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Paris in 1117. Heloise, a brilliant young scholar, is astonished when the famous, radical philosopher Peter Abelard consents to be her tutor. But what starts out as a meeting of minds turns into a passionate, dangerous love affair, which incurs terrible retribution. Nine centuries later, Arthur is in Paris to recreate the extraordinary story of Heloise and Abelard in a novel. To his surprise, his daughter visits and agrees to help, challenging his portraits of a couple who seem often inscrutable, sometimes breathtakingly modern. It soon emerges she is on her own mission to discover more about her parents’ fractured relationship – and that Arthur’s connection to his subject is more emotional than he cares to admit.
The award-winning author of The Eichmann Trial and Denial: Holocaust History on Trial gives us a penetrating and provocative analysis of the hate that will not die, focusing on its current, virulent incarnations on both the political right and left, in America, across Europe and in Britain. She addresses what can be done about it.
The 21st century is a new era for interfaith dialogue. While in the past such encounters might have been stiff affairs contrived to generate a politically expedient photo-op, what is remarkable today is the depth of relationships being formed across historically deep divides. In her wide-ranging project Only Through Others acclaimed artist Nicola Green presents photographs and paintings inspired by Archbishop Rowan Williams’ intimate conversations with figures including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Dalai Lama, the Grand Mufti of Egypt and former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Green’s works refuse to see theology in a vacuum, placing faith fully within the context of visual, material and sensory culture. Chaired by Simon Lockett.
Hereford Cathedral is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Ethelbert the King. But who was St Ethelbert? He played a significant role in the development of the church in Mercia. Following his beheading by King Offa in 794 pilgrims flocked to his shrine in Hereford Cathedral, which became a place of healing. Medieval writers elaborated stories of the saint and, although there are no traces of his original shrine, his story lives on and says important things about life and faith today. Tavinor is Dean of Hereford Cathedral.
From the fall of Constantinople in 1453 until the 18th century, many Western European writers viewed the Ottoman Empire with almost obsessive interest. Typically, they reacted to it with fear and distrust; and such feelings were reinforced by the deep hostility of Western Christendom towards Islam. Yet there was also much curiosity about the social and political system on which the huge power of the sultans was based. In the 16th century, especially, when Ottoman territorial expansion was rapid and Ottoman institutions seemed particularly robust, there was even open admiration. Chaired by Tom Clark of Prospect magazine.
Today we see the Quran being used by some to justify war and terrorism, the Torah to deny Palestinians the right to live in the Land of Israel, and the Bible to condemn homosexuality and contraception. The holy texts at the centre of all religious traditions are often employed selectively to underwrite arbitrary and subjective views. They are believed to be divinely ordained; they are claimed to contain eternal truths. But as Karen Armstrong, a world authority on religious affairs, shows in this fascinating journey through millennia of history, this narrow reading of scripture is a relatively recent phenomenon. For hundreds of years these texts were instead viewed as spiritual tools: scripture was a means for the individual to connect with the divine, to transcend their physical existence, and to experience a higher level of consciousness. Holy texts were seen as fluid and adaptable, rather than a set of binding archaic rules or a ‘truth’ that has to be ‘believed’.