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Catherine Mackichan Bursaries

St Andrews has recently been honoured with two Mackichan Scholars in 2011: Professor Richard Fawcett and Dr Kathryn Rudy both of the School of Art History.

Catherine Mackichan was studying for her history degree at the University of St Andrews when she was diagnosed as suffering from a malignant melanoma. However, she continued her studies in history at Newcastle University and was awarded with an aegrotat degree before her death. Catherine’s love of Scottish mediaeval history has lived on in the trust set up in memory of her in 1990. The bursary provides financial assistance to students and professors of history or archaeology to further their studies in Scottish history. Professor Fawcett used his bursary for further research in identifying and sequencing regional characteristics in a number of mediaeval Scottish buildings across the north-east of Scotland, and Dr Rudy used the funding to support a study of medieval illustrations at the Euing collection of Glasgow University.

“It has been a great pleasure to acknowledge the financial help of the Mackichan Trust… I know that the findings made in the course of the visits will also be of great benefit as I extend my study more widely.” – Professor Richard Fawcett 

"At the time that I was carrying out the research for a book on ecclesiastical architecture in medieval Scotland (now published as The architecture of the Scottish medieval Church, Yale University Press, 2011), it became increasingly clear to me that there is an urgent need to find fresh approaches to clarifying the chronology of our later medieval buildings. In a period when architectural fashion was changing less rapidly than had previously been the case, and at a time when all too often there is insufficient firm documentation, it becomes necessary to take greater account of the minutiae of the buildings – and particularly the sculpted details - for pointers to the relative date of the churches.

While there is a relatively good understanding of the chronology of architectural sculpture in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, based largely on studies carried out south of the border, this is not the case for the later fourteenth, fifteenth and earlier sixteenth centuries. Over this period, following a long period of warfare with England, Scottish patrons and their masons were - not unnaturally - choosing to follow a path that was largely independent of England. Although this greater artistic independence is now widely recognised, little attempt has so far been made to analyse the architectural sculpture in order to determine how far it can provide supplementary dating criteria.

 

With this in mind, I hope eventually to examine all later medieval architectural sculpture across Scotland. But, as a first stage in assessing the likely value of identifying and sequencing regional characteristics in a number of relatively securely dated buildings, I decided to examine a test group in the north-east, centred on Elgin Cathedral. With the financial support of the Mackichan Trust, I visited the cathedrals of Elgin and Fortrose and the collegiate church of Tain; while in the area I also took the opportunity to visit Dornoch Cathedral and Fearn Abbey.

In the first instance this series of visits has proved to be extremely useful in the preparation of a monograph on Elgin Cathedral that is being written jointly by Professor Richard Oram of Stirling University and myself, and it has been a great pleasure to acknowledge the financial help of the Mackichan Trust in the preface to the draft of this volume. I know that the findings made in the course of the visits will also be of great benefit as I extend my study more widely."

 “A bursary from the Catherine Mackichan Bursary Trust has allowed me to travel to libraries to study manuscripts containing FAIs [Flexible Autonomous Images] and to commission photography of them (which can be very expensive!)” – Dr Kathryn Rudy

"I study late medieval postcards. One such object is a simple image of St Barbara that has a note on the back reading, ‘Sister Lijsbet Vetters shall have this, and it was sent to you by Sister Kerstyne Vetters, your loving sister.’ The image is now bound in a manuscript prayerbook, but its role within the book is its second function. Its first function was to serve as a greeting from one nun to another. The existence of such a postcard suggests both a wealth of images and a desire for them.

 

In addition to this postcard, I have found approximately 300 other examples of loose paintings on parchment that had careers outside books before they were stuck into them. Cheaper and more accessible than panel paintings or stained glass windows, these images demonstrate a desire for colour and images that permeated all levels of culture in the late Middle Ages, including lay and religious, wealthy and poor. 
I have identified these objects as a category for the first time and I have named themflexible autonomous images, or FAIs. FAIs were created to fill real needs, whether those were social (bestowing gifts and counter-gifts), practical (for taking vows and oaths), devotional (serving as altarpieces and enhancing prayer books), or popular (spreading indulgences, special cults, and the latest devotions). They were made, traded, saved, and used because they were thought to be efficacious. FAIs were made by untrained artists (primarily those living in convents) and by highly trained artists (including professionals living in urban environments) alike. They fulfilled many functions: they served as postcards and gifts to create both horizontal bonds (such as between two sisters) and vertical bonds (such as between a sister and her mother superior, or between a convent and a donor). Both women and men made and gave away leaves although women (whose houses outnumbered men’s by far) apparently made many more of these images. The images also served as votive offerings; they marked key passages in books; they formed objects for devotional meditation, either alone or in a series; they created miniature altarpieces; they ratified vows and oaths; they presented metric relics (measurements of the length of the nails, the tomb, the cross, of Jesus and Mary, whose very sizes were sanctified); they embodied the important Christian concept of the word made flesh; they served as souvenirs from particular shrines; they circulated the newest images, prayers, and indulgences; they memorialized the dead; they advertised a corporate identity of particular convents; they activated certain indulgences; they stood in as a transportable ersatz for a person; they brought colour to an otherwise predominantly grey and brown interior world.

 

A bursary from the Catherine Mackichan Bursary Trust has allowed me to travel to libraries to study manuscripts containing FAIs and to commission photography of them (which can be very expensive!). Manuscripts I have been able to study include anOfficium missae in the Euing collection at Glasgow’s University Library, which contains a colourful painting representing a generalized bishop. The painting functioned outside the manuscript as an independent image, before being inserted in it.  These examples will appear in my forthcoming book, which is tentatively titled The Postcard, the Pallium, the Amulet, and the Altar: Manifestations of the Flexible Autonomous Image in the Late Middle Ages."

For more information about how gifts make a difference at St Andrews, contact:

Caroline Wallard
Campaign Manager
clw1@st-andrews.ac.uk
+44 (0)1334 462105