Other news: Issue 15, May 2015

The Church Monuments Essay Prize

The Council of the Church Monuments Society offers a biennial prize of £250 called the Church Monuments Essay Prize, to be awarded with a certificate for the best essay submitted in the relevant year. The aim of the competition is to stimulate people, particularly those who may be writing on church monuments for the first time, to submit material for the peer-reviewed international CMS journal Church Monuments. Therefore, the competition is open only to those who have not previously published an article in Church Monuments.

The subject of the essay must be an aspect of church monuments of any period in Britain or abroad. The length (including endnotes) shall not exceed 10,000 words and a maximum of 10 illustrations, preferably in colour. The prize will only be awarded if the essay is considered by the judges to be of sufficiently high standard to merit publication in Church Monuments (which is a green open-access journal).

The closing date for new entries is 31 December 2015. For a copy of the rules and for the guidelines to contributors please see the Society's website www.churchmonumentssociety.org, or contact the Hon. Journal Editors for more details and/or advice on the suitability of a particular topic.

Address for details and for submission of articles (before 31 December 2015) are available in this issue of MMR.

Update on the research project 'Precious-metal effigial tomb monuments in Europe 1080-1430' - Sophie Oosterwijk

Since the announcement of this project in the last MMR Newsletter, further discoveries of precious-metal tomb monuments from the period 1080-1430 have been made, thanks also to the generous help and suggestions from other scholars across Europe. The corpus of extant and recorded lost examples is thus still growing and increasing our understanding of their production, dissemination and reception, such as the biblical and imperial connotations of 'bronze' - vital for anyone interested in medieval material culture and materiality. Present-day fascination with the material was also demonstrated in the exhibition Bronze held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2012 (see the exhibition catalogue Bronze edited by David Ekserdjian with contributions by a host of international scholars).

Although further examples of medieval precious-metal tomb monuments are likely to emerge, it has already become clear that this choice of material for purposes of commemoration was not as unusual as has previously been assumed on the basis of the relatively few surviving examples. Our survey now already comprises some 120 examples across Europe, from Germany, England, France, Denmark and Bohemia to Italy, Spain and Portugal. This monumental type was evidently not a predominantly royal predilection, as has often been claimed. In total only twenty-four royal tombs of this type have been found, this number being significantly exceeded by examples to the higher clergy and some specific noble families, such as the Champagne and Dreux dynasties in France. This is hardly surprising as gilt, silvered and/or enamelled copper-alloy monuments were prime vehicles for dynastic display and prestige.

Yet, whatever the composition of the underlying metal, what would have most struck the contemporary audience for these monuments was the surface gilding and elaboration. These golden figures would have impressed contemporaries as being exceptional and sumptuous, perhaps even suggesting that those commemorated by them were akin to the saints whose relics were encased in gem-encrusted precious-metal shrines or, more particularly, in shrines that incorporated a relief effigy of the saint. Compositional similarities will also be highlighted between some effigies and the seals of those commemorated by them. We hope to demonstrate that copper-alloy effigies often portrayed the individual in an idealised form representing their status, which would have been readily recognisable as simulacra to the contemporary audience.

Most of the recent new discoveries relate to lost examples. Thus we now know of three precious-metal tomb monuments in Bohemia from the first half of the fourteenth century. One of these was admittedly described in a breviary of c.1330-50 as a 'sepulchrum ferreum', but it is clear that this must have been copper alloy rather than iron. Of the two other lost examples, one 'imaginem de auricalco' in Prague commemorated a local bishop while another copper-alloy effigy in the Aula Regia or royal mausoleum at the Cistercian convent of Zbraslav near Prague commemorated the Bohemian king Wenceslaus II (d. 1305). This last example, which was probably cast in the 1320s or 1330s to replace an earlier stone effigy, is actually attributed by a medieval chronicler to a 'Johannes de Brabancia' - evidently a metalworker from the Low Countries (Tournai or Valenciennes), although no such an expert craftsman of that name is currently known to us. We would welcome suggestions from anyone who may have more information.

Another interesting discovery of extant examples relates to two copper-alloy standing figures of Konrad IX von Weinsberg (d. 1448) and his first wife Anna von Hohenlohe-Brauneck (d. 1434), which now flank a doorway in the Cistercian abbey church of Schöntal in Baden-Württemberg. However, this is not their original location as they previously formed part of a tomb monument that was dismantled in the early eighteenth century: the pedestals with their engraved chronogrammatic inscriptions, containing the (incorrect) dates of death in Roman numerals, are thus much later. As early as the mid 1420s the couple had gifted money for masses and vigils to Schöntal and clearly intended to be buried there: the choice of material for their effigies would have underlined their importance as benefactors. The figures were probably cast in Nuremburg, but is not clear when: they could date between 1426 and 1430, which would mean that they were commissioned and produced in the couple's lifetime, or in the late 1430s or '40s. An extant fifteenth-century drawing, claimed to be a design for the original tomb, shows Konrad flanked by two female figures - suggesting that he was commemorated along with both his wives. Anna von Hohenlohe-Brauneck died in 1434 and Konrad married his second wife Anna of Henneberg that same year. Therefore, if the drawing is indeed an original design for the tomb in Schöntal, or even an antiquarian drawing of the monument (despite clear differences between the figures in the drawing and the statues, such as the placing of the hands and of Konrad's sword), this would indicate a date in the later 1430s or 1440s, i.e. just outside the period covered by our project. However, more research or information is required to verify this.

Our survey and the preliminary assessment of the significance of memorials in copper alloy and other forms of precious metal will be published as a lengthy and richly illustrated paper in the peer-reviewed journal Church Monuments 30 in early 2016. Please also see our earlier joint article: Sally Badham and Sophie Oosterwijk, 'The tomb monument of Katherine, daughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence (1253-7)', The Antiquaries Journal, 92 (2012), 169-196 (copy available upon request). Meanwhile we remain interested in further examples and new information that will help us develop and amend the corpus of known examples even further.

Sally Badham MBE, FSA (Vice-President of the Church Monuments Society)
Dr Sophie Oosterwijk (formerly Tomb Monuments Coordinator, MeMO project, Utrecht University; now Teaching Fellow at the School of Art History, University of St Andrews, UK)

Experiencing Tomb Sculpture in Medieval Europe

I would like to call on memorial experts for help with a new research project I am undertaking in conjunction with the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. This project, Experiencing Tomb Sculpture in Medieval Europe, seeks to understand and characterise medieval tomb sculpture from the perspective of the viewer, examining issues of visibility/invisibility, ritual and sound. I am particularly interested in collecting examples of:
  • Testators requesting prayers to be said, candles to be lit, etc. at the site of their tomb
  • Descriptions of monuments in chronicles, pilgrimage accounts, literary texts or other medieval documents
  • Images of tombs in other medieval artworks (such as illuminated manuscripts).
Contact details are available in this issue of MMR (Dr Jessica Barker).

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