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Antiquarian Attitudes: Crossed Legs, Crusaders and the Evolution of an Idea

  • Oliver D Harris (a1)

Since the sixteenth century, both scholarly and popular readings of tomb monuments have assigned a series of interpretations to medieval effigies with crossed legs. These have included the beliefs that the effigies dated from before the Norman Conquest; that they commemorated crusaders, or those who had taken crusading vows; and that they commemorated Knights Templar. The ‘crusader’ theory has proved particularly tenacious, and, although largely discredited by scholars, continues to flourish in folk wisdom. This paper charts the emergence and dissemination of these several ideas and the debates they engendered. It argues that the early modern identification of the cross-legged attitude as a noteworthy feature was, despite its mistaken associations, a landmark in the story of the formulation of techniques for the typological diagnosis of antiquities.

Depuis le seizième siècle, et les explications érudites et les explications populaires des monuments funéraires ont attribué toutes sortes d’interprétations aux effigies médiévales à jambes croisées. Entre autres, on pensait que les effigies dataient d’avant la conquête normande; qu’elles commémoraient des croisés, ou bien ceux qui avaient fait vœu d’aller en croisade; et qu’elles commémoraient des Templiers. La théorie des ‘croisés’ s’est révélée être particulièrement tenace et, bien que largement discréditée par les érudits, elle a continué à prospérer dans la pensée populaire. Cette communication trace l’apparition et la dissémination de ces diverses idées, ainsi que les discussions qu’elles ont engendrées. Cette communication soutient que l’identification de la position à jambes croisées comme caractéristique notable, identification qui remonte au début des temps modernes, fit date dans l’histoire de la formulation de techniques pour le bilan typologique des antiquités, et ce, malgré ses associations erronées.

Seit dem sechzehnten Jahrhundert gab es verschiedene Interpretationen in wissenschaftlichen und volkstümlichen Schriften über mittelalterliche Bildnisse von überkreuzten Beinen. Diese umfassen den Glauben, daß diese Bildnisse aus der Zeit vor der normannischen Invasion stammen; daß sie ein Gedenken an Kreuzfahrer sind, oder solchen die ihr Gelübte abgelegt hatten; oder ein Gedenken sind an die Freimaurerorganisation der Knights Templar. Die Kreuzfahrt Theorie hat sich als besonders hartnäckig herausgestellt, und obwohl sie von Forschern bestritten wird, ist sie in der Volksweiseit weit verbreitet. Diese Abhandlung beschäftigt sich mit der Entstehung und Verbreitung dieser Vorstellungen und den Diskussionen, die sich daraus ergeben haben. Es wird argumentiert, daß die Interpretation der überkreuzten Beine aus der frühen Moderne ein nennenswerte Erscheinung war, und trotz ihrer irrtümlichen Assoziationen ein Orientierungspunkt in der Geschichte der Erarbeitung von Verfahren der typologischen Diagnose des Alterums sind.

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The Antiquaries Journal
  • ISSN: 0003-5815
  • EISSN: 1758-5309
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