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Visit to Orléans, France

Inside Fleury basilica, Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire

Old Members’ Trust Graduate Conference and Academic Travel Fund Travel Report — James Drysdale Miller (2020 DPhil in History)

In January 2024 I travelled to Orléans, France, to carry out research in support of my DPhil thesis, ‘Relics and Memory: Fleury and the Body of St Benedict, c. 750–c. 1140’.

My doctoral research explores the history of St Benedict’s relics at the abbey of Fleury, using the medieval community as a case study for how medieval relics were venerated and how meaning was assigned to them. This research trip supported my studies both by allowing me to visit Fleury itself and to consult several key manuscripts housed in Orléans libraries.

The first part of the trip was a visit to the abbey of Fleury, which lies about 20 miles to the east of Orléans. This visit, which had long been delayed by the pandemic restrictions in place when I started my DPhil, was greatly exciting. I was able to meet members of the modern monastic community who kindly gave me a tour of the basilica and of the abbey’s rich medieval stonework collection. The opportunity to walk around the basilica and the various surrounding chapels was especially informative for my research, much of which considers the importance of processions as ways by which the monks shaped their understandings of relics. To finally visit the site around which which my thesis revolves was a very special occasion.

Orléans Médiathèque MS 322, with some marginal additions just visible

The second part was spent in the Orléans Médiathèque (formerly the municipal library), consulting medieval manuscripts which had been owned and used by the monks of Fleury. The Médiathèque’s high-quality digitization program meant that I had been able to complete most of my research through online facsimiles, but in-person consultation of some of the manuscripts was still required. This allowed me to identify delicate signs of use not visible in the online photographs. Access to Orléans Médiathèque MS 322 was especially exciting, as the application of UV light revealed a series of erased marginal additions not visible under normally lighting conditions.

I am grateful for the financial support offered by the Old Members’ Trust Graduate Conference and Academic Travel Fund, which made this research trip possible, and the kind assistance of monks of Fleury and the librarians at the Orléans Médiathèque.

Find out more about the range of travel grants and scholarships available to assist Univ students on our Travel Grants page or read further travel reports.

Published: 31 May 2024

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