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The King's Sign

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Chapter Summary


This chapter discusses a specific class of the documentary sources available for Northern France between 1000-1230. In reading charters, medievalists expect to lift the ideological veil and to lay hold of the raw material of a retrospective seriography. The centrality of documentary sources in the epistemology of medieval history is best exemplified by what was, and still to a very great extent is, a discipline proper to the field of medieval studies: Diplomatics. In studying Northern French documentary practices of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, however, the author found that this formalization had imposed the shape of its own method upon the objects of its study; it obscured evidence of the ways in which these objects operated. Far from being confined to the juridical, the documentary practices that the author identified suggest combined systems which are best analyzed without the preconception of an imaginary, unitary, reality.

Keywords:diplomatics; medieval history; medievalists; Northern France


This chapter wishes to present some concomitance between northern French bishops' involvement in the Eucharistic controversy and their introduction of Episcopal sealed charters. The production of authoritative Episcopal charters was also contemporary with the administrative activity of an episcopate invigorated by the program of the Gregorian reform. This chapter brings to light a set of circumstances surrounding the adoption of sealing practices that specifically focuses on the seal's signifying dimension. The actualization of personal authority and identity in engraved matter marked a profound change in the conception of the relation between phenomenal appearances and the person represented. Eucharistic debates brought to the fore the notion that the modes whereby signs and images signified their referents might be different and be construed differently, and that these modal differences in turn could affect the sign's meaning.

Keywords:Episcopal charters; Eucharistic theology




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