Liturgy, Materiality and the Senses

This project considers how medieval devotion to Thomas Aquinas and the Corpus Christi transformed awareness of a major intellectual into a much more widely based popular cult. Dominican liturgy used plainchant to communicate through reinforced emotional responses.

Poissy antiphonal O quam felix cropped.jpg

This project, pursued in collaboration with Marika Räsänen (University of Turku) explores certain feasts in The Poissy Antiphonal, an important Dominican liturgical book held at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne. It includes the earliest known attestation of the Office of the Feast of the translation of the relics of Thomas Aquinas (which were shown to the nuns of Poissy in 1369). The project is producing an annotated edition of the text of the relic’s translation narrative. Collaborative research presented at Brisbane in mid-2015 led to a follow-up workshop ‘Space and Sanctity: Sensory experience of devotion (1000‒1500)’ in May 2016 at Poitiers, under the aegis of the Centre d’etudes supérieures de civilisation médiévale. At Poitiers, Mews presented a revised version of the paper ‘Juliana of Cornillon, Thomas Aquinas, and the Implementation of the Feast of Corpus Christi: Politics, Liturgy and Spirituality’, forthcoming in the proceedings of the conference. The research shows how the cult of Thomas Aquinas became emotionally charged through being linked to devotion to the cult of Corpus Christi, of which a revised version of the office was prepared by Thomas Aquinas, replacing the liturgy devised by Juliana of Cornillon, a holy woman of Liège.


Mews, Constant J. ‘Raymundus Hugonis on the translation of the relics of St Thomas Aquinas: an eyewitness account and its significance’. In Relics, Identity, and Memory in Medieval Europe, edited by Marika Räsänen, Gritje Hartmann and Earl Jeffrey Richards, pp. 257-84. ‘Europa Sacra: Religion, Society, and Identity’ series. Turnhout: Brepols, 2016.

Catherine of Siena, Florence, and Dominican Renewal: Preaching through Letters’. In Studies on Florence and the Italian Renaissance in Honour of F.W. Kent, edited by Peter Howard and Cecilia Hewlett, pp. 387‒403. Turnhout: Brepols, 2016.

Mews, Constant J. and Marika Rasänen. ‘Thomas of Siena and the Cividale Legendary: Remembering Thomas Aquinas and the saints of Dominican renewal’. In Renaissance Religions II: modes and meanings in history, edited by Peter Howard, Nicholas Terpstra and Riccardo Saccenti (forthcoming).

Mews, Constant J . ‘Juliana of Cornillon, Thomas Aquinas, and the Implementation of the Feast of Corpus Christi: Politics, Liturgy and Spirituality’. In Space and Sanctity, edited by Marika Räsänen (forthcoming).


Image: O quam felix mater Italia (O how happy mother italy), Dominican Office from Poissy Antiphonal, f. 425r State Library of Victoria (Ms 096.1/R66A ) [by permission]