The British Province of Carmelites, a religious order in the Roman Catholic Church, in conjunction with the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York, is holding an academic symposium on Carmelite history and spirituality, focussing especially on the role of lay-people and women religious in the Order from the Middle Ages to the present day.



Symposium Speakers and Topics - full details below
Clare Cross Carmelite Friars in Tudor Yorkshire
Richard Copsey Cum Nulla: from a group of hermits to a Carmelite Family
Pat McMahon  Building a family in Carmel in fourteenth century Florence 
Kevin Alban  Thomas Netter: Pushing back boundaries of affiliation in the Carmelite Order
Johan Bergstrom-Allen  Carmelites and lay piety in York prior to Cum Nulla
Nickey Hallett  Lives of seventeenth-century Carmelite nuns


The Order of Carmelites has its origins in the Holy Land, and has been one of the most influential Christian groups worldwide. The Carmelites, also known as the Whitefriars, developed from a group of lay-hermits in 12th-century Palestine, living a contemplative life modelled on the figures of Elijah and the Virgin Mary.

The Order arrived in Britain in 1242. After the hermits became friars five years later, many men and women encountering the Carmelites felt attracted to their spirituality and way of life. Often these lay-people were enrolled as full members of the 'Carmelite Family'. In 1452 a letter from the Pope entitled Cum Nulla gave official recognition to these 'lay-Carmelites', and to the Carmelite nuns. Ever since, they have born distinctive witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through a mission of prayer, community building, and service.

Following the suppression of religious orders at the Reformation, the British Province of Carmelites was re-established under the patronage of Our Lady of the Assumption early in the twentieth century. Today there are communities of friars, religious sisters and lay Carmelites across the country. Members of this 'Carmelite Family' seek the face of the Living God in parishes, prisons, university chaplaincies, retreat centres and through many other forms of ministry.

To celebrate the 550th anniversary of the issuing of Cum Nulla, the Carmelite Family in Britain is organising a series of spiritual, academic, and social events. At 11.30am on 16th May 2003, Fr. Antony Lester, O.Carm. (Prior Provincial) will preside at a celebration service in York Minster, by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter. The preacher will be the Order's Prior General, Most Rev. Fr. Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm.

As part of the celebrations for the Cum Nulla anniversary, the academic symposium is being organised by the British Province of Carmelites, in collaboration with the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York. The city of York has a long Carmelite heritage (for a chronology of the York friary, click here).

The symposium begins at 2.00pm, on Friday 16th May 2003, in the Maclagan Hall of the medieval St. William's College, adjacent to York Minster. If you would like to attend the symposium please inform the projects office Tel: 01904. 411521, as this will assist us with planning


The symposium will begin at 2.00pm. Papers will be presented by scholars from within the Order, and by researchers from international academic institutions. Papers include:

Professor Claire Cross, MA, PhD (Cantab), Professor of History, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York
Carmelite Friars in Tudor Yorkshire
Professor Cross is an expert on clergy in the diocese of York in the sixteenth century, and author of a definitive survey of the fate of the ex-religious of Yorkshire at the Dissolution. (Biography [Confirmed]

Fr. Richard Copsey, O.Carm., MA (Oxon), STL, PhD.
Cum Nulla: from a group of hermits to a Carmelite Family
Dr. Copsey is currently Prior of the Carmelite student house at East Finchley. He has published widely on Carmelite history and spirituality, and is the compiler of the forthcoming Biographical Register of Medieval Carmelites. He is a member of the Central Committee of the Carmelite Institute in Rome, and former delegate for culture to the Order's General Council. [Confirmed]

Fr. Pat McMahon, O.Carm., PhD
Building a family in Carmel in fourteenth-century Florence
Dr. McMahon is currently the Director of the Carmelite Institute in Rome, and lectures on Carmelite history at the Carmelite Institute in Washington D.C. [Confirmed]

Fr. Kevin Alban, O.Carm., MA (Oxon), MTh (Heythrop College, University of London)
Thomas Netter: Pushing back boundaries of affiliation in the Carmelite Order
Currently Secretary-General of the Order in Rome, Fr. Kevin is doing doctoral research at Heythrop College, University of London, under Prof. Norman Tanner. Having written several papers on Carmelite history in Britain, his doctorate is on prayer and contemplation in the writings of Thomas Netter, O.Carm., Prior Provincial of the Anglo-Welsh Carmelite Province in the fifteenth century. [Confirmed]

Mr. Johan Bergstrom-Allen, BA (York), M.Phil (Oxon)
Carmelites and lay piety in York prior to Cum Nulla
Employed by the British Province as a lay 'Projects Worker', Johan researches his PhD part-time attached to the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. His study expands upon his Masters thesis on the vernacular literature of the medieval Carmelite order. [Confirmed]

Dr. Nicky Hallett, D.Phil (York)
Lives of seventeenth-century Carmelite nuns
Dr. Hallett, formerly of the Centre for Medieval Studies in York, is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English at the University of Kent at Canterbury, where she is also a member of the Centre for Medieval & Tudor Studies. Her interdisciplinary research covers a wide variety of topics, including fifteenth-century literature and culture, and various aspects of female self-writing and auto/biography from different historical periods. She is soon to publish editions of Lives by Carmelite nuns, based on manuscripts from around 1619. (Biography: [Confirmed]

The papers will be followed by a period for questions and social-time to discuss the future direction of Carmelite studies.

The symposium will be chaired by Dr. Richard Copsey, O.Carm., a leading historian of the medieval Carmelite province. The Province is also hoping to use the symposium to launch a collection of Fr. Copsey's essays on the early history of the order, published by the newly revived Saint Albert's Press.

At the event the Province also hopes to launch the Carmelite Research Group, a society for the study of Carmelite culture, history, and spirituality.

As further speakers are confirmed, outlines of their papers will be added to this website.

Spring 2003

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