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The University of Southampton
Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture

Research project: City Witness: Place and Perspective in Medieval Swansea

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Through digital mapping, textual analysis and 3D visualisation, this project aims to forge connections between moden Swansea and its medieval antecedent, and to explore the varying perspectives (both literal and metaphorical) of individuals from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds within the medieval town.

A thriving port, a marcher base for the lords of Gower, and a multi-cultural urban community, Swansea was an important centre in the Middle Ages, comparable with many other historic European towns. Yet the medieval legacy of Swansea is almost invisible today. Wartime bombing and later re-development of the city centre, in particular, have almost completely obscured the traces of the medieval urban lay-out and its buildings. Currently, urban regeneration is fostering interest in Swansea's medieval heritage, driven by rescue archaeological work in the city and ongoing excavation / conservation projects on Swansea Castle.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, this project aims to further our understanding of medieval Swansea, to forge connections between the modern city and its medieval antecedent, and through digital mapping and textual analysis to reveal how medieval individuals from different cultural and ethnic communities understood and represented their town.

A unique research resource exists for medieval Swansea in the form of a fourteenth-century Vatican Library manuscript, which brings together witness testimonies describing the hanging of the Welshman 'William Cragh' by the lord of Gower around 1289. This project aims to exploit the rich potential of this source to extend our understanding of the medieval town, by connecting it with GIS mapping, reconstructing the literal perspectives experienced by the medieval witnesses within the city, and exploring the diverse identities and perceptions of urban spaces which are represented in the text. Project outputs include a website, featuring an interactive map of medieval Swansea and 3D visualisations of witness sight-lines, and a series of pavement markers in Swansea, highlighting sites of the medieval town in the city today.

Led by Professor Catherine Clarke (PI), this project is a collaboration between the University of Southampton, Queen's University Belfast and King's College London.

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