History of Art and Architecture

Collecting the Past: Medievalism and Historicism in the Bishop’s Garden of Washington National Cathedral

Wednesday, April 13, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Speaker: Sarah Daiker

In this presentation, Sarah Daiker will share a portion of her dissertation research that she will present at the upcoming International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 9–14, 2022, as part of a session titled “Medievalism, Orientalism, Capitalism,” sponsored by the Material Collective. This research examines the layering of medievalism and historicism in Washington National Cathedral’s Bishop’s Garden by Florence Brown Bratenahl (1884–1940), the garden’s designer, who carefully selected medieval architectural fragments, paving stones, and plant material with historical associations to form the garden, both physically and ideologically. This varied historical material complicates an understanding of the Bishop’s Garden as “medieval,” as envisioned by Bratenahl, and suggests that the garden functions in part to make claims about United States national identity, from the garden’s formation in the 1920s through to the present.


Zoom password available on HAA Undergraduate and Graduate Canvas sites, or by request from haadept@pitt.edu.

Image: Baptismal font at the center of the Hortulus, or “Little Garden,” within the Bishop’s Garden, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. Sarah Daiker, 2016.