Participant Info

First Name
Emma J.
Last Name
University of York
Website URL
Late-medieval England, Reformation England, ecclesiastical history, architectural history, art history, pilgrimage, cult of saints, senses, synesthesia, parish church, cathedrals, church, monasticism.
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

I am interested in the religious, art/architectural and cultural history of late medieval and Reformation-era Britain.

My early research focused on late-medieval England into the early Reformation period, and the interrelationship between the senses and pilgrimage, but primarily how the creation of a sensory experience directly influenced the development of the decorative and architectural schemes of later medieval cult churches. 

My work provides an alternative socio-sensory approach as a new lens through which to understand late-medieval devotional sites, notably cult churches. I am interested in the transformation of the experience of devotion following the Break with Rome and throughout the sixteenth century, in addition to understanding/reconstructing the funerary rituals and memorials of the Tudor monarchs and how the dynasty’s reputations and legacies were developed and shaped in the following centuries from widely divergent perspectives and agendas, using varying mediums including literature, art, and political propaganda as well as modern films and television. Through an innovative interdisciplinary approach which gives equal weighting to detailed analysis of a broad range of architectural, documentary and material evidence, it takes into consideration broader concerns about change, time, space, memory, identity and experience in the late medieval and early modern era. As well as publishing several essays on related aspects, I am currently working on a monograph, provisionally titled ‘Matter of Belief: Making Sense of the Late-Medieval Devotional Experience in England’.

I’m also interested in the cult of saints and their legacies throughout the later Middle Ages, including the many reinventions and efforts to “memorialise” these cults. I was awarded the British Archaeological Association Ochs Scholarship to investigate the evidence for late-medieval Cuthbertine pilgrimage to the original tomb-site and complement of associated structures at Lindisfarne and Inner Farne after Cuthbert’s body had been translated to Durham Cathedral. This was the first study to evaluate the evidence for the rebuilding of structures on the islands purely for the veneration of pilgrims. I am also currently researching the rivalry between the cathedrals of Durham and Canterbury due to the competition posed by the cults of St Cuthbert and St Thomas Becket throughout the later medieval era.

As part of this, I have worked extensively as an historical research consultant on many large and small-scale projects including the British Museum’s ‘Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe’ exhibition and the Lindisfarne Gospels Durham Leverhulme Trust project, as well as an advisor and on-screen expert for various establishments including the BBC and Channel 4. I was also invited to be a lead consultant on the 2013/14 HLF funded project, Charting Chipeling which sought to uncover the social and architectural history, and underlying archaeology, of Kiplin Hall in North Yorkshire. I am currently a partner on the HLF-funded Ledgerstone Survey of England and Wales. I also have an extensive repertoire of media experience from specialist PTCs to presenting, to radio and podcast interviews.

I am also in the process of writing my next book (entitled Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals, to be published by Head of Zeus) which focuses on my research into the construction and characters behind twenty of the world’s cathedrals.

In 2017, I was elected as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA), in 2018, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and am a Full Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIfA). I was also appointed to the Academic Advisory Board of the Centre for Parish Church Studies (CPCS), am a member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), and sit on the editorial board of Royal Studies Journal, as well as on the Newcastle Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), Durham University’s Castle Society executive committee, and am a tour guide for Historical Trips and Andante Travels.

Finally, I also write for a variety of publications including editorials for BBC History, History Today, BBC Countryfile and Listed Heritage.

Recent Publications


  • Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals (Head of Zeus, 2020).
  • Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles (Robert Hale, 2016).

Peer-Reviewed articles:

  • ‘The Art of Building(s): The Iconography of Architectural Representations in the Great East Window and St William Window of York Minster’,(submitting to Speculum, late summer 2018).
  • ‘Synaesthesia in Medieval Pilgrimage: The Case of St Neot’s shrine, Cornwall’, Church Archaeology, 14, 63-77 (2012).
  • ‘Making ‘Sense’ of the Pilgrimage Experience of the Medieval Church’, Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture,III (2), 122-46 (2011).
  • ‘Stained Glass in York Minster: Perceptions and Representations of Space’, Imbas: The Journal of the National University of Ireland, 1, 24-44 (2008).

Book Chapters:

  • ‘Local pilgrimage cults in Britain’, A Companion to Medieval Pilgrimage, A. Jotischky and W. Purkiss, eds. (ARC Humanities Press) (2019).
  • ‘The Medieval Senses’,The Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology in Britain, C. Gerrard and A. Gutiérrez, eds. (Oxford University Press, 2018), 681-96.
  • ‘Kipling through the Archives’ and ‘Historic Buildings Analysis’, Charting Chipeling: The Archaeology of the Kiplin Estate, J. Brightman, ed. (Solstice Heritage, 2017), 6-17; 31-50.
  • ‘“…he went round the holy places praying and offering”: Evidence for Cuthbertine Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne and Farne in the Late Medieval Period’, Newcastle and Northumberland: Roman and Medieval Art, Architecture and Archaeology, J. Ashbee and J. M. Luxford ed. (Many, 2013), 214-31 .

Peer Reviewer for:     Journal of Medieval Archaeology, Peregrinations:Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture,Royal Studies Journal (also sit on editorial board).

Media Coverage;;
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
British Isles, England, United Kingdom, Western Europe
Expertise by Chronology
Medieval, Early Modern
Expertise by Topic
Art & Architectural History, Material Culture, Public History, Religion