What texts and images say about medieval spirituality


On 1 October 2018, Ingrid Falque, a researcher at the Institute for the Study of Civilisation, Arts and Letters (INCAL), will officially join the family of FNRS research associates. Passionate about Flemish primitive art since her first hours at the University of Liège, this art historian has now made her passion her job. Having once dreamed of going into cultural journalism, she quickly learned that her future was rather in research. At the beginning of her career, this native Liégeoise travelled between the University of Liège (for her thesis on 15th- and 16th-century Flemish devotional portraits), the University of Leiden, in the Netherlands (for a first postdoctorate addressing the image theory of the mystic Henri Suso), the University of Louvain and the University of Namur (for a second postdoctorate addressing the role of images in the spiritual reform processes of Benedictine abbeys). Beginning this year, her ‘fief’ as an FNRS research associate will be the University of Louvain, specifically INCAL, where she will work within the Groupe d’Analyse Culturelle de la Première Modernité (‘Group for Cultural Analysis of Early Modernity’, GEMCA).

Interdisciplinary research

Dr Falque’s subject is unique in that it’s located at the crossroads of four human science fields: art, literature, philosophy and theology. More generally, she says she is studying ‘cultural history’. One question is omnipresent in her research: How were images used in the spiritual practices of the late Middle Ages in northern Europe? To answer this question, she says, it’s not enough to study the artworks themselves; we must also look at the era’s spiritual literature. For the last few years, her daily work has entailed comparing texts with the images of the late Middle Ages in order to better understand the philosophical-religious context and try to answer the initial question. Dr Falque already has some answers. For her, contrary to conventional wisdom, the images are tools for knowing God, just like the texts. Often, the images of the time that arouse emotion are contrasted with the spiritual texts that impart knowledge. And yet, according to Dr Falque, the images also have a cognitive dimension. During her mandate as a research associate, it’s precisely this path that she intends to explore, with one objective: to better understand the articulation between the cognitive and affective dimensions of images in the religious practices of the time.

A curious, committed researcher

Alongside her profession focused on the past, Dr Falque is a woman rooted in her time. For three years, she has been involved in a cause close to her heart: the human dimension of European migration policy. As a member of the support committee of the association La Voix des Sans-Papiers de Liège (‘The Voice of the Undocumented of Liège’), she provides weekly Dutch lessons to the association’s teenagers. Then she goes back to her passion, art history, reminding herself how fortunate she is to have been born in Europe and to pursue her studies and work in total freedom in a field that exhilarates her. For this committed Liégeoise, a good researcher is a curious researcher. She wants to push her research further, make discoveries and question them incessantly in order to unveil still more.

Lauranne Garitte

Published on August 29, 2018