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The Surrounding Forest: Trees in the Medieval Imaginary

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square, The Keynes Library

This event has ended.

This one-day symposium aims to explore the image of the tree as a conduit for the exploration of human engagements with environment in the global middle ages, broadly defined, and seeks to encourage cross-cultural, trans-national, and interdisciplinary understanding of the role of trees, woodland, and other vegetation in various contexts. We want to better understand human responses to nature. What is it about ‘arboreal beauty’ that connects it with the divine? Recognized across cultures as axis mundi, the tree shoots upwards, its trunk and branches stretching, reaching, growing towards the light as it seeks to bridge the in-between space that divides earth from the heavens. The liminal quality of foliage, trees, and forests is recognized by artists and weavers of images across the world.


Pippa Salonius, ‘Mother Earth, Sister Moon and the Vast Sacred Forests of Tane/Te Wao-tapu-nui-a-Tane: Trees in Māori and Franciscan Thought’

Aileen Marwung Walsh, ‘Trees are Family’

Jeannette Jones, ‘Plorer mon filz: Musical Networks, Genealogy, and the Tree of Jesse’

Pete Sandberg, ‘Shaping with the Plane of the Voice: Old Norse Poetry as Woodwork’

David P. Bardeen, ‘Arboreal Formations: Ecological Dimensions of Italian Intarsia’

Alexander Ford, ‘Cult Posts in the Anglo-Saxon Conception of Natural and Fabricated Ritual Space’

Jessica Treacher, ‘Hnutu in a Nutshell: Considering ‘Nut-Tree’ Place Names in England’

Renzo Chiovelli, Giulia Maria Palma, Vania Rocchi, ‘“Sopra un abete il Re dell’alto regno con una trina face in un doppier si mostra ad un Re pio. Son questi il luogo e il legno”: the tree of the Trinity and the foundation of Abbazia del Santissimo Salvatore’

Lamia Balafrej, ‘Plant-Thinking in Early Islamic Art’

Valerie Gonzalez, ‘The Aporetic Muteness of the Arboreal Mosaics of the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus (715 AD)’

Meg Boulton, ‘Wondrous Tree(s): Considering the Symbolic Significance/s of Trees in Early English Sculpture’

Alice Lafôret, ‘Arbor est Indie nobilissima: Describing Exotic Trees in Medieval Encyclopaedias’

Anoush Sargsyan, ‘The Genealogical Tree of Christ in the Context of the Armenian Version of Peter’s Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi’

José Higuera Rubio, ‘Lullian Arborescent Structures: The Premodern Emergence of the “Diagrammatic Turn”?’

Pauline Leplongeon, ‘Vegetal Imaginary in Exemplary Literature: The Case of the Ci nous dit’

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