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Vadstena – space, place and presence

Fil.dr Mia Åkestam
Institutionen för kultur och estetik

The aim of the project is to study the visual manifestations of both secular and religious character in Vadstena from the middle of the 13th century to the end of the 15th, a period that covers the transformation of a building and a site from a royal palace to a Birgittine convent. The central questions of the project concern the significance of place and presence in Vadstena. How was the site used from time to time? Who was there and who was not? By focusing on aesthetic artefacts in a broad sense, Vadstena may be regarded as a stage for performances. This also includes rites and rituals that require both actors and audiences. Who was the observer at different times? Royal visits to the monastery are examples of delicate transgressions of the border between the secular and ecclesiastical spheres, but at the same time were important in maintaining the established order.

With the location and buildings as a common denominator, the project will study the place and palace of Vadstena as a religious and political centre during what has been called “the long Middle Ages.” The focus of the investigation is on material and visual culture, where painting, sculpture, textiles, seals, buildings and monuments are only a few examples. The project will draw attention to visual expressions, both permanent and temporary, in order to explore the similarities and differences between secular and religious imagery. The intention is to provide an overview of Vadstena as a centre of power during an extended period, in order to provide a new and broader understanding of the architecturally magnificent constructions of the Birgittine Order and the Vasa dynasty in the area.

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