to create and distribute licenses for congregational worship outside the established church. This short-lived process was abruptly stopped when Parliament forced Charles to withdraw the indulgence the following year. The repurposing, new building, and commissioning of spaces for nonconformist worship neither began nor ended with the licensing. But the process of application enabled a rethinking of the place of churches in the symbolic logic of the city, and this fostered and formalised new patterns of sociability and community.

Issues of safety from obstruction, harassment, bodily harm, and arrest were considered in the selection of sites as were the juxtaposed layers of jurisdictions—ecclesiastical and civic and national—in the London metropolis. The documents provide evidence, not available in the built environment, of the ways place was described—variously locationally, directionally, or relationally. These documents illuminate the processes by which people came to know their city and the place of belief differently in an emerging multi-confessional environment.

Kathleen Lynch is Executive Director of the Folger Institute and author of Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth-Century Anglophone World (Oxford UP, 2012) which was awarded the triennial Richard L. Greaves prize by the International John Bunyan Society.

Fabrizio Nevola, ‘Hidden Cities: Early Modern Urban Space, Locative Apps and Public History’   
The Hidden Cities apps grew out of an initial case example of Renaissance Florence (2014) to a further five early modern European cities (2020). The talk outlines the development of the methodologies applied to creating these apps, considering both their potential to shape new research questions and their more obvious public engagement potential. Apps are a little-explored medium for research and communication of place-based academic research, offering real opportunities to shape innovative interpretation for contributors, while providing a novel way to consume research for end users. Using examples from Hidden Exeter and Hidden Florence, the talk considers how the medium structures new methodologies for site-based historical research. In doing so it proposes how the Hidden Cities format might be extended through future collaborations and wider adoption in educational settings.

If audience members have time they may like to try the free apps, available for Android and iOS devices. Links from these project websites:
If you tweet consider using linking to @HiddenFlorence and @HiddenCitiesEU. A book with a surprisingly similar title (!) to this talk is published in January 2022 by Routledge

Fabrizio Nevola is Professor in Art History at the University of Exeter. Street Life in Renaissance Italy was published by  Yale University Press in 2020 and he works and has published on the ritual use of public space, urban identity, the representation and perception of community groups within cities, as well as the relations between commercial and residential spaces in Early Modern Italy.