Starting in 2014 Volker Schier and Corine Schleif contacted several potential project partners and traveled to meet with them. Subsequently a small group from Lund, Leuven and Arizona began exchanging ideas in Skype conversations. From the 26th to the 30th of October, 2015, a preliminary workshop was held in Germany.  20 participants from 9 countries traveled together, visiting 6 women's monasteries (Medingen, Ebstorf, Wienhausen Lüne, Gnadenberg, Altomünster), giving papers, a concert, viewing art and architecture, studying the acoustics of cloisters and nuns' galleries, singing, and listening to the cantus sororum, and planning the project. While at Altomünster, scholars were permitted unprecedented access to the nuns’ library, where they discovered uniquely Birgittine art, music, and artifacts that offer unanticipated new material for the project.

Current Activities

Based on our concluding discussions in Altomünster in October 2015, it was decided to center the project on the first Birgittine monastery, Vadstena Abbey. The written sources and material culture that survives from other Birgittine foundations will be used to complement the information and objects from Vadstena. At the suggestion of Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, several members of the Extraordinary Sensescapes Working Group – Delphine Bard, Stefan Lindgren, Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, Volker Schier, Corine Schleif, and Karin Strinnholm Lagergren – decided to apply for funding from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet). The group compiled a budget of ca. 20.2 million SEK to cover the initial phase of work, limited primarily to building the major components necessary to reconstruct three sensing points within the abbey church. In consultation with the other members of the group, Corine authored the English proposal, and Eva the Swedish introduction. The application was submitted by Eva through the University of Uppsala in March 2016, and in November the group was notified that the project had been funded in the amount of ca. 8 million SEK. The largest portion of the grant provides a scholarship for a doctoral student in acoustic engineering at Lund University, who will be developing an algorithm for calculating changing auralities through space in real time. The grant also supports research time, the scanning of present-day Vadstena Abbey Church to create a wire-mesh model, and the examination and reconstruction of Birgittine fabrics. The group convenes regularly via Skype and met on-site in Vadstena in June 2017.

Stefan Lindgren, research engineer from the University of Lund, travelled to Vadstena in May 2017 and laser-scanned the interior of the church. After extensive postprocessing of the detailed scans, a model of the architecture ca. 1500 will be reconstructed. This model will serve as the basis for a photorealistic, full-immersion, virtual 3D environment allowing visitors to explore the church visually and acoustically.

Altomünster Library at Risk

In December 2015 the Extraordinary Sensescapes working group learned of the Vatican’s decision to close the Birgittine monastery at Altomünster. The uncertain future of its library, housing the largest collection of Birgittine manuscripts in the world, forced us into immediate action. We felt we needed to convince church authorities in Rome and Munich to protect this important and largely unknown world cultural heritage constituting over 500 years of women’s material and literary history. Corine Schleif wrote an open letter on behalf of the group to the Vatican and the Diocese of Munich and Freising, Volker Schier started an online petition, which was signed by more than 2300 concerned scholars and citizens worldwide. Academic venues, popular media and international press outlets, including the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Associated Press, covered the discovery of the library and our campaign to save it. We are glad to report that our intervention was successful. Large parts of the manuscripts and printed books are now accessible at the diocesan archives in Munich. Seven illuminated manuscripts have been digitized with more to follow. In July 2017 Corine, Volker, and Michelle Urberg met in Munich to gain an overview of the collection. Read statements and reports.


As work progresses, project partners are sharing the results through invited lectures, conference presentations, and university courses including the following:

International Medieval Studies Conference, Kalamazoo, May 2015
Corine Schleif: Digital Recreation of Processional Experience at Vadstena, Sweden, Motherhouse of the Birgittine Order

Continuity and Change in the Birgittine Order (Syon Abbey 1415–2015), University of Exeter 2015
Michelle Urberg: Constructing a Birgittine Identity at Vadstena Abbey through the Procession Repertory

International Congress for Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 2016
Michelle Urberg: The Sights and Sounds of Liturgy at Vadstena, Sweden, the Motherhouse of the Birgittine Order

Cantus Planus, Dublin, August 2016
Michelle Urberg: The Visual and Aural Experience of the Birgittine Liturgy at Vadstena

Conference on Manuscript Studies, Saint Louis, October 2016
Michelle Urberg: What the Manuscripts Reveal about Gendered Literacy and Devotional Practice in the Birgittine Order: Vadstena Abbey

American Musicological Society, Vancouver, November 2016
Michelle Urberg: Nordic Cult Building Through Music and Ritual. Mary’s Suffering Heart, and the Office “Stabat Virgo dolorosa”

Association Hemslöjdsföreningen, Uppsala, February 2017
Eva Lindqvist Sandgren: Nunnorna som broderade askar

University of Uppsala, advanced seminar in art history, March 2017
Eva Lindqvist Sandgren: Forskningspresentation av VR-projektet Multisensoriska Vadstena kloster under medeltiden

Hebrew University, Jerusalem, April 2017
Karin Strinnholm Lagergren: New Wine in Old Wine Skins – What is So Unique about the Birgittine Liturgy?

Association Klosterkyrkans vänner, Vadstena, April 2017
Eva Lindqvist Sandgren: Den multisensoriska världen i det senmedeltida Vadstena kloster

Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, Minneapolis, May 2017
Michelle Urberg: (Re)Turning the Pages. Gendered manuscript production by the Birgittine brothers and sisters at Vadstena Abbey

Devils Invent, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University, October 2017
Corine Schleif, guest lecture: Virtual Reality and the Middle Ages: The Sensual World of Medieval Nuns

University of Texas, Austin, November 2017
Corine Schleif, guest professor at graduate seminar: From the Archives to Virtual Reality

University of Uppsala, November 2017
Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, seminar for masters students in the humanities: Multisensorisk medeltid i digital version

University of Uppsala, November 2017
Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, forum for digital humaniora: Multisensoriska Vadstena kloster

Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University, spring 2018
Corine Schleif, seminar: Virtual Reality: Medieval and Renaissance

University of Limerick, February 2018
Karin Strinnholm Lagergren: Saint Birgitta of Sweden and her Monastic Order – A Liturgical Adventure in 14th Century Europe

Renaissance Society of America, New Orleans, March 2018
Panel: “Nuns' Manuscript Culture: Production and Movement of Birgittine Music and Texts across Europe, 1400–1600”
Corine Schleif: Introduction
Volker Schier: In Pursuit of Vadstena: Manuscript Networks, the Aspiration of the Normative, and Female Agency
Michelle Urberg: Sisters Sharing Music: Migrations of the Vadstena Liturgy across Europe in the Sixteenth Century
Melissa Moreton: From Sweden to Italy: The Birgittine Migration of Manuscripts from Vadstena to Renaissance Florence

Attending to Early Modern Women: Action and Agency, Milwaukee, June 2018
Workshop Session “Nuns on the Move: Agency of Early Modern Nuns as Migrants”
K. Bevin Butler, Elizabeth Goodwin, Volker Schier, Corine Schleif

International Medieval Congress, Leeds, July 2018
Session: “Memoria, Mnemonics, and the Multisensory in Birgittine Monasticism: Observations from Neuroscience,” sponsored by the Extraordinary Sensescapes Project
Corine Schleif: Color, Adrenalin, and Memory: The Birgittine Monastery as a Historical Laboratory
Volker Schier: In Tact and in Sync: Birgittine Processional Chant and Memory
Magali Ljungar-Chapelon: Memory Made ‘Gestalt’ through Archaeo-Artistic Sketching between Fragment and Entirety
Session: “Birgittine Acts of Memory, II: Remembering and Forgetting”
Karin Strinnholm Lagergren: Remembering Birgitta with Music


Corine and Volker continue to secure financing for the portions of the project not funded through the Vetenskapsrådet grant. Several requests and grant applications are pending, and others are in the proposal stages.