Eliot Benbow (QMUL) - 2019-20 Students

The Shrine and the Marketplace: Religious Materiality in London during the Long Fifteenth Century (1370-1530)

In recent years the long fifteenth century (c. 1370-c.1530) has received more attention from historians of religion and literature who have revealed a period vibrant with writing and other cultural production in English, which supported a wide range of lay devotional practices. This is also amply evidenced in surviving artefacts. A myriad of books, clothes, badges, artworks and domestic objects bear witness to the way religion was practiced in the domestic sphere. New means of producing affordable (and durable) objects for mass-consumption transformed the landscape of religious materiality in late medieval England. This is evident in alabaster carvings, portable books and dress accessories. The most notable example is pilgrim badges. Cheap and mass-produced, they were made and disseminated across religious loci, towns and villages, and survive nowadays in hundreds of specimens. This project, developed between QMUL and the Museum of London, utilises the extensive collections of the Museum. For instance, The Museum of London holds one of the world’s largest repository of pilgrim badges found in England (c.300 from London excavations and c.700 badges of non-archaeological contexts), as well as a plethora of daily religious objects, from carvings and tiles, through dress accessories, to rings and inkpots. Despite this weight of surviving evidence, histories of fifteenth-century English religion are still overwhelmingly textual. My research seeks to combine the abundant textual evidence of late medieval London with the plethora of surviving objects to provide an interdisciplinary insight into the devotional culture of the city and the lives of its denizens.

Back to the top