United Kingdom

St Peter Hungate, Bury St Edmunds.

In the United Kingdom HERILIGION will focus on the heritagisation of religious buildings. We examine how the religious past of these buildings continues to inform their uses in a post-secular age. Religious buildings such as cathedrals, abbeys and parish churches have long been the subject of antiquarian interest. The United Kingdom is known for the preservation and conservation of its monuments with public money, but these funds are under considerable pressure and religious buildings are therefore increasingly asked to demonstrate secular use. This project therefore examines how, both historically and today, conservation policies engage with the ‘sacred remains’ of these buildings. What role does the sacred play in how their users determine what is a correct heritage interpretation, a proper conservation policy, and an appropriate secular use? How is the tension between the sacred and the secular negotiated in secular heritage regimes?

The UK team conducts research on two religious buildings in East Anglia:

  • St Peter Hungate is a small medieval church in the centre of Norwich.It was declared redundant in the 1930s, when it became the first church used for non-religious purposes in Britain. For 60 years it functioned as an ecclesiastical museum, managed by the City Council and its museum service, until local government funding cuts meant that it was closed.  However, since then, a trust has taken over the building and it is used now to promote appreciation of local ecclesiastical medieval art and architecture and for contemporary art exhibitions which reflect on that inheritance. This project explores the long history of Hungate’s heritagization, paying particular attention to the ways in which the secular and sacred were acknowledged and managed.
  • Bury St Edmunds is a small market town in Suffolk that was built around the Benedictine Abbey of St Edmund, dedicated to the veneration of Saint Edmund, who died a martyr in the defence of his Kingdom against Danish invaders in the ninth century. Although the Abbey buildings have been ruined since the sixteenth century, a renewed interest in these ruins has emerged recently, after the remains of Richard III were found under a car park in Leicester. Since then, the Bury population has claimed that the remains of Edmund might be buried under a derelict tennis court in the Abbey ruins and a Heritage Partnership has been set up to improve the conservation and interpretation of the Abbey. This project examines what place spirituality has in this process of heritagisation.



All projects from The United Kingdom

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