Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Faculty of Religion, Culture and Society Calendar

Religion, Culture and Society Lecture Series: “These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends”

When:We 13-03-2024 17:00 - 18:00
Where:Faculty of Religion, Culture and Society (Oude Boteringestraat 38)

“These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends”

Animals and Robots in the Late Medieval Garden of Eden
By: Sven Gins


Old Court Room
Oude Boteringestraat 38
9712 GK Groningen

‘These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends’: Animals and Robots in the Late Medieval Garden of Eden
Picture yourself on horseback, racing through lush forests of golden trees, beside quietly murmuring streams, and over elegantly rolling hills. As you cross a narrow bridge, you admire the herons taking flight, the golden songbirds serenading you from the trees, and the mechanical monkeys gesturing at you. Every detail is designed solely for you, crafted for your awe and entertainment. In this world, you can live without limits.
Such was the promise of the garden park and castle of Hesdin in northern France. Every part of it was meticulously engineered for awe: artificial landscapes, imported wildlife, robotic animals like a water-powered elephant, even rooms with artificial weather systems that could conjure rain, lightning and snow. Yet Hesdin was more than a display of wealth and power: it was an entire world of its own, a space where nature and the wonders of technology came together in a spectacular vision of paradise lost and reimagined.
This talk will explore our timeless urge to recreate paradise on Earth. What can ‘the wonders, the amusements, the arts, the devices, the waterworks, the ingenuities, the strange things’ at places like Hesdin tell us about humankind’s relationship to the natural world? What is Hesdin’s place in the evolution of zoos and amusement parks?

Sven Gins is a researcher and educator at the University of Groningen. His PhD project, ‘Homo Imperfectus,’ explores the intricate relationships between humans, animals, and machines in medieval Christianity. Sven also cultivates an interest for how modern games reimagine medieval heritage. As a side quest, he spearheads the development of an educational board game, Monstrum, in collaboration with heritage institutions and high schools. His dedication to making medieval animal heritage accessible and engaging earned him a nomination for Young Historian of the Year 2023.

This Lecture is part of a Lecture Series.