Websites of the week: Ménestrel and Spolia


was one of the first European Medieval Metasites, back at the turn of the century: Admin first met it in 2000, partly c/o contacts between the Princeton Charrette Project and the Médiéviste et l’Ordinateur. Alas, it became perhaps a teensy bit passé, and disappeared for a while. It is now back in action: bigger and better than ever before, with a significant and substantial team of what can only be described as heavy-hitters. Revamped, restructured, with entire sub-teams devoted to specific aspects of Medieval Studies; and partners with Reti Medievali. If there were a “virtual football” game of Medieval and Renaissance metasites, this is The Big League: the Sorbonne & Poitiers libraries, Centre d’études supérieures de civilisation médiévale – Poitiers/CNRS, Centre de recherches archéologiques et historiques anciennes et médiévales – Caen, Centre de recherches historiques CNRS/EHESS, Central European University – Budapest, École nationale des chartes, IRHT, Laboratoire de médiévistique occidentale de Paris – CNRS/Université Paris 1-Sorbonne, Université Catholique de Louvain, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Université de Nancy 2. Was well worth the wait.


First met c/o Pécia. The attached Journal aside, good online resources, and One To Watch. I shall hand over to The Horse’s Mouth a.k.a. WELCOME TO SPOLIA (and, incidentally, quite the most careful, elegant, and fine Englishing I have ever yet seen on an Italian academic resource):

This site intends to provide constantly updated specialised information on the studies and research on the Middle Ages. SPOLIA was devised by a group of scholars connected with the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. Nowadays scholars of many universities collaborate with this project (University of Cassino, University of Lecce, University of Bologna, University of Padova, University of Zürich etc.).

The title SPOLIA hints at the twofold suggestion that the word has in its first meaning and in the almost technical meaning it has acquired in archaeological studies.

Literally, spolia are the spoils taken from enemies during wars. We consider similar to these the artistic, literary and historical material from the medieval past, as booty which has been rescued from the clutches of Time, the enemy of memory. These documents of an era must be presented objectively and with scientific attention within the historical period in which they were produced.

In archaeology, the term spolia is frequently used to indicate “recycled objects”. These fragments of ancient monuments are inserted into architectural contexts that are different from the original, and used in the construction of new buildings. This “recycling” operation, which is typical of medieval building techniques, is often accompanied by a re-reading of the SPOLIUM which, in its new context, also takes on a new meaning.

In our opinion, the tradition/innovation dialectic, which is at the origin of the composition of artistic and literary works, is similar. Quotations, allusions and the other forms of intertextuality measure the links with contemporaries and predecessors, reinterpreting the testimonies through their position in a new semantic space.

The operation carried out by criticism is also similar, as it arrives at different readings by placing documents of the past in different contexts within different critical theories.

The term spolia includes therefore the three aspects that we would like to underline in the presentation of the materials: historical documents above all, artistic works devised by the tradition/innovation dialectic, and objects of critical reflection.

and further (ABOUT THE PROJECT):

SPOLIA was devised by a group of scholars who are working at different university research projects.

The site intends to provide updated information on medieval studies, but does not claim to be complete, as this would be very difficult even for a bulletin dealing exclusively with bibliographical information.

On the contrary, the contributions is characterized by their peculiarity, as reflections in the margins of the individual collaborators’ research, and is strictly specialized. In this way we hope to give prominence to information which is normally less valued. We present mainly

ongoing research
reports from conventions and conferences (very often before the publication of the documents of the conventions)
book and article reviews and abstracts of dissertations.

As well as

articles which have already been published in books or journals
original contributions.

As it appears from the index, the site is divided into sections and subsections, each with a different director who will treat the spaces as open containers to host the activities of various collaborators, in order to guarantee a wealth of information as well as its continuity.

Every communication, while privileging the infomative aspect, will be accompanied by a brief critical note, to help readers better understand whether the materials presented are interesting to them and to permit an exchange of ideas on the themes proposed.

Moreover, by selecting the documents according their importance and representativeness (although our collaborators’ judgement is a matter of opinion), we hope to assist the user, who, while on the Internet, is often submerged by a volume of information which is difficult to digest because it is disorganised and particularly vast.

We do not want to collect data in large amounts but to offer reasons for contact and discussion, useful for the development of the research.

Suggestions, questions and contributions to the realisation of the projects are welcome.

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