Towards an Art History of the Parish Church, 1200–1399

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Forthcoming November 2021, Edited by Meg Bernstein

Estimated at numbering between eight and nine thousand, parish churches containing at least some medieval building fabric are ubiquitous in the English landscape. Yet, despite their quotidian familiarity, parish churches have not, by and large, been treated consistently or systematically as deserving of the attention of art historical study.

This collection of essays comes out of a conference held at the Courtauld Institute of Art in June 2017 and focuses on the two centuries between 1200 and 1399. This period represents the most notable lacuna in scholarship, even though the parish church was fully solidified as an administrative category and arguably as a building type. Compared with the smaller corpus of the Romanesque period or the late medieval church after 1400, which draws on greater availability of documentary evidence in the form of churchwarden accounts, these two centuries have been historically understudied.

The ten diverse essays contained within this volume explore the art and architecture of parish churches through a variety of lenses, methodologies, and perspectives, ranging from (re)considerations of the very definition of the parish church to phenomenological explorations of their component parts, as well as case studies of their decorative schemes. An Afterword by Paul Binski reflects upon his 1999 essay, ‘The English Parish Church and its Art in the Later Middle Ages: A Review of the Problem’ and considers the place of anthropology in our developed study of the parish church.

Edited by Meg Bernstein


Meg Bernstein
Paul Binski
Andrew Budge
Lyle Dechant
Catherine E. Hundley
Nicola Lowe
Helen Lunnon
Julian Luxford
John McNeill
Tom Nickson
Zachary Stewart