Marcus 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.