[Paper:] Marcus Meer (Münster), Signs of Identity, Signs of the City: Heraldic Display of Urban Identity in the Augsburg Chronicle and the Gossembrot Armorial

Sigismundus Meisterlin, Cronographia Augustensium, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek Augsburg 2 Cod H 1 (Cim 69), Augsburg 1457, f. IVv.

Sigismundus Meisterlin, Cronographia Augustensium, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek Augsburg 2 Cod H 1 (Cim 69), Augsburg 1457, fol. IVv (available online).

The Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle (2012) also features an article on ‘Heraldry’. Unfortunately, however, in this article the relation of heraldry to historiography is largely limited to its place as a ‘border decoration’ of manuscripts and a ‘means of identifying’ the author, commissioner or owner of a chronicle.

In my presentation I would like to argue—as does the ‘The Performance of Coats of Arms’ project in Münster —that heraldry in historiographical texts was more than that, that coats of arms were a in fact means of communication. I will suggest that there is a close connection between heraldry and historiography in the case of urban historiography. Heraldry was a means of historiography, and a means to communicate history. Firstly, coats of arms were fashioned as passive representations of history in the visual context of chronicle manuscripts. And secondly, heraldic display was able to become an active visual form of historiography that made claims about the past. Since the formative narratives of historiography are seen as a crucial element of identity, heraldry as a representation or visual form of historiography will emerge as a means of communication that was involved in fashioning an ‘urban’ identity, too.

To do so I will look at two sources from late medieval Augsburg that originate from within the ranks of the ‘urban elite’. I will, on the one hand, focus on the Cronographia Augustensium by Sigismund Meisterlin. Although this is a city chronicle, it is surprisingly heraldic in terms of the manuscripts’ illuminations and an armorial-like ‘list of arms’ that is attached to the chronicle. I will, on the other hand, point to the Gossembrot Armorial by Hans Gossembrot which, though the title suggests heraldry, turns out to be a piece of urban historiography as well.


Conference: ‘Towards New Thinking in Urban Historiography’, 20-21 May, Bruges. (Due to a change in our publication schedule, this announcement had to be delayed and is only now published in retrospect.)


Heraldica Nova

This is the account of the Heraldica Nova editorial team.

1 Response

  1. 25/10/2016

    […] to civic individual identity: They were explained in genealogical and historical myths, recorded in urban chronicles and armorials, contested in legal cases, and placed or defaced as an expression of individual or […]

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