Karel Truu (Estonian Ac.oArts, Estonia)

Truu, Talinn.jpgKaarel Truu is currently a PhD student in Estonian Academy of Arts, specialized on the restoration works carried out in Tallinn old town during the soviet period. The author has led and carried out field research in several medieval buildings with both academic and professional purposes. The author has worked on different levels and positions in the cultural heritage field since 2008. The author has worked as a conservation specialist in Tallinn City Cultural Heritage Dept. and is currently a conservation specialist in the Estonian National Heritage Board.


Reuse and afterlife of medieval architecture in Tallinn


During the 15th century the center of Tallinn evolved into what it is today. The city had filled the area surrounded by the city wall, the street network and many of the buildings existed in their present form. My paper will shed light on practices related to rebuilding of mediaeval dwelling houses in Tallinn during the centuries following the medieval heyday. Due to the relative poverty and dense mediaeval city fabric the reconstructions and modernizations in the following centuries were minimal and sustainable by today’s standards. Bound by medieval lot proportions and bearing walls the floor plans generally preserved. Parts of the building with distinctive decorative features: pillars, panels also sometimes remained in their original places and were covered with plaster or masonry.

Mediaeval technical solutions were so deeply integrated into the buildings, that mere innovation could not make them disappear. Implementation of new technologies, tiled stoves for example, only meant adding new features and details to the building, while keeping the old. With new building materials, such as steel and concrete becoming available and common rebuilding became more destructive during the 2nd half of the 19th century. Meanwhile interest in antiquities was on the rise: the more artistic or odd pieces of carved stone ended up on the facades as decorative elements. Modest resources and aforementioned habits in rebuilding have made it possible for today’s researchers to discover new medieval details like decorated ceilings and pillars in their original places yearly. The paper is based on archival documents and my experience as a field researcher.


Marcus Meer (Durham Univ., UK)

Meer, augsburgMarcus Meer completed a BA in History and Linguistics at Bielefeld University, followed by the MSt in Medieval History at Oxford University. In 2014/2015, he was part of the research project ‘The Performance of Coats of Arms’ at Münster University, which aims to re-evaluate heraldic sources from the perspective of cultural history. Meer’s PhD project, part of the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme at Durham’s Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, investigates and compares the use of heraldry as a means of visual communication in medieval cities of England and Germany that reflected, reinforced and negotiated structures and hierarchies of urban society.


Recycling the Roman Past: The Interplay of Ancient Remains, Representative Strategies, and Historical Narratives in Late Medieval Augsburg

In late medieval Augsburg material witnesses to the city’s Roman past were still present. Whenever ancient inscriptions, relics, and decorations were found in the grounds of cemeteries or construction sites, they were interpreted as evidence of the city’s most ancient and dignified foundation. In this paper I will explore the contexts in which such ancient objects were recycled as part of the medieval city’s representative strategies and incorporated into its historical narratives.

The example of the pine cone-like ‘pyr’ will serve as a case study: this Roman decoration became the central symbol of Augsburg in the Middle Ages. It was displayed in urban space, represented the commune in its seals and coat of arms, and encouraged fifteenth- and sixteenth-century chroniclers, including humanist historiographers of Augsburg, to incorporate this symbol into the narratives of the city’s beginnings. Scholars of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, however, rejected Roman relics as expressions of urban dignity, and subjected Augsburg’s central symbol to a Christian reinterpretation. This paper therefore explores the interplay between urban representation, historiography and material culture at the intersection of the Ancient and the Medieval. It underlines the malleability and ambiguity of iconography, the changeability of historical narratives in the face of politics, and thus the semantic openness that allowed for the remains of the past to be recycled.

Imogen Tedbury (Courtauld Institute, UK)

Tedbury frescoAfter graduating with a Double First Class degree in English from Clare College, Cambridge, Imogen Tedbury gained her MA in History of Art with distinction at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she studied ‘Making and Meaning in the Art of the Middle Ages’ with Professor John Lowden. She is now in the second year of her AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD at the National Gallery and the Courtauld Institute, supervised by Professor Joanna Cannon and Dr Caroline Campbell. The working title of her doctoral thesis is ‘Collecting, reception & display of trecento & quattrocento Sienese paintings in Britain, 1850-1950’.


Re/Constructing the medieval fresco: the ottocento afterlives of the Lorenzetti San Francesco fragments


Scholastic interest in Siena’s San Francesco has long privileged its early material history, specifically the frescoes attributed to Ambrogio Lorenzetti that are so effusively described by Lorenzo Ghiberti in his Commentarii. When the remains of this legendary but long presumed lost cycle were unexpectedly uncovered in the 1850s, the larger frescoes were removed, restored, relocated and ultimately reintegrated into the walls of the basilica of San Francesco. Smaller fragments were dispersed, acquiring new significances in their afterlives beyond the convent.

This paper takes the Lorenzetti chapter house fresco fragments as a case study for exploring post-medieval attitudes to the viewing of medieval frescoes in the contrasting environments of church and museum. The larger fragments’ regeneration within the church’s fabric will be placed in the context of contemporary Tuscan restoration culture and Giuseppe Partini’s controversial restoration programme at San Francesco, where Lorenzetti’s frescoes partially inspired the attempt to return the church to a medieval ‘primitive form’. Smaller, dispersed fresco fragments such as the National Gallery’s Heads of Four Nuns, acquired at great expense after lengthy negotiations, will be used to examine the purpose of fresco fragments within the nineteenth-century museum, and their value as cyphers for the frescoes that remained in Siena. The paper will conclude by questioning the extent to which the ottocento afterlives of these frescoes could continue to inform the interpretation of these frescoes today.

Meg Williams (UoGroningen, Netherlands)

Fig 13 DryingDr. Megan K. Williams is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. She received her PhD from Columbia University in 2009 for her work on mobility regimes in sixteenth-century diplomacy. This paper is inspired by her current research project, which is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), and which examines paper’s role in the transformation of Renaissance diplomacy, ca. 1460-1560. Her recent publications (http://paperprinces.org) focus on paper as artifact of late medieval and early modern statecraft.


Recycled Rags and the Politics of Paper in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe


Towards the end of von Grimmelshausen’s picaresque Der abenteuerliche SIMPLICISSIMUS Teutsch (1668/69) — a novel of constant vicissitude and metamorphosis — a piece of toiletpaper protests the indignity of its current incarnation. The toiletpaper’s autobiography of its repurposing from shirt to diaper to paper to book to toiletpaper can be read as a veritable catalogue of late medieval and early modern recycling.

Paper provided a malleable medium for many late medieval and early modern era masterpieces of literature, art, finance, diplomacy, and statecraft. Chancelleries, printers and artists became rabid consumers of the new medium soon after its arrival in twelfth-century Europe. This soaring demand led to the rapid expansion of papermills in the later fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The rag-collectors who supplied these mills with the raw materials for papermaking became a regular sight in the late-medieval and early-modern landscape.

Yet very little work has examined the late medieval and early modern rag trade. Marx’s depiction of rag-collectors as among the vilest and most degenerate of social outcasts (Lumpenproletariat) has deeply colored the profession’s image. That rag-collection was, however, a critical industry is amply demonstrated by repeated political attempts to regulate it. This paper aims to explore the political economy of rag-recycling in the early sixteenth-century Holy Roman Empire through the rag-collection strategies of Frankfurt papermaker Anstett Leutholt (†1546/48) and his heirs. Leutholt, whose paper was widely used in chancelleries and printing houses, left a rich archival record of the politics of rag-recycling in late medieval and early modern Central Europe.


Neus Serra (UBI, Spain)

Serra, pottery (2)Neus Serra has a degree in Art History from the University of the Balearic Islands and a Master’s in Cultural Heritage Management and Conservation of Movable Heritage by the University of the Balearic Islands and Université de Perpignan Via Domitia. She is currently pursuing her doctoral thesis on XIVth ceramics. Her research is based on the premise that ceramics can be considered a transdocumental object which has to be studied in a multidimensional way, linking historical, artistic and archaeological speeches to recreate its actual impact on society that consumed.


Medieval pottery as a multifunctional object

This communication aims to provide data about different practices and attitudes towards pottery in middle ages. Tableware, during XIVth and XVth century, was used for much more than just presenting, serving and consuming food. It was an usual custom to hang some pieces from the walls as a decorative element or even to fix them on the facades of some churches, as the countless bacini in Italy document. This decorative side could have been the reason why some of these objects lived longer than others. Indeed, many archive sources document the resale of pottery in auctions carried out on the properties of a deceased.

In some cases, these ceramics could acquire a high symbolic, religious or even protective value in the domestic environment. That would be the case of pieces decorated with prayers or pieces reserved for special uses. The highest expression of the sacred dimension these objects could achieve is the relic/bowl of San Francisco de Asís, a piece from the XIVth century preserved in the treasure of the Cologne Cathedral. As for the causes of refusal and waste, beyond those resulting from the damage that daily use entailed, the archaeological record has brought to light some complete sets that were abandoned practically in a single moment. Since their functionality was intact, we have to suppose external reasons to get rid of them. Rituals and prophylactic measures in order to prevent the spread of disease have been pointed to explain “premature” abandonment. In other cases they found a second life as construction material, filling some medieval churches vaults.

Sarah Mirza (CoWooster, Ohio, USA)

Mirza, ShoesSarah Mirza is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the College of Wooster (Ohio). She is a cultural historian of pre-Islamic Arabia and early Islam, and interested in theorizing and developing a historical methodology for a material culture of writing. She has published on the Prophet Muhammad’s documents as relics.



Shoes, Writing: recycled leather in the material culture of writing in pre-Islamic Arabia and early Islam

According to medieval Islamic literature, some eighth and ninth century figures were known for an excessive zeal in recording religious knowledge which lead them to take notes on their leather sandals. More fundamentally than the learned debate on the merits of memorization that these accounts participate in, these shoes matter because they are leather, the most plentiful writing support available. Although they uniquely attract pietistic ire, the shoes were not unusual and can be seen in relation to accounts of legal and religious documents used to patch up leather buckets. The collapse of material categories through writing is also featured in the motif of the “ruined abodes” in the pre-Islamic ode, in which writing speaks but says nothing and is undifferentiated from camp remains, animal droppings, and traces left by water.  Recycled leather from pre-Islamic and early Islamic times can thus reveal what Bernhard Siegert and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht call “cultural techniques” and “materialities of communication”: the culturally and historically circumscribed material conditions for semantics. In these examples, the written object is always something else at the same time; writing is what it is depending on where it is and is never abstract text. Collapsing the categories of text, trace, household object, and apparel, these examples encourage historians interested in materiality to centralize the actual material of objects and not merely the fact of their being objects as opposed to literature. We may thus see these shoes more clearly if they are categorized with drinking vessels and documents rather than clothing.

Drumroll, please…

Hello all,


With a little more than a month before the conference, we are proud to announce our speaking delegates here on the website. Abstracts of their talk, as well as short bios, will be posted daily in the order of the schedule. Find the complete list in the left-side menu.

Looking forward to seeing all of you!

Conference organizers, Emily Savage and Ioana Coman