Other news: Issue 4, February 2010

Introduction to the Bibliography Medieval Memoria Research for the Low Countries - by Viera Bonenkampová and Kim Ragetli

Since the early 1990s the study of commemoration has become an important field of research in the Netherlands and Belgium. With increasing regularity, researchers and scholars are publishing articles and books, staging exhibitions, and organizing conferences and symposia dealing with the concept of medieval commemoration. As a result the number of publications on medieval memoria has become so voluminous, that a specialized bibliography is needed.

This month the first edition of the 'Bibliography Medieval Memoria Research for the Low Countries' was published on the internet. This bibliography includes publications from Dutch and Belgian authors on research concerning memoria in the Low Countries. In doing so, this bibliography aims to give greater publicity to the activities of memoria-researchers in the Low Countries. Apart from articles and monographs this bibliography also contains a separate list of editions of registers of memorial services (necrologia) and of registers of gifts and foundations, arranged alphabetically by city or town.

The 'Bibliography Medieval Memoria Research for the Low Countries' is compiled to aid the researcher in studying various aspects of medieval commemoration. Therefore the bibliography incorporates a range of subjects related to memorial culture. There are studies concerning the remembrance of the dead, as well as literature that focuses on deathbed and funeral practices, on gift giving and poor relief in relation to the commemoration of the dead, on funerary art and stained glass windows, on ars moriendi, wills, and other related subjects. Apart from case studies, more general literature regarding medieval commemoration has also been added.

In the database Memoria in Beeld over 500 memorials (Memorialbilder), all from the area of the present-day Netherlands, are described in detail. The relevant literature per memorial can be consulted on the website of the database and is therefore not included in the present bibliography.

The bibliography will be regularly updated. We aim for completeness, and would therefore welcome any suggestions and additions from our users. You may send your contributions to Kim Ragetli (contact information on page 11 of this month's issue). The newest updates of the bibliography can be consulted on the MeMO website.

Latest update: January 2010

Launch MeMO website

The MeMO project now has its own project website. While MMR offers information on memoria research in general for the Netherlands and Belgium, the new website Medieval Memoria Online presents specific information on the MeMO project. It was launched on the internet in December 2009 and it will be updated at irregular intervals.

Contents of the website:
  • The article on the MeMO project which appeared in the special issue of MMR (May 2009): Medieval Memoria Online (MeMO): New research possibilities.
  • An agenda.
  • Links to websites related to the MeMO project.
  • A bibliography with publications of Dutch and Belgian researchers on memoria, commemorations practices, death and burial, etc. This bibliography will be updated regularly.

Scholars on the mailing list of MMR will be kept posted on the updates of the website.

The Monumenta quaedam by Buchelius published on the internet

Het Utrechts Archief has published a new digital edition of one of Aernout van Buchel's (Buchelius) famous manuscripts, namely the Monumenta quaedam which can be consulted on their beautiful website.

This is the third manuscript by Buchelius, to be published by Het Utrechts Archief. The Monumenta passim and the Inscriptiones were published in 2002 and 2007 respectively. All three manuscripts may prove useful to memoria researchers.

Commemoration and convention - by Sophie Oosterwijk

There are many ways of studying medieval commemoration besides the historical, art-historical and genealogical approach. Religion obviously played an important role: medieval monuments did not just display status and lineage, but were intended to prompt the beholder to pray for the deceased.

While epitaphs conveyed information about the deceased to the reader, there was also the visual language. Yet artistic conventions can pose problems for modern viewers. Childhood studies are still hampered by a lack of understanding about child memorials, which according to the French historian Philippe Aričs did not exist in the Middle Ages because 'it was thought that the little thing which had disappeared so soon in life was not worthy of remembrance'. While this claim was plainly false, the presentation of children on medieval monuments can indeed be confusingly inconsistent. For example, some effigies for deceased infants actually resemble young adolescents, but these apparently clashing Ages of Man may instead reflect medieval theological thinking about the perfect age in heaven. Likewise, the 'childlike' size and appearance of miniature effigies have frequently led to their misinterpretation as child memorials, a famous case being that of the so-called 'Stanley boy' in Elford (Staffordshire), which is probably a post-medieval forgery of a medieval heart memorial (see the Monument of the Month for February 2010 on http://www.churchmonumentssociety.org/Monument_of_the_Month.html).

Conventions and modern misunderstanding can likewise obscure aspects of commemoration in other contexts. The danse macabre is traditionally regarded as a typical example of medieval morality and estates satire, with authors and artists using the conventional encounter with death to satirise emperor and pope, doctor and pauper, and other social stereotypes. However, the king in Hans Holbein's woodcut series (published in 1538) closely resembles Jean Clouet's portrait of Francis I, while in the Dresden Totentanz relief (1534-37) the emperor probably portrays Charles V, the king Ferdinand I, and the duke George the Bearded of Saxony followed by his then sole surviving son Johann, both wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece. The origins of such danse macabre cryptoportraits may lie in the text and imagery of the two dying and dead kings in the famous (but lost) 1424-25 mural in Paris, which was created after the deaths in 1422 of Henry V of England and Charles VI of France. The words and image of the roy mort are moreover reminiscent of the type of 'speaking' transi effigy that was spreading across northern Europe at this time. Historical circumstances may thus have lent a hitherto ignored commemorative character to a conventional didactic theme and thereby inspired the rapid dissemination of the danse.

A groundbreaking article on medieval child monuments will be published in the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, while the discovery of portraiture and commemoration in the danse macabre is discussed in 'Of Dead Kings, Dukes and Constables: the Historical Context of the Danse Macabre in Late Medieval Paris', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 161 (2008), pp. 131-62, and in a forthcoming paper in the 2008 Harlaxton Symposium Proceedings Memory and Commemoration in Medieval England edited by Caroline Barron and Clive Burgess. A monograph on the commemorative aspects of the medieval danse macabre is in preparation. Sophie Oosterwijk will also be presenting her research into the iconography of child monuments at Kalamazoo in session 375 on 14 May 2010 (see next announcement).

Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA teaches art history at the University of St Andrews and is Editor of the peer-reviewed journal Church Monuments.
Contact: See page 13 of this month's issue.
Website: http://www-ah.st-andrews.ac.uk/staff/sophie.html

Medieval memoria at Kalamazoo! - by Christian Steer

At this year's International Congress on Medieval Studies, there are two sessions focussed on the study of 'Tomb Monument Commemoration in Medieval Europe'. Organised by Dr David Griffith from the University of Birmingham, with the joint support of the Monumental Brass Society and Church Monuments Society, six speakers will present papers on their current research into medieval monuments and memory. The sessions not only include current research on British studies, but also on matters of commemoration throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Research into both memory and commemoration has grown considerably in recent years, with new ideas being discussed by the membership of MeMO and also within both the MBS and CMS. The intention of these sessions is to share new ideas and research with a much wider audience and to promote research into medieval memoria.

The programme of speakers is as follows:

Friday 14 May 1.30-3.00 (Session 312):

Tomb Monument Commemoration in Medieval Europe I:
Monumental Brasses and Incised Slabs

Sponsor Monumental Brass Society
Organizer David Griffith, University of Birmingham
Presider David Griffith

The Import of Choice: Flemish Incised Slabs in Fourteenth-Century Britain
Paul D. Cockerham (Independent Scholar)

The Brass of Sir John de Creke (d. 1328x1332) and His Wife Alyne at Westley Waterless, Cambridgeshire: Its Audience and Context
Robert Kinsey (University of York)

The Canons of Saint Paul's Cathedral, London, and Their Brasses
Christian Steer, (Royal Holloway, University of London)

This session seeks to take the study of incised slabs and monumental brasses into a much broader context. Who were commemorated and why? What can be said on patterns of design and composition? What did the memoria contain both in terms of iconography and personal representation and biography?

The first paper in this session will discuss the use of incised slabs in the fourteenth century, which was a popular form of commemoration. Evidence remains on the popularity of the slabs, in particular in the east of England where slabs were readily available through import from the Low Countries. The analysis of fourteenth century memoria will lead on to the next paper and the remarkable brass to Sir John de Creke. Although widely studied, the context of this brass will be reviewed in terms of the intended audience, and of what it can reveal of Sir John's commemorative expectations. In contrast to this village study, the extent of urban brasses and tombs will be discussed with a case study on the memorials formerly found in St Paul's Cathedral in London. This paper will also discuss the use of written records which evidences the extent of clerical memoria.

Friday 14 May 3.30-5.00 (Session 375):

Tomb Monument Commemoration in Medieval Europe II:
Church Monuments

Sponsor Church Monuments Society
Organizer David Griffith, University of Birmingham
Presider Paul D. Cockerham

The Material Word: The Corpus of Vernacular Inscriptions on Late Medieval English Monuments
David Griffith (University of Birmingham)

Commemoration and Cultural Exchange: English Patrons, French Workshops, and Funerary Art in the Fifteenth Century
Rachel Canty (University of Birmingham)

Deceptive Appearances: The Presentations of Children on Medieval Monuments
Sophie Oosterwijk (University of St. Andrews)

This second session on tomb monument commemoration seeks to look at different aspects of memoria. The opening paper will focus on the language of the tomb as evidenced through inscriptions, both surviving and also those from written sources. It has often been assumed that Latin texts dominated late medieval epitaphs and this paper will challenge this assumption by looking at the extent and significance of vernacular usage. The influence of commissioners of tombs will also be discussed in the second paper of this session, which will examine the relationship between English patrons and French workshops, as with the exquisite monument to Alice Tyrell in East Hornden church. This influence is taken further with the final paper of the session which will examine the representation of children. Many medieval monuments include children both as individual representations and also as adjuncts to a family memorial. Representations of children can often be overlooked and the meaning and purpose of their tombs will be examined in this paper.

Readers of this newsletter, who may be attending this year's congress, are warmly invited to attend the sessions. For further information visit the congress website.

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This page was last updated on: October 7th, 2010

MMR Updates

December 16th, 2016:

The seventeenth issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available.

March 11th, 2016:

The sixteenth issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available.

May 23rd, 2015:

The fifteenth issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available.

November 24th, 2014:

The fourteenth issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available.

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The thirteenth issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available.

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The twelfth issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available.

January 14th, 2013:

The eleventh issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available.

September 12th, 2012:

The tenth issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available. This is a double issue so be sure to check out both Part One and Part Two.

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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