[Paper:] Torsten Hiltmann: Heraldry and Materiality – Oxford, 1 March 2017

Duke of Burgundy with his coats of arms (Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 1110, f. 159)

In recent years the concept of materiality has become more and more important in historical research. In going beyond the study of texts and images, scholarship now also addresses the materiality of their media, as well as the role physical objects may have played in different historical settings. This talk will explore the relationship between coats of arms and the concept of materiality.

First, the talk will focus on the materials in and on which coats of arms could be represented. As the seminar series is dedicated to paper and parchment, the representation of coats of arms on those supports will be a key concern, demonstrating the immense range of ways in which heraldry could be represented here. It will be asked whether there is any relationship between the chosen support and the message conveyed by the coats of arms on it. Subsequently, the focus will be widened to all kinds of supports of heraldic communication. It will become clear that there is no single privileged material for the representation of heraldic devices in the late medieval and early modern era, but rather that armorial bearings could be displayed by a multitude of techniques on every imaginable support—to a certain extent even by music.

Second, the paper will try to explain this particular communicational adaptivity of coats of arms, and ask for the materiality of coats of arms as such. It will be shown how heraldic communication detached itself from its materiality in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and how it became a reproducible, abstract concept and how coats of arms finally could become some kind of virtual objects which were present in late medieval miniatures without having much of a counterpart in the actual physical world.

The talk thus aims to demonstrate the immense capacities of heraldic communication for modern cultural history and its research interests, and its deserving of closer study.
The title of the talk is ‘Coats of Arms in Books and Beyond: The Objectivation of Heraldry and its Materiality’. It will be held at the Late Medieval Europe Seminar ‘Paper and Parchment’, St John’s College, Oxford University, 1st March 2017, 17:00.

Cite this blog post
Heraldica Nova (2017, February 28). [Paper:] Torsten Hiltmann: Heraldry and Materiality – Oxford, 1 March 2017. Heraldica Nova. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/pi03

Heraldica Nova

This is the account of the Heraldica Nova editorial team.

4 Responses

  1. Thank you for your reply and the link. I fully agree that the material is of great interest to study for heraldists, and then not only to study the material of the seals and the armorials. The material is close connected with the varying functions of the coats of arms: being distinctive signs, being symbols for religion, power etc, being mere decorations and many other functions.

  2. GG says:

    Very interesting. I hope to one day be able to read this paper.

  3. By using “the concept of materiality” I suppose that you mean “Materiality (digital text): When referring to digital text, pictures and documents, the term materiality refers to the physical medium used to store and convey the text, as apart from the text itself.” Link here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materiality_(digital_text).
    Have I understood this in the correct way?

    • In a certain manner, yes. But not in contrast to digital things, but to the content as such. Hitherto, historians have studied the texts and images as such. But these texts and images were written or painted on objects as supports like books, walls, etc. The question is, did these objects, did the material of which they have been made and the way they have been produced, influence the message of these texts and images? In a more global approach, on can even ask whether objects as such did as well have some influence in a given historical situation, like, for instance, the right crown. For heraldry, you could ask, whether in heraldic representations the material did matter and even if a coat of arms could be seen as a physical object or not.

      For a more concise introduction to this very interesting approach, see for instance:
      (This is the research program of a research center in Heidelberg dedicated to this approach.)

      and in more detail (but in german):


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