Six Romanesque Churches in Context


The eleventh and twelfth centuries were arguably the critical centuries of the middle ages. They witnessed the birth of the papal curia, the invention of canon law, the rise of the civic commune, the emergence of a civil service, and the creation of a myriad of new and alternative religious orders. Architectural sculpture came of age, and with it new and dramatic forms of iconographical expression. Population growth, increased contact with the eastern Mediterranean, the lessening of petty local warfare, a huge increase in monastic foundations, all fostered an extraordinary building boom. The result is that not only does a lot of ecclesiastical building survive from the period, but there is often enough evidence to piece together the circumstances that brought particular churches into being.

This series of six lectures is intended to take advantage of the phenomenon to examine six major churches, and to do so from the perspective of their origin, history and aesthetic character. The emphasis will be on the architecture, but the potential of buildings as repositories of imagery will not be neglected, nor the spectacular growth of architectural sculpture as a medium for both decorative and didactic programmes. In art-historical terms the lectures run from Gauzlin’s famous ‘tower that should serve as an example to all Gaul’ at St-Benoît-sur-Loire, begun around 1020, to the spectacular Arabic-inspired muqarnas ceiling of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo of c. 1150-60.

Programme details

Tuesdays, 11am–12.30pm (UK time)

For those attending in-person at Rewely House, registration takes place at 10.30am before the first lecture (2 November​ 2021). Tea and coffee is provided in the Common Room before each lecture, from 10.30am.

For those joining us online, please join in good time before each lecture to ensure that you have no connection problems. We recommend joining 10-15 minutes before the start time. 

2 November 2021

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Architecture and Pilgrimage

9 November 2021


Sculpture and the Romanesque Cloister

16 November 2021

San Nicola at Bari

Crypts, Holy Theft and the Creation of Apulian Romanesque

23 November 2021


The Emergence of a New Type of Romanesque in the Loire Valley

30 November 2021

Speyer Cathedral

The Emergence of a New Type of Romanesque in the Rhine Valley

7 December 2021

The Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Points of Contact across the Latin, Greek and Islamic Worlds


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance £125.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £125.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr John McNeill


John lectures in the history of medieval art and architecture and is a part-time tutor for OUDCE. He is Honorary Secretary of the British Archaeological Association, for whom he has recently edited volumes of essays on Romanesque Patrons and Processes, and English medieval chantries.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

You can opt to attend this hybrid teaching event either online (via a livestream) or in person at Rewley House, Oxford. You will be given the option of how you wish to attend during the enrolment process. You can only pick one option. If your preferred attendance format is fully booked, you can email us to be put on the waiting list.

For those joining us online

The University of Oxford uses Microsoft Teams for our learning environment. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Teams interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

If you have not used the Microsoft Teams app before, once you click the joining link you will be invited to download it (this is free). Once you have downloaded the app, please test before the start of your course. If you are using a laptop or desktop computer, you will also be offered the option of connecting using a web browser. If you connect via a web browser, Chrome is recommended.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.