Each talk is well supported with a digital presentation and lasts for approximately 50 minutes followed by questions.
The subjects cover national and local history.

THE ARTS SOCIETY LECTURES AND STUDY DAYS
EXETER CATHEDRAL : A PORTRAIT IN DECORATED GOTHIC
Described as England's most beautiful Decorated Gothic cathedral by English Heritage, Exeter Cathedral is indeed a striking example of this style of Gothic architecture. Imposing Norman towers flank a massive fourteenth century nave with the longest unbroken rib-vaulted ceiling of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. In terms of aesthetics, acoustics and engineering it marks a high point in medieval cathedral building.

Decorated Gothic, covering the period from approximately 1250 to 1380, sees an abundance of naturalistic carving, and is rich in gilt, paint, marble, alabaster, brass and Purbeck stone. At the same time, larger windows with elaborate tracery let light flood into the building.

The aim of the lecture is twofold: firstly, to illustrate the defining features of Decorated Gothic at Exeter; secondly, to look more closely at the cathedral as a product of its own time, revealing insights into the spirit of the age of the great cathedrals.


A PHOTOGRAPHIC ODYSSEY : SHACKLETON'S ENDURANCE EXPEDITION CAPTURED ON CAMERA
Ernest Shackleton is one of the great figures of Antarctic exploration. On his third expedition in 1914, Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was trapped and eventually crushed in the pack ice. After camping for five months on the ice, Shackleton’s men rowed to the remote Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton sailed for help to South Georgia over 800 miles away. Over three months later he returned to rescue the crew of the Endurance.

Frank Hurley, one of the great photographers of the 20th century, was the expedition’s official photographer – a pioneer in the emerging world of photojournalism. His photographs are a visual narrative of an epic journey which capture with great artistry new and amazing landscapes within which a remarkable human drama is played out.

The aim of the lecture is to capture Hurley’s achievements as a photographer of the Antarctic in the first flush of human contact when it was still essentially terra incognita.


'TOUCHING THE SUBLIME' : ENGLISH ROMANESQUE & GOTHIC ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS
Like roof bosses high above cathedral naves which escaped the iconoclasm of the Reformation, illuminated manuscripts provide direct contact with one of the great expressions of medieval English art. Following a brief look at Anglo-Saxon illumination (e.g. Lindisfarne Gospels) the lecture will concentrate on Romanesque art with reference to the York Psalter and the Great Bibles of Bury, Dover Lambeth and Winchester. It will then move on to the Golden Age of Gothic illumination with reference to the Sherborne Missal, Luttrell Psalter, Bedford Hours, among others.
The aim of this lecture is to place this art form in context and give an indication of the nature and scale of an astonishing artistic achievement.


'A MOUND OF TREASURES FROM FAR COUNTRIES WAS FETCHED ABOARD HER' : THE STORY OF THE SUTTON HOO SHIP BURIAL
In the early seventh century a great ship was dragged ashore from the River Deben in Suffolk. It became the burial place of a powerful Anglo-Saxon warlord who was indeed buried with a mound of treasures from all over the known world. Fine weaponry, gold coins and exquisitely crafted jewellery revealed levels of sophistication in the culture of early Anglo-Saxon England which were a revelation.

The aim of the lecture is to examine the finds in turn, partly to appreciate them in their own right and partly to explore what insights they offer and what questions they pose about their world.


THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY : AN EMBROIDERED TALE.....
The Bayeux Tapestry, “one of the most enchanting pieces of narrative art in existence” (Talbot Rice) is a unique and magnificent survival from a time when wall-hangings of all kinds were common among the wealthy and powerful. Like a Viking Saga, it narrates the heroic tale of William’s invasion and battle at Hastings in graphic detail, real energy and on a grand scale.

The aim of the lecture is twofold: firstly, to demonstrate the artistic achievement of a magnificent work of art and secondly, to place it in the context of its time – who created it? How and where was it created? Who commissioned it and why?


MUSIC, MASONRY AND MANUSCRIPTS : AN INSPIRATIONAL JOURNEY THROUGH MEDIEVAL ENGLAND
The music, architecture and manuscript illumination of medieval England are among the greatest achievements of any period of English cultural history.

The aim of the lecture is to open a window onto this remarkable world to capture something of the essence of its religious and secular music, its Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals and its equally rich span of manuscript illumination, both sacred and profane. Essentially inspirational and aspirational, these are forms of artistic endeavour which can touch the sublime.


ANGELS FROM THE REALMS OF GLORY : THE WILTON DIPTYCH AND THE ROOF OF WESTMINSTER HALL
The Wilton Diptych is one of the most beautiful yet enigmatic paintings ever made and the hammer-beam angel roof of Westminster Hall has been described by the architectural historian John Harvey, as 'the most outstanding individual work in the whole history of English art'.

Both appear in the last decade of Richard II's turbulent reign and they represent the high watermark of a period rich in artistic achievement. This lecture will focus on these two works of art but will also include other examples of art and architecture from late medieval England


PORTRAITS IN STONE : THE GREAT CATHEDRALS OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND
Over a period of five hundred years the great cathedrals of England were built. In terms of resources applied, space covered, design and craftsmanship employed, the period remains the greatest single architectural achievement in English history. From Durham to Gloucester the lecture follows the evolution of cathedral building with reference to structural and aesthetic details together with some of the fascinating figures and events behind them - portraits in stone as rich as a great East Window.


THE CULT OF GLORIANA : ART, MUSIC AND PERSONALITY AT THE COURT OF THE VIRGIN QUEEN
Elizabeth I was the most remarkable woman of a remarkable age. Her reign was one one of the great creative periods of English history - literature, music, art, architecture and overseas exploration all reached unprecedented heights. With passing reference to literature and architecture, this lecture will focus chiefly on the portraits, miniatures and music of Elizabeth's court. The aim is to demonstrate great levels of artistic achievement and to recreate something of the energy, spirit, and confidence of this Golden Age.


BUCKFAST ABBEY : THE REBUILDING OF A MEDIEVAL MONASTERY
Buckfast Abbey is a unique example of a medieval monastery beautifully rebuilt to its original design and use. Nearly four centuries after its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539, the Abbey was rebuilt by a small group of dedicated monks in a project lasting just over 30 years. Using archive photographs from the 1880's to the late 1930's, this lecture will tell the story of Abbot Vonier's great vision and how against the odds this was realised in stone.