Heraldry in the Medieval City

CALL FOR PAPERS – Heraldry in the Medieval City: The Case of Italy, École française de Rome, Villa Medicis, Rome, 5 – 7 May 2015.

A visitor passing through Italy is surprised by the abundance of coats of arms that still decorate the palaces and public monuments of its cities. Relatively undisturbed by the tides of history that destroyed a lot of Europe’s heraldic heritage, in the Italian cities this heritage is still alive and well.

While the development of heraldic signs occasionally caught the eye of historians and art historians, they have never done justice to the multitude and diversity of the existing sources. Recently, however, research has taken an interest in the subject with renewed vigour and approaches, especially in the case of Italy.

The aim of this conference is to establish the current state of research and to advance the subject by linking more closely the history of heraldic communication and the history of cities. To do so, the Italian example shall be put into a European perspective.

Coats of arms are surprisingly flexible and efficient means of communication. In cities, they may represent individuals as well as groups, the urban community as a whole as well as the ruler of the city.

Heraldic signs are able to express the unity of the people – through the arms of the town and of its political institutions – as well as their social and political divisions – by identifying different parties, competing social groups and individuals.

The staging of these signs in the city, its chronology, actors, practices and challenges pose many questions:

* On the one hand, there are questions concerning the factual representation of coats of arms in the city itself. When did these signs start to appear in urban space? In which places – public, private, sacred – are whose arms to be found? How are they presented? Is it possible to establish a “heraldic topography” of the medieval city?

* On the other hand, concerning the way the contemporary citizens thought about the coats of arms and heraldic representation as such. Are there restrictions or regulations for displaying coats of arms in the urban space? Are there debates on the ways to stage coats of arms in the urban theatre? How did the citizens perceive their coats of arms? What functions, what effects, and what significance did they attribute to them?

* Finally, are there parts of Europe that were more prone to using heraldic signs in urban contexts than others? Is the rich heraldic heritage of Italian cities the mere result of sources surviving by chance, or does it reflect a particular Italian development?

The conference will attempt to propose answers to these questions, not only by looking at the monumental evidence of medieval heraldry, but also by studying the discourses on these signs in written sources such as city records (Stadtbücher), sumptuary statutes, account books, legal records, city chronicles etc. While the expertise of specialists in heraldry is important, such a survey requires and welcomes especially the knowledge of historians of the medieval city, too.

By situating the Italian example in its European context and comparing the different analyses and approaches of heraldists, art historians, historians of visual culture and historians of the city, this conference intends to propose new perspectives on coats of arms in the city and tread new paths for future research.

Proposals should be sent together with an abstract (200 words) in English or French to journees.heraldiques@gmail.com. Papers can be presented in English, French or Italian.

Workshop organised by the research programme “Héraldique, emblématique et signes d’identité au Moyen Age” (Laurent Hablot, CESCM, University of Poitiers, École française de Rome) and the research project “The Performance of Coats of Arms – Die Performanz der Wappen. Zur Entwicklung von Funktion und Bedeutung heraldischer Kommunikation in der spätmittelalterlichen Kultur”, Dilthey-Fellowship of the VolkswagenFoundation (Torsten Hiltmann, Historisches Seminar, University of Münster).

Deadline: 25 January 2015.

Source: H-ArtHist

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