HIS02 - Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of York
Unit of AssessmentHistory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Religion and Religious Studies
Summary of the impact
The History Department's Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture
(CSCC) employed its research expertise in religious history to improve the
understanding and sustainability of historic churches and cathedrals.
These together form England's largest single 'estate' of built heritage
with over 11 million visitors each year. From 2008 the Centre developed an
extensive programme of national partnerships, which have led to
significant and wide-reaching impact:
(i) creating new aids to help visitors engage with sacred sites
(ii) encouraging tourism and enhancing access to these national and
international heritage sites for people from all cultural and faith
(iii) delivering professional development activities for clergy, lay
leaders, church architects, diocesan staff, heritage staff and volunteers
The Centre synthesises and utilises research findings across the History
Department's internationally recognized research expertise in religious
history. It also provides an interdisciplinary forum for research
collaboration that explores the interface between history, theology, and
spirituality, and examines and interprets the built fabric, the cultural,
social and economic contexts of churches and other religious buildings,
and how these have interacted and changed over time. In particular, its
impact programme has been underpinned by research in the following areas:
Anglo-Saxon Saints and Sacred Sites: Cubitt's (Professor) research
has provided a new focus on the history of Anglo-Saxon spirituality. Her
internationally recognized work (Bi) on saints' cults in
Anglo-Saxon England has demonstrated the centrality of these cults in
early medieval society and traced their role in the establishment of sites
of devotion in locations ranging from relatively small churches to
cathedrals. By placing him in a continental European context, she has
significantly revised (B ii) St Wilfrid's role in the Anglo-Saxon
church and enabled a fuller assessment of his career and influence. This
revision has shaped CSCC's work with Ripon Cathedral. Her research has
revealed the key role of place and landscape features, such as holy wells,
in the development of Anglo-Saxon sacred sites, and this provided the
foundation and the grounding for CSCC interpretation schemes.
Pilgrimage: Dyas (C) (Senior Research Fellow) is a pioneer
in the field of pilgrimage studies, which employs historical approaches to
reinterpret and encourage engagement with sacred sites today. Setting up a
dialogue between contemporary theological concerns and detailed research
into medieval practice and devotional writings, she has developed an
innovative interdisciplinary approach redefining the field. Integrating
historical research with findings from theology, sociology, psychology and
social anthropology, she has revealed the explicit and implicit parallels
between the pilgrim's journeys to sacred sites and the individual's
journey through life. In consequence, her research sheds new light on the
continuing importance of place, ritual and sensory experience for
individuals and communities today.
York's Civic and Religious Life: The work of Rees Jones (D, E)
(Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer), Cross (Ai, ii) (Professor until
2000, then Emeritus) and Sheils (G) (Professor) has revealed the
wide-reaching role of religion in shaping the civic structures and
communities of York from the eleventh to the sixteenth century. Of
particular importance is Rees Jones's work, culminating in a major OUP
monograph, (E) which has demonstrated the extent to which numerous
religious institutions in the city interacted with and influenced the
development and enactment of civic life, stressing the relationship
between parishes and city governance. This book transforms our
understanding of the social, economic and political structures of one of
Europe's major ecclesiastical centres. Cross's deep archival research into
York's clerical community has shown the gradual and contested emergence of
a Reformed city over the long sixteenth century. Royle (F)
(Professor to 2009) and Sheils (G) have demonstrated the extent to
which post-Reformation York must be understood as a multi-confessional
city. In contrast to an older historiographical tradition, this research
contributes to the growing literature on Europe that stresses local
confessional co-existence and `everyday ecumenism'.
References to the research
(A) i Claire Cross, `Realising a Utopian dream: the transformation
of the clergy in the diocese of York, 1500-1630' in R. Horrox and Sarah
Rees Jones eds. Pragmatic Utopias, Ideals and Communities, 1200-1630
ii eadem., 'A Clerical Affray in Petergate in 1540' in D.
M. Smith ed., The Church in Medieval York, Borthwick Institute
Texts and Calendars, 24 (1999).
(B) i. Catherine Cubitt, 'Universal and Local Saints in
Anglo-Saxon England' in A. Thacker and R. Sharpe eds., Local Saints
and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West. (Oxford, 2002).##
ii. eadem., `St Wilfrid: A Man for his Times', in Nick
Higham ed., Wilfrid: Abbot, Bishop, Saint. Papers from the 1300th
Anniversary Conferences, (Donington, 2013). ###
(C) Dee Dyas, `Medieval Patterns of Pilgrimage: A Mirror for
Today?' in Craig Bartholomew and Fred Hughes eds, Explorations in a
Christian Theology of Pilgrimage (Ashgate, 2004), 92-109.
(D) Sarah Rees Jones, `York's Civic Administration, 1354-1461', in
Rees Jones ed., The Government of Medieval York, (Borthwick
Studies in History, 3, 1997), 108-140.#
(E) eadem., York: the making of a city 1086-1350
(F) Edward Royle, `From Gothic Church to Greek Temple: religion in
York, c. 1740-1840', in M. Hallett and J. Rendall, eds. Eighteenth-Century
York: culture, space and society. Borthwick Texts and Calendars, 30
(G) W. J. Sheils, `"Getting on" and "Getting along" in Parish and
Town: English Catholics and their Neighbours' in B Kaplan, R Moore, H van
Neirop, & J Pollman eds, Catholic Communities in Protestant
States: Britain and the Netherlands 1580-1720 (Manchester, 2009).
# = RAE 2001 (York scored 5); ## = RAE 2008 95% of York's
submissions were 2* or above; ###
= Submitted to REF2.
Details of the impact
Historical research at York into place and pilgrimage has been used by
CSCC for its interpretation work. This involves working with the people
managing the sites to devise ways of presenting churches and cathedrals,
using a variety tools, such as touch screen displays, websites, and most
innovatively and commonly mobile apps for phones and i-pads. This also
involves facilitating meetings with local stakeholders and local history
groups to inform them about current historical research and the ways it
has changed our understanding of church and community. The digital
resources have also provided the foundation for an entirely new package of
professional development for clergy and the custodians of these churches.
The impacts of this work can be summarized under three headings:
1.Creating new aids to help visitors engage with sacred sites:
a. The work of Dyas and Cubitt has helped to reshape heritage
interpretation. Dyas's research on the history of pilgrimage is helping
those managing churches to recognise the continuing importance of 'place'
and of sensory experience in both traditional and new `secular' forms of
spirituality. In a growing number of cathedrals and historic parish
churches, she has devised pilgrim trails (using mobile app technology and
other interpretation tools) to help visitors understand the pilgrim
experience of the past and explore the significance of `place' today. For
example, pilgrimage was chosen by Worcester Cathedral as the central theme
of their 2012-2013 CSCC-led interpretation scheme: http://www.christianityandculture.org.uk/partnerships/worcester-cathedral;
Cubitt's outputs on the Anglo-Saxon church have fed directly into 3
CSCC-led history/interpretation projects:
- Her research identifying the significance of place and landscape
features, such as holy wells, in the development of Anglo-Saxon sacred
sites is helping to shape the Berkswell (`Beorces well') parish project
in Warwickshire. This community-led local history project links
Berkswell parish church and the wider local community, and is a scheme
which has led to the parish becoming an exemplar of research-based
interpretation for scholars and other communities (S10).
- Her work (Bi) on saints' cults in Anglo-Saxon England,
demonstrating the centrality of these cults in early medieval society
and tracing their role in the establishment of sacred sites, has been
used to provide a new focus on Anglo-Saxon spirituality in the
interpretation programmes created for Winchester and Worcester
Cathedrals — a complete interpretation scheme for the latter is
currently underway (2012-15) (S3).
- Her most recent work on St Wilfrid (B ii) has significantly
revised assessment of his role in the Anglo-Saxon church. This has
shaped the concept and content of the interpretation project, using
touch-screen and mobile app technology, at Ripon Cathedral (2013) (S11).
b. Fusing research generated by eleven members of the History Department,
visual material and external contributions, with interactive technology,
CSCC produced a 1 million word DVD-ROM, The English Parish Church
through the Centuries (2010). This highly flexible resource made
historical research available to new audiences, not only were 3000 copies
distributed, but it was adopted by the British Museum as a key resource
for its 2011 Treasures of Heaven Exhibition (visited by 75,000
people). Hailed by the Archbishop of York as `a brilliant resource for
parishes, churches and schools ... a treasure chest of information which
will help to inspire many to be much more creative about the way we use
our church buildings' (S12), and as `a tool to revolutionize our
understanding and enjoyment of churches' by the Chair of The Churches
Conservation Trust (S13), it has had a demonstrable impact within
The DVD-ROM also exemplifies the impact that our research has had in
enhancing visitors' experience of sacred space and in continuing
professional development, as set out below:
2. Encouraging tourism and enhanced access to national and
international heritage sites for people from all cultural and faith
Using the historical analyses of Cross, Sheils and Royle, which revealed
the multi-confessional nature of post-Reformation religious life and
culture in York, CSCC developed a ground-breaking cross-denominational
mobile app for 12 York City Centre Churches (2012-13). (S2). To
date, this has led to the establishment of 20 partnership projects with
churches and cathedrals which are working to improve the way visitors
navigate and engage with these spaces. These have often involved the
development of new mobile apps based upon historical research, including
Holy Trinity, Stratford on Avon (200,000 visitors p.a.), Coventry
Cathedral (330,000), Norwich (140,000), Ripon (93,000) and Winchester
(110,000) (2013) (S4). The Stratford App and its rationale were the
subject of a Radio 4 interview, contributing to public discourse about how
visitors, especially the 16-25 year age group, engage with cultural
heritage and religious buildings. These new approaches have achieved a
step-change in the way the sites engage with visitors. The Dean of
`Working with Christianity and Culture has transformed the way the
Cathedral understands its engagement with visitors, particularly through
exploring the relevance of pilgrimage past and present and thus creating
new ways to help them relate to this sacred site.'
Furthermore, the Centre's combination of research and digital resources
has enabled all age groups to engage with church buildings and has enabled
churches better to support volunteer guides and to provide material even
when buildings are not staffed (S1-3;S6-7). The Parish Church
DVD-ROM led to a new free downloadable online resource for primary schools
to assist school teachers to use local churches as a key resource in
teaching History and RE (S8).
3. Delivering professional development activities:
The launch by the Archbishop of Canterbury of The Parish Church
DVD in 2010 and its dissemination broadened the reach of the Centre's
activities to the professional arena of church and heritage staff,
diocesan specialists, church architects, and the volunteers who care for
the Church of England's 12,500 Grade 1 and 2* listed buildings.
At the request of English Heritage (EH) and the Church of England, the
Centre created a new training partnership focusing on CPD for staff and
volunteers charged with conserving, maintaining, using and opening up
churches (S4). With EH funding, the Centre developed a model for
training days across the country: pilot days in York (2012) and Newcastle
and Durham dioceses (2013) were attended by 121 church leaders, architects
and heritage staff (S9); further events are planned for Lichfield
and Gloucester dioceses. Delegate responses include: `The training and
tools developed by CSCC have really changed the way we as a church are
discussing our future, opening us up to new ways of thinking about our
building and planning what to do next' (Revd Rachel Hirst, Vicar, St
Peter's Church, Norton).
This programme is supported by a new CSCC designed online tool (also
funded by EH) which helps churches explore their history, make decisions
for the future and create appropriate re-ordering schemes. This tool has
led to a new collaboration with the Church of England which will transform
the capacity of churches to work with statutory bodies for more positive
and cost-effective outcomes which enhance provision for local communities
(S5; S6). The combination of increased historical understanding,
new tools and issue-focused training has significantly altered attitudes
and behaviour among staff and volunteers who maintain and use churches (S6;
S7; S9). The Centre is also working with the Church of England to
shape the new national clergy training programme. Delivering deeper
understanding of the historically changing structure and uses of churches
has challenged conventional views of restricted functionality. It has
opened congregations to the possibility and acceptability of using church
property in creative ways to enrich local community life (S5; S6; S9).
This has clear economic benefits through increasing sustainability of
buildings and communities in both rural and urban contexts.
The Department's research has thus helped to generate new ways of looking
at religious relevance by situating churches in clear relationship to
their social, economic and cultural contexts (S1). In the words of
the Archdeacon of Charing Cross, `Congregations and even clergy often do
not realise that their churches have undergone significant change and have
often had multiple uses in the past; religious and community/tourist uses
of churches are thus frequently seen as conflicting priorities.
Christianity and Culture's resources and focused training events are
invaluable in helping clergy, members of congregations and local
communities to transform their understanding of how their church building
has evolved and thus respond more effectively to present challenges' (S7).
Sources to corroborate the impact
Sources include surveys using a specially-designed methodology producing
metrics for evaluation carried out by Prof Helen Petrie (Computer Science)
and the Archaeology Department.
S1. Data collected using Petrie methodology 2012, 2013. Responses from
clergy, managers, trustees, volunteers & visitors including school
groups; Holy Trinity Goodramgate volunteer, 2013).
S2.York City Centre Churches App data (evidence from clergy,
congregations, visitors); Archaeology MA project 2013.
S3 Pilgrim trail feedback (Coventry Cathedral, Worcester Cathedral,
Stratford on Avon).
S4. Diana Evans (Head of Places of Worship Advice, English Heritage).
S5. Nigel Walter, Church Architect, Church Build website. http://archangelic.co.uk/
S6. Churches Tourism Association.
S7. The Ven. W. M. Jacobs, Archdeacon of Charing Cross.
S8. Online 'Visiting Churches' Schools Pack feedback.
S9. Pilot diocesan training days feedback.
S10. Berkswell Parish feedback (Vicar, local history group, Warwick
University Parish Network).
S11. Canon Professor Joyce Hill on Ripon cathedral project
S12. Quote from Archbishop of York http://www.christianityandculture.org.uk/products/epc
S13. Quote from Chair of the Churches Conservation Trust