Team members:

No travel report has had a greater influence on subsequent representations of the Holy Land than the Descriptio terrae sanctae, written by the Dominican friar, Burchard of Mount Sion from 1280 onwards. It is regarded as a key text for its description of the geography, topography and ethnography of the Holy Land, which encompasses both Old and New Testament representations as well as contemporary views of the existentially threatened crusader states. The more than 80 surviving manuscripts and 20 printings not counting multiple vernacular translations, testify to the works popularity, which enjoyed such a wide dissemination thanks to its many adaptations, abbreviations and variants. It is surprising therefore that the origin of the text, its complex history of transmission and especially the question of its archetype have not yet been adequately addressed.

To this end, the urtext will first be produced in Open Access as a digital edition with explanatory notes and commentary (sub-project A). This will allow the nine most relevant witnesses (seven manuscripts from the a and b family of the long recension and the two copies of the earliest short recension) to be reproduced with the greatest possible detail and flexibility. A subsequent printed edition is planned for ease of use. Second, (sub-project B) an in depth analysis of the reception will establish and contextualise the manuscript tradition as well as the process of the Descriptio’s development through a set of groundbreaking case studies. Third, (sub-project C) the establishment of a stemma for the short recension and a description of the complete manuscript tradition (in TEI encoding) for both the short and long recension along with excerpts and illustrations, will accompany the edition and provide a more precise understanding of their dependencies.

The edition of the urtext, the study of its reception and the associated manuscript catalogue will establish a new foundation for research on Burchard and representations of the Holy Land in general. This illuminating, late thirteenth century description of the Levant will likewise stimulate anew our approach to patterns of conception by revealing complex processes that underlie the transmission and adaptation of travel literature. It likewise sheds light on a range of topics that are central to medieval research, such as mobility, materiality and medium, perceptions of space and alternity, as well as Christian-Muslim interactions in the eastern Mediterranean.


Project leader:

The focal point of this project is the Schriftbildlichkeit (inconicity of script) of the humanist manuscript: Cambridge MA, Harvard University, Houghton Library, typ 5. This manuscript was produced in the immediate context of the Florentine humanists Poggio Bracciolini and Niccolò Niccoli, and potentially even by their own hand – a point that remains to be determined. It is the first representative copy of the Latin version of Ptolemy's Geographia, a text that did not circulated in Europe before the fifteenth century and was thus "re-published" for the first time in this form. Houghton typ 5 shows how the humanists were not only interested in its content, but also in developing new visual forms to mark this newly accessible text as a humanist production. The project aims at a detailed analysis and classification of the manuscript within the contemporary graphic and scientific culture of the period in which it was produced.

Burchards Dekret Digital

The research project “Burchards Dekret digital”, under the direction of Prof. Dr. Ingrid Baumgärtner (University of Kassel), Prof. Dr. Klaus Herbers (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg) and Prof. Dr. Ludger Körntgen (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) is part of the Academies Programme, with which the Union of German Academies supports long-term research projects such as central editions, dictionaries, and text corpora as stores of knowledge. The project, under the umbrella of the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, has a planned funding period of eighteen years (2020-2037).

The project centres on one of the most influential collections of medieval canon law, the Decree of Bishop Burchard of Worms (1000–1025). The aims of the research project are firstly to carry out a multiperspectival analysis of the work’s transmission, reception, and significance for legal and cultural history, secondly to produce a critical edition, in print and online, and thirdly  to create a digital work platform with an international focus.

The starting point for the project is the observation that canon law had a lasting influence on developments in Western and Central Europe right into the twentieth century, and made a fundamental contribution to the emergence of common European legal foundations. The origins and conduits of these influences are diverse and extend far back into the past. It is often claimed that Europe’s development into a (in many respects) unified space, following reconfigurations of canon law and Roman law, did not begin until the twelfth century. But in fact considerable importance must be accorded to the efforts to collect, systematize and develop canon law that were undertaken in the often underestimated period between the Carolingian reforms and the scholarly beginnings of canon law studies and  scholasticism in the twelfth century.

By far the most important collection of this period, the Decretum Burchardi was regarded in the eleventh and twelfth centuries as the definitive book of canon law, and could be quoted with the simple reference “ex Burch(ardo)”. This was instantly comprehensible not only to scholars of canon law but also to diocesan administrators. This practical legal importance was one of the reasons why Burchard’s compilation was able to maintain its status as a standard work in relation to later compilations. Even the Decretum Gratiani of 1140, the foundation for all subsequent developments in canon law and scholarly canon law studies, had extracts from Burchard’s work added to it or inserted as commentary.

In close collaboration with partners from all over the world, the project places the Decretum Burchardi at the centre of fundamental, multiperspectival research. It will give access to surviving manuscripts all over Europe; it will produce the first ever critical edition; and it will sift through the rich traces of the work’s reception, particularly in Germany, Italy, France and Spain. The project is methodologically innovative both in the provision of digital access and in the focus on reception history, which gives an impression of the powerful dynamics of European legal cultures. A digital work platform is being constructed to manage these diverse tasks. This will not only make it possible to publish a comprehensive digital edition, but will in future make available materials such as manuscripts, catalogues and source editions. It will also promote scholarly dialogue on an international level, and bring together the many researchers currently working on the sources and reception of medieval canon law, in order to do justice to the wide dissemination and epoch-spanning impact of the Decretum Burchardi.

The purpose of this project is to explore the impact of the crusades on power and authority of two crusading families of the High Middle Ages from a gender perspective. It operates on the basic assumption that the departure of the crusaders caused shifts in the power structures in the homelands of the crusading families. This project aims to analyze the political transformation processes in their various manifestations, in their structural architecture and in their dynamics. It further expounds upon the effects these processes had on the political agency of the male and female family members who stayed at home.
The Crusading families of Champagne-Blois and Burgundy serve as case studies for this project. The relative wealth of existing sources allows to not only to analyze the repercussions of the crusades on the families over a 200 year period, but also to investigate the agency of male and female family members in the course of the crusades. As in both families wives and mothers were appointed as regents in the absence of the crusaders, it is necessary to consider the resources on which their exercise of power was based. Furthermore, it has to be examined, if and in what way the crusaders’ status was used on the political field in the homelands and if the family members referred to it in order to consolidate and expand their power and prestige.
In studying the changing configurations of power and authority of the crusading families, it has been helpful to work with Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical approach ofthe four types of capital (economic, social, cultural and symbolic). In their variouscorrelations, they can be understood as potential resources of power, providing the necessary means for its implementation and giving the opportunity to gain anadvantageous position in the political field. The analysis of the transformation of power configurations and resources over the course of the crusades allows for an in depth discussion of the practices of aristocratic lordship and the families’ strategies of coping with contingencies.
Drawing on the rich body of source material and employing a gender perspective as well as a Bourdieu inspired theoretical approach, this project promises new findings on the impact of the crusades on power and authority in the homelands. This study’s innovative potential lies in the intersection of crusade and gender research. Therefore, the aim of this project is to write a new political history for the homelands of the crusades, which combines cultural history and gender research.

The Descriptio Terre Sancte by the Dominican friar Burchard of Mount Sion, created in the 1280s and handed down in more then a hundred manuscripts and twenty early prints, was one of the most influential descriptions of the Holy Land in the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. Its detailed and systematic information on the places and landscapes, plants, animals and inhabitants of the territories in the eastern Mediterranean were already appreciated by his contemporaries, and even today these elements make the work a key text for scholarly study of the history, geography and culture of the Holy Land in the late Middle Ages. Burchard, who lived in the local Latin society for at least ten years, before the last bastions of the Crusaders fell in 1291 and access to the Middle East became difficult, can be regarded as an extremely well-informed cultural intermediary between East and West. This was one of the main reasons for the exceptionally wide dissemination of his text, which was translated into vernaculars such as German, French and Dutch, and was especially popular from the thirteenth to sixteenth century.

The Latin text of the Descriptio exists in two versions: a short and a long version. There are sixty-four manuscripts of the latter. The two versions are separate works and not simply variants of a single text. The aim is to produce a critical edition of the long version. Part of the preparation for this is an interdisciplinary workshop in spring 2022 at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, organized by Prof. Dr. Ingrid Baumgärtner, University of Kassel, and Dr. Jonathan Rubin, Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The Minerva Foundation (a subsidiary of the Max Planck Society) is funding the project as part of the Minerva-Gentner Symposia.