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Writing the history of Manchester’s Collegiate Church and Cathedral

This introductory chapter puts the book in the context of previous histories and highlights its main themes and approaches. ‘A perpetual college’ is a phrase taken from the first charter of 1421, which envisaged the Collegiate Church lasting for ever. The chapter argues that while national and even international factors had a vital bearing on the institution’s history right from the start, what was also crucial was its role in the local community. Manchester’s Collegiate Church and Cathedral also has a number of idiosyncratic features which means that this volume brings some new facets to the genre of ‘cathedral history’. Most strikingly, it allows us to examine a multi-organizational and multi-functional structure over six hundred years. The Collegiate Church was an extension of an existing parish church before being upgraded to become a Cathedral in 1847. Manchester’s history is thus unusual in that very few collegiate churches survived the Reformation, and it was one of only four collegiate churches to be elevated to cathedral status in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

in Manchester Cathedral
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The ideological bedrock of the postsocialist contemporary
Octavian Esanu

This chapter turns its attention to “antipolitics,” a word for what is seen as the dominant form of the resistance of East-Central European intellectuals to socialist totalitarianism. It will argue that “antipolitics” should be regarded not only as the main oppositional strategy and force developed during late socialism but also as the most significant ideological base for the construction of the “postsocialist contemporary” after 1989. It was “antipolitics,” as practiced in Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia – and also earlier, and under very different conditions, in Moscow, in the context of post-Stalinist cultural and political wars (which, in fact, made Central European antipolitics possible) – that prepared the ground for a radically new relation between art and politics in postsocialist contemporary art. This new relation is developed early on in some of the first Annual Exhibitions within the SCCA network, and these efforts – formulated in terms of a new “paragon” of “PC Eastern Art” (where “PC” is made to stand for post-communism, personal computers, political correctness, the post-national condition, and others) – will be celebrated by the end of the 1990s as the major achievements of the Soros network. But the new conflation of politics with art during the transition are not only products of the post-1989 processes or liberalization – channeled along with grant dollars through various programs – and neither are they simply or only “Western imports,” but they are also to some degree residues and remnants of various antipolitical strategies developed within late socialist dissident groups, now in charge of normalization.

in The postsocialist contemporary
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Manchester Cathedral is one of the most rewarding and significant medieval buildings in north-west England, reflecting the ambitions and achievements of aristocratic and mercantile patrons in national, rather than merely local contexts. The survival of the original domestic building of the college is remarkable, while the architectural, stylistic and artistic influences and connections are worthy subjects for further research. In addition, the story of rebuilding, repair, and restoration represents a fascinating record of changing attitudes, practices and perceptions over succeeding centuries. This chapter explores the architecture from 1421 onwards, including nineteenth and twentieth century repairs and developments.

in Manchester Cathedral
The aesthetics of problem-solving
Octavian Esanu

As discussed in previous chapters, the main postulates outlined in the mission statements of these centers – in their imperative to build an institutional infrastructure for the art of the “open society,” which is to say “contemporary art” – amounted to an ideology of postsocialist artistic institutions and practices in the 1990s. But such statements were the fruit of various managerial-bureaucratic narratives woven in the Open Society Institute offices of New York and Budapest. The postsocialist or Soros contemporary had a clear managerial agenda, but it lacked an aesthetic or artistic program. This chapter examines a small segment of the vast ideological universe of new or neo-liberalism. It engages with the work of a few intellectuals who have left a deep impact not only on post-1989 reforms in Eastern Europe, but also on the world. The chapter looks into some of the ideas about art that were popular among a number of Central European intellectuals that were affiliated in some way or another with Karl Popper. Rather than consider their general social, scientific, and economic postulations – for which they have been celebrated by advocates of the free market, over the course of the past century – the chapter traces their artistic and aesthetic beliefs, seeking to comprehend the place of art in the ideological universe of Cold War liberalism. The chapter poses such questions as: What is the place of art in the “open society” that Soros, following Popper’s dream, decided to build in Eastern Europe?

in The postsocialist contemporary
Octavian Esanu

The chapter is intended as a conclusion to a book that attempts to historicize the dominant institutional paradigm in post-1989 Eastern European art. Here the “postsocialist contemporary” is passed through three prisms. The first one considers the overall impact of the Soros art centers. But the book refuses to remain fixated on a “story of art,” that is, on protonarratives of this particular network and anecdotes about its players, aspiring instead to catch a glimpse of the Narrative of history, in the age of global networks of capital and culture. The chapter evolves, again in kaleidoscopic fashion, into two further sections written from the perspective of broader historical considerations in the development of “contemporary art” and “contemporaneity.” The chapter argues that contemporary art and contemporaneity (the temporality associated with globalized market-driven democracies) resonate with the main concerns of late bourgeois civil society, its actors and institutions. One can catch historical glimpses of this concern in the overlapping of the periodization of “contemporary art” and the rise of neoliberalism after World War II. The last section considers aspects of the construction of the discourse and temporality of contemporary art, dance, music, and architecture as specifically tailored to the needs of the global “open” or “great” society, since the early days of the Cold War in the United States. The “contemporary” is, in other words, one of the spoils gained at the end of the Cold War. Where this War has not yet ended (as in North Korea), one cannot fully imagine the network logic of contemporary art.

in The postsocialist contemporary

This chapter examines the history of the Cathedral from the outbreak of the First World War until the 1980s, a period in which it faced major challenges. The first was that the city was changing shape, with its centre of gravity moving away from the Cathedral. A number of inter-war commercial buildings were much taller than the Cathedral, while the civic quarter expanded with the construction of the Central Library (1934) and Town Hall Extension (1938). This separation was exacerbated first by the bombing of the Cathedral area in the Second World War and then by the depredations of town planners, who almost choked the Cathedral by surrounding it with large modern buildings. A second problem afflicted the city as a whole: its loss of national and international influence. Many of the things that had made Manchester internationally famous – cotton, free trade, Liberalism – were in terminal decline by the inter-war period. A third obstacle was the general decline in religious observance that occurred in Britain between 1914 and 1983. However, none of these obstacles was insuperable, and successive deans and canons proved resourceful at finding ways of remaining a ‘rallying point’.

in Manchester Cathedral

Bringing the story of Manchester Cathedral into the early twenty-first century, this chapter explores the contradictions in the city’s changing fortunes – resurgence and rebuilding coupled with persistent poverty and social deprivation. It explores how the role of the Cathedral evolved through this period, asking whether the institution adapted successfully to the rapidly changing world around it. In doing so, it considers the 2007 furore surrounding the use of the Cathedral in the video game Resistance: Fall of Man, the picketing of the Cathedral in 2009 by the British National Party, and the Cathedral’s role in the city’s mourning in the wake of the 2017 Manchester Arena bomb. It is arguable that, amongst English cathedrals, Manchester has been particularly successful in offering itself as an example of a historic ‘great’ church which has been able to maintain a broad, representative function for the city alongside its more strictly religious function. It can function not just geographically and socially as the historic centre of the city, but as a resource for the Manchester city and region. At the same time, it has not ceased to develop its spiritual life and mission.

in Manchester Cathedral

Until 1828–29, the special position of the Established Church in relation to the state was still intact in legal terms both at the national and local level. The clergy of the Collegiate Church of Manchester and their lay officials still appeared to be the chief ecclesiastical authority in the town. They also frequently took the lead in local affairs. The clergy moved from their suspect Tory Jacobite associations of the earlier eighteenth century to the uncompromising loyalism of the 1790s onwards. This strengthened the alliance of Church and State, and in the 1790s ‘Church and King’ became a potent war-cry for suppressing political reformers and smearing Dissenting associations. But the Church’s control in Manchester was not absolute. The demise of Church and King mobs, the growth of non-Anglican churches, congregations and schools and of absenteeism from Church tell their own tale, as do the voices of critics, the failure of Sabbath discipline, and the increasing recourse to voluntary persuasion. The cracks in the ruling edifice were deepened by the reaction against Peterloo. The erosion of Establishment begun with the emancipation of Dissenters and Roman Catholics in 1828–29 continued during the following decades.

in Manchester Cathedral

This chapter shows that the foundation of the College and its development in the following century were signs of the vitality of the late medieval Church. The dedication to St George and St Denys locates Manchester’s Collegiate Church within the reign of Henry V. Fifteenth-century religion was once assumed to have been moribund and unpopular, but recent research has uncovered a church which was remarkable in its energy, commitment, popularity, and versatility. Its founders intended for the Manchester Collegiate Church to offer the best possible religious provision for the community, as well as providing prayers for the souls of its benefactors. The chapter demonstrates how the founding ideals of piety, educational provision, and community service continued after the Reformation. The Edwardian closure of the college and the Marian re-founding illuminate Diarmaid MacCulloch’s vision of a religious cultural revolution under Edward and the reconceptualization of Marian Catholicism by Eamon Duffy and others. The chapter argues that, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the history of Manchester’s Collegiate Church is a history of the English church in miniature.

in Manchester Cathedral

This chapter tackles issues of Church reform, the transfer to Cathedral status and the emergence of Tractarianism in Manchester in the late nineteenth century. The circumstances of Manchester Cathedral’s creation and the legacy of its former incarnation rendered its early history sui generis, involving disputes of peculiar intensity and unexpected complications. Opinions on the Collegiate Church’s value to ‘Cottonopolis’ differ, but it was unequivocally a Manchester institution, whereas the Cathedral would be mother church to a diocese stretching north of Lancaster. The Collegiate Church was also Manchester parish church. As the city’s ecclesiastical map evolved through church-building and parochial subdivision, how should its dual role be reflected in the allocation of the burgeoning financial resources generated from its property and services by the dynamic urban economy? The process by which ‘th’Owd Church’ (which the Collegiate Church was affectionately referred to after new churches were built in Manchester from the early eighteenth century) metamorphosed into a cathedral would be far from straightforward. This chapter argues that loyalty to ‘th’Owd Church’ was ultimately one of the distinctive strengths of Manchester Cathedral, giving it a wider resonance than many other cathedrals had.

in Manchester Cathedral