A new look at medieval armorials Research days

Workshops organised at the National Library of Luxembourg (Bibliothèque nationale du Luxembourg, BnL) on 4 and 5 December 2023 invite us to take a new look at medieval armorials. They are part of a symposium in tribute of Dr. Jean-Claude Loutsch and to promote the incorporation of his rich collection of printed books and manuscripts in the holdings of the Library.

In 1994, the Paris colloquium opened up the concept of the “armorial”1. Almost 30 years later, it is time to revisit the theme in order to assess the latest research and to propose new perspectives. This review concerns not only recent editions of armorials but also and above all the online availability of numerous original documents digitised by various conservation institutions. At a time when digital humanities are opening up new avenues for the analysis of historical texts and images, we must try to better articulate the results of older editions with the possibilities offered by the digitisation of primary sources.

It is also necessary to (re)define a method of valorizing armorials (in the form of both rolls of arms and codices) from the perspective of the ‘new heraldry’. The confrontation of social, cultural and digital approaches will allow us to analyse the production of armorials in the strict sense of the term, but also their characteristics, functions and purposes by broadening the definition adopted in 1994.

The notions of intermediality and intericonicity will be used to understand the performative role that armorials had in medieval society. To this end, art historians, codicologists and specialists in literature are called upon to contribute alongside heraldists. The interaction between armorials in parchment or paper and collections of coats of arms assembled and expressed through other media must be taken into account. What real impact had the numerous coats of arms grouped together in armorials on the daily life of medieval people? What was the level of their heraldic knowledge and skills?

Geographically, the study days focus on the medieval Christian West, from the Iberian kingdoms to the borders of Poland and Hungary, from Scandinavia to Sicily.

Moreover, the adoption of a wide diachronic perspective will make it possible to evaluate and examine the armorials from several angles. The question of their authors, their sources, their distribution and their impact will be considered from the first appearances of the phenomenon in the 13th century to the middle of the 16th century. The study days will also include the viewpoint of the erudite minds of subsequent centuries, up to and including the 19th century. What place did armorials have in these men’s libraries? Why did they take the trouble to copy and/or compile them? For what scholarly, genealogical, political or other purposes were armorials used?

Proposals for papers in French or English (with an abstract of c. 5000 characters, spaces included) and a brief CV, should be sent before 30 June 2023 to Jean-Christophe Blanchard (jean-christophe.blanchard@univ-lorraine.fr).

1 Louis Holtz, Michel Pastoureau, Hélène Loyau (dir.), Les armoriaux médiévaux. Actes du colloque international « Les armoriaux médiévaux ». Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes CNRS (Paris, 21-23 mars 1994), Paris, Le Léopard d’or, 1997 (Cahiers du Léopard d’or 8).

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