‘Doors, Dwellings, Devotions: Enacting an Anchoritic Rite of Enclosure on Film’

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In spring 2021, a multidisciplinary team in Oxford planned, enacted, and filmed a twelfth-century English rite for the enclosure of an anchorite (based on the example in London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian D.XV). This paper will relay key insights from the creatively critical process of bringing medieval liturgical material from written record to life.

In the first phase of the project, we created a performing edition based on the MS text, together with other medieval liturgical sources which supplied the entirely absent melodies to which a great proportion of the rite was sung. In collaboration with the ensemble Sub Rosa, we filmed on location at St Mary’s Church, Iffley, Oxford, where the remains of thirteenth-century anchorite Annora de Briouze’s cell can still be seen. The film also includes interviews with some of the present-day residents of the parish and those involved in the church’s own education programme.

Using illustrative clips from the film, this paper will discuss rehearsal and performance practises involved in the creative process. We will ask what it means for twenty-first-century singers to embody the motions, gestures, and music of this dramatic liturgy in which a woman devotes her life to solitary prayer, and the personal and communal experience of performing gender in creations and recreations of medieval liturgy. Reflecting on the wider implications of enacting this rite within a living parish already deeply engaged in its history, but transformed by more than a year of self-isolation, we will address how the anchoritic vocation has been imbued with an uncomfortable relevance during the pandemic.

This research was funded by the John Fell OUP Research Fund.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 10 May 2022
Event57th International Congress on Medieval Studies - Western Michigan University/online, Kalamazoo, United States
Duration: 9 May 202214 May 2022


Conference57th International Congress on Medieval Studies
Abbreviated titleInternational Congress on Medieval Studies
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


  • medievalism
  • Reenactment
  • musicology
  • early music
  • ethnomusicology
  • Digital Humanities
  • spirituality
  • religious music
  • religion

Cite this