Vibrancy of monastic life and sacred polyphony

An on-going debate between Dr Elizabeth Gemmill and Dr Michelle Castelletti

This free talk is in-between two performances of Secret Byrd, at 6pm and 9pm. If also booking Secret Byrd tickets, please book your ticket as the tie-in event ticket with Secret Byrd.
Book here for talk only.


Was monasticism really in decline in late medieval England? Was sacred music collateral damage of the Reformation/s; or was it what made it the glorious tradition we know and love today?

One of the richest monastic foundations in the country, the Benedictine Abbey of Abingdon, became one of the first victims of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. According to the monks’ records, Henry VIII visited the abbey four times, with Katherine of Aragon accompanying him on two of these visits at the height of his reign.

Join medievalist Dr Elizabeth Gemmill and musico-historian Dr Michelle Castelletti for a discussion of the vibrancy (or not) of monastic life in late medieval England, and the changes in the sacred soundscape brought about by the shifting paradigms of the Tudor Court.

The session will end with an informal conversation and Q&A with the audience.

Dr Elizabeth Gemmill is Associate Professor in History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Kellogg College and of the Royal Historical Society. An author of several publications, Elizabeth’s latest books include: The Nobility and Ecclesiastical Patronage in Thirteenth-Century England and her edition of The Register of John Salmon, Bishop of Norwich 1299-1325.  She is currently working on a book about prices, custom and commerce in the medieval northeast based on the records of Durham Cathedral Priory.

Dr Michelle Castelletti a noted polymath [Schott], identifies as an interdisciplinarian. Following her Doctorate in Music (2013), she expanded her studies into the liberal arts. She is currently engaged in doctoral research, specialising in medieval history under the supervision of Dr Elizabeth Gemmill herself. Michelle is enamoured with material culture, particularly with medieval ecclesiastical ‘objects’. Michelle is also director of Oxford Festival of the Arts.

Entrance is free
Booking essential


Jun 29 2023


7:30 pm

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Abingdon Abbey Buildings
Abingdon Abbey Buildings
18 Thames St, Abingdon OX14 3HZ