An incredibly rare piece of medieval church furniture, a monumental, five-centuries-old canopy installed over a baptismal font in eastern England, is the subject of a new, collaborative research initiative co-organized by Zachary Stewart, Texas A&M assistant professor of architecture.
“The project will provide a vivid snapshot of everyday religious culture in Europe before and after the Protestant Reformation and map out a collaborative approach, with a diverse set of digital tools, to the systematic study of works of art and architecture that have existed for centuries,” said Stewart, a faculty fellow of the Texas A&M Center for Heritage Conservation, a project partner.
Originally covered with intricately carved sculpture and richly painted decoration, the canopy, in St. Peter Mancroft church in Norwich, has been subjected to repeated modification and restoration since it was first built between 1510 and 1530.
In the research project, scholars will create 3-D models of the canopy with photogrammetry and laser scanning, identify its material components using scientific analysis, and investigate the historical, spatial, and social contexts of the canopy from the sixteenth century to the present day.
The study will also include an examination of four panels from the original installation that were recently rediscovered by Amy Gillette, Art Team Lead at The Barnes Foundation, who is co-organizing the project.
The panels, part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection, were originally purchased by the museum in 1929 as part of a larger collection of Gothic woodcarvings intended to inspire artisans in the rapidly growing city.
Project scholars from Texas A&M include Stewart, Brent Fortenberry, assistant professor of architecture and Benjamin Baaske, a Ph.D. Architecture student. The research team includes approximately 12 additional scholars based at institutions throughout the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
Zachary Stewart is an architectural historian with a background in architecture and art history who specializes in the material culture of medieval Europe. His research focuses on the buildings, cities, and landscapes of medieval Britain.
Authorized in 2005 as a professional center for interdisciplinary research and service projects on all aspects of built and natural heritage, the Center for Heritage Conservation supports research of planned and built environments with particular emphasis on their continued use and care.