The latest in the series of Birgitta conferences will take place at Dartington Hall in Devon, England, 21-24 July 2015
Continuity and Change in the Birgittine Order
(Syon Abbey 1415-2015)
Dartington Hall, Devon, 21.07.2015 – 24.07.2015
The Birgittine order, over its more than six centuries of existence, has seen many changes: periods of growth and decline, expansion and retrenchment, patronage and persecution; individual houses have been suppressed and restored, declined, revived, relocated, and finally closed; the Birgittine vine has put out new branches, some of which have taken, and some not. And all this against a backdrop of religious, political, and social upheaval and change, that has not always remained safely in the background.
Are there any constants? The office, perhaps, or the habit, the rule (or rules?!), the spirit of the saint herself … something intangibly, indefinably Birgittine? Is Birgittine identity about adherence to an essence or ideal, or something that is worked out in practice? Is the idea of charism useful, or an obstacle to historical analysis?
Such questions come into focus sharply this year, when England’s house of Birgittines, Syon Abbey, celebrates the six hundredth anniversary of its foundation by King Henry V in 1415. Those six centuries have seen dramatic fluctuations in fortune, and as many as twenty changes of abode, from the abbey’s medieval heyday by the Thames in Middlesex, through suppression under Henry VIII, restoration by Queen Mary, exile in the Low Countries and France, a two-hundred-year sojourn in Portugal, the return to south-west England, late twentieth-century downsizing, and closure of the convent in 2011. Rule and constitutions have been reinterpreted and rewritten; the office has been sung in Latin, abandoned for the Roman breviary, restored in Latin, and translated into English. The community has seen kingdoms rise and fall; lived through war, fire and earthquake, and responded to the councils of Konstanz, Trent and Vatican II.
The latest in the series of Birgitta conferences will take place at Dartington Hall in Devon, England, 21-24 July 2015.
Proposals for papers of 20 minutes duration will be welcomed by the organisers Eddie Jones and Claes Gejrot by the deadline of 15 January 2015. The language of the conference will be English. We are equally interested in proposals on Syon Abbey, other Birgittine houses, or the order as a whole. Papers need not engage directly with the question of ‘continuity and change’, though this will be an advantage if we are over-subscribed. Recognising that the period has so far been under-explored, we will be particularly pleased to hear proposals that look at Birgittine experience since 1800.