Research Stream


Sarah Randles
The University of Melbourne

Emotions and Material Culture at Chartres Cathedral in the Middle Ages

This project is concerned with the relationships between material culture and emotions in the context of pilgrimage and sacred place.  It explores the emotional process of pilgrimage through the lens of objects within Chartres Cathedral as well as those brought to it and taken from it by medieval pilgrims.

Emotions and Material Culture at Chartres Cathedral in the Middle Ages

This research focuses on the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres, a significant site for medieval pilgrimage, which centred on its claim to hold a garment known as the sainte chemise, believed to have been worn by the Virgin Mary during the birth of Christ. This project investigates the emotional responses of worshippers to this relic, and to other relics and holy material housed in the cathedral by considering the material responses to it. Such responses include the donations of other relics and precious materials to the church, as well as votive offerings given in thanks for miracles received by the intercession of the Virgin of Chartres. They also include objects taken away by pilgrims, such as pilgrim badges and copies of the sainte chemise. The built environment of the Cathedral itself and its extensive and well-preserved visual program in stained glass and carved stone can also be considered as a material response to the religious emotions generated by this sacred site. This approach has also enabled a broader consideration of emotions pertaining to sacred places and relics, beyond just Chartres Cathedral and medieval Christianity.


S. Randles,‘Material Magic: the Deliberate Concealment of Footwear and Clothing’, Parergon, 30(2), 2013, pp. 109-129.

S. Randles, ‘One Quilt or Two? A Reassessment of the Guicciardini Quilts’, Medieval Clothing and Textiles, 2009, pp. 93–128.

S. Randles,‘Re-building the Middle Ages: Medievalism in Australian Architecture’ in Stephanie Trigg, ed., Medievalism and the Gothic in Australian Culture, Brepols 2005; and Melbourne University Press, 2006, pp. 147–170.

Image: Detail of the 12th-century 'Notre-Dame de la Belle Verrière' window, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Chartres. Source: Wikimedia Commons.