Other news: Issue 6, October 2010

MeMO news

A brand new look for the MMR website!

As Truus van Bueren already mentioned in the editorial of this newsletter, this issue of MMR celebrates the results of the first year of the MeMO-project. It seemed like the perfect occasion to also give the MMR website a much needed makeover. The new website still hosts all of the old content, but now presents it in a more streamlined manner.

Do note that some of the paths to the various pages have been changed, so if you have bookmarked anything but the main homepage, you may wish to update your bookmarks.

Charlotte Dikken

The description standard MeMO DS

For the inventory and description of memoria source types an international description standard, MeMO DS, was developed. Existing description standards did not prove entirely suitable as MeMO takes the concept of memoria as its starting point. MeMO DS consists of one standard for object sources and one for texts and text carriers (MeMO DS Objects and MeMO DS Texts respectively). See: http://memo.hum.uu.nl/pages/products.html

The data model

MeMO DS formed the basis for the development of the data model and the development of the databases. The data model was designed by Jan van Mansum at Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) in collaboration with Rolf de Weijert and in consultation with Leen Breure, IT specialist at Utrecht University. See: http://memo.hum.uu.nl/pages/products.html

Commemoration in the Convent Mariënpoel: Prayer and Politics

The Rich Internet Application called Commemoration in the Convent Mariënpoel: Prayer and Politics is an interactive website. It is especially aimed at students and other interested parties, to allow them to familiarise themselves with all aspects concerning the commemoration of the dead. The RIA, created by Leen Breure and Truus van Bueren, is a scientific publication which aims to be accessible to a wider audience. The Research Notes will be added to the RIA shortly.

Other news

Between heaven and hell. Death in the Middle Ages

'Between heaven and hell. Death in the Middle Ages' is the upcoming exhibition at the Jubelparkmuseum. It will run from December 2, 2010 to April 24, 2011.

An exceptional array of objects will be on display, which is the reason why this won't be a travelling exhibition. It will be shown exclusively in Brussels.

The living 'lived' among the dead and their perception of life and death was expressed through written and visual sources. Looking at these sources, one sees great expectations and despair, hope and fear over what was to come after death, acceptance and inconsolableness.

This exhibition offers an overview of a 1000 year period of death, burial and remembrance. The attitude of man in the Middle Ages towards death and his attempts to maintain his social status after death are the main themes of this exhibition.

Does all this seem rather sinister? It was certainly not intended that way. This exhibition provides us with a chance to get rid of the many prejudices that surround the Middle Ages. One of these has to do with the taboo that modern man created around death. During the Middle Ages no such taboo existed, as man literally lived among the dead. The dead, as well as the sick and the ill, the handicapped and the elderly were all part of daily life.

The exhibition is built around four major themes.

1. The historical context of death. During the Middle Ages, people often died in war, during fighting and torture, from illnesses and epidemics, from poverty or simply from starvation. The death toll of for instance outbreaks of leprosy and the plague immediately come to mind. Due to the social and economic conditions, people simply weren't always able to live a healthy life. Still, some of them did manage to live to a ripe old age. In order to stay healthy all kinds of methods were used. Quacks and doubtful 'remedies' aside, there was a widespread knowledge of medicinal plants. Let's not forget that the first 'cookbooks' were written by those involved in medicine.

2. Palliative care and the funerary rites that go with it. The link between the individual and the community is shown through rituals at the deathbed, at the funeral and also through the mourning and remembrance ceremonies. What happened to the body after death? There are some major differences between the handling of the bodies of 'The Great' and those of the common folk. The kind of funeral given to the deceased depended on their social status. Quite a significant part of the population was even excluded from a dignified funeral. What was the fate of the leper, of the executed criminal, of he who committed suicide, of the homosexual, of the Jew and of the unbaptized child?

3. Funerary topography. The graves and their monuments reflect the status of the deceased. Behind every grave hides a man, a woman and a community. At the beginning they were separated from the areas intended for the living, but the necropolises slowly made their way into the city during the Middle Ages. Cemeteries and cult places earned their place within the community. How were the cemeteries organized? To be buried within the church or outside also had its hierarchal meaning. Even within the church building, not all the final resting places were equal. Regular graves and mausoleums, mass graves and funerary monuments are all examined during this exhibition.

4. Faith and superstition get a proper explanation. Notions like paradise, hell and purgatory, what did they mean? How could one 'earn' his paradise? After death, one has to wait for the Last Judgment. The dance of the dead, the wheel of fortune, the good death - these are just some of the notions and motives used to describe and express the relationship with eternity.

A selection of around 250 objects will be on display. They include human bones (skeletons), exquisite ivory and wooden sculptures, manuscripts, paintings, drawings, funerary monuments, memento mori, and many other objects. By means of models, pictures and up-to-date multimedia a picture shall be painted of how death was perceived during a period of 1000 years. Some of the objects on display were never shown before or have never before left their original place of storage.

Aside from to the exhibition, visitors are also offered a wide range of activities like workshops and lectures, the contents of which are closely related to the theme of the exhibition. The aim of our projects is always to surprise and offer new insights.


PhD researcher: Hartwig Kersken

University Universität Duisburg-Essen, Historisches Institut - Landesgeschichte der Rhein-Maas-Region
Title research The history of Thorn Abbey from its foundation till the end of the 15th century. Sovereignty, Memory and (noble) self-conception
[Das Frauenstift Thorn von seiner Gründung bis zum Ende des 15. Jahrhunderts. Herrschaft, Memoria und (adeliges) Selbstverständnis] (working title)

Prof. Dr. Jörg Engelbrecht, Prof. Dr. Thomas Schilp For nearly 100 years medieval collegial convents for women had not been subject of historical research. This is because these convents are often looked down upon. However this fundamental contempt did not only result from the opinion of the early inquirers. The contemporaries of these convents also regarded them as "degenerated monasteries" (as per the verdict of the 1059 Lateran Council).

This opinion also applies to the Abbey of Thorn, an early medieval foundation situated near the Meuse river in today's Dutch province Limburg. Although there are several publications about single aspects of Thorn's history, a synoptic consideration of its tradition is still absent from historical research. The intended comprehensive processing of the Abbey's medieval tradition, which mainly resides in the Regionaal Historisch Centrum Limburg (formerly Rijksarchief Limburg) in Maastricht, aims to give new perspectives and to complete the still fragmentary image of female forms of religious life in the Middle Ages. Besides the general historical development of the community, its inner and outer conditions, religious and spiritual life (especially the memorial foundations and practices) and its property situations and power relations should be set in the focus of interest.

A further essential aspect is the community's specific social composition, since despite results of newer historical research the over generalized perception of the chapters' "noble exclusivity" is still common in public opinion.

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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.

March 25th, 2014:

The thirteenth issue of Medieval Memoria Research is now available.

September 19th, 2013:

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.

Older updates

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