Conference and exhibition on Pilgrims and Pilgrimage

Issued: Tue, 08 May 2018 09:54:00 BST

Pilgrims and Pilgrimage: Sights and sounds of the sacred was a one-day conference and two-week exhibition involving artists, poets, musicians and theologians, writes Professor David Jasper, UofG's Professor Emeritus in the Theology and Religious Studies.

The exhibits and conference were intended firstly, to act as catalysts for dialogue between the languages of pilgrimage in their many forms, whether theological, philosophical, poetic or pragmatically driven; and secondly, to complement the very important collection of early church relics and sculptures on show in Govan Old Church.

While pilgrimage may be defined as a mode of journeying towards a highly significant focus or goal – a shrine or other sacred place – in its broadest sense, it is also a journey undertaken for reasons of curiosity or as a matter of sentiment. What also characterises pilgrimage is the form and effect of the journey, which often takes the traveller or pilgrim out of their conventional and habit world into a kind of liminality, or in-between place, that leads to a transformative state. ‌Govan Stones

The exhibition (running from 19 May to 3 June 2018) and conference (which took part on 19 May) aimed to bring into focus many of the ways in which pilgrimage is transmitted, shared or remembered; historically within the church and more recently in the secular West. The conference comprised a rich mix of academic analysis, poetry readings, textual memories and narratives brought back by pilgrims, as well as performances of early and contemporary church music. These were expanded upon through the contemporary art on show, using a range of media, including video, sound, printed texts and sculptural objects.

Conference presenters and performers included: Professor Ian Bradley (University of St Andrews), Chris Taylor and David Hamilton of the Royal Conservatoire, poets Gerrie Fellows, Vicki Husband and Jane Hartshorn, introduced by Dr Sam Tongue of University of Glasgow, as well as readings by some of the artists exhibiting, followed by a round table discussion chaired by Prof Heather Walton (University of Glasgow).

Exhibiting artists are: Sara Alonso, Susan Brind & Jim Harold, Conor Cook & Joanna Peace, Jasper Coppes, Victoria Evans, Cristina Garriga, Birthe Jorgensen and Emil Lillo (staff and alumni from Glasgow School of Art’s M Litt Fine Art Practice course).

The conference and exhibition were made possible by the financial support of Bishop Gregor Duncan and the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway, and Literature and Theology (Oxford University Press). Thanks also goes to Professor Stephen Driscoll, the Govan Heritage Trust Scio, as well as the volunteers at Govan Old Church.

Govan Old Church, the site of which dates back to the late 9th century and possibly earlier, was itself once a site of pilgrimage. The present building holds within its walls some very fine objects of historical and sculptural importance: among them the 9th century sarcophagus associated, by some, with the Scottish Saint, Constantine, who is thought to have lived circa 6th century.

It is known that, historically, his tomb was once a focus for pilgrimage. Also, within the church are a number of early stone crosses and grave stones, including five 10th century ‘hogback stones’. Tourists and locals regularly visit the church to view these historic objects and there is still a small community who pray there on a regular basis. The building acts now as both a spiritual hub for the community and as a museum, and its changing conceptual form, may be considered as providing a parallel narrative to accompany the changing nature of pilgrimage.



Pilgrims and Pilgrimage Sights and Sounds of the Sacred

Govan Old Church, 866 Govan Road, Glasgow G51 3UU - Map

The exhibition is free, and open to members of the public

  • Exhibition: 19 May – 3 June 2018 Opening times: 1pm – 5pm daily

Curated by: Jim Harold, David Jasper and Donald Orr.

For more details and information contact David Jasper