Writing Names in Medieval Sacred Spaces: l’aboutissement du projet MEDNAME

Le livre qui vient de paraître chez Brepols dans la collection “Utrecht studies in medieval literacy” est l’aboutissement d’une collaboration entre l’équie d’épigraphie du CESCM et les médiévistes de l’Utrecht Centre of Medieval Studies (UCMS). Il fut lancé par Janneke Raaijmakers alors qu’elle rédigeait un projet VIDI pour le Conseil de la Recherche Néerlandais sur le culte des reliques dans la première moitié du Moyen Âge, et constatait l’importance du nom, et de son écriture sur les murs, les objets, dans la liturgie. 

Un projet PHC Van Gogh naquit donc en 2017 sous le nom de MEDNAME, réunissant des historiens, des historiens de l’art et des spécialistes de la culture écrite (épigraphistes et paléographes) entre CESCM et UCMS, grâce au travail de Vincent Debiais ainsi que de Marco Mostert.  

Ce livre est aussi un hommage à Janneke Raaijmakers qui nous a quittés le 2 mai 2021 avant d’avoir vu sa parution.

Extrait de la conclusion : 

“Three Contemporary (Epi)graphic Experiences of the Name.

At the locations where once the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood in New York, there are now two large, square pools, both enclosed by a bronze parapet. On these parapets 2983 names are engraved: the names of the victims of the terrorist attacks of 2001 and 1993. They include the names of the people who were in the towers at the moment of the crash and did not survive the attack; of the crew and passengers of the hijacked airplanes
that were used by the terrorists for their assaults; of the men and women working for the fire brigade and police, who lost their lives while attempting to rescue those trapped in the fire after the WTC had been hit; of the victims in the Pentagon; and those of the 1993 bombing. Although most of the people had never met, their names were listed together. They remain side by side forever in this September 11th Memorial thanks to the “Reflecting Absence” project. 

The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is the memorial dedicated to every Jew who perished in the Holocaust. With no traces left to mark the loss of these six million lives and to honour the dead, in the shape of a grave monument or tombstone (as Nazi’s attempted to erase the Jews from human history), the Hall of Names provides future generations with a place where each victim is commemorated. Their 4.8 million names and biographical details have been collected and recorded in the central database.

During his trip to Egypt in 1806, the French writer and politician Chateaubriand was not able to visit the pyramids because of the flooding of the Nile. When he left Cairo, he “instructed Mr. Caffe to inscribe [his] name on these prodigious tombs, according to custom, at the first opportunity: one must fulfil all the little duties of a pious traveller”, as he wrote in his Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem. Indeed, the custom became an indispensable part of the trip in ancient sites in the Middle East, so much so that in 1892 a guide working for
Cook travel agents reassured tourists that when visiting Egyptian temples they would have sufficient time to carve their names.

Many other contemporary examples could have been mentioned, as the epigraphic gesture of writing a name – one’s own or someone else’s – is both a powerful act and a universal, daily event: the name engraved with a knife on a tree, on a bench, written with a felt-tip pen on a school table or toilet door, spray-painted on crossovers and other urban structures, incised on a metal or plastic door plaque. The three experiences cited, tragic and traumatic in the case of the first two, picturesque but deeply rooted in tradition in case of the third, tie together name, place and absence. They invite us to reflect on the relation between the name, the body and one’s personhood, in particular in those instances in which the remains of those named have been destroyed and are lost, and the written name thus has become, as it were, a substitute for a tomb. All three examples have both an individual and a collective dimension. All three testify to the symbolic and creative power of writing. They join an anthropological line of force: keeping memory, leaving a trace, overcoming oblivion. They question singularisation and lost identity, or anonymity. They raise questions of support, mise en scène, uses of space to transmit and underline meanings, and therefore of communication and reception. In this sense, they are linked to many of the questions of this book.

Main Goal, Issues and Challenges

The goal of this study was to explore the practice of writing the name and its meanings in the Middle Ages, by using sources that have hitherto received little attention in this perspective and by juxtaposing two notions, two realities: the name and its ‘in-scription’ (as a reference to other inscriptional records of names, which are not inscriptions tout court). The term ‘inscription’ is used here as an umbrella to cover a wide range of texts written in or on several items
other than manuscript books and charters, which are not bound to a specific technique of writing. It includes not only monumental texts carved in stone, with which the field of epigraphy is traditionally concerned, but also diverse and more ephemeral writings, such as those painted on church walls, those inscribed onto and inside objects, and the graffiti scratched at cult sites. All these kinds of texts have been studied in both their semantic and material dimension, pointing to the spatial, visual, material, iconic and symbolic aspects of written names as equally important to better understand their meaning. In addition, focussing on the action of writing names, and acknowledging the diversity of medieval written culture, it seemed crucial to look beyond inscriptions and examine names across conventional disciplinary boundaries, namely between
epigraphy and other forms of written culture.

As underlined by Vincent Debiais in his introduction, the name is one of the primary textual components of medieval inscriptions. The preponderance of names in such inscriptions stands out even more as inscriptions were often relatively short texts. Some of them only consist of a name, as is the case of early medieval graffiti or funerary inscriptions from Aquitaine, Brittany and Franche-Comté dating from between the sixth and the eight centuries. In addition, in the eleventh and especially the twelfth century it has become common to include the name of the persons depicted on church walls, stained-glass windows or objects of worship – often biblical or other holy figures – in their visual representations. The name in the image is a sign of identity and individuality to be related to the attributes that developed in the thirteenth century. It was also in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that it became more common to use
two names (a name and a by-name or nickname) instead of a single name to denominate people: the so-called ‘anthroponymic revolution’. So, because names and inscriptions are inextricably bound up with each other, the inclusion of epigraphy in the study of names, and vice versa, proved crucial to better understand the meaning of both names and written practices. […]”

Table des matières : 

  • Introduction — VINCENT DEBIAIS
  • Le nom et l’être: De la théorie aux mises en forme épigraphiques — ESTELLE INGRAND-VARENNE
  • Graver son nom dans la pierre: Aspects techniques et culturels — THIERRY GREGOR
  • Topographie du nom du saint dans l’église: L’exemple des inscriptions brèves de dédicace — ANNICK GAGNÉ
  • Le nom, marque dans l’image et marqueur de l’objet — VINCENT DEBIAIS
  • Le nom à l’oeuvre: Les signatures épigraphiques d’artistes et de commanditaires entre quête de gloire et perspectives eschatologiques — EMILIE MINEO
  • Hic fuit: Scratching Names on Sacred Walls — CARLO TEDESCHI
  • Saints’ Names and Relics: The Evidence of Church Inscriptions — ELISA PALLOTTINI
  • Ces morts dont on inscrit le nom dans la pierre … — CÉCILE TREFFORT
  • Et breve in exigo marmore nomen ero: Un seul nom pour épitaphe (Gaule, Aquitaine, VIe-VIIIe s.) — MORGANE UBERTI
  • The Memory of a Person’s Name — JANNEKE RAAIJMAKERS
  • The Social Meaning of Names — JANNEKE RAAIJMAKERS
  • Naming as a Liturgical Act — ELS ROSE
  • Beyond the Pale? Those Who Were Not Worthy to Be Named — MARCO MOSTERT
  • Conclusions — ESTELLE INGRAND-VARENNE, ELISA PALLOTTINI, and JANNEKE RAAIJMAKERS
  • Bibliography
  • Indices

Plus de renseignements sur le site de Brepols: https://www.brepols.net/products/978-2-503-60236-3 



Citer ce billet
Estelle Ingrand-Varenne (2023, 30 avril). Writing Names in Medieval Sacred Spaces: l’aboutissement du projet MEDNAME. LA MAISON DE L'EPIGRAPHIE. Consulté le 4 mars 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/oge9

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