Other news: Issue 2, February 2009

Work in progress: Memoria in Beeld - by Fenna Visser

(Representations of medieval memoria: memorial paintings and sculptures from the Netherlands)

For a number of years different people have been working on the database and website Memoria in Beeld, which was initiated by Truus van Bueren. The aim of this website is to provide an overview of works of art that functioned - with certainty or possibly - in the commemoration of the dead during the Middle Ages, in the area which makes up the present-day Netherlands. In the last five months much work had been done to complete and improve both the website and the database.

One of the most important activities of the last few months has been to obtain the copyright of many of the database's works of art from museums worldwide, in order to be able to display images of these works on the website. Almost all of the over eighty museums gave their permission for publication, and in addition a large number of museums provided us with their own images. Because of this the number of high-quality images on the website has expanded significantly.

In addition to this a large number of works of art have been added to the database. Many of these works are from religious institutions in the region of the Netherlands outside the archbishopric of Utrecht, and had previously been inventoried by Charlotte Dikken, Charlotte van Hout and Cees Beerthuizen. Other added works include the stained glass windows of the church of St Jan in Gouda, and a large number of reliefs with commemorative texts which were originally accompanied by now-lost religious scenes. Many of the latter could be added thanks to a large number of high-quality photographs of these reliefs provided to us by Douglas Brine. In total over two hundred works have been added to the database, bringing the total number of works it contains up to over 520.

Another important part of our activities has been the improvement of the database's contents. By checking and adding to the information on the works of art, the contents have been expanded and enhanced. We also revised and further structuralized the way some of the information was recorded in the database. This concerned especially the tables which can be searched with the 'advanced search'-option. Because of this these revisions have greatly improved the facility with which information can be found on the website.

The website Memoria in Beeld can be found at www.let.uu.nl/memorie.

Medieval commemoration practices. Presentation of research - by dr Els Rose, Utrecht University

A website is being developed; for the time being visit this site for further information.

'Do this in remembrance of me'. This call to remembrance has been the core of liturgical practice from the very beginning of Christianity. Commemorating the great events of the historia salutis is the central characteristic of medieval liturgical celebration. In the work of modern liturgists, the investigation of the anamnetic element of Christian worship is often focused on the commemoration of Christ's passion and resurrection. In a medieval context, Christ is not self-evidently and exclusively the object of liturgical commemoration. The remembrance of the miracles and virtues of the saints is at an equal level [Rose 2005a].
Over the past twelve years my research has centered on the liturgical commemoration of the saints and on the relation between liturgy and hagiography. While my dissertation dealt primarily with commemoration practices in the liturgy of early medieval Gaul [Rose 2005b], I focused on a broader geographical and chronological area while examining the liturgical cults of the apostles during my first postdoctoral project. In this project, the results of which will be published in March [Rose 2009], I studied the use of extra-canonical (apocryphal) Acts of the apostles in a variety of medieval liturgical traditions (Rome, Gaul, Spain, North and South Italy, England) until the beginning of the thirteenth century. The apocryphal legends of the apostles, transmitted in Latin from the sixth century onwards, are frequently used as foundation myths in medieval traditions of commemoration.
At present I lead the NWO-VIDI-project The Dynamics of Apocryphal Traditions in Medieval Religious Culture. Participants are Maarten Prot, MA (PhD-student) and Fenna Visser, MA (Research Assistant). Departing from an early medieval collection of apocryphal Acts, known as the Collection of Pseudo-Abdias, we investigate the use and transmission of the apocryphal Acts in the medieval world, both in written and pictorial form. A new edition, a study of language and audience of the collection, and an investigation of the representation of the apocryphal traditions in stained glass windows will be the main harvest of this project.

Selected publications
  • Rose 2005a: 'Hagiography as a liturgical act. Liturgical and hagiographic commemoration of the saints in the early Middle Ages', in M. Barnard, P. Post, E. Rose (eds.): A cloud of witnesses. The cult of saints in past and present (Louvain 2005 = Liturgia Condenda 18) 161-183.
  • Rose 2005b: Missale Gothicum e codice Vaticano Reginensi latino 317 editum (Turnhout: Brepols 2005 = Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 159D).
  • Rose 2009: Ritual memory. The apocryphal Acts and liturgical commemoration in the medieval West (c. 500-1215) (Leiden e.a.: Brill 2009, forthcoming in March).

Multi-media Memorial Research on the web - by Leen Breure

The website Memoria in beeld. Middeleeuwse memorievoorstellingen uit Nederland (http://www.let.uu.nl/memorie/) was officially presented to the public at the beginning of January. It contains an archive of images and descriptions of over 500 works of art, see also 'Work in progress: Memoria in Beeld' by Fenna Visser in this same issue.

The database contains a wealth of photographic material, which allows visitors to study the works of art in great detail. Because it mainly concentrates on the visual aspect of the art which functioned in the medieval memoria culture, Memoria in beeld distinguishes itself from most art historical websites. These websites tend to focus mostly on the classical genres found in illustrated art historical publications, often neglecting the differences in the form and execution of the individual works of art. Because of this the emphasis in these websites is often on the texts, even though there is so much to be seen and discovered by studying the work of art itself.

Only a few websites, such as the one belonging to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, goes beyond this and also contains a section Explore & Learn. The difference between this section and the classical genres is immediately apparent: the presentation is more multi-media oriented. Images are combined with movies and sounds and the visitor is given a more active role. The user is allowed to decide at any given time which information he or she would like to access and is invited to examine the offered images. Web applications such as these, in which texts, images, sounds and animations are combined, are known as Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), because of the many possibilities which offer the user valuable experiences on the web.

RIAs are usually created with the education of a large public in mind, but they can also play an important role in research (and the education of students). This can be demonstrated by returning to Memoria in beeld. During a recently held symposium ICT in de mediŽvistiek: Het memoria-onderzoek in Nederland a first version of a RIA for memorial research was presented. This RIA focused on one painting and its historical context, namely the memorial 'Maria met Kind met de gebedsportretten van de familie Van Zwieten' and the abbey MariŽnpoel (near Leyden), where the painting was originally located. The history of the family Van Zwieten, the abbey and the political circumstances of the time are included, allowing the visitor to easily navigate from one subject to another, without having to miss out on important foreknowledge and having to scroll back, or search the database for more information.

How a RIA may contribute in allowing a visitor to use a database more efficiently can also be demonstrated using Memoria in beeld as an example. No matter how advanced the search functions of a database may be, one is always required to possess some background information to be able to formulate the right questions and to interpret the results correctly. This becomes apparent just by studying the instructions and disclaimers accompanying Memoria in beeld.

This RIA shows the work of art as the rich primary source in relation to other sources, which may either be texts or other works of art. This literally brings the image closer to the text and makes is faster and easier to 'read' the work of art. It also demonstrates how the combinations of different sources have led to the final interpretation.

A RIA functions as a 'show case', an additional and alternative form of an online publication. The technical means to achieve such a direct and concrete form of communication have been unavailable for centuries. This is why we have become very attached to the textual form and need time to adjust ourselves to the new genre. However, the visual form is on the rise, supported by the 2D (and more and more often 3D) internet culture. In the field of humanities the practices of abstract reading and mentally reconstructing meaning can gradually make room for a more direct experience, which will increase the interest and commitment among scholars and a larger audience alike. This particular RIA will be added to Memoria in beeld a few months from now.


Request for Information - By Douwe Faber

The Leyden 'Memorieboeken': a unique situation?

In MMR Newsletter 1, a short notice introduced my research of memoria in the town of Leyden, in Holland. This research focuses on the many calendars, containing the names of those who wished to have either their own anniversaries, or those of their friends and relatives performed annually in one of Leyden's three parish churches. Of these memorieboeken ten are still preserved in the Leyden Archives, and in the Royal Library of The Hague. Together they contain well over 2000 entries. They cover a period from about 1300 to the end of the 16th century.

A distinct feature of these sources is the fact that the books, that have come down to us, stem for a greater part from non-ecclesiastical authorities. This holds especially for Leyden's oldest parish (St. Peters, developed at some date in the 13th century out of the chapel of the original committal village founded in 1121), which was served by priests from the Teutonic Order since 1268. In this parish we find memorieboeken of the churchwardens and the boards of two charitable institutions namely, a) the Hospital of St. Catharine and b) De Heilige Geest, the latter being an institute for poor relief which later became an orphanage. People in Leyden commissioned their anniversaries through these institutions, which in turn made sure that the parish priests, very often seconded by other priests, executed the anniversaries. These institutions acted as mediators between the commissioners and the priests. In the St. Peters parish one could also contract the parish priest directly or, from about 1430, commission a consortium of altar priests, but neither left us memorieboeken. In the two younger parishes a somewhat different situation presents itself. In the relatively modest parish of Our Lady (founded in 1364) the parish priest and the churchwardens shared a common memorieboek, in which a clear distinction is made between the anniversaries commissioned from the priest and those contracted through the churchwardens. For a correct understanding: in Leyden the churchwardens were lay authorities, controlled by the city magistrate. The third parish, that of St. Pancratius (founded in 1366), was served by the chapter, founded in the same year and by priests with a pronounced Leyden background. The chapter dominated the anniversary practices in its own church, although there are some indications that the churchwardens were also involved.

I am currently under the impression that this strong involvement of lay authorities in memoria in Leyden, especially in St. Peters parish, should be considered as exceptional. So far I have not been able to find a similar situation (found in sources like these, originating from non-ecclesiastical authorities) outside of Leyden. The Leyden situation may well have to be described and explained as differing from the standard. More information is, however, still needed to either confirm or disprove this. Perhaps we will have to make do with arguments e silentio. I very sincerely hope, therefore, to be advised about situations more or less akin to Leyden, or at least in some way deviating from what could be considered the standard situation.

Reactions and information will be greatly appreciated. Douwe Faber's contact information can be found in the second issue of MMR (page 18).

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MMR Updates

December 16th, 2016:

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March 6th, 2012:

The ninth issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available! In this issue you will find many new book announcements and information on projects dedicated to digitising memorial registers.

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