Sharon E. J. Gerstel presented at the Seminar in Comparative Medieval Material Culture on Tuesday, October 9, at 6 pm. Her talk is entitled “Art and Devotional Practices in the Byzantine Village: The Long View.”

In recent years, the art of the Byzantine village—particularly that of the Late Byzantine village—has come under increasing scrutiny. In addition to manifesting local religious practices and liturgical rites, the art of the village is also intimately tied to the agricultural calendar and to life-cycle rituals. The small churches of the Byzantine countryside provide precious information about the lives and devotional practices of men and women who, for the most part, have remained invisible. Indeed, many medieval village churches continue to function as the center of modern-day family life and ritual. In this talk, Gerstel will look at devotional art in several Greek villages and will also discuss how engaging with art in the village may provide opportunities for medievalists to move beyond the strict chronological confines of our field to take a more activist stance in approaching buildings and their communities.

Sharon E. J. Gerstel is Professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also serves as Acting Director of the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture and Associate Director of the Center of Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS). She is author of Beholding the Sacred Mysteries: Programs of the Byzantine Sanctuary (1999) and has edited A Lost Art Rediscovered: The Architectural Ceramics of Byzantium (with J. Lauffenburger, 2001), Thresholds of the Sacred: Architectural, Art Historical, Archaeological, Liturgical and Theological Views on Religious Screens, East and West (2007), Approaching the Holy Mountain: Art and Liturgy at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (with R. S. Nelson, 2010), and Viewing the Morea: Land and People in the Late Medieval Peloponnese (Washington, DC, 2013). Her most recent book, Rural Lives and Landscapes in Late Byzantium: Art, Archaeology, and Ethnography (Cambridge, 2015), was awarded the prestigious Runciman Award by the Anglo-Hellenic League in London (2016), the inaugural Book Prize by the International Center for Medieval Art (2016), and the Maria Theocharis Prize by the Christian Archaeological Society in Greece (2017). Together with Chris Kyriakakis (University of Southern California), Gerstel directs Soundscapes of Byzantium, an international project devoted to the study of acoustics, psychoacoustics, monumental decoration, architecture, and chant.