Renana Bartal, PhD
Mental pilgrimages to the Holy Land in texts and images (Manuscripts and painted panels)

My current research project – The Late Medieval Meditationes Vitae Christi: Image, Imagination and Passion Devotion – focuses on the use of illuminated books for prayer and meditation. The Meditationes Vitae Christi, written during the fourteenth century for an anonymous Franciscan nun, has long been accorded a central place in the history of late medieval culture. A long-held art historical assumption is that the text served as an iconographical inspiration known and used by late medieval artists. Others have linked it to more general trends of late medieval spirituality such as the greater emotional expressiveness of Trecento art and the devotional use of images for private meditation. My project combines a thorough analysis of the text and its possible influence on trends in late medieval piety with a study of its manuscript tradition, examining these as facilitators of Passion devotion and mental pilgrimage.
A second project focuses on actual visits to the Holy Land as reflected in pilgrims’ accounts and guidebooks. Although the majority of pilgrimage manuscripts and printed books are not accompanied by illustrations, some present pictorial programs that may have played a significant role in the transmission of knowledge concerning Holy Land sites.

Publications in relation to topic
The Varying Interpretations of the Mind: Interpictoriality in an Illuminated Meditationes Vitae Christi [in preparation].

Papers and Lectures in relation to topic
Inventive Contemplation in an illuminated copy of Meditationes Vitae Christi, Giotto’s O, Research seminar, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, (10/ 2011).

Visual Splendor, Textual Poverty: A 14th-Century Illuminated Meditationes Vitae Christi,
International Medieval Congress, Leeds (7/ 2011).

Humanity and Humility in an Illuminated Copy of the Meditationes Vitae Christi,
Graduate Student Seminar, School of Arts, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
(3/ 2011).

Passion Devotion and Mental Pilgrimage in an Illuminated Meditationes Vitae Christi (Oxford, CCC, MS 410),
Visual Constructs of Jerusalem, International Conference, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem (11/ 2010).