Lawyers and remembrance: looking at medieval tombstones

At the start of a new academic year I would like to share here a subject which for many people recalls holidays with visits to old cities and monumental buildings. This post is clearly a late summer posting! Every now and then you might spot somewhere an object commemorating a lawyer. When you visit for example a medieval church you might find tombstones with clear indications of the profession of the deceased. In the last decades huge efforts have been made to make research for medieval tombstones more efficient and more contextual. This year’s launch of the Dutch database Medieval Memoria Online prompted me to look into this project for traces of lawyers, and to look at some comparable projects elsewhere in Europe. For this contribution I got also in particular inspiration from the marvellous ongoing series of posts on nineteenth-century American cemeteries and monuments by Alfred Brophy at The Faculty Lounge.

Captured in stone

Logo Mesieval Memoria Online

The database of the project Medieval Memoria Online, accessible in English and Dutch, has been developed at Utrecht University by a team of scholars led by art historian Truus van Bueren. The project documents not only tombs and floor slabs, but also memorial registers, memorial pieces and narrative sources with a function in commemorating people. The project focused on the Northern Netherlands in the fifteenth century, but there is also a provisional online inventory of wall-mounted memorials in the Southern Netherlands – roughly present-day Belgium – between 1380 and 1520, and a glossary of terms in Dutch, English and German. When I saw the project of Sophie Oosterwijk and Charlotte Dikken on the floor slabs of St. Michael’s at Oudewater I quickly added this information to my recent post about Oudewater.

In an article I wrote in 1994 on medieval lawyers and working habits I could refer to the study by Renzo Grandi, I monumenti dei dottori e la scultura a Bologna (1267-1348) (Bologna 1982) with many pictures of sepulchral monuments for lawyers in Bologna. Many of them are now at the Museo Civico Medievale. Some of these monuments show a law professor during his teaching. Several monuments can still be seen in situ. One of the earliest modern illustrated publications about them is by Alfonso Rubbiani, Le tombe di Accursio, di Odofredo e di Rolandino de’ Romanzi glossatori nel secolo XIII (Bologna 1887).

The tomb of Dirk van Wassenaer - Utrecht, Janskerk

The tomb of Dirk van Wassenaer – Utrecht, Janskerk, around 1465

Let’s turn back to the Netherlands and look at some examples of tombstones and other memorial objects commemorating lawyers and people trained as lawyers. My main example is the tomb of Dirk van Wassenaer (memorial object no. 2527) at the Janskerk (St. John’s) in Utrecht. The Memoria database carefully distinguishes between information about the wall memorial, the tomb, the inscriptions, the heraldic arms, personal information and information on locations. In this case the inscription at the wall provides part of the personal information. Dirk van Wassenaer died in 1465. He was the son of the burggraaf (viscount) of Leiden. He had been a parish priest at Leiden, a canon at Utrecht Cathedral (St. Martin’s), a provost at the collegiate church of St. Pancras in Leiden since 1416, archdeacon at the Janskerk, and a protonotarius papae, a papal protonotary.

Wall memorial of Dirk van Wassenaer

Wall memorial of Dirk van Wassenaer – Utrecht, Janskerk, around 1465

When I read the notice on the wall memorial I wrote at first that the heraldic description in the Memoria database of both the tomb and the wall memorial was not complete and partially incorrect, but the database has separate entries for the tomb and the wall memorial. The tomb monument has been described separately (MeMo no. 2960), where you will find clear descriptions of the four arms. The description of the galero, the black hat, is not correct. It is not a cardinal’s hat, which would show red cords and fifteen tassels at each side, but a more simple canon’s hat with just six tassels, not even the hat of an apostolic protonotary, with twelve tassels. The galero might symbolize the deanery held by Van Wassenaer, a suggestion given elsewhere in the description. The database provides an image of a drawing made in 1636 by Pieter Saenredam showing the tomb and the memorial in the St. Anthony’s chapel in the north aisle of the church, a chapel founded by Van Wassenaer. Today both objects are in the south part of the transept, a fact duly noted in the description of the tomb. For a database on this scale it is perhaps just wanting too much if literature on Van Wassenaer is not mentioned. Describing the objects systematically is already asking much. I could easily track an article by O.A. Spitzen, ‘Het grafschrift van proost Dirk van Wassenaer in de St. Janskerk te Utrecht’, Archief voor de geschiedenis van het Aartsbisdom Utrecht 17 (1889) 307-333 (online at the Trajecta portal for Dutch and Belgian ecclesiastical history).

It seems I was not completely lucky in choosing my main example: instead of protonotary the notice on Van Wassenaer reads prenotary, an unfortunate mistake when you want to look for other protonotaries. By the way, we deal here with honorary protonotaries, not actual officials of the Roman curia. One of the strengths of the database is the clear separation of personal information and information about objects. The same person might be commemorated in several places or he might be mentioned in a necrological register, but he or she could also be the founder of a memorial for someone else. The second example of a protonotary helps to show this variety.

A floor slab for provost Cornelis van Mierop (died 1572) at St. Martin’s in Utrecht was destroyed during the last restoration thirty years ago (MeMO no. 2934). Van Mierop, too, was a protonotary, and the inscription on his tomb, luckily preserved in a manuscript with many drawings of tombs and windows, stated he had been also a counsellor to the king of Spain (regis Hispaniae a consiliis). His portrait can be seen in a stained glass window depicting Christ giving his first sermon at the Grote or St. Janskerk in Gouda (MeMO no. 870), and in yet another window at the Grote or St. Jacobskerk (St. James’) in The Hague (MeMO no. 3012), showing him as the dean of the fourteen canons of the chapter of the Hofkapel (Court Chapel). Both windows were created by Dirk Crabeth.

The third example of a protonotary is even richer. The floor slab of the grave of Antonis Fürstenberg was found as recently as 1980 in Nijmegen and can now be seen at the Museum Het Valkhof (MeMO no. 2272). Fürstenberg was born around 1480 in Westphalia. He studied law at Bologna and received his doctoral degree (decretorum doctor) in 1498, and he held also a bachelor’s degree in theology. He was a law professor at the university of Copenhagen and provost of the convent Borglum in Jutland (praepositus Burglaviensis). A fourth protonotary, Adriaan van Isendoorn (died 1566), was buried at Utrecht Cathedral (MeMO no. 79). On the floor slab the title for protonotary reads sedis apostolicae protonotarii (..), a protonotary of the Apostolic See.

A wider context

Of course you need to combine the information provided by the Memoria database with data found elsewhere. Last year I wrote a post about a number of online prosopographic databases for Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Alas I could not find our four protonotaries in the databases of Germania Sacra, nor at Prosopographica Burgundica. One of the online resources which helps you finding scholars in the German Holy Roman Empire between 1250 and 1550 is the Repertorium Academicum Germanicum.

The Dutch Memoria project is certainly not the only scientific enterprise to present medieval inscriptions online. The German project Deutsche Inschriften Online brings you to inscriptions from several towns, monasteries and dioceses during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. At Epigraphica Europea (Universität München) you will find links to many European projects for online access to medieval and later inscriptions. Among the more specific and well-defined projects is REQUIEM, a German database for the tombs of cardinals and popes in Rome from 1420 to 1798. In this database I found for example that cardinal Pietro Pamfili-Colonna (1725-1780) had been a functioning apostolic protonotary (protonotarius apostolicus de numero participantium) from 1750 to 1761 after his promotion in 1750 as a doctor utriusque iuris at the university of La Sapienza. In 2006 the Università degli Studi di Padova launched the website Le sepolture regie del regno italico (secoli VI-X concerning royal graves and monuments in Italy from the sixth to the tenth century, with a focus on the historical background and less information about the actual buildings and tombs.

The manuscripts of Buchelius

In passing I noted a manuscript preserving the text of a floor slab at Utrecht Cathedral. It was created by Aernout van Buchell (Buchelius) (1565-1646) who lived in Utrecht, but made also some travels abroad. At Het Utrechts Archief, Utrecht University Library and at Tresoar, the Frisian archive in Leeuwarden, three illustrated manuscripts created by Van Buchell are kept which add much to the information in the Memoria database. Van Buchel saw many churches, and even though he did make mistakes his work is still valuable. These three manuscripts can be searched online. His Diarium, a travel diary kept at the Special Collections of Utrecht University Library (ms. 798), has been digitized, too. An album amicorum (Leiden, UB, ms. Ltk. 902) was the subject of an exhibition at Leiden University Library, and it has been digitized for an online exhibit. To return once more to apostolic protonotaries, Buchelius mentions Johan Ingenwinckel, a provost of St. John’s, Utrecht, who died in Rome in 1534. Van Buchel’s notes about the Dutch East India Company and his work for the Amsterdam chamber, held at the Nationaal Archief, have been transcribed, too. No doubt his fame rests upon his copy of a drawing around 1596 of The Swan theatre in London (Utrecht, UB, ms. 842, fol. 132 r). You can read the Dutch version (2000) of Judith Pollman’s biography of Buchelius, Een andere weg naar God. De reformatie van Arnoldus Buchelius (1565-1641), online in the Digital Library of Dutch Literature.

If you look in the Memoria database for persons with a legal degree, be it a doctorate utriusque iuris, a doctor or licentiatus decretorum, you will find interesting results, even when their actual number is small. To wet your appetite a last example: in Arnhem you can find in the Grote or Eusebiuskerk the tomb of Joost Sasbout (1487-1546), first from 1515 to 1535 a councillor at the Court of Holland and afterwards chancellor of Guelders, and his wife Catharina van der Meer. The memorial sculpture (MeMO no. 570) might be a work of Colijn de Nole, the sculptor of the famous mantelpiece in the old town hall of Kampen. You can trace many Dutch officials quickly in the online Repertorium van ambtsdragers en ambtenaren 1428-1861. When you use this website together with the online biographic resources at the Dutch Biografisch Portaal you will surely find much valuable information. Rolf de Weijert, one of the members of the Memoria team, told me that unrecorded medieval tombstones are currently being described in the province of Zeeland. They will be added as soon as possible to the database.

For the Medieval Memoria project generic information, including description standards and a database model, is provided to help making similar projects effective and valuable, and to enhance the eventual creation of interfaces between such projects. The Memoria project did start as an art history project, but the efforts to integrate information from this discipline with textual resources transcend the boundaries of one discipline. Medieval Memoria brings you not only inscriptions or tombs and floor slabs, but also relevant texts, an example worth following. It is simply not realistic to expect a database to contain all data you would like to have at your disposal. You can help the Medieval Memoria project and similar enterprises by pointing the scholars behind them to the resources which can enrich them.

Instead of criticising the lack of information for some objects it is wiser to realize that already a relatively small collegiate church such as St. John’s at Utrecht has some thirty memorial objects, and also a necrology from the sixteenth-century. The Sint Janskathedraal at ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc) has more than 500 tombstones which you can study at a special website. Genealogists are probable more aware of cemeteries and tombstones than lawyers and legal historians, but it is most sensible not leave them out on purpose of our studies of subjects related to legal history. The Dutch Genealogical Society presents a nice array of websites concerning cemeteries in my country and abroad. Let this suffice here to indicate a general direction, for one blog post cannot offer the functionality of an omniscient navigation tool on the oceans of questions and scientific knowledge.

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2 thoughts on “Lawyers and remembrance: looking at medieval tombstones

  1. Sophie OOsterwijk

    Nice to see the reference to the MeMO project and my work (with Charlotte Dikken) on the Oudewater website, but could you please correct my surname Oosterwijk (without the additional i) and also add my name to that of Charlotte on your Oudewater blog?

    Reply

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