Other news: Issue 13, March 2014

MeMO news

Status update: results of the MeMO-project

Over the course of the last few months researchers and other parties have once again shown great interest in the database Medieval Memoria Online (MeMO) and its supporting websites. This is why I am happy to present a new status update concerning the MeMO-project. Thanks in part to the financial contributions of several donors we have been able to realise a number of our goals. Generous contributors, we thank you very much for your support!

Our crowdfunding campaign has yielded additional funds to employ one staff member, Bart Holterman, till the end of April (two days a week) and the current project leader, Corinne van Dijk, till the end of July (three days a week). In addition, Koen Goudriaan and Trudi Brink have also been very active as volunteers, which has been of great value for MeMO and for which we are very grateful. Also many thanks to Charlotte Dikken who in these past years has been the driving force behind the Newsletter MMR.

There is, however, still a lot of work to be done, in part because of the success of MeMO and the new information and photographs that we receive as a result of this. We therefore request that if you haven't made a donation yet, please consider making a financial contribution. And please also spread the word about the MeMO-database, its supporting websites and the online newsletter Medieval Memoria Research (MMR). Small donations are also welcome!

With all the support we have had so far, we have been able to achieve considerable results. This is evidenced by the list of tasks that have been performed since September (see below). Help us continue our work, and contribute to the documentation and disclosure of our medieval heritage.

Main results in the database:
  • A substantial update to the tomb slabs of Zeeland by Corinne van Dijk. Mainly thanks to the information and photographs received from Sarina Hendrikse the database has been supplemented and improved for this province. New tomb slabs have also been added.
  • Many new additions to the descriptions of the coats of arms (English and Dutch), by heraldist Henk 't Jong. Work on the province Friesland is now completed as well.
  • The majority of the memorial registers are now described in the database as well, thanks to the tireless efforts of Bart Holterman during these last few months. He has also been working with the archives on the digitisation of a large number of the memorial registers in their collections. This means there are now a total of 124 of the 242 memorial registers available online and 3 more will be digitized shortly. Please see the update-archive, either via a direct download or by visiting the MeMO introduction page
  • There has also been an update for the descriptions of the Original Institutions by Bart Holterman
  • Practically all Latin inscriptions have been transcribed and translated by Koen Goudriaan. A systematic monitoring round will take place for the names of individuals and for Bible passages.
Other results:
  • An extra webpage for papers and PowerPoint presentations, which have not (yet) been published elsewhere. See for instance the paper by Henri Defoer about a number of paintings with praying portraits of the tertiaries and a paper by Piet Looij about the inventory of donations of liturgical vessels and vestments he made in preparation for the international follow-up project of MeMO. For this visit the webpage Unpublished material.
  • Disclosure of heritage. This Fall a project was started together with the teachers of the Baarnsch Lyceum, centred around the story of Elckerlijc. Students of class 4 (VWO) were introduced - with texts and images - to aspects of the medieval Christian ideas through the pilgrimage of Elckerlijc (Everyman), who was warned by Death to better his life if he wanted to be allowed into Heaven after death. The pilot in one class was a success and therefore the project is now running in the three other classes of 4 VWO.
MeMO has been set up to enable and encourage new research projects, and this aspect of the project also seems to be successful. The MeMO database will play an important role for a second PhD research project, in addition to the one that was announced earlier (see newsletter Medieval Memoria Research 12). Please see the short description of the new research by Vincent Robijn elsewhere in this newsletter.
We are currently working on:
  • An introductory video manual for using the MeMO database (Martine Meuwese).
  • A large update for the tomb slabs of the province Gelderland (Corinne van Dijk). This is made possible in part because of the material made available by the Cultural Heritage Agency (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed).
  • We are also exploring options to enter a new international phase for the MeMO project. We'll keep you posted.
Utrecht 25 March 2013
Truus van Bueren


Other news

A Discovery at Much Marcle (Herefordshire) - Sally Badham

A remarkable discovery was made during conservation work on the stunning tomb monument of Blanche de Grandison (c.1316 - d. 1347), which is situated against the north wall of the chancel in St Bartholomew's church at Much Marcle (Herefordshire). In his book England's Thousand Best Churches Simon Jenkins describes Blanche's effigy as 'an image as lovely as any bequeathed us by a medieval church' and refers to her as Much Marcle's 'sleeping beauty'. The monument has been the subject of a complex conservation project undertaken by Michael Eastham. Conservation usually tells us much about the construction of the monument, but in this case it led to an unexpected find, knowledge of which was highly restricted until early 2014 when the conservation was completed. In December 2012, Michael had been given permission, with the assistance of a county archaeologist, to dismantle Blanche's tomb chest and excavate its filling so that the front panels could be re-assembled on a firmer base to provide better support for the effigy. Imagine their surprise when within they discovered Blanche's body, shrouded in lead sheet, totaling 1635mm in length.

Although the chests on which effigies often rest are called tomb chests, such evidence as is available suggests they do not normally serve as tombs to hold the body, but just have rubble infill. However, there are some documented high-status exceptions. When King Henry III of England died in 1272, his body was temporarily buried in Westminster Abbey in Edward the Confessor's former grave, which had been vacated by the translation of the saint's remains to the shrine. Henry's body was not moved to his own tomb until 1290, the year in which King Edward I's queen Eleanor of Castile died. Her body likewise found temporary rest in the Confessor's former grave. Eleanor's tomb monument in Westminster Abbey was completed relatively quickly; she was interred within it in 1293. Mostly, however, the bodies of those commemorated by monuments with tomb chests are probably buried under the floor underneath or near the monument.

At Much Marcle part of the north wall of the chancel was knocked out to provide a recess into which the monument was partly built. Blanche's body rested on a rough shelf made up of rubble and earth, but without any trace of mortar, above what was then the ground level. Michael re-constructed the shelf using stone and lime mortar to provide a sounder platform for her body. Above it he inserted a specially-designed marine-grade stainless steel frame to provide extra support for the large stones bedded within the wall on which her effigy was - and would again be - supported, leaving a more securely protected space into which the body has been returned intact after endoscopic investigation by English Heritage.

The lead-sheathed body is a very rare discovery: parallels are hard to find. It is also unusual that her body should have been wrapped in lead rather than placed in a stone coffin. A possible explanation for this is that many nobles lived mobile lives but chose to be interred in a specific place, such as an established family mausoleum. High-status individuals were not always buried where they died. Transport of a corpse was a status marker and a corpse had to be treated to enable this to happen. Although Blanche's date of death is known, where she died is not recorded. Perhaps she died some way from Much Marcle and her body was preserved, probably by embalming, until it could be buried within her monument.

Blanche was the youngest child of the infamous traitor, Sir Roger Mortimer, Earl of March (1287-1330), and Joan de Geneville, heiress of Trim and Ludlow. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1322 for having led the Marcher lords in a revolt against King Edward II in what became known as the Despenser War. He later escaped to France, where he was joined by Edward's queen consort, Isabella, whom he took as his mistress. After he and Isabella led a successful invasion and rebellion against Edward, who was subsequently deposed, Mortimer allegedly arranged his murder at Berkeley Castle. For three years, Mortimer was de facto ruler of England before being himself overthrown by Edward's eldest son King Edward III, who was married to Philippa, daughter of Count Willem III of Holland and Zeeland. Accused of assuming royal power and other crimes, Mortimer was executed by hanging at Tyburn. Before 1330 Blanche became the wife of Peter de Grandison whom she predeceased in 1347; he is buried in Hereford Cathedral and is commemorated by another fine monument from the same workshop. They had one son, Otto.

A fuller assessment of the discovery, including parallels for the lead coffin will appear in the Church Monuments Society's spring Newsletter. For information about the Society see their website http://www.churchmonumentssociety.org/. To join the Society see http://www.churchmonumentssociety.org/Application_Forms.html.


Medieval Burial Chambers discovered in Utrecht

Recently two medieval burial chambers were discovered in Janskerkhof 2-3a, which currently houses Utrecht University's School of Law. This building used to be part of the convent of Friars Minor (Minderbroedersklooster). The graves contain the remains of two adult individuals. The first is a woman, who appears to have been buried with the remains of stillborn foetus (approximately six to nine months old). The second is a man with a malformed spine. Whether or not he was a member of a convent remains to be determined.

Due to the condition of the plasterwork of the graves, Utrecht University and the municipality of Utrecht are still considering whether these burial chambers can remain publicly accessible in the future.

For a more detailed Dutch article, visit the website of the University of Utrecht (DUB newsletter).


Memory as an Instrument of Power: By, For, and About Medieval Women

Following the symposium 'Memory as Clout: By, For, and About Medieval Women' held in Madrid on 15 November 2013 (organized by Ana Rodríguez and Therese Martin), we are now preparing for publication a collection of essays to be edited by Therese Martin, Alexandra Gajewski, and Stefanie Seeberg on the questions of memory as an instrument of power for medieval women.

The starting point for the symposium was the realization that a central aspect linking women and memory has not as yet received adequate attention. While there is an ongoing discourse about women and power in the Middle Ages that also covers women's cultural patronage, the subject of women's power is rarely raised in the lively debate about memory. This is not to say that women are not linked to memory; indeed, it is a central theme in women's studies. The discussion about women and memory is, however, usually framed in terms of devotion and piety, concentrating on women's duty to commemorate and care for the dead. But, as the memory-debate of the last decades has shown, memory played a much broader role in medieval society affecting both its religious and secular sides. Memory in the form of texts, rituals, symbols and objects like manuscripts, tombs or buildings helped to create self-awareness and identity. As such it was orchestrated in diverse settings. Women, like men, were active in this orchestration whether as individuals, members of dynasties, or part of monastic communities thereby enhancing the power, standing and influence of themselves or the groups they represented.

At the symposium, speakers investigated the importance of tombs for collective memory at Fontevraud Abbey and in Mamluk Egypt (Alexandra Gajewski, D. Fairchild Ruggles), the use of objects from the past to emphasise the importance of Quedlinburg Abbey (Stefanie Seeberg), and the importance of women's prayers for men and women in the Middle Ages (Fiona Griffith). (For further details, see http://www.proyectos.cchs.csic.es/womenasmakers/content/past-activities.) We hope that by commissioning additional essays from distinguished scholars in the field, we may tease out the multiple functions of remembrance or analyse further ways in which memory in the Middle Ages could be wielded to enhance a woman's power.

In order to provide a comparative study, we have decided to concentrate on a limited time frame, the long twelfth-century (c. 1060 - c. 1230), a period that saw multiple changes, for example through Church reform and the rise of purgatory. Authors will provide evidence from throughout medieval Europe, including especially Iberia, the frequent exclusion of which threatens to skew our understanding of medieval society. Next to Christian women, Muslim and Jewish women will also be considered. The studies will employ evidence drawn from both written and visual sources in order to open new perspectives on the significance of memory for medieval culture.

Some of the questions we would ask the authors to keep in mind are:
  • is there a distinction between individual and collective memory?
  • how does memory create identity?
  • how does memory connect the past with the present and the future?
  • does memory construct the past and how does it construct history?
  • is there evidence for a historical consciousness in the Middle Ages?
  • what is the importance of forgetting for memory?
While these questions are relevant to any study of memory in the Middle Ages, we would like to invite authors to consider them through the prism of medieval women and their position in society. Therefore, we would further ask:
  • in what ways is or isn't memory a gendered activity?
  • how was memory used by medieval women as an instrument of power and how did male historians/chroniclers use it for or even against them?
We have received a statement of interest from Brepols Publishers for a collection of approximately 15 essays to be published in the Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts series. All articles will, of course, need to pass peer review.

We would ask authors to submit their texts of c.6000 words length in English by 15 September 2014. We will be allowed as many B&W illustrations as we need and a small number of colour images.

Alexandra Gajewski, Stefanie Seeberg
and Therese Martin


New Ph.D. Research: Memorie te boek. Een analyse van de administratie van de liturgische memoria in de laatmiddeleeuwse Nederlanden (ca. 1300 - 1580)

(Memoria in writing. An analysis of the records of the liturgical memoria in the late medieval Low Countries (ca. 1300 - 1580))

Researcher Vincent Robijn
Promotor Prof. dr. D.E.H. de Boer
Second promotor Prof. dr. K.J.P.F.M. Jeurgens

So far research into the phenomenon of medieval 'memoria' has mostly focused on religious, social-political and art-historical aspects. A broad comparative research into the administration of memoria has not yet been undertaken for the Netherlands. This research project aims to address this gap in our knowledge. With the data found in the database of the MeMO project (Medieval Memoria Online) as a point of departure, an analysis will be made of the form, function and context of the records and administration of memoria, as used in the various religious and charitable institutions, and the fraternities of the late medieval Netherlands. This project revolves around the following research questions:
  • How was the administration of memoria organized, and why?
  • Which types of documents were used for this administration, and how did they function in the culture of memoria? What was the relationship between the different types of documents?
  • Who were responsible for the management of the records, and for archiving the documents?
  • Within this time period (ca. 1300 - 1580) are there changes in the patterns of administration, and in the use of certain types of documents?
The answers to these questions will contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon of memoria itself, as well as to a better understanding of the surviving sources, which at first glance seemingly form a rather incoherent corpus.


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