Material culture in Flanders and the influence of the Low Countries on Scottish Church Architecture

Claire Hawes
Thursday 12 May 2016

This is the seventh posting in the series that sets out the content of sessions at the conference to be held in St. Andrews on June 16th and 17th.   This session provides two perspectives on Flemish material culture, in other words the physical evidence of a culture in objects and architecture. Professor Wim De Clercq examines the material culture and domestic environment in Flanders at the time when numbers of Flemish people were migrating.  Professor Richard Fawcett, meanwhile, looks at Scottish ecclesiastical architecture to identify a Flemish – or, more broadly, Low Countries – influence. 

Session overview

“Home is where the hearth is” — Domestic worlds and material culture in late-Medieval Flanders

Professor Wim De Clercq

Many push-factors led Flemish people to migrate to Scotland (among other countries), leaving one specific material environment for another. Following a significant increase in archaeological research during the last decade, new light can now be shed upon the transformations in lifestyles and material culture in late-Medieval period Flanders.  This research has led to a reassessment of the material worlds and landscapes the Flemish shaped and lived in before some migrated. In this presentation particular attention will be paid to transformations in the rural and urban domestic environments and in particular to the development of the Bruges’ outer harbour system which has special relevance to the trading relationship with Scotland.  The presentation will also touch on the extensive role imported material culture played in shaping social and economic identities in late-Medieval Flanders.

The architectural relationships of Scotland’s late medieval Church with the Low Countries

Professor Richard Fawcett

In the late medieval period patrons of Scottish ecclesiastical architecture were looking beyond England for some of their ideas, following many decades of warfare with their southern neighbour.  England had previously been the principal source of fresh inspiration on church design.  These Scottish patrons were keen admirers and acquirers of Netherlandish church art and furnishings and so it became increasingly apparent that the Low Countries was becoming one of the areas to which they now chose to look for architectural inspiration. In this session an attempt will be made to identify some of those features in later medieval church design whose adoption is most convincingly explained by reference to buildings in the Low Countries that are likely to have become known to patrons through their commercial, cultural and ecclesiastical contacts.

Session Participants

Wim De Clercq lectures in Historical Archaeology at the University of Ghent. His research has a strong focus on the archaeology of the Roman and Medieval period in the territory of the former historic county of Flanders.  He has a particular interest in the social and economic context of transformations in material culture and rural house building traditions. Another focus of his work is the region of Bruges with the excavations and study of the late-Medieval castle and New Town of Middelburg-in-Flanders.  In that context he has led a landscape-archaeological project that examines the lost outer harbour towns of Bruges, located along the Zwin tidal inlet.

Richard Fawcett is an emeritus professor in the School of Art History of the University of St Andrews. He received his PhD for research on the 14th and 15th-century church architecture of East Anglia, after which most of his career was in the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments of Historic Scotland, where he dealt with the conservation, interpretation and presentation of architectural monuments and buildings.  His present research is largely focused on the medieval architecture of Scotland, and especially on the sources of the ideas behind the design of churches in the later middle ages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Societies of Antiquaries of London and Scotland, and was appointed OBE in 2008.