Book Series Studia Traditionis Theologiae, vol. 45

Through the Bone and Marrow

Re-examining Theological Encounters with Dance in Medieval Europe

Laura Hellsten

  • Pages: 372 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:16 b/w, 34 col., 2 maps b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59496-5
  • Paperback
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  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59497-2
  • E-book
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Awarded with the 2021 Nordic Research Prize of the Donner Institute for Research in Religion and Culture in Turku, Finland.


"Hellsten (...) is driven by a strong wish to create an in-depth understanding of the importance of dance in the Christian church during the Middle Ages. The extensive research is carefully and precisely conducted. Hellsten’s way of writing is personal, and she uses different text genres and body metaphors in a creative way to build her methodology and highlight the different sides of the research process. She is also a thoroughly ethical researcher. (...) She demonstrates how the dichotomies have created absences, distortions and gaps in earlier dance research and argues in a convincing way that the theological research on dance needs new epistemological starting points and new research methods that take the body into account.” (from the Prize Motivation of the Board of the Donner Institute for Research in Religion and Culture) 

"(...) this is a thought-provoking and unique work that offers new suggestions, questions, and theoretical models of knowing. It should spark conversation and research from scholars of both theology and dance, even or perhaps especially from those who disagree with her conclusions and approach." (Lynneth Miller Renberg, in Peritia 34. 2023, p. 241-244)


Laura Hellsten is a post-doctoral fellow in Systematic Theology at Åbo Akademi University. In her current research she works as an ethicist ethnographically participating in a transdisciplinary research group studying the functions of cells. She also leads a project which brings together artists and researchers around the theme of science communication. She has further published articles around current and historical practices of dance in Western Christian theological traditions.



This book is a conversation starter. The author is re-imagining the theological landscape of historical practices of dance in order to open up a space where further explorations can be made. This is done in a two step manner. First, the book uncovers the restrictions of earlier research on the topic of dance in and around churches. In the second step, Hellsten suggests a practice for how historical sources can be imagined in a new frame. Opening up a new field of previously neglected and much needed historical studies on Dance in the Christian churches of the Latin West this study aims at questioning old paradigms and opening new vistas rather than reinterpreting concrete liturgical manuscripts or scrutinizing all the details of the historical sources presented.
The Donner Institute for Research in Religion and Culture in Turku, Finland has awarded its Nordic Research Prize 2021 to Dr. theol. Laura Hellsten for her creative research widening our understanding of sacral dance in general and of the role of dance in the Christian church in particular.

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