Planning

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. Currently the project is seeking funding from foundations and corporate sponsors.

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.

The Extraordinary Sensescapes working group learned of the Vatican’s decision to close the Birgittine monastery at Altomünster in December 2015. 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.

Outlook

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