CANCELED - A Game of Stones: The Art of Memory in the Middle Ages

CANCELED - A Game of Stones: The Art of Memory in the Middle Ages

Contact: Leslie Warden-Anderson, warden@roanoke.edu
In an age when the majority of people in Europe could not read, the use of artificial memory training systems developed in Classical Greece was essential to medieval preachers for the composition and delivery of their sermons. One of the most popular techniques for both public speakers and priests was the "memory palace," an imagined structure filled in an orderly manner with visual cues that prompted the recollection of an infinite number of concepts. In the twelfth century, the use of memory techniques grew to include parishioners, who used those  same techniques when passing by the village church in order to recall the gist of sermons or moral lessons they had heard.  Sculptural and architectural elements on 12th-century rural French churches and the paintings of medieval books show distinct parallels with known textual and memory practices of that period. The use of specific visual devices, shocking imagery, and patterns of order within the decorative scheme of these churches transform the structures into literal memory palaces that continue to provide visual clues to lessons and texts long since forgotten. In the course of the talk, we may be surprised how often we create our own memory palaces in daily life today.