Placing the Dead: The Changing Meanings of Burials and Urban Cemeteries

After decades of disputes, legal challenges and negotiations, the body of Francisco Franco, Spain’s infamous dictator, was moved from a grande Catholic mausoleum to a municipal cemetery this week. In 1975, Franco’s body was placed in the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) memorial near Madrid. He ruled Spain from 1939 onwards, after emerging victorious from the Spanish Civil War. Proponents of the exhumation and movement of the body argued that the Franco’s commemoration glorified the dictator and his deeds. Opponents of the decision argued the exhumation disturbed the peace of the dead and gave further, politically motivated reasons for their criticism. Santiago Abascal, the leader of the far-right Vox party, tweeted: “This is how the socialist campaign begins, profaning tombs, digging up hatreds, questioning the legitimacy of the monarchy. Vox alone has the courage to defend freedom and common sense in the face of totalitarianism.” The debate around the proper burial and commemoration of Franco gave parties like Vox the opportunity to use some popular tropes of the far right: Portraying themselves as victims, railing against a supposed undermining of liberties and claiming a role as protectors of freedom of speech. Particularly objectionable to those opposing the move was the fact that the body was moved to a simple graveyard and the decedants of Franco wanted to, at least, move the body to the seat of the Archidiocese of Madrid, Almudena Cathedral in Madrid; a request that was eventually denied for reasons of safety. Eventually, Franco’s body was moved to the cemetery where his wife is buried. The mausoleum, municipal cemetery and cathedral all carry different symbolic, religious and political meanings, leading to fierce arguments between proponents of one or the other burial space. Where a body lies matters.

The Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), where Franco's body used to be.
The Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), where Franco’s body used to be.

The placement of the dead was always important. Ever since humans started to bury their dead, where burials took place was of great significance. In many cases, specific areas were assigned, where the dead were placed and rituals of commemoration were performed. In many of these sites, religious, occult or spiritual practices played a particularly important role, also giving rise to stories of miracles, ghosts or other activities that connect the living and the dead. Pressures of persecution, for example among early Christian martyrs, or political display, for instance when it came to the building of royal mausoleums near churches, all played an important part in the constructions, real and metaphorical, of these burial sites.

But the meaning of these sites was never fixed and what may have been an honourable and desirable burial space in one century could be turned into an undesirable spot in the next. These shifting interpretations of cemeteries, graveyards, execution sites and other places, where dead bodies went, are particularly visible in towns. In urban centres, many changes were implemented because of an increasing density and the need for more space for other buildings or living quarters. In Erfurt, a park and parking spaces were built on top of the former execution site. At the same time, intellectual discourses on religion and hygiene spread more quickly in urban settings, meaning that their influence was felt more strongly in an urban context. The desire to show oneself as wealthy, sophisticated or well-travelled, elements that shaped what grave stones and epitaphs looked like, was also particularly pronounced in urban settings, where one could show off to the whole urban community and have a funerals commemorated in pamphlets and broadsheets.

In the period 1500 to 1800 we see several such shifts in urban cemeteries. Some burial spaces were moved during or soon after epidemics. This happened throughout the medieval and early modern periods, but one of the most famous cases of such a movement of a cemetery came in the early sixteenth century, prior to the Reformation. In Nuremberg, in 1517/18, the cemeteries of St. Lorenz and St. Sebald were moved to spaces outside of the town, creating the cemeteries of St. Rochus and St. Johannis. These cemeteries were deliberately moved outside of the city centre to prevent any spread of the plague among the densely populated town. Rochus was named after one of the most famous plague saints, illustrating the continued relevance of religion, even when cemeteries were no longer directly attached to churches.

Nuremberg's Rochusfriedhof.
Nuremberg’s Rochusfriedhof.

A second change in this period saw the Reformation create what Craig Koslofsky has called a “separation of the living and the dead”. By this he means that both theologically and spatially the living and the dead were separated by important evangelical reformers. As prayers for the souls of the deceased no longer functioned to decrease the time of souls spent in purgatory, cemeteries were moved outside the city walls. Instead of indulgences and saintly intercession, men and women were supposed to focus on the promise of eternal life and divine mercy. How much the movement during these times was a ‘wave’, as it has been called in litertaure on the topic, and if the advice of the reformers was really put into place in many German towns, further research will have to show.

In Reformation Switzerland, we can see that the political and religious demands did not always lead to permanent change when it came to burials and graves. Town councils ordered that family coats of arms and elaborate crosses should be removed from tomb stones, so as to ensure no undue display of wealth in cemeteries. Just like the changes of the Reformation were felt in towns more broadly, so they also influenced the urban cemeteries and changed the way they looked. Tellingly, however, this particular Reformation change was reversed in the seventeenth century, when patricians started adding elaborate coats of arms and depictions to their tomb stones once more. While many Swiss territories were thoroughly Reformed, some changes were not permanent. Apparently, some aspects of burial cultures were so deeply engrained in the self-understanding of the elites that they were not willing to give them up, even if it meant going against the advice of important reformers.

In the seventeenth century, the turmoil of the Thirty Years War led to some repositioning of burial spaces, for example when towns were besieged. On the battlefield, other kinds of burials and commemorations were used. Military chaplains played an important role in making sure that soldiers who had died were buried, but there are also instances where mass graves were used to hold the many bodies of the deceased. Archaeological work has uncovered a range of such graves at important sites of the Thirty Years War, for example fifty skeletons discovered in Nördlingen.

However, as the work of Peter Wilson has shown, that is not to say that during the Thirty Years War chaos ruled in the German lands. There were still significant attempts to bury individuals with at least some of the proper rites. For example, when Gustavus Adolphus died in Lüzen, his body was transported back to Sweden, so that he could receive all the proper rites there and be buried in the royal crypt. The funeral ceremonies influenced Sweden, particularly royal residences, for months. It was of crucial importance that important leaders like Gustavus Adolphus were buried and commemorated in the appropriate manner, even it meant a compliacted transport.

Carl Wahlbom: Gustav II Adolfs Tod bei der Schlacht von Lüzen
Carl Wahlbom: The death of Gustavus Adolphus during the Battle of Lüzen.

At the same time, the increasing European colonization lead to significant shifts in the burial cultures of European colonial powers. Men and women dying on ships could be thrown over board, as there was too much risk that they might contract diseases. In the colonies, funeral rituals and grave spaces could also be adapted. In Asia, the commemoration of Jesuit missionaries and martyrs could take on elements of the local populations, for example, leading to kinds of syncretism, which historians have uncovered in a range of contexts recently. Dying away from one’s home country, whether as mercenary, trader or missionary meant that burials and funerals had to be adapted. Although people died travelling in the Middle Ages, of course, the increasing inter-connectedness of the early modern world meant that deaths abroad became more common.

If we return to Europe and its towns, there was one further big change and that came in the eighteenth century. Increasingly, town inhabitants and councilors wanted to move cemeteries for reasons of hygiene, a trend explored by Norbert Fischer and others. For example, in late eighteenth century Munich, a public campaign ensued to force urban dignitaries to move the cemetery from the town’s centre to the outskirts. For medical considerations and a fear that diseases might spread, letters argued that ‘poisonous exhalations’ would ‘damage the health of the town’s inhabitants’. Alongside these changes to the burial spaces also came other considerations. In the late eighteenth century, Joseph II. of Bavaria argued, for instance, that the state at large would benefit from a thorough investigation of the corpses (Leichenbeschau) in order to ascertain why someone had died and to protect towns from further outbreaks of disease. In another text, an anonymous author criticized that the burials underneath the church could harm people while they were worshipping: ‘The foul air locked in the crypts can even damage the people present in the church, the Temple of God’. In the margins, the author wrote that the tomb stones can be put into the church walls, as is deemed fit, suggesting an awareness that many families would have wanted their family epitaphs and tomb stones to survive any changes in the church space.

As a result of the campaigns, Munich’s former plague cemetery, the Alter Südfriedhof, located outside of the city walls anyway, became the main burial site for the town’s inhabitants. To use a term coined by Thomas Laqueur, the town’s necrogeography changed. The movement of the cemetery changed how and where people were buried, but also what a town looked like and how it would have been experienced by inhabitants and visitors alike. The movement of cemeteries also meant that the church lost some of ist influence, as it no longer received money from the burial spaces, which used to be attached directly to the churches.

The features sketched out above show three general trends in the burial culture of early modern cities: A diversification, where not everyone was buried in their home town; some people died on ships, in wars or while travelling in an increasingly inter-connected world. Secondly, the way towns looked and where experienced changed because, generally speaking, many cemeteries were moved outside of towns, outside of city centres and town walls. Thirdly, the example of urban cemeteries shows one aspect of the mutual influence of religion and urbanity. Movements of cemeteries because of reformers’ demands, complaints by clerics that they no longer received money for burials, which went to the town instead and the spread of diseases in dense, urban environments were all connected to cultures of death. Whether one can interpret the movement of burial sites away from the churchyard, towards sites outside of towns administered by urban actors as a sign of an increasing secularisation is perhaps one of the most interesting questions connected to these dynamics. In the past, as today, cemeteries can tell us as much about death as they can about life.

— Martin Christ

Martin Christ is a KFG post-doctoral research fellow working on ducal burials and urban cemeteries in early modern Germany.

Select Bibliography:

Norbert Fischer, ‘Topographie des Todes. Zur sozialhistorischen Bedeutung der Friedhofsverlegungen zwischen Mittelalter und Neuzeit‘ in: Fischer/Kobelt-Groch (Hrsg.): Außenseiter zwischen Mittelalter und Neuzeit, S. 81–98.

Norbert Fischer, Vom Gottesacker zum Krematorium. Eine Sozialgeschichte der Friedhöfe in Deutschland seit dem 18. Jahrhundert. Köln/Weimar/Wien 1996.

Martin Wangsgaard Jürgensen, ‘Spacing Death – Facing Death: Conceptualizing the Encounter With Death During the Early Modern Period’ in: Tarald Rasmussen (Hg.), Jon Øygarden Flæten (Hg.), Preparing for Death, Remembering the Dead, S. 123-152.

Craig M. Koslofsky, The Reformation of the Dead: Death and Ritual in early modern Germany, 1450-1700. Basingstoke u.a.: Macmillan u.a., 2000 (= Early modern history).

Thomas W. Laqueur, The Work of the Dead. A Cultural History of Mortal Remains (Princeton 2015)

All images taken from Wikipedia. For details, see here, here and here.

The Religion and Urbanity project “in the field”

Excavations at the urban site of Barikot (Swat, NW Pakistan)

The sound of the muezzin’s call to the first prayer of the day has been marking out the start of our working day for four weeks now. At dawn, while arriving by car from Saidu Sharif, the isolated steep hill of Barikot, overlooking a large stretch of the middle Swat river, has the capacity of capturing our glances usually distracted by the very busy bazaar road, by somehow reminding us of the substantial value of its strategic location exploited by all the communities who pretended to control the great economic resources of the Swat valley over centuries.  

The Swat valley, or ancient Uḍḍiyāna, located between the extreme north-west of the Indian subcontinent, the extreme eastern offshoots of the Iranian Plateau and to the south of the vast Centro-Asiatic area, seems to materialize well the conceptual idea of a space of constant dialogue, negotiation, translation and remaking of cultural and political identities. The interactions between locals and people who politically dominated the Gandhāra region over centuries, triggered multiple and overlapping processes of cultural osmosis resultign in a complex picture of social and religious horizons.

The Swat area has been investigated by the ISMEO-Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan (hereafter MAIP), funded by ISMEO, MAECI and recently by the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, since 1955. Since 2010 MAIP is under the direction of Dr L.M. Olivieri. The Swat valley has recently become one of the lenses through which we explore the mutual formations of “Religion and Urbanity”.

The 2019 excavation season of the MAIP opens a new chapter in the history of research of the urban site of Barikot (Swat valley, NW Pakistan) that has a clear intersection with the “Religion and Urbanity” research project.

The Swat river from the hill-top of Barikot.
The Hill of Barikot viewed from the South-East.

The continuity of its occupation over more than one millennium and the reliability of its stratigraphic sequence make Barikot a crucial key-site in the urban archaeology of the Gandhāra region (i.e. NW Pakistan and part of NE Afghanistan). Thus, the site has the potential to offer reliable information on the real impact that Buddhism – the major organized religious phenomenon in Gandhāra – had on the local society and on the incidence of local and Brahmanic traditions to Buddhist spaces, practices, iconographies and vice-versa. Indeed, the overwhelming visibility of Buddhist remains in the rural area has risked to put into the background various socio-cultural and religious realities that might have had a crucial role in the formulation of a religious system and its relation with the “in-between” (urban/non-urban) context of the Swat area. Within the framework of the “Religion and Urbanity” project I will try to assess the connections between different religiosities and their meaningful and effective interactions. The latter will be analyzed within a long-term perspective in order to highlight variation and continuity, in their interplay with the socio-economic realities of the contemporary urban society. Barikot, of course, cannot but play a pivotal role in this study. Before going into details let me take a brief step back.

The excavations at the urban site of Barikot, the ancient Bazira/Beira of Alexander’s historians, started more than 30 years ago under the direction of Prof. P. Callieri with the aim to explore the socio-cultural and economic context of the urban society related to the well-known Buddhist Gandhāran art, which for years had monopolized the archaeological research in the area. The results went far beyond expectations. On the southern plain, at the foot of the hill, digs have exposed a good portion of an ancient town (c. 12 hectares including the acropolis) encompassed within an imposing defensive wall with massive rectangular bastions, dated on numismatic evidence and radiocarbon data to the Indo-Greek phase, c. 150 BCE (see map, below). Thanks to a thick series of C14 dates collected over more than 30 years, the occupation of the site is today confidently dated between 1400-800 BCE and the 10th century CE. It goes without saying that today the ancient town of Barikot represents a key-site in the Gandhāra region, the only one with a statistically stable chronological sequence running from the Bronze Age to the Hindu-Shahi period.

Up to now a large portion of the ancient city – mostly corresponding to the SW quarters of the ancient city (see map below) – has been exposed (trenches BKG 1-13) revealing a succession of residential areas, public courtyards, private and public cultic areas reflecting both Buddhist and local religiosity.

General map of the archaeological area of Barikot with indication of the excavated trenches.

The archaeological sequence exposed in the SW portion of the city – the sector where excavations carried out between 2011-2018 have been focused – suggests that the site there was abandoned between the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century CE. This is also the time when a drastic decrease of Buddhist monasteries and sacred areas is attested in the Swat countryside together with a gradual process of development of new Buddhist doctrines/philosophies (Vajrayāna Buddhism) and a revival of Brahmanic religiosities.

According to epigraphic sources, the early-historic city of Beira/Bazira, was followed by a later settlement called Vajirasthāna (vajira(sthā)ne) in a Brāhmī-Śāradā inscription of the time of King Jayapāladeva (10th century CE) found on the hill-top of Barikot. However, archaeologically speaking, very little is known of this “second Barikot” and of post-abandonment structural phases, when the area seems to have been occupied by a tower-house fortified Settlement, a feature common to several other sites in Swat and southern areas starting from the 7th century CE.

— The pillared room of the “turreted building” in BKG 2.

The 2019 season focuses on the “second Barikot” with the aim to explore: a) the Shahi and pre-Shahi stratigraphy (5th- 10th centuries CE) of the area surrounding the so-called “turreted building” with pillared hall and cultic spaces (trench BKG 2, excavated in 1984-1990; see map and image above) and the related settlement; b) the Shahi Brahmanical temple (7th-10th centuries CE) at the top  of the acropolis (BKG 6, partially exposed in 1998-2000) and the coeval fortification.

This first part of the archaeological campaign of the MAIP has a small and diverse team: myself (Max Weber Centre, University of Erfurt; MAIP Acting Director), Niaz Ali Shah Bacha (archaeologist, Directorate of Archaeology and Museums – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, DOAM), Dr. Omar Coloru (historian, University of Genoa), Marco Pinelli (conservator, Accademia delle Belle Arti di Brera) and Sirat Gohar (archaeologist, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad). To this small group must be added the crucial backbone of the MAIP that is our permanent local staff both at the headquarters (the historical “Mission House” in Saidu Sharif) and in the field, mostly consisting of the same people who have been working with the Mission for the last 15-20 years.

During this first month the field activity has follow three parallel paths: (1) bibliographic research and survey of the sites associated with the Indo-Greek occupation of the area (2nd to mid 1st centuries BCE), (2) archaeological excavations in the inhabited area and (3) consolidation activity on the stucco decoration of the Brahmanic temple on the hill-top. The latter has been the target of the Taliban who intentionally damaged it in 2001. Following the line of restauration of the colossal rock-carving of the Jahanabad Buddha – severely damaged by the Taliban in 2007 – the MAIP has decided to re-expose (the temple was in fact re-buried for protection) and consolidate the temple and to continue the excavation there. The first steps undertaken in this direction were the removal of the modern refilling of the 1998-2000 trenches and the consolidation of the stucco in situ along with the analysis of hundreds of pieces of architectural decoration stored in the godown of the Mission House now handed over to the Swat Museum in Saidu Sharif.  

While Marco Pinelli and his Pakistani collaborators are working on the hill-top, myself, Sirat Gohar, Niaz Ali Shah Bacha and our field staff are focused on the archaeological investigation of the sectors surrounding the so-called “turreted building”, bringing to light the different faces taken on by the “second Barikot” over time: from a plain urban layout to a terraced and fortified aspect. The preliminary analysis of structural remains, ceramic material and small finds recovered during excavations suggest to date back the occupation of this area and the foundation of the cultic space associated with the “turreted building” to a pre-Hindu Shahi phase. This result, if confirmed, has a series of implications for the urban and religious history of the site. However, only the analysis of the materials – still ongoing – will tell us a more detailed story.

Another parallel activity concerns the investigation of the Indo-Greek economic and political program, something that, until a few years ago, appeared as imperceptible at the archaeological level. Interestingly, in the middle Swat valley, over a distance of only 20 km, there is evidence of at least three large urban settlements in the Indo-Greek period: Barikot, Udegram and Barama. To this list should be added the site of Shaikhan Dheri at Charsadda, to the south of the Swat valley.

Omar Coloru during the survey of the Kandak valley.

At the moment Barikot is the only site where a reliable and consistent stratigraphy (three structural phases) related to the Indo-Greek acculturation phase has been documented (also in association with Greek inscriptions on sherds). Moreover, the fortification wall of Barikot represents the only excavated Indo-Greek urban defence, as well as one of the most outstanding examples of Hellenistic military architecture in the Hellenized Far East. This data combined with several textual (Classical and Indian) sources led to reflections on the political and economic reasons behind the significant financial investment of the Indo-Greek period in these territories and on their role in the diffusion of Buddhist religion. The preliminary results of this research were presented during the Conference The Hellenistic king and the Indian wise man. Putting the Milindapañha in its contexts held at the University of Bologna from the 19th-20th September 2019.

Our working days are quite busy and often push us towards quite different activities, sources and places, only seemingly disjointed. Actually the variety of questions asked during our targeted investigations helps to build up (while preserving it) a coherent and substantial picture of the multi-lingual and multi-ethnic urban society of the Swat valley from the Early to Late Historic period. By putting this within the question-oriented framework of the “Religion and Urbanity” project I will try to assess the role played by the religious systems as socially active agents and to question how the various political and economic entities negotiate with the different forms of religiosity (and vice-versa) over time by highlighting the internal logics they re-defined.

— Elisa Iori.

Elisa Iori is a post-doctoral researcher in the KFG “Religion and Urbanity”. She is an archaeologist specialising in the religious history of South Asia.

A box of chocolates or the challenges of working in an archive

Archival work comes close to exploring alien worlds. It might be best described by this modified quote of the movie Forrest Gump: „Archival work is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.“ During the last two months, I’ve visited archives in order to find sources for my PhD thesis. My project revolves around the authority of abbesses and priors in south-west German urban collegiate churches (15th/16th century). Collegiate churches were religious communities which didn’t require canons and canonesses to take eternal religious vows. So I checked the written records of potentially interesting collegiate churches. Due to the widespread disinterest in female collegiate churches until the recent past, the archival material isn‘t as accessible as in other (male) cases. For instance some of the charters of the male community in Ellwangen are digitized. But regarding one female case, the archivist told me that I might have been the first person other than him to check the archival material since he had started working there. Hence, archival work isn’t always easy. Nevertheless, I’ve tasted many different chocolates for the last two months. Sometimes they‘ve resembled truffles and sometimes very experimental Bertie Bott‘s beans.

The entrance to the state archive in Augsburg – what treasures lay ahead? ((c) Simone Wagner)

Five steps are necessary before historians can work with archival sources: Firstly, they need to know which archives might have preserved sources related to their project. Secondly, they need to learn about the structure of the archive they are going to visit. Thirdly, they need to choose which archival material their are going to look at and which not. Fourthly, they need to skim over the archival material in order to check which sources really comply with their research question. Lastly, they need to transcribe their sources. At different steps different challenges present themselves.

Step 1:

Before being able to look at sources pertaining to an institution, historians have to know where they are kept. In most instances researchers and archivists have already published where the written records of collegiate churches are today. Archivists are also usually helpful and able to give advice. It is more difficult to trace the complementary written records of the collegiate churches which weren’t kept in their archives. Since different actors were involved in the affairs of a collegiate church the archives of other institutions might also contain important historical records. The history of these archives can be quite complicated. For instance, the archive of the Further Austrian administration was partly captured by the French during early modern conflicts and the whereabouts of some historical records are still unknown. Luckily, this is the exception: The collegiate churches of my project were dissolved due to secularization in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Thus, their archives came into the possession of the German states as they were the legal successors of the collegiate churches. Naturally, archives can’t preserve everything but have to make a selection which sources they are going to keep. Hence, the sources still existing today are a result of the interests of nineteenth century archivists. As they mainly were concerned to safeguard the legal claims of the state as successor of the dissolved monasteries, especially administrative and legal documents were kept. In the case of some female collegiate churches it is possible to demonstrate that devotional sources were thrown away in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

Most archives in Germany are owned by the state. But there are some exceptions: Companies, the church and noble families can also be responsible for their own private archives. For instance, the historical record of the monastery Riedern are kept in the „Fürstlich-Fürstenbergisches Archiv Donaueschingen“ (Princely archive of the family Fürstenberg in Donaueschingen). The family of Fürstenberg obtained the archive of the monastery Riedern in the eighteenth century. At this time, the monastery of Riedern still existed and the nuns always had to ask the prince whenever they needed to look something up in their archive. Thus, the state couldn’t secularize Riedern’s archive when they dissolved the monastery. As the archival material hasn’t left Donaueschingen for some centuries, the archive has a distinctive atmosphere. The archive is in an old building, the reading rooms are furnished with old antiques and some of the sources are spread throughout the room.

Step 2:

Knowing which archive stores relevant sources isn’t enough. Historians have to understand the structure of an archive in order to find what they need. There are two general sorting principles: the principle of provenance and pertinence. Today, the principle of provenance is preferred: Archival material should be stored according to its context of transmission. The principle entails not to rip apart sources originating from the same institution but to respect the original order the institution has established. In contrast, when organizing an archive based on the principle of pertinence archival material is arranged with regard to content. Classification criteria comply with what archivists at the time deemed reasonable e.g. to differentiate between acts and charters. As this principle was fashionable when many modern archives where created it is still highly influential. It is easy to imagine how much more confusing the principle of pertince is, when looking for material of a specific institution. For instance, Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe (general state archive Karlsruhe) has torn apart the charters monasteries and collegiate churches received and sorted the charters according to the issuer. Thus, charters issued by kings, popes and every other issuer are kept separately. Some archives use a mixture of both principles, e.g. the state archive Augsburg. The archival material of Lindau is categorized depending on the archive it originally came from. Parts of the archival material were kept in the state archive Munich because acts (Akten) and office books (Amtsbücher) of one institution had been separated and brought to different Bavarian state archives. In the 70s, the state of Bavaria decided to honour the principle of provenance and relocated archival material according to its origin.

Some archives look rather unassuming from the outside, but may hold fascinating sources… ((c) Simone Wagner)

Step 3:

Having arrived at an archive, historians have to decide which archival material they are going to look at. Sometimes it is possible to check all of the written records, especially regarding the female collegiate churches a manageable amount of sources survives. However, the male communities e.g. Ellwangen and Kempten have extensive written record. These communities had enough money to go to court often which obviously produces more sources than solving conflicts informally. Thus, historians have to restrict the number of archival material they are going to inspect. It varies greatly how precise the archival material is described, though. The city archive of Constance provides an excellent overview over their inventory. The content of every file is outlined extremely specifically. But in other cases, the description made by archivists is relatively vague, incorrect or fragmentary. Here are some examples: For instance, a compilation of letters by the abbess of Lindau is filed under the label „private and public letters“. Disregarding that it is anachronistic to distinguish between private and public in premodern times, all of the letters relate directly to the reign of abbess Amalia of Reischach. The compilation of letters was probably used as a model in form and content by her successors. In comparison to other descriptions the label „private and public letters“ was even useful. The only information usually given about cartularies is the dates they cover. Mostly, it is unclear whether a cartulary is relevant for my research question or not. Some inventories actually prove beneficial, e.g. the inventory of Säckingen’s record in „Sammlung schweizerischer Rechtsquellen (compilation of Swiss legal documents)“. But as the creators were only focused on matters relating to today’s Switzerland (Säckingen today is German) their overview is incomplete and can’t be solely relied upon. All of these deficiencies are normal considering archivists don’t have the time to study all of their historical record. Besides, some descriptions are quite old. Archivists couldn‘t foresee future research and might have been interested in different aspects than contemporary historians.

Step 4:

After a historian has narrowed down the archival material, they have to read the sources to ascertain their usefulness. Having found the right archival material it is helpful to copy some of it. Depending on the (German federal) state, the policy regarding photographs or scans differs. Switzerland has been a pioneer digitizing archival material and letting users take photographs. Until recently, the German federal states were wary of photographs and insisted on users making (quite expensive) copies. But the state of Bavaria, for instance, has changed its policy in the last six months and now allows photographs. According to some rumours the state of Baden-Württemberg wants to change their policy on photographs, too. Curiously, at the state archive Augsburg just one person at a time may photograph archival material which can lead to tensions between users. There is a German saying for situations like these: “Die Decke der Zivilisation ist dünn” (The ceiling of civilization is thin). Users sometimes behave like a pack of wolves fighting for the last piece of meat during an especially cold winter. A warning sign in Augsburg indicates that some users tried to steal archival material shortly before I visited it. Naturally, an archive is caught between making its content accessible and preserving it for future generations. The less archival material is used the safer it is. Some prefer to digitize the archival material so that the original isn’t touched anymore. However, the material aspect of the sources is lost in their digitized version.

Step 4/5:

At home, the sources have to be transcribed so that a researcher can read them carefully. Both step 4 and 5 require good paleographical knowledge. I’ve come across many different fonts since, for example, the languages Latin and German were written in different styles. The style used for Latin in the late fifteenth and sixteenth century is based on the Carolingian minuscule which has influenced our way of writing. Hence, it is relatively easy to read. The bigger obstacle are the frequently used abbreviations in Latin texts. In contrast, German is written in a cursive and quite hard to transliterate for an unskilled reader. Furthermore, the sources exhibit a range of different hands from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. Some sources are only accessible through later copies. Unfortunately, their originals are lost. During early modern times, the German cursive became heavily ornate. Thus, some historians prefer to read fifteenth century texts to early modern ones. The quality of the handwriting also varies greatly. The copies and compilations are usually written quite carefully, as someone wanted to preserve their contents for future generations. However, the files resulting immediately of the administrative practice are scribbled more carelessly.

Summary

Working in an archive is like exploring alien worlds or eating a box of chocolates – You never know what you’re going to get. Historians can’t always predict what sources they will find. They are at the mercy of the written record still preserved in the archives. Though archivists are doing a great job making written records accessible and helping historians, visiting an archive still has a lot of difficulties in store. What constitutes the challenge of working in an archive is also its appeal. Sometimes my plan didn’t work out and my expectations weren’t met. In other cases, the quality of my trove exceeded my wildest hopes. The thrill of spotting fascinating sources makes it all worthwhile.

— Simone Wagner

Simone Wagner is a doctoral research in the KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations”. She specialises in late medieval religious history, especially that of southern Germany.

At Markets and Fairs in Lyon

It’s the end of July, I’m in Lyon, primarily to do research for the annual conference of our Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies, to be organized around the topic of “urban heterarchies,” and I am working on the St. Trinitatis Brotherhood, which in the late Middle Ages must have represented an important link between the “power” of the clergy and that of the newly formed city council. You can hear more about this in December at the Augustinerkloster in Erfurt.

Today is Saturday and the day of my departure, and I still have plans to go to one of the markets, specifically the Marché Quai Saint-Antoine. There are fewer people there than usual, probably because most people who live in the city are already on vacation.

To the left, on the other bank of the Saône, is Saint-Jean Cathedral, dating from the Middle Ages, and above it, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière (nineteenth century), which majestically overlooks the city, almost as though it were watching over the market.

Saône, Lyon Cathedral and Notre Dame.

The market traders come from all over the region, from the Monts du Lyonnais, Savoie, or Ardèche; some sell goods from the wholesale market, others are the producers themselves, who sell their goods directly (farmers, bakers, gardeners, butchers, cheesemakers, etc.). There are the first fresh figs (from the Ardèche) and Charentais melons (from Provence) as well as many other seasonal vegetables and fruits and, of course, cheese. I buy Comté and Tomme from Savoie and a few fine rigottes de Condrieu; finally, some baguette de campagne for dinner, which will be at home in Germany.

Vegetables sold at Lyon’s market.
Melons sold in Lyon.

Markets and Fairs Have a Long Tradition in Lyon

Lyon has “always” been a trading city—it’s not only the citizens of the city who will tell you this, but historians, too, who have made this claim since early modern times. One can consult Guillaume Paradin (ca. 1510–1590), whose history of Lyon was published in the sixteenth century:

“Des foires, qui de temps immemorial ont esté continuees à Lyon.

L’on ne pourroit nier, que les foires publiques, & le commerce de toute Europe, n’aist esté frequenté à Lyon des la foundation de la cite par Plancus, & possible autant que Plancus fut naiz: estant encores la cite en-bas, entre les riuieres. Et qu’ainsi soit, Strabo qui viuoit du temps d’Auguste & de Plancus, parlant des habitans de Lyon, escript ainsi. Nam et usui magno, est illis emporium. I. Ilz tirent vn grand profit des foires & commerce. Par lesquelles paroles, lon peust bien iuger par coniecture, que deia ce commerce s’exerçoit à Lyon autant que Plancus vin ten Gaule: car il estoit impossible, qu’estant la cite si nouuellement rebastie par luy en la montagne, lon y feist tel profict des foires, lesquelles n’eussent peu encores ester publiees par les prouinces voisines: tant s’en faut, que le profit y eust esté si grand que dit Strabo.” (Paradin, Chapter IX, 12–13). (See here for the digitized version.)

Lyon is indeed famous for its fairs (“foires”). But Paradin’s claim that these already existed in antiquity, since the city’s founding by Lucius Munatius Plancus, is exaggerated. Like every larger city, Lyon, of course, had its weekly markets. However, the fairs were not established until the fifteenth century: in 1420, they began with two fairs a year, and in 1464 there were already four because the king wanted to lure the trade merchants from Geneva to Lyon. The brief suspension of the fairs (1484) was due to the calamities of the time. But in 1494, there were already four annual fairs again. From then on, Lyon experienced an economic and demographic boom, interrupted only by the religious wars in the second half of the sixteenth century.

Religious Fairs and Trade Fairs: Temporal Orderings

The influence of religion is also repeatedly visible with the trade fairs. The dates of the fairs were guided by the liturgical year, meaning that, if the four dates could be arranged accordingly, the fairs began after Epiphany (January 6), Quasimodo (the first Sunday after Easter), August 4 (the day of a local saint), and All Saints’ Day. They usually lasted fifteen days, with the merchandise fair taking place in the first week and the exchange fair in the second. Hence, that’s when prices and payment dates were negotiated. Here, again, is what Paradin wrote about this:

“Mais reuenant aux foires, il me souffira de dire, que diuerseme[n]t elles ont esté reglees, selon les temps, & les regnes: car de ce qui en est memorié, nous trouuons, que le roy Charles septieme de France estant en la ville d’Angiers, en l’an mil quatre cens quarante trois, octroya à la cite de Lyon deux foires, lesquelles il ordonna estre tenues, assauoir la premiere, le mercredy apres pasques, continuant vingtz iours: la seconde, commenceant lendemain de la feste sainct Iaques, & sainct Christophle, le vingtsixieme de Iuillet, continuant vingtz iours. Et depuis par ampliation de grace, en octroya vne troisieme, commenceant le lendemain de la feste sainct André, continuant vingtz iours ensuiuant. Depuis estant venu à la coronne le roy Loys vnzieme de ce nom, son fils, & estant à sainct Michel sur Loyre, l’an deuxieme de son regne, luy fut remonstré, que les foires que lors les marcha[n]s de son royaume freque[n]toyent en la ville de Geneue, estoyent grandeme[n]t preiudiciables au royaume de France, pour raison de l’alienation & transport des deniers, & denrees de ce royaume: au moyen dequoy il octroya lors aux habitans de Lyon, quatre foires l’an, comme ells sont continues iusques auiourd’huy.“ (Paradin, 13–14)

It was normal in Christian Europe in the late Middle Ages for the general calendar to be oriented towards the Christian liturgical year, beginning with Advent and brought into a rhythm with the calendar of saints and feasts. Indeed, German uses the same word, “Messe,” for a church service (the Catholic mass) and a trade fair. “Messe” is derived from the Latin “missa.” The fact that the same word refers here to two very different events can be explained in various ways. First, the Latin “missa” (“religious service,” “celebration of mass”) developed from the formula “ite, missa est” (in English: “Go it is the dismissal”) which concluded the liturgical celebration of the sacrifice. It marks, in other words, the end of the event. Second, as was recorded in many ordinances, church services and markets such as fairs were to take place one after the other: the market after the service, the trade fair often only after the day in honor of a saint. Third, the markets or fairs often took place near a church—not least because there was a large open square where the traders could set up their stands. Evidently due to proximity, a transfer of meaning took place here. Both the spatial and the temporal context (the juxtaposition and succession) of religious and mercantile practices have made their mark in the formation and use of the term. Terms in other European languages (English: fair French: foire, Italian: fiera, Spanish: fiesta) derive from the Latin “feria, feriae.” Yet this, too, not only meant “market” but “religious holidays,” which sometimes took place during the same period. Here, too, one can see the spatial-temporal interrelations of practices that regularly took place, which, precisely through their competition, presumably took shape and continued to develop in parallel. Today, a distant reflection of this opposing pair is manifest in the closing of shops on Sundays (where this still occurs) or in special events such as Whitsun markets, which often combine consumer fairs with folk festivals. The fact that these markets began on an ecclesiastical holiday—or, to be precise, on the following day—often goes back to a royal or imperial privilege granted during the Middle Ages.

Goods from All Over the World

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, textiles, spices, metal goods, books, and paper, as well as leather and skins, were traded in Lyon (Garden, vol. 1, 55–108). Merchants also brought many finished products—such as knives and other iron goods, bed linen, hats, menswear, shoes, wallpaper, carpets, and weapons—from all over France. There are no detailed records in this document of the areas of origin of the raw materials, since they were often imported via Italian, German, Swiss, and Spanish merchants based in Lyon. But the list of spices and medicines (“drogueries”) alone suggests that many of these raw materials came from the Levant or from farther away in Asia: Almonds, aniseed, cinnamon, cassia, coloquine (pumpkin), shells from the Levant, coriander, caraway, incense, Folii Indi (feuille des Indes, Indian leaf, probably: Indian bay leaf), ginger, cloves, Arabic gum, seeds (often “graine de paradis,” meaning melegueta peppercorns), hermodactylus (Iris tuberosa or snake’s-head iris), mace, grains of paradise, mastic, myrobalans (cherry plum, usually dried), nutmeg, pepper, long pepper, musk, pyrethrum, rice, sandarac, seeds for planting, senna, spikenard, turmeric (terra merita, saffron), zinc oxide (vitriol?), zeodary (Curcuma zedoaria). (Gascon, vol. 2, 883; Archives municipales de Lyon: CC 4293, 1519)[1]

Spatial Orderings

Unlike in Calicut (modern-day Kozhikode) in India, at the time there was no fixed location for the Lyon fairs at which mainly wholesalers and long-distance merchants came together. This was the case only for the smaller weekly markets: here, each category of goods was assigned a fixed public place where trading was allowed on a certain day. And later on (or, to be precise, between 1856 and 2005), Lyon had the Grand Bazar, the first large department store in the city, located in the rue de la République, very close to the Franciscan convent (Cordeliers). But where did merchants meet in the early modern period? Let’s take a look at the classic work by Marc Brésard to see if a trade fair topography can be reconstructed.

As early as 1420, just after Lyon had received the privilege of holding two fairs, the consuls determined the places where the wares could be displayed (Brésard, 243–249). The first fair was to take place on the near side of the Saône, i.e., on the Empire side, today’s Presqu’île; the second fair of the year was to be held on the other side of the Saône, the Royaume side. In 1461, certain goods were to be displayed in certain places in the city, each approximately limited to the width of one house. In 1462 the planning of a hall was considered, but this plan failed. Finally, it was agreed, not least after the intervention of the king, that the goods could be displayed anywhere in the city, to the right and left of the Saône and wherever the merchants liked. For this purpose, displays (“étalages”), presumably wooden benches, were made available, which stood everywhere along the streets, on the squares, on the bridge over the Saône, as well as near the city gates, and which could be covered in case of rain or sun with linen sheeting held in place by cords. After that, the perimeter was somewhat restricted: between the rue Juiverie (and quarter named after it), the hospital (with the name of la Saônnerie or la Saunerie), and the place de Roanne on the right side, and la Platière, la Grenette, Saint-Antoine, Cordeliers, and Rhône on the other side. Later, the area was extended to the place des Terreaux (Brésard, 254). Hence four times a year, the whole city transformed into a large market. This was something very special, as fourteen-day fairs with comparable international reach and total sales were held in only a few cities: Lyon, Medina del Campo, Piacenza, and Antwerp. One can imagine how narrow it must have been on the streets and in the alleys at the time. There was no shortage of complaints from drivers who could no longer get through with their horse-drawn carriages. So it proved less disruptive for traffic in the city when the merchants rented space in city shops or deposited their goods immediately upon arriving in the large inn where they were being accommodated. Some unsold goods were also left in these depots until the merchants returned to the city two or three months later. The temporal and spatial organization of the fairs, the presence of many foreign merchants and bankers, and the diverse range of goods also created a specific urbanity.

As can be gleaned from the minutes of the Council and royal letters, trade also took place on the other side of the Saône, which in the sixteenth century could only be crossed via a single stone bridge, the pont du Change, assuming a rowboat was not available. After visiting the market, I cross the pont Bonaparte to the other side of the river, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to visit the most important sites and buildings. The square in front of the cathedral, created only by partially demolishing and reconstructing the St. Jean monastery in the second half of the sixteenth century, was located outside the fair district. The route continues along the rue Saint-Jean, where buildings in the local style typical of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries can still be found today. Along the way, I pass by newer buildings in the Italian Renaissance style arriving via a traboule, one of the passages typically found between buildings in Lyon, at the former Hostellerie du gouvernement and I finally finish my tour at the place du Change, where the money changers met in the fifteenth century, before the first merchant’s loggia (loge du Change) was built here in the seventeenth century, later to be enlarged and redesigned in the middle of the eighteenth century according to plans by Jacques-Germain Soufflot.

Later Uses

Following the French Revolution, the exchange was transformed into a house of worship for the Reformed Church, which still meets there today. But the clocks at the top of the building continue to remind us today that the merchants were “watching the clock.” Such conversions of building uses were not rare around 1800, as we have already seen with St. Peter’s Church in Erfurt, except that here the conversion ran the other way: a formerly secular building was converted for future religious use. This is hardly visible on the exterior of the building; the alterations were mainly internal (cross, altar, pulpit, benches) to adapt the building for the Reformed liturgy.

What is equally interesting for the research group, however, are the rhythms that shaped the use of urban space during the fairs. The presence of the many foreign merchants and trading companies in the city left less of a visible mark in striking architectural structures than did religious practices. At least for trade fairs, a certain ephemerality can be observed, as I showed above. Lasting much longer than practices of commerce and payment, the religious practices of some merchant families or trading nations established themselves in the city: for example, the establishment of a chapel in the church of Notre-Dame-de-Confort by the very wealthy Gadagne family (Italian: Guadagni).

Instead of continuing my stroll through the city, it’s time for me to focus on my essay on urban heterarchies, turning again to the history of the St. Trinitatis Brotherhood. There will be more to read about that by December, at the latest.

Translated by Michael Thomas Taylor.


— Susanne Rau

Susanne Rau is professor of spatial history and culture at the University of Erfurt and one of the spokespersons of the KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” .

Bibliography

Marc Brésard, Les foires de Lyon au XVe et XVIe siècles, Paris 1914.

Richard Gascon, Grand commerce et vie urbaine au XVIe siècle: Lyon et ses marchands (environs de 1520 – environs de 1580), 2 vols., Paris 1971.

Heinrich Lang and Susanne Rau, Weltwirtschaftszentren, 10. Lyon, in Friedrich Jaeger (ed.), Encyclopedia of Modern Times Online (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0248_edn_a4749000.

Sophie Landrin, “Le Grand Bazar va être détruit malgré les protestations,” in Le Monde, March 31, 2015, https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2005/03/31/le-grand-bazar-va-etre-detruit-malgre-les-protestations_633771_3210.html (August 1, 2019).

Guillaume Paradin de Cuyseaulx, Mémoires de l’Histoire de Lyon, Lyon 1573.

Susanne Rau, Räume der Stadt: Eine Geschichte Lyons 1300-1800, Frankfurt/Main 2014.


[1] The French original is: “amandes, anis, cannelle, cassie, coloquinte, coques du Levant, coriandre, cumin, encens, folli Indi, gingembre, girofles, gomme arabique, graine, hermodates, macis, maniguette, mastic, mirabolans, muscades, poivre, poivre long, pousse-muscade, pyrètre, riz, sandarac, semencine, séné, spicenard, terra merita, tuthie, zédoaire”.

A digitized version of a book from the “Garbeau de l’épicerie” (basically the spice inspection department) from 1519 can be found on the website of the Lyon municipal archive: http://www.archives-lyon.fr/static/archives/garbeau-epicerie/ (August 29, 2019).

Picture credit for all images: Susanne Rau.

Erfurt-ness

A few thoughts on the spirit of Erfurt city in the footsteps of Meister Eckhart and Martin Luther

Biology has stressed the relationship between thought and the brain for a long time – an idea that cognitive neurosciences and neuro-psychological studies object to today.[1]

The attempt to associate a physical location, in the human body, to thought remains an open question. But what about localising thought on a more global, social level? Can certain thoughts and philosophical approaches be linked with particular places? This short essay is an invitation to consider the relationship between logos and topos, thought and place. Do certain places entail “inspirationality” per se and what are the constructs of this inspirationality?

It is striking that the German city of Erfurt witnessed the presence of two audacious figures of Western religious history and philosophy: Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) and Martin Luther (1483-1546). Despite the century and a half separating them, both clerics are remembered for their concerns in bringign together reason and faith[2] and for their concern with the accessibility of the Bible. Looking at this puzzling convergence, I wish to continue the discussion engaged by Ruedi Imbach on the relationship between philosophy and its place of genesis (Imbach 2018). Imbach looks at the concomitant presence of Meister Eckhart, Lulle and Dante in Paris in 1310. He shows in the discussion of his paper “Relations parisiennes (…)” that the philosophical thought often rises in a particular place at a particular time (Imbach 2018):

Les textes cités et les annotations qui les accompagnent montrent bien que le questionnement philosophique surgit fréquemment dans un lieu précis et à un moment temporel précis. (Imbach 2018, 116)

Imbach does not just insist on the place, but also on the temporality of the meeting. I wish here to pursue his fascinating approach, and to enlarge the period of interest in order to focus on the impact of the place on the thought – without binding it to a specific time. Is it possible to identify, irrespective of time, a particular place, connected with a particular spirit? As an answer to the Hegelian Zeitgeist (or “spirit of the age”) – a cultural conditioning of a particular time, let us explore the potential existence of a “Raumgeist”, resulting from the originality of a place.

Meister Eckhart and Martin Luther are two celebrated figures of Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia. Their names still haunt the city lanes, encouraged by local institutions and authorities (concerned with the promotion of Erfurt heritage and history) to invade posters, flyers and visitor programmes. Both names are advertised widely, so that it is certainly no exaggeration to consider Eckhart and Luther as the modern patrons of Erfurt heritage.

Playmobil Luther Figurine sold as a souvenir of Erfurt. ((c) Sara Keller)

Apart from this modern cultural partnership, Eckhart and Luther share genuine features. Both were clerics and theologians (Eckhart was a Dominican Prior, Luther an Augustinian monk), they are particularly remembered for their efforts in promoting the vernacular language, and thus in facilitating the access of biblical and religious knowledge to the laity. Eckhart preached and partly wrote in Mittelhochdeutsch (Middle High German). Luther translated the Bible in a comparable language[3] from 1522 to 1534, which had, at the time of printing, a tremendous socio-religious impact. Both were accused of heresy and had to answer to the Vatican about their work and theological positions.

Martin Luther was born 155 years after Meister Eckhart’s death, so that, unlike Lulle, Eckhart and Dante in Paris, the question of a potential meeting can easily be excluded. Yet both of them spend a good amount of time in Erfurt: So the impact of the place on their thoughts has to be considered. Meister Eckhart, who was born not far from Erfurt, stayed several times in Erfurt, especially when he joined the Erfurt Dominicans around 1275 and later in 1294 as he became Prior of the Dominican monastery. Martin Luther studied at the Erfurt University in 1501 and resided on several occasions in the Augustinian monastery. (See also our city walks for a discussion of some of tehse Features).

Martin Luther’s knowledge about Eckhart’s work has been discussed and there is no doubt that the Eckhartian theology inspired Luther’s path.[4] But apart from this philosophical affiliation, did the environment of Erfurt impact Eckhart and Luther’s thought? Is it possible to identify ties that were idiosyncratic to Erfurt’s environment and that could have linked Eckhart and Luther across time?

What about language?

Language is key for both Eckhart and Luther’s work, since they both engaged in promoting the linguistic vernacularisation of religious and philosophical knowledge. Eckhart’s efforts in transcribing Latin concepts into German words included the coinage of new terms that affected German philosophy till Hegel and Heidegger.

Il reste que Maître Eckhart est bien le créateur d’une terminologie nouvelle, philosophique et théologique, en langue allemande. (Knaebel 2002, 21)[5]

In this effort of expressing Latin concepts with German words, Knaebel insists on Eckhart’s appeal to the “génie propre de la langue allemande” (Knaebel 2002, 20). Thus, Eckhart’s work cannot be restricted to a translation task: It is a real philosophical effort in order to shape new terms fitting the linguistic and cognitive potential of Mittelhochdeutsch.

It is significant that during their stays in Erfurt, Eckhart and Luther shared a common semantic space, and, thus, were immersed in an identical linguistic and cognitive environment. Language conveys thinking patterns and conditions thought processes. A detailed linguistic study of German terms could certainly help tracing and visualising the impact of the “génie propre de la langue allemande”, and more particularly of the Erfurt linguistic environment, on Eckhart and Luther’s thought. Language, undoubtedly, represents the large cognitive canvas against which Eckhart and Luther developed their thoughts.

What about urban landscape?

Eckhart and Luther also shared a common urban environment during their tenure in Erfurt, though they did not reside in the same institutions or city quarters: Eckhart was in the Dominican monastery in the southern part of the intra muros area, while Luther stayed at the Augustinian monastery in the North-East quarter. Yet both of them must have known and visited, as educated theologians, common places of education and religion (like the Dom, the Collegium Maius and other religious and university buildings), possibly also influential political and economic urban places.

Church of the Dominican monastery (Predigerkirche), Erfurt ((c) Sara Keller).

Thus, both theologians shared a spatial experience made out of urbanity, feeling of space and data codification via visible socio-religious references and symbols. In a similar pattern as the language, this common built environment must have impacted, if not conditioned, their Weltanschauung.

Apart from the tangible landscape, it is the entire thinking patterns, news about urban life and common ideas performed in the city of Erfurt, as a larger collective data set, that must have played an invisible, yet significant, role. Both of them had a partly secular life, far from the seclusion of regular monks. Their immersion in the city life and their interaction with a public laity certainly exposed them to local dynamics, such as the development of education (Erfurt has one of Germany’s oldest universities) and Erfurt’s early capitalist environment (based on woad production and a dynamic city market).[6] Lindner underlines this in a conference entitled “Der lange Schatten Erfurts in Luthers Werk” that:

Luther aus seiner Erfurter Lebensphase sehr viele Eindrücke und Einstellungen mitgenommen hat, die sein Denken und Handeln im Negativen wie im Positiven entscheidend geprägt haben, ohne dass dazu späterhin immer ausgedehnte Reflexionen von ihm existieren (Lindner 2010, 1).

It is clear for Lindner that the urban experience of Luther was fundamental to his thought process:

(…) im Rahmen der Biographie Luthers stellen sein Erleben dieser Stadt und sein Leben in dieser Stadt das Fundament seines Handelns dar (Lindner 2010, 15).

It would be difficult to precisely or statistically measure the impact of the Geist of the place on the work of Eckhart and Luther, but I hope to have raised challenging issues regarding place and thought. I do not mean here to speak for a strict spatial conditioning (are we subject to our special milieu as we suffer the tyranny of time as “prisonnier de son temps”?). My argument rather aims to consider the participative impact of place to the growth of ideas. Both Eckhart and Luther travelled and their thoughts, if at all, resulted from a constellation of influences that were encountered and experienced in different places. Yet that does not take anything away from the spirit of the place and its significant identity, just as Toth underlines for the “pensée occidentale”:

La pensée occidentale est un grand fleuve formé d’affluents venant de partout et son eau se verse dans tous les océans. Du point de vue de son autonomie spirituelle, ce qu’on désigne par le terme de « pensée occidentale » dispose pourtant de certains traits distinctifs qui le rendent spécifique et unique. (Toth 2006, 4) [7]

Looking at Eckhart and Luther, it is worth considering the place as a bearer of cognitive processes via the agency of language, urban landscapes and economic and political dynamics. The urban Raumgeist emerging from this complex configuration could be compared to the city identity as it is expressed in India by the Hindi nominal suffix “-pan” added to city name. The paper presented by Pralay Kanungo in the framework of our internal summer colloquium recently drew our attention to the concept of urban identity commonly referred to by substantives that could be translated into English as “<city name>-ness” -“Varanasi-ness” for example in the case of Varanasi’s spirit (वाराणसीपन or Varanasipan in Hindi).

The example of Eckhart and Luther suggests the existence of an “Erfurt-ness”, expressed by an ambitious engagement towards the democratisation of knowledge. The city of Erfurt seems to have been the fertile breeding ground for the idea of disseminating knowledge, but also for the audacity demonstrated by Eckhart and Luther who stood against contemporary legitimacy.

Naturally, the real question is not to prove the past existence of an Erfurt Raumgeist, but rather to understand its faith and to identify its posterior resurgence(s). Is Erfurt likely to revive its bright and bold spirit?

Wall painting in the Spielbergtor Street, Erfurt (by Capstan & Tulip), Radeberger Pilsner Campaign #likemyheimat. ((c) Sara Keller).

Sara Keller

Sara Keller is a post-doctoral researcher in the KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations”. She specialises in medieval Indian history, especially water works in western India.


[1] On attempts to locate the thought in the human body : Schniewind, Alexandrine. 2015. “Où se situe le lieu de la pensée ? Au sujet du rapport âme-esprit.” Le Carnet PSY 2015/4 (N° 189), p.40-43. Chauviré, Christiane. 2012. “Y a-t-il un sens à situer spatialement la pensée ? Peirce, Wittgenstein et les signes.” Intellectica 57,  p.101-114 . See also Paquot, Thierry and Younès, Chris (eds). 2012. Espace et lieu dans la pensée occidentale. De Platon à Nietzsche. La découverte.

[2] “Cela signifie que, selon Eckhart, on peut réellement parler d’une convergence entre la raison et la foi.” Imbach, Ruedi. 2018. “Relations parisiennes : Lulle, Eckhart et Dante à Paris. À propos du rapport entre la philosophie et le lieu de sa genèse.” Enrahonar. An International Journal of Theoretical and Practical Reason 61, 113.

[3] Martin Luther strategically choose the Saxon court language (sächsische Kanzleisprache) for his translations in order to be understood by a larger public.

[4] Li, Y. 2019. “On Martin Luther’s theological illumination by Meister Eckhart.” Logos and Pneuma – Chinese Journal of Theology 2019(50): 267-300. Also: Mieth, Dietmar. 2017. “Der Aufstieg des „Gewerbes“: Mystik, Luther, Max Weber.” Conference at the “Von Meister Eckhart bis Martin Luther: Berührungen, Vermittlungen, Kontraste.” Congress. München, 10-12.03.2017.

[5] Knaebel, Simon. 2002. “Maître Eckhart, précurseur de la dialectique hégélienne ? ” Revue des Sciences Religieuses, tome 76, fascicule 1, p. 14-32.

[6] Lindner, Andreas. 2010. “Der lange Schatten Erfurts in Luthers Werk”. Conference Series “Erfurter Gesellschaftsbilder”, 16.11.2010, Erfurt. Accessed online on 30.07.2019: https://www.db-thueringen.de/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/dbt_derivate_00021865/Luther-Erfurt-Erbe.pdf

[7] Toth, Imre. 2006. “La philosophie et son lieu dans l’espace de la spiritualité occidentale. Une apologie.” Diogène 2006/4 (n° 216), p.3-35.

Religious Places in Motion

On 18 July 2019, the second edition of our city walk on “Religion and Urbanity” in Erfurt took place. (For a short repot on our first walk, see here). The warm and sunny morning prompted us to stay in the shade of Erfurt’s churches and wander in the shadows of religious authorities, premises and groups.

The theme of this new walk was “Transformation of Religious Spaces”. Our aim was to look at a selection of religious spaces and their non-linear history. Historical disruptions, spatial competition, social and religious conflicts, natural and man-made catastrophes, but also growth and beautification, evolution of religious and social practices, reappropriation, reuse and rehabilitation: These were some of the reasons for transformation affecting religious spaces in urban context. The theme highlighted the complexity of multi-layered trajectories for most of the religious spaces. Even seemingly well-established constructs were and are in motion.

The Hanseplatz in Erfurt ((c) Sara Keller)
The Hanseplatz in Erfurt (© Sara Keller)

Our walk started at the Hanseplatz (or place of the Hanseatic League), a large and green open space, suitable for a nice stroll and also containing a playground. However, this pleasant square had a more sinister function, as it served as a place for executions up until the eighteenth century. Executions were strictly regulated and performed by religious agents. In death, religion and law interacted in fascinating ways. Public executions were well attended public events with a religious framework, including the presence of clerics, reading of religious texts, reference to the destiny of the souls of the to-be-executed persons. All this justified the sentence and strengthened religious authority. The executioner was respected for the performance of his duty and sometimes had medical knowledge. But his trade was also considered as dishonourable. Remains of more than 40 executed persons were found during excavations for underground parking, where past notions of hell are now buried alongside the dead.

We then walked to the Barfüsserruine, remains of a church which are preserved as a ruin and now serve as a memorial to the bombing of the Second World War and the destruction it brought. A scared space was initially built there in the thirteenth century as the monastery church of the recently founded Franciscan Order. Its history is significant for the religious property and competition for influence of monasteries and confessions in the dense pre-modern urban canvas from the medieval period until the post-Reformation time. After the 1944 bombing that heavily damaged the church nave, the remains were secured, the ruin now serving as a performance space for cultural events. The church is still subject of discussions about a potential reconstruction of the roof and about the meaningfulness of evidence of bombing as a reminder of war.

The Barfüsserruine in Erfurt ((c) Sara Keller).
The Barfüsserruine in Erfurt (© Sara Keller).

Our walk continued to the Predigerkirche, a monument built as the monastic church of the Dominican monastery in the thirteenth century. Dominicans introduced a solution to the social and spiritual needs of the increasing city population, thus justifying the importance of having monastic premises within the city wall. In the course of the Reformation, Protestant sermons were held in the church, which is significant for the designation of religious places and parishes as Protestant or Catholic. This shift, as well as issues of property ownership and disputes between monasteries, are representative of the constant territorial competition of religious institutions. The Predigerkirche is also remembered as the church of the mystic Meister Eckhart who was prior of the monastery in the early fourteenth century.

From the Predigerkirche, we went to the Magdalenenkapelle, a thirteenth century chapel with a history connected strongly to death and burials. Initially, it was a cemetery chapel for poor people and foreigners. It was then used as a burial space for the Sankt Martin Hospice in the Fischmarkt. The chapel was eventually profaned and afterwards used as a theatre. The monument returned to its original funerary function in 2014 as it was rehabilitated as a columbarium, answering the increasing need of urn space. The Erfurt artist Evelyn Körber designed fifteen columns made from limestone from Solnhofen and containing urn spaces, which can be customised. The long waiting list for the urns of the Magdalenenkapelle indicates the trend towards cremation and the great demand for successful projects like the Magdalenenkapelle’s columbarium.

Our final station was on the Petersberg, where we had a glimpse of the Peterskirche, unfortunately closed at the moment and wrapped in a large restauration canvas. The church’s history is shaped by clerical and profane military functions. The church, dedicated to St. Peter und St Paul, was a roman basilica built in 1060 as the church of the Benedictine monastery. It was constructed on the top of a hill that presents evidence of pre-medieval settlements. The city of Erfurt developed on the foot of the hill in the early medieval period, while the monastery area was chosen for its dominant and strategic position. In the seventeenth century, a fort was built on the Petersberg and it was occupied in the 19th century by Napoleonic troops, then the Prussian army. In this context, the church was profaned, it lost its spires and was used to store military equipment. For the 2021 Bundesgartenschau, a national gardening exhibition, the church is being renovated, while colourful parterres will be added to the surrounding area.

Much more could be said and discussed about the turbulent history of religious places in Erfurt, so that during our talk we had to cut short some of our discussions. The visit of the old synagogue, initially planned as part of the walk, also had to be dropped because of time constraints. But this has led us to schedule a third city walk soon – a new edition, will contain fewer statiosn to leave enough time for discussions and be more interactive.

— Sara Keller

Sara is a post-doctoral researcher in the KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations”. She specialises in medieval Indian history, especially water works in western India.

Religion and Urbanity at the EASR annual conference 2019 (part one of two)

From 25 to 29 June the 17th annual conference of the European Association for the Study of Religions took place in the Estonian University town of Tartu. The overarching topic was “Religion – Continuations and Disruptions”, a broad theme which was interpreted in many different ways and across a wide range of times and locations. (See here for the programme).

Tartu itself is a city with a long and varied history. Indeed, the town iself illustrates aspects of the reciprocal formation of religion and urbanity. Much of the town’s development was connected to the fact that the town was the seat of a bishopric. Similarly, the influence of the Teutonic Knights, an order which understood itself as primarily religious in nature, continued to influence the fortunes of the town for centuries. And even now, the ruins of Tartu Cathedral are one of the key factors in the urban toruist economy, besides being the site of many ghost stories, many of which participants heard during a “Ghost Tour”.

Tartu Cathedral Ruins (Source: Wikipedia)

The KFG was present with two series of panels, one on women’s agency and the second one (subject of the forthcoming second part of this conference report) on urban religion, intellectualization and the invention of ritual. The first panel series was organised by Asuman Lätzer-Lasar, post-doctoral fellow of the research group, and consisted of two linked panels on the theme of “Women’s Agency and Religious Networks”. The panels were co-organised with Julietta Alexandra Steinhauer-Hogg, lecturer at University College London and a former fellow at the Max Weber Centre, and Sabine Neumanm, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Marburg.

The panel explored the agency of women in and via religious networks, taking an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach. Throughout the history of religions, women have initiated, shaped and maintained religious networks in their capacities as founders, priests, benefactors, dedicands, worshippers and more. Female agents were responsible for cult foundations, cult transfers and the creation of new religious organisations. Yet Research on female networks, agency and ‘religious creativity’ is limited, partly owing to the place of women on the margins of many societies. The panel aimed, on the one hand, to narrow the gap in knowledge with regard to female agency and the establishment, maintenance and decline of religious networks. On the other hand, it raised questions about current approaches to gender and religion. This perspective allowed speakers and the audience to see beyond the single category of gender by taking into account the various factors that shaped an individual’s (religious) experience, such as origin, social, and marital status.

Radwa Salem delivered a paper on women and rituals in classical Athens. The paper shed light on the role of women as active agents in shaping society and maintaining the “cultural System”. As “cultural Systems” are maintained by rituals, the significant role of women as patrons of culture can be identified by studying their role in the performance of rituals. Classical Athens provides a good case study as the role of women in creation, change and maintenance of death rituals is recognized in both the textual and material evidence. Most phases of the mortuary treatment were the responsibility of the Athenian women and so it is them who were directly associated with the performance of death rituals and the ones responsible for the continuity and survival of different aspects of culture from ancient times until the modern-day Greece. As the paper showed, the diverse society of Athens during the classical period provided a significant atmosphere of cultural interaction that clearly influenced female identity and the way women expressed that identity.

Sabine Neuman‘s presentation on “Women’s agency in cults for non-Greek deities in Classical and Hellenistic Athens” analysed the agency of women in religious cults for so called non-Greek deities in Athens during Classical and Hellenistic times. Previous studies stated that women played an essential part in ancient Greek religion because men provided priests for male deities and women for female deities. Ancient Greek religion is therefore regarded as a traditional sphere for the agency of women. The paper explored which roles women played in the introduction of so called non-Greek deities and new religious cults for i.e. Kybele, Isis, Bendis and Isodaites. Inscriptions and literary sources attest women, Athenians as well as migrant women, who introduced new deities, dedicated votive offerings and were active in cult associations for non-Greek goddesses. The paper drew particular attention to material culture, for example representations of priestesses. A closer look at these sources shed light on how Athenians and migrant women shaped the religious life in Classical and Hellenistic Athens.

Julietta Alexandra Steinhauer-Hogg‘s paper was entitled “Religious associations, women and agency”. It explored the social dynamics of religious associations in Hellenistic Greece with a focus on priestesses and female agents. Religious associations offered individuals the scope to create and shape a socio-religious space for themselves and their fellow worshippers. Societal norms and restrictions such as ethnic origin, gender and civic status often played a marginal role. Women, whether local or non-local, could therefore hold leading positions often associated with men, as presidents, priests, religious specialists and secretaries, as well as benefactors and simple members. However, owing to the restrictions inherent in the overwhelmingly epigraphic evidence, it is often difficult to decide to what extent the positions described in the texts meant that these women held actual agency. By comparing certain inscriptions referring to female agents in Asia Minor, the Aegean and Athens, the paper illustrated the potential for this line of research and the limitations faced when solely relying on epigraphy.

The Main Building of Tartu University, Venue of the EASR Annual Conference (Source: Wikipedia)

The second panel was opened by Anna Mech, who delivered a paper on “Women in religious life in Roman Dalmatia. Were they really silent?”. The paper attempted to reconstruct the religious life of women who lived in Dalmatia – one of the most ethnically diverse Roman province. The paper presented not only the choices that women made when engaging in religious life but also some important aspects of their private life. Epigraphic monuments were set up – among other reasons – to express the social position of the dedicant. Therefore, it is possible to track the dedicant’s ethnical origin, find their husbands and children or examine the individual intentions of their prayers. Through this Analysis, the paper argued, valuable insights can be reached into the beliefs of individuals and in what ways the “female religiosity” differed (if at all) from the dominant ancient male narrative.

The paper by Carmen González-Gutiérrez, associate of the KFG and COFUND fellow at the Max Weber Centre, moved the discussion to medieval Spain. She showed that European historiography has traditionally assumed that the Islamic urban landscape in the Middle Ages was predominantly a male arena, in which the presence and actions of women were relegated to the interior of the domestic spaces. However, new methodologies and perspectives pioneered in the history of gender, combined with the advances in research on Islamic cities – especially Al-Andalus – allow us to glimpse quite a different reality. The most recent analyses show that the division between the public and private spheres was not so strict, and that determined women could take an active part in providing cities with mosques and other religious facilities, as well as in encouraging specific religious practices. Through a combination of written and recent archaeological sources recovered for al-Andalus, the paper showed that the presence of women in streets and public spaces influenced their configuration; furthermore, the papers addressed the conscious dynamics through which the female patronage, mainly by founding mosques and other pious legacies, became an essential part of the normal functioning of the city and of women’ visibility.

The discussions after the papers showed how much potential the further exploration of women and their agency has. Taking an inter-disciplinary and wide-ranging view yielded some fascinating points of comparison, as well as showing points of divergence between different regions and times. Undoubtedly, women and their networks are not always immediately apparent and their presence in the sources has to be unearted through layers of evidence and, in some cases, also disentangled from a male-dominated historiographical narrative. But, as the two panels clearly showed, this is an essential undertaking if we want to gain a more accurate picture of the past.

How can one describe a bazaar? A first attempt: Walking over the “Big Bazaar” in Calicut

In April 2019, when I accepted an invitation to give a lecture at Kannur, our partner university, I combined my stay with initial on-site research on our research project “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations”. I already had a first idea of what I wanted to investigate in selected West Indian coastal cities. As with any historical research question, I first wanted to check whether the necessary sources were available to answer my questions – especially since this is a completely new region that I am currently exploring. So I used my stay to visit museums, libraries and archives in Kerala and to get an overview of existing objects and texts. One of my excursions took me from Kannur to Calicut (or, as it is called in the national language: Kozhikode). Since I didn’t want to repeat the adventure of a three-hour bus ride (for about 90 cents), I bought a ticket in an air-conditioned train compartment for 12 April 2019 (for about 7 EUR and only a two-hour ride).

Train in Calicut, India (© Susanne Rau).

Arriving at the station in Calicut, I approached the city on foot and, turning left shortly before the SM-Street, famous for its sweets, reached the Railway Bridge. On the right I see a mosque, straight ahead, after the crossing the Bazaar Road starts, which is called MA-Road for the first half. This bazaar in Calicut is in fact a street, as the name says, and not a market with stalls or a kind of big department store that could carry the name bazaar in modern times. It is essentially a wholesale market, although one can still buy there as an individual consumer. To the right and to the left of the street are stores lined up, at first mostly metal goods, but a few meters further there are already dried fruits, dates, nuts, but also rice, sugar, chili, spices (a lot of turmeric and other local spices) in large quantities to choose from. Many products can be tested, i.e. viewed, touched, compared and tasted. Large bags are loaded onto trucks, which sometimes block the road, and brought to the countries or the storage rooms behind them, which can be reached via alleys and courtyards between the shops. It is loud with the horns of motorcycles, cars and trucks, but also with people on the phone and communicating across the street. People draw attention to themselves, negotiate prices or shout something to the loaders. At the other end of Bazaar Road there are warehouses again, then a standing snack where some young men eat something – and again a mosque.

This morning it’s so incredibly hot that the next thing I do is call a taxi, or rather one of those yellow-black autorickshaws. But the driver has no time, he has to go to the mosque to pray and therefore drives on. So I walk a few steps further and come to the Beach Road that runs parallel to the Arabian Sea. I walk as far as Gujarati Street, then finally an autorickshaw driver has mercy on me and drives me to the archive further north in the city, which is located in the Civil Station. In the Regional Archives Kozhikode I am allowed to look through some finding aids. But I also have to think about this Bazaar Road, which is also called “Valiyangadi” in Malayalam. Since when does it exist? What is it about this conspicuous structure that there are mosques at both ends?

In the evening, after the visit to the archive, I go back to this street and record a 15-minute video with my mobile phone by slowly walking the street from front to back again. This is a 1.5-minute short version of this, cut by Fritz Unruh:

https://www.db-thueringen.de/receive/dbt_mods_00038712

Then I must hurry to the train and continue my reading. I read in Narayanan’s History of the City of Calicut, where I also find some interesting reference to this street (Narayanan 2018, p. 25-27, 66, 96, 98, 246): It has been documented in the sources since 1442. At that time, of course, it was not yet paved. It was asphalted under British rule in the 1930s. For some time there must have been tracks on which wooden shutters were used to transport the goods. For centuries Muslims, Jains, Hindu Seths, Gujarati and Marwari moneylenders as well as Tamils and Andhra Chettis have met here. They are the actors of this place, where large quantities of goods and money are handled. This must have been a hub of South Asian trade, which Calicut has been since the late Middle Ages. Religion played and plays a role here not only by the present representatives of different religious groups, which came from the north, east, from the Arabian peninsula, from Persia and since the end of the 15th century also from Europe.

Religious practices were integrated into the daily routines of trade. This can be seen not only with my rickshaw driver, who had to pray instead of driving me to the archives, but also in the commercial practices and morals for which the religions have always formulated rules. And it is evident in the urban structure (mosque – bazaar or suk), which can be found in many Islamic cities. Whether this is an urban planning concept remains to be clarified for Calicut. At the one end, near the Railway Bridge, is the Sunni Masjid, at the other end (seaside) the Khaleefa Masjid. Myths have formed around the long-lasting prosperity of the urban centre of Calicut, which the inhabitants pass on orally. Narayanan tells of a legend about Mangatt Achan, the first secretary of Zamorin Raja. „After a long and difficult penance, the Achan had succeeded in having Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, appear before him and offer a boon. He made her promise to wait in the same place until he returned, then went home and committed suicide. The clever idea was that the Goddess, unable to break her oath, will stay permanently in Valiyangadi (Big Bazaar), where the devoted Secretary had left her, and that is why prosperous trade continues in that street in spite of all sorts of changes. Besides illustrating the intelligence and self-sacrificing loyalty of the First Secretary, this popular tradition tries to offer a mythical explanation for the steady progress of trade in Valiyangadi from medieval to modern times. It provides an insurance against slump, and a source of confidence.” (p. 26-27)

The bazaar of Calicut, its historical depths, the worldwide interdependence of people and goods, the religious practices and urban structures that characterize the everyday life of this street have captivated me. I would like to know more about it – more about the different interdependencies and mutual formations of trade, religion and urban development in this ‘global city’ avant la lettre; but also more about the connection between piety and trade in cities influenced by Islam. Because only this should be undisputed so far: that bazaars, like the fairs in Europe, are a distinguishing feature. They seem to have existed only in cities, whereas there were cities without bazaars and without fairs.

In the coming weeks I will continue to read, go to the bazaars of different world cities and then report again…

— Susanne Rau

Bibliography:

M.G.S. Narayanan, Calicut. The City of Truth Revisited, Kozhikode 2018 (first published: 2006)

Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, Bazars and markets in medieval India, in: Studies in People’s History, 2, 1 (2015): 61–70

Saskia Sassen, The global city. New York, London, Tokyo, Princeton, N.J. 2001 (2nd edn.)

New edited volume: Knowledge and the Indian Ocean by Sara Keller

Sara Keller, core group member of the DFG-funded Humanities Centre in Advanced Studies “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations”, has recently edited a volume with the title Knowledge and the Indian Ocean. Intangible Networks of Western India and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).

The volume examines Western India’s contributions to the spread of ideas, beliefs and other intangible ties across the Indian Ocean world. The region, particularly Gujarat and Bombay, is well-established in the Indian imaginary and in scholarship as a mercantile hub. These essays move beyond this identity to examine the region as a dynamic place of learning and a host of knowledge, tracing the flow of knowledge, aesthetic sensibilities, values, memories and genetic programs. Contributors traverse the fields of history, anthropology, agriculture, botany, medicine, sociology and more to offer path-breaking perspectives on Western India’s deep socio-cultural impact across the centuries. Western India emerges as a pivotal region in the maritime world as a transmitter of knowledge.

Map of Western India (Source: Wikipedia).

Lived Urbanity: Religion and the City in Erfurt

Our core group experienced urbanity and religion in the lanes of Erfurt. Members of the KFG prepared short presentations at spots connected to Religion and Urbanity along a route through Erfurt. 

The walk on the 4th of June aimed to explore our theme “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” through the history of Erfurt. Starting from the Max-Weber-Kolleg, six stations in the city gave us the opportunity to discover city spaces and some of Erfurt’s iconic monuments through the perspective of the entangled relationship between city formation and religiosity.

A brief introduction to the city history reminded us that Erfurt had its golden age as ‘Messestadt’ (fair town) in the late medieval period: Its flourishing economy was based on the cultivation of the precious woad plant (isatis tinctoria), the major European blue dye of the time. (If you want to know more, see the temporary exhibition on the colour blue (‘Blau und Blaues. Farbbetrachtungen der besonderen Art‘) at the Museum für Thüringer Volkskunde.)  Following the increasing enthusiasm for Marian devotion (the Virgin Mary wore a blue mantle), blue, unpopular until then, was in high demand from the 12th and 13th centuries onwards. Erfurt’s fortunes rested on religion and the evolution of religious practices.

Our first station gave us the opportunity to discover the Augustinian monastery (Augustinerkloster), a well preserved architectural complex and an example of the long and dynamic religious life of the city. Erfurt not only witnessed the creation of multiple churches, chapters and convents, but it also fostered a rich theological and intellectual life. This eventually helped the foundation of the university in 1392 (our second station), and influenced the paths of great theologians, philosophers and reformers, such as Meister Eckhart and Martin Luther.

 

Erfurt’s Cathedral (Dom) and the Severikirche.

 

The Dom with its peculiar monumental platform and north side portal is an important landmark of the city. The Cathedral, alongside the church St. Severi next to it, (stations five and six on our walk) continue to dominate the city. One of the memorable chapters of Erfurt’s history was written by the Jewish community that actively contributed to the wealth of the place.

Well embedded in the core of the city fabric, the Jewish buildings testify by their presence and location to the entanglement of urban and religious life. They also bear the marks of terrible clashes that repeatedly resulted in the complete disappearance of the Jewish community. The visit of the mikwe (station three) showed us how water and religious practices were taken care of in the tense urban context. Another spot of Jewish life in Erfurt is the impressive Old Synagogue. Station four, at the ‘Kunsthalle’, originally known as the ‘Haus zum Roten Ochsen’ (‘house of the red bull’), provided an opportunity to discover lively and colourful depictions of planetary gods on a Renaissance façade freed from medieval religious codes.

The walk was an inspiring experience, evidenced by the fact that we did not lose any participants, despite the terrible heat of this Thursday noon. Since the city has many other treasures – open as well as concealed – that could be discovered in a two hour walk, we are intending to continue our exploration with another tour of other stations.  If you are interested in joining our next walk, feel free to get in touch! 

— Sara Keller

Carmen González Gutiérrez in ARTE documentary

Carmen González Gutiérrez, a COFUND fellow associated with our project, recently contributed to a documentary by the French TV channel ARTE on Al-Andalus. The region was a medieval Muslim territory, which is now part of Spain. Carmen talked about the Great Mosque of Córdoba, now called Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, one of the most important sacred spaces in Spain. The mosque was a key feature of the medieval town and influenced the whole region for centuries. Indeed, as a space steeped in history and a major tourist attraction, it still shapes the city today. 

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba (Source: Wikipedia).

Pralay Kanungo on the Indian Election

Our fellow, Pralay Kanungo, has recently published an article in the Wire on the Indian elections. He investigates the rise of the ‘NaMo’ cult and traces what may lay ahead for India after this momentous election. The article shows that there were two strands to the personality cult around the new and old Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. By combinding a narrative of development with an aggressive nationalism the ‘cult’ was able to withstand any pressure and Modi and the BJP Party won a historic election vctory.

See here for the full article.   

New Publications by Supriya Chaudhuri and Pralay Kanungo

We are pleased to announce the publication of several articles and chapters by members of our research group.

Supriya Chaudhuri, who recently joined us as a fellow and researches early modern literature, has recently published six articles:

‘Eyes Wide Shut: Seeing and Knowing in Othello’ and ‘What does the Slave know? A Response to Stephen Spiess’ in Blind Spots of Knowledge in Shakespeare and his World, ed. S. Mukherji (Medieval Institute Publications: De Gruyter, 2019), 75-88; 153-55

‘Indian Travel Writing’, in The Cambridge History of Travel Writing, eds. N. Das and T. Youngs (Cambridge University Press, 2019), 159-74

‘Modernist Literary Communities in 1930s Calcutta: the politics of Parichay’, in Modernist Communities across Cultures and Media, eds. C. Pollentier and S. Wilson (University Press of Florida, 2019), 177-96

‘On Making Noise: Hokkolorob and its place in Indian Student Movements’, Postcolonial Studies (2019), 44-58, DOI: https://10.1080/13688790.2019.1568168

‘Nishchindipur: The Impossibility of a Village Utopia’, Open Library of Humanities, 5(1): 25 (2019), 1–28. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16995/olh.395

Pralay Kanungo, who is also a fellow in the KFG and works on modern Indian history, has published an article entitled ‘Sangh and Sarkar: The RSS Power Centre Shifts from Nagpur to New Delhi’, in Majoritarian State. How Hindu Nationalism is Changing India (Hurst Publishers, 2019), eds. Angana P. Chatterji, Thomas Blom Hansen and Christophe Jaffrelot, 133-149.

If you are interested in the research of any of our fellows, or the KFG as a whole, feel free to get in touch! 

Notre-Dame of Paris: From Paradise to Inferno

‘Etiam periere ruinae’ (tr.: Even the ruins have perished). Old St Paul’s Cathedral burning in the Great Fire of London. Engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1666.
(Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

15 April 2019. Our Lady of Paris burns. The Notre-Dame cathedral of the ‘Île de la cité’, the historical heart of Paris, turns into a huge blaze, exhausting the fire brigade, stunning the helpless Parisian crowd and shaking people all over the world. For a moment, everyone felt: France is burning.

This first conclusion may sound like an exaggeration, warranting a more detailed look at the significance of Notre-Dame of Paris. The monument certainly enjoys particular attention from the Parisians and the tourists – a fondness which is not a given in a secular state. Notre-Dame of Paris, with approximately 13 million visitors every year, competes with the Eiffel Tower for the highest ranking of the most visited monuments of France[i] Both come behind the unbeatable Disneyland, which attracted 14.8 million visitors in 2015[ii]. Yet it seems difficult to estimate fairly how much the French cherish the cathedral of the ‘Île de la cité’. Surveys suggest the deep attachment of the French to such regional sites.

What about the meaning of Notre-Dame in the history of France? In this regard, the most suitable representation would rather be Notre-Dame de Reims, where most of the kings of France were crowned or the Basilica of Saint-Denis near Paris, the royal burial place from the 10th to the 18th centuries. From an architectural and art historical perspective, the prominence of  Notre-Dame cathedral is anything but obvious: One rather remembers Saint-Denis, where Suger inaugurated the Gothic style in the 1140s; Chartres and Bourges, the classic Gothic cathedrals and big work sites of the late 12th and early 13th century, Chartres again, with its revolution of the colours; Reims, Amiens, Beauvais as big monuments[iii]; the Mont-Saint-Michel, an architectural achievement and a unique pilgrimage place since the 8th century. Notre-Dame of Paris with its long building history and controversial completion by architect Viollet-le-Duc during the 19th century is rather remembered as an experimental space for the Neo-Gothic and the emerging disciplines of building archaeology and (today this seems questionable) heritage management. A rather doubtful example of the Gothic.

Despite these facts, and notwithstanding the ambivalent feeling towards Notre-Dame of Paris, it is clear that the recent disaster caused a great stir amongst the public, the media and the politicians. The 15th of April became an event the very same night when Parisians and the press helplessly witnessed the annihilation of the 13th century attic, known as the ‘forest’[iv].

The first reason for this strong emotional response certainly lies in the impact of the  spectacle of the devastating blaze. Europe had not seen a fire of this scale and cultural impact for about 75 years. It triggered deeply engrained memories of destruction, conflicts and suffering. Accidental and criminal fires that regularly devastated European medieval towns are, since the Renaissance, ‘rare and shocking events’[v]. Arsonists, when they were caught, were quickly and mercilessly punished: Jean Froissart reports for instance in his ‘Grandes Chroniques de France’ (late 14th century)[vi] that the arsonists of the Abbey Saint Lucien of Beauvaisis would “pay heavily”[vii] for their deed. The king of England ordered twenty persons to be hanged so ‘that others learn how to behave another time’[viii]. In densely built medieval cities, where wood was an important part of the everyday architecture, churches were damaged many times by large fires, though they were rarely the target and the origin of the fire. But the phenomenon of large city fires, mostly a result of military activity,[ix] drastically diminished during the Renaissance. The ‘Hausmanisation‘ and other pioneering urbanistic improvements of the late 19th century finished the move of the urban fire to the level of an archaic abnormality.

Remembering the Roman Emperor Nero who enjoyed the contemplation of burning Rome in 64 AD, the fire becomes a spectacular and apocalyptic sight, and the arsonist a demonic creature or a dangerous madman. “The arsonist is a man divided between his pleasure to initiate fire and the expression of his sadomasochism,”[x] wrote psychiatrist Michel Bénézech.

Such a situation was relegated to the tribulations of the dark days of our past, till Notre-Dame of Paris suddenly revived these memories which many believed forgotten. More than in terms of architectural importance, the significance of Notre-Dame is to be understood in the national imaginary developed since the 19th century. Initially a neighbourhood parish, Notre-Dame became a ‘lieu de célébrations nationales’, a place of national celebration, from the mid-19th century after Victor Hugo published ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’ in 1831 and Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc intervened in its architectural substance between 1843 and 1864.[xi] The urbanistic work conducted by the Baron Haussmann on the ‘Île de la Cité’ between 1858 and 1868 cleared the space in front of the façade (the ‘Île de la cité’ lost two third of its population in the 19th century)[xii], thus creating a real staging of the monument. The building was no more celebrated for its religious function but started embodying the social history of the place. The ‘parvis’, or large open square with the new cathedral facade set an example for the urbanistic staging of other church-monuments of France. In the case of Notre-Dame, it became the central place of the ‘Tout-Paris’ (‘whole Paris’) and the square that crystallised the life, memories and struggles of the Parisians. One remembered that the place saw the execution of Jacques de Molay, last Master of the Knights Templars burned upon a scaffold in 1314; as well as the revolution struggles, the demolition of the cathedral sculptures and the coronation of Napoleon in 1807. Paris was born on the ‘Île de la cité’ and the ‘point 0’ embedded in the square of Notre-Dame reminds individuals since 1796 that all roads of France start from there. Thus, the ‘parvis’, from old French ‘parais’ for ‘paradise’, became, maybe more than Notre-Dame herself, the heart of France.

The development of published guides of Paris fostered this promotion by mentioning Notre-Dame as “the most beautiful monument of the gothic art of France” (‘Guide parisien’ of Adolphe Joanne published in 1863).[xiii] Professor of History and Cultural Anthropology Evelyne Cohen brightly demonstrates in her paper entitled “Visiter Notre-Dame de Paris” how the site became a symbol of the history of Paris and eventually of France in the course of the 19th and then the 20th century. More than a religious place or an architectural wonder, Notre-Dame of Paris and its ‘parvis’ had become a symbol of the heart, emotions and struggles of the Parisians and the French.

Today, after the fire, Notre-Dame is on its way to become a European symbol for cultural collaboration since the French president Emmanuel Macron promptly proposed to create a network of European experts for heritage and heritage conservation.[xiv] The global call by French leaders for architects to design a new spire could be the stepping-stone for Notre-Dame to become a cultural and popular representation across borders.[xv]

Cover image of the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ magazine on 16.04.2019, exceptionally released one day before its usual release date. Source: Website of Europe 1.

The spectacular fire of the 15th of April will remain in memory. The emotions triggered by the blaze and its high level of media attention already created a new ‘image d’épinal’ which confirms the visuals and staging of Notre-Dame. While the nation is in turmoil over the yellow vest movement and the national debate, the fire of Our Lady in the heart of Paris had a cathartic value.

With the reconstruction of the roof and the implementation of the gigantic ‘Île de la Cité’ project,[xvi] Notre-Dame of Paris now faces the immense challenge of becoming an icon of the 21th century.

— Sara Keller

[i] Parisians seem to prefer Notre-Dame, while the Eiffel Tower is the favourite elsewhere in France.

[ii] Sources: AtoutFrance (French Ministry of Culture) and ‘Les sites touristiques de France’, in: Mémento du Tourisme 2017, 7e partie pp.129-143. The Eiffel Tower sells 6.9 million tickets every year, but that does not take into consideration the large amount of visitors who visit the monument but do not climb the steps.

« Selon l’Observatoire de l’an 2000 et d’après un sondage effectué en mars-avril 1996, la tour Eiffel reste le premier monument européen visité, après leur monument national, par les Italiens, les Anglais, les Allemands, les Américains et les Japonais. Elle est considérée comme le premier monument symbolique de l’Europe, sauf par les Allemands qui choisissent la porte Brandebourg et par les Japonais qui choisissent le château de Versailles » (Cohen, Evelyne. 2002. ‘Visiter Notre-Dame de Paris’ In: Ethnologie française XXXII. 2002. p.506).

[iii] Timbert, Arnaud. 2018. Qu’est-ce que l’architecture gothique ? Septentrion Presses Universitaires.

[iv] The wooden framework of gothic churches is commonly known by French carpenters as the ‘Forêt’ (the forest).

[v] « À la fin du Moyen Âge, très loin d’être l’apanage des grandes compagnies ou des écorcheurs, pratiqué plus ou moins par l’ensemble des belligérants, y compris par les armées permanentes, ils restent un événement plutôt rare qui frappe encore les esprits mais s’inscrit dans une liste de désolations, qui en changent la portée » Raynaud, Christiane. 2007. ‘L’incendie des églises : un événement ?’ In: Faire l’événement au Moyen Âge, pp. 175-192. Accessed online on 03.05.2019 (paragraph 25): https://books.openedition.org/pup/5715?lang=de#ftn9

[vi] Chroniques of Jean Froissart mentioned in Raynaud 2007, paragraph 23.

[vii] ‘ceux qui ont fait cel outrage oultre sa deffence le comparroient chierement.’ Chroniques of Jean Froissart mentioned in Raynaud 2007, paragraph 23.

[viii] ‘affin que li aultre gardaissent une autre foix mieux son commandement’ Chroniques of Jean Froissart mentioned in Raynaud 2007, paragraph 23.

[ix] See Raynaud 2007.

[x] « L’incendiaire est un homme partagé entre son plaisir de mettre le feu et l’expression de son sadomasochisme. » Bénézech, Michel. 2010. ‘Le feu criminel’ In Libres cahiers pour la psychanalyse, n° 22, p .39.

[xi] Cohen 2002, 503.

[xii] Cohen 2002, 504.

[xiii] Cohen 2002, 504.

[xiv] «Notre-Dame: la France veut une coopération européenne pour sauver le patrimoine en péril » Article published in Le Monde on the 21st of April 2019. Accessed online on 21.04.2019:  https://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2019/04/21/notre-dame-la-france-veut-une-cooperation-europeenne-pour-sauver-le-patrimoine-en-peril_5453099_3224.html

[xv] See the web article entitled ’12 serious proposals by architects for the reconstruction of the spire of Notre-Dame’ (« 12 propositions sérieuses d’architectes pour la reconstruction de la flèche de Notre-Dame » 03.05.2019). Accessed on 06.05.2019: https://creapills.com/architectes-proposition-reconstruire-fleche-notre-dame-20190503

[xvi] Bélaval, Philippe and Perrault, Dominique. 2016. Mission Île de la Cité le coeur du cœur. Unpublished report. Accessed online on 03.05.2019:  http://www.perraultarchitecture.com/download/MISSION%20CITE_CMN_DPA_RAPPORT_161216.pdf


Notre-Dame de Paris : Du Paradis à l’Inferno

‘Etiam periere ruinae’ (tr. : Même les ruines ont disparu). Incendie de l’ancienne cathédrale Saint Paul lors du grand incendie de Londres. Gravure de Wenceslaus Hollar, 1666. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

15 Avril 2019. Notre-Dame de Paris brûle. La cathédrale de l’Île de la cité, le cœur historique de Paris devient un immense brasier, exténuant les pompiers à pied d’œuvre, sidérant la foule parisienne et choquant le monde entier. Un instant, tout le monde pensa que la France brûlait.

Cette conclusion hâtive pourrait paraitre exagérée, ce qui mériterait de s’interroger sur la dimension et l’importance du monument. Notre-Dame de Paris jouit sans aucun doute de l’attention particulière des Parisiens et des touristes –une affection qui n’est pas évidente dans le contexte de laïcité française. Notre-Dame de Paris, avec approximativement 13 millions de visiteurs par an, dispute à la tour Eiffel la place du monument le plus visité de France[i] –mais reste dans tous les cas derrière l’imbattable Disneyland et ses 14.8 millions de visiteurs en 2015[ii]. Toutefois il semble difficile d’estimer combien les Français réellement chérissent la cathédrale de l’île de la cité : d’autres sondages suggèrent le profond attachement à divers sites régionaux.

Qu’en est-il de l’histoire ? Notre-Dame est-elle une cathédrale significative pour l’histoire de France ? Dans ce registre, on nommera plus volontiers Notre-Dame de Reims où eu lieu le sacre de la plupart des rois de France – ou encore la basilique Saint-Denis, nécropole des rois de France du 10e au 18e siècle. Dans une perspective architecturale, la proéminence de Notre-Dame de Paris est toute sauf évidente: on mentionnera plutôt Saint-Denis où l’abbé Suger inaugura le style gothique à partir des années 1140, Chartres et Bourges, les cathédrales classiques et grands chantiers de la fin du XIIe et début du XIIIe siècle, Chartres encore pour la révolution des couleurs ; Reims, Amiens, Beauvais, les grands monuments[iii]; le Mont-Saint-Michel, une prouesse architecturale et un lieu unique de pèlerinage depuis le VIIIe siècle. Avec sa longue histoire architecturale et son achèvement (contesté) par l’architecte Viollet-le-Duc au XIXe siècle, Notre-Dame de Paris évoque plutôt un haut lieu du néo-gothique et de l’émergence, dans la controverse, de disciplines liées à la gestion du patrimoine. Voilà donc plutôt un exemple douteux du gothique.

Malgré ces faits et en dépit du sentiment ambivalent des Français pour Notre-Dame de Paris, il est évident que le récent désastre architectural a causé un grand émoi parmi le public, les médias et les politiques. Le 15 avril devint un évènement la nuit même où la foule assistait, démunie, à la disparition de la forêt[iv] du XIIIe siècle.

La première raison de cette vive réaction émotionnelle est certainement liée à l’effrayant spectacle d’un incendie dévastateur. L’Europe n’avait pas vu un brasier de cette ampleur et de cet impact culturel depuis près de 75 ans. Cette vision a réveillé des mémoires profondément enfouies de destructions, de conflits et de souffrances. Les incendies accidentels ou criminels qui ont dévasté les cités d’Europe au Moyen-Âge étaient devenus, depuis la Renaissance, des évènements rares et choquants[v]. Les incendiaires, quand ils étaient identifiés, étaient punis rapidement et sans merci : Jean Froissart rapporte par exemple dans ses « Grandes Chroniques de France » (fin du XIVe siècle)[vi] que les incendiaires de l’abbaye de Saint Lucien en Beauvaisis « payeronent chèrement »[vii] leur acte. Le roi d’Angleterre fit immédiatement pendre vingt personnes ‘affin que li aultre gardaissent une autre foix mieux son commandement’[viii]. Dans les villes médiévales densément peuplées où le bois était un élément de construction majeur de l’architecture vernaculaire, il n’était pas rare que des églises prennent feu, bien qu’elles ne soient généralement pas l’objectif ni le foyer initial de l’incendie. Mais ce phénomène d’incendies urbains, souvent le résultat de l’activité militaire[ix], déclina fortement à partir de la renaissance. L’hausmanisation et les améliorations urbanisitiques novatrices de la fin du XIXe siècle finit de reléguer l’incendie urbain au rang d’anormalité archaïque.

A l’image de l’empereur romain Néron qui pris plaisir à voir Rome brûler en 64 ap. JC, le feu devint un spectacle apocalyptique et l’incendiaire une créature démoniaque ou un fou dangereux. « L’incendiaire est un homme partagé entre son plaisir de mettre le feu et l’expression de son sadomasochisme. »[x] commente le psychiatre Michel Bénézech.

Une telle situation était reléguée aux tribulations des jours sombres de notre histoire quand Notre-Dame de Paris raviva soudainement nos mémoires que l’on pensait oubliées. Plutôt que comme un fait d’importance architecturale, la signification de la cathédrale peut être comprise dans le cadre d’un imaginaire national développé au XIXe siècle. A l’origine une paroisse de quartier, Notre-Dame devint un « lieu de célébrations nationales » à partir du milieu du XIXe siècle après que Victor Hugo eût publié son célèbre « Notre-Dame de Paris » en 1831 et que Lassus et Viollet-le-Duc furent intervenus sur le bâti entre 1843 et 1864.[xi] Les travaux d’urbanisme conduits par le Baron Haussmann sur l’île de la Cité entre 1858 et 1868 dégagèrent l’espace devant la façade (l’île de la Cité perdit les deux tiers de ses habitants au cours du XIXe siècle)[xii], créant ainsi une formidable mise en scène du monument. Le parvis, avec la façade ouest de la cathédrale comme décor, devint un exemple de théâtralisation des parvis d’églises en France. Dans le cas de la capitale, le parvis devint un lieu dynamique pour le tout-Paris, une place qui cristallisait la vie, les mémoires et les luttes des parisiens. On se rappela alors que Jacques de Molay, dernier Maître de l’Ordre du Temple fut brûlé vif sur cette place en 1314, que le parvis vit la révolution française et la destruction des sculptures de la façade de la cathédrale, ou encore le couronnement de Napoléon en 1807. Paris elle-même est née sur l’île-de-la-Cité et le « Point 0 » est gravé sur la place, rappelant à chacun depuis 1796 que toutes les routes de France partent de ce point. Ainsi le parvis, du vieux français « parais » pour « paradis », devint, peut-être plus que Notre-Dame elle-même, le cœur de la France.

Le développement de guides touristiques de Paris contribua à cette promotion en mentionnant Notre-Dame comme « le plus beau monument de l’art gothique français » (« Guide parisien » d’Adolphe Joanne publié en 1863).[xiii] Evelyne Cohen, Professeure en Histoire et Anthropologie culturelles du XXe siècle, démontre brillamment dans son article intitulé « Visiter Notre-Dame de Paris » comment le site devint au cours des XIXe et XXe siècles un symbole de l’histoire de Paris, puis de celle de la France. Plus qu’un lieu de culte et une merveille architecturale, Notre-Dame de Paris et son parvis sont devenus le symbole du cœur, des émotions et des luttes des Parisiens et des Français.

Aujourd’hui, après l’incendie, Notre-Dame est sur le point de devenir un symbole de la collaboration culturelle, le président Emmanuel Macron ayant promptement suggéré de créer un réseau d’experts européens pour le patrimoine et sa conservation[xiv]. L’appel international par les dirigeants français aux architectes qui pourraient faire une proposition pour la reconstruction de la flèche peut devenir un marchepied vers une Notre-Dame, représentante culturelle et populaire au-delà des frontières[xv].

Page de couverture de Charlie Hebdo du 16.04.2019. Source: site web d’Europe 1.

L’incendie spectaculaire du 15 avril 2019 restera dans les mémoires. Les émotions suscitées par le feu et la forte attention médiatique a déjà créé une image d’Epinal qui confirme la vocation visuelle et théâtrale de Notre-Dame. Alors que la nation est tourmentée par la crise des gilets jaunes et le débat national, le brasier de Notre-Dame prit une valeur cathartique. Avec la reconstruction du toit et la concrétisation du projet de l’Île de la Cité [xvi], Notre-Dame de Paris relève le défi de devenir une icône du XXIe siècle.

— Sara Keller

[i] Les Parisiens semblent préférer Notre-Dame, tandis que la tour Eiffel remporte les suffrages ailleurs en France.

[ii] Sources: AtoutFrance (Ministère de la Culture) et « Les sites touristiques de France » In: Mémento du Tourisme 2017, 7e partie pp.129-143. La tour Eiffel vend 6.9 millions de tickets par an, mais ce chiffre ne prend pas en compte tous les visiteurs qui viennent voir la tour sans pour autant monter les escaliers.

« Selon l’Observatoire de l’an 2000 et d’après un sondage effectué en mars-avril 1996, la tour Eiffel reste le premier monument européen visité, après leur monument national, par les Italiens, les Anglais, les Allemands, les Américains et les Japonais. Elle est considérée comme le premier monument symbolique de l’Europe, sauf par les Allemands qui choisissent la porte Brandebourg et par les Japonais qui choisissent le château de Versailles » (Cohen, Evelyne. 2002. ‘Visiter Notre-Dame de Paris’ In: Ethnologie française XXXII. 2002. p.506).

[iii] Timbert, Arnaud. 2018. Qu’est-ce que l’architecture gothique ? Septentrion Presses Universitaires.

[iv] Ou charpente.

[v] « À la fin du Moyen Âge, très loin d’être l’apanage des grandes compagnies ou des écorcheurs, pratiqué plus ou moins par l’ensemble des belligérants, y compris par les armées permanentes, ils restent un événement plutôt rare qui frappe encore les esprits mais s’inscrit dans une liste de désolations, qui en changent la portée » Raynaud, Christiane. 2007. ‘L’incendie des églises : un événement ?’ In: Faire l’événement au Moyen Âge, pp. 175-192. Accès en ligne le 03.05.2019 (paragraphe 25) :

https://books.openedition.org/pup/5715?lang=de#ftn9

[vi] Chroniques de Jean Froissart mentionné dans Raynaud 2007, paragraphe 23.

[vii] ‘ceux qui ont fait cel outrage oultre sa deffence le comparroient chierement.’ Chroniques de Jean Froissart mentionné dans Raynaud 2007, paragraphe 23.

[viii] Chroniques de Jean Froissart mentionné dans Raynaud 2007, paragraphe 23.

[ix] Voir Raynaud 2007.

[x] « L’incendiaire est un homme partagé entre son plaisir de mettre le feu et l’expression de son sadomasochisme. » Bénézech, Michel. 2010. ‘Le feu criminel’ In Libres cahiers pour la psychanalyse, n° 22, p .39.

[xi] Cohen 2002, 503.

[xii] Cohen 2002, 504.

[xiii] Cohen 2002, 504.

[xiv] «  Notre-Dame : la France veut une coopération européenne pour sauver le patrimoine en péril » Article paru dans Le Monde le 21 Avril 2019. Accès en ligne le 21.04.2019 :

 https://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2019/04/21/notre-dame-la-france-veut-une-cooperation-europeenne-pour-sauver-le-patrimoine-en-peril_5453099_3224.html

[xv] Voir l’article « 12 propositions sérieuses d’architectes pour la reconstruction de la flèche de Notre-Dame » 03.05.2019). Accès en ligne le 06.05.2019: https://creapills.com/architectes-proposition-reconstruire-fleche-notre-dame-20190503

[xvi] Bélaval, Philippe et Perrault, Dominique. 2016. « Mission Île de la Cité le coeur du cœur ». Unpublished report. Accès en ligne le 03.05.2019 :

http://www.perraultarchitecture.com/download/MISSION%20CITE_CMN_DPA_RAPPORT_161216.pdf

 

Religion and Urbanity in Munich’s Town Museum

During a recent visit to Munich, I had the opportunity to visit the town museum. Tucked behind other buildings, the museum displays a range of historical artifcats, covering the town’s history from its foundation to modernity. The impressive collection aims to answer what is ‘typical for Munich’ (‘Typisch München!’), but also has a large range of musical instruments from around the world and a separate building dedicated to Munich during the NS regime. Throughout the museum, the mutual influence of the town and ist religions becomes visible. One of the most common stereotypes about people from Munich is, after all, that they are Catholic.   

The special exhibition ‘Migration moves the City’, to Name another example, smartly juxtaposes objects connected to migration with the artifacts in the permanent exhibition. One of the key factors in migration and the subsequent settlement in a new town is religion. At the same time the introduction of new kinds of beliefs and practices can lead to conflict, but also to syncretism and the definition of common ground.  

The case of Munich can raise even broader questions, connected to religion and urbanity, particularly when a town is described as such. The name Munich may be derived from monks who were present in the region and the coat of arms shows a monk. But whether Munich was already a town, city, or ‘urban’ at this stage is much harder to answer.

A plaque below the Munich coat of arms informs us that “The seemingly simple question since when Munich is a town is difficult to answer” (“Die eigentlich einfache Frage, seit wann München eine Stadt ist, läßt sich schwer beantworten.”) A contract which calls it a town is only known from 1294, but as early as 1207 there was legal business being conducted “in civitate Munichenin”, suggesting some kind of urban community. The building efforts in Munich in order to turn it into a clerical centre during a later period may also have contributed to the emergence of Munich as a town.  

Scholars whose work focuses on towns and cities have long grappled with the emergence of town and cities and there is no conclusive consensus about the use of these terms or the best way to categorise urban settlements. Tied up with discussions on the emergence of towns and cities is also the question of further classifications, thinking about “types of cities”, for example port cities, commercial centres or cities of migrants. This way of conceptualizing cities and towns has its merits, as it enables comparisons across cultures and times. It is possible, for example, to look at an Indian, Swedish and Asutralian port city alongside each other and in this way determine similarities and differences.

Munich in the Nuremberg Chronicle (Schedel’s Chronicle of the World, 1493). 

But just as it is difficult to define what a city is, so it is difficult to ascribe a certain identity to towns. The approach risks simplifying the complex nature of urbanity to a single descriptor, which obsures the view on other ways of thinking about a place and the complex ways in which different functions of a city reinforce, undermine or change one another. And there is also a risk of seeing too many similarities between different towns, at the risk of overlooking what makes them distinctive.  

If we return to Munich, we can also find another way of defining a town. Not by looking for certain terms or descriptions which are used in the historical sources, but by looking for signs and symbols. In Munich, a seal was already used in 1239. It shows a monk and is probably how the town came to ist name, based on the Latin forum apud Munichen

When a town starts being a town is never easy to answer, as it depends on the set of criteria we apply. So scholars always construct their own cities by defining what counts as a city, and what does not. In recent scholarhsip, there is a trend to use flexible criteria in order to be able to show how a town did not just come into being whenever it was described as such in written sources. Religion can play an important role when it comes to definitions of towns. In medieval and early modern sources, the presence of certain clerical structures may indicate the prestige and power of an urban settlement, while many of the foundation myths connected to towns also centred on religion. 

Munich’s St. Mary’s Square, c. 1642. 

The case of Munich also illustrates the linguistic challenges in defining what cities or towns are. In addition to “civitate”, further terms were used: burgus, castrum, oppidum as well as descriptions which suggest a sense of urbanity but do not use a specific term. Similar problems occur in modern languages. While the English language distinguishes between the term town and the (usually larger or more “urban”) city, the German language only has the term “Stadt” and uses different ways to describe the connotations of a “city”, for instance by using “Großstadt” (literally translated: “big town”). One central aspect of our Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies is to address these linguistic challenges and we are lucky to have experts working on countries as diverse as India, Poland and Spain, all with their own linguistic abilities and ways of expressing what a “town” is.

It is also possible to consider other factors, which might create an “urban environment”, for example rights to hold court for the surrounding countryside, the ability to elect councilors and mayors independently or economic factors, like the privilege to organize a market to sell salt, meat or other items. In some cases we get a sense of the urban if individuals reflect on a place, for instance when farmers coming from the countryside comment on the hustle and bustle during religious processions, which they could simply not imagine in their villages. In all these notions of towns and urbanity, religion played a crucial role.   

— Martin Christ