Medieval Memoria Online

2.5 Uncovering cultural heritage through MeMO

The objects and texts described in the MeMO database are part of the cultural heritage of the Netherlands. MeMO may contribute to greater attention and respect for the medieval Christian culture. It was a different world, but an interesting one, just like other cultures in the present are interesting and valuable.

More care for the conservation and publication of our cultural heritage is desirable. Still new finds are uncovered at restorations of churches. Sometimes they are exhibited in the restored churches, but it also happens that floor slabs are covered with wall to wall carpeting, without ever having been photographed, or that they are removed to make room for underfloor heating. Removed objects are not always transferred to museums, due to their lack of space and the ensuing deaccessioning. Slabs are sometimes ground up and re-used in road construction. In all such cases, good documentation is the least that is required.


Medieval churches

In many cities the medieval churches are opened to the public in the summer. The guides may provide information on what can be seen in their church, also in places that may be inaccessible if you do not take their guided tour.

The MeMO database may help prepare a visit. Many more remnants of the memorial culture have usually been preserved than one might think, especially tomb monuments and floor slabs, and (remnants of) memorial sculptures. They can be found in practically all parts of the Netherlands. See for instance in the MeMO database:

  • the Martinikerk in Franeker, with over 70 floor slabs, a number of which are still in good condition (MeMO institution ID 44)
  • the St. Jan in ’s-Hertogenbosch, with 160 floor slabs and some well-preserved wall paintings (MeMO institution ID 387)
  • the St. Servaasbasiliek in Maastricht, with over 50 floor slabs and memorial pieces (MeMO institution ID 362)
  • the Grote of St. Maartenskerk in Zaltbommel, with over 70 floor slabs and some paintings on the walls and ceiling (MeMO institution ID 29)
  • the Walburgiskerk in Zutphen, with 50 floor slabs and over a dozen memorial pieces, both in sculpture and wall paintings (MeMO institution ID 27)
  • the St. Bavokerk in Aardenburg (Zeeland) with over 20 floor slabs and some painted burial cysts in brick (MeMO institution ID 61)
  • the Janskerk in Gouda, with over 50 stained glass windows (memorial pieces) and floor slabs (MeMO institution ID 216)


Museums and libraries

The majority of the painted memorial pieces were removed from the churches. They were dispersed all over the world after the Reformation. Some cities took possession of various painted memorial representations around 1580. These later became part of the collections of the municipal museums. Memorial pieces have also been added to municipal or national museum collections through purchases or donations. The largest numbers are located in Utrecht. The Centraal Museum currently houses over 30 memorial pieces or their remnants, of which a large number originates from the Utrecht churches and monasteries. Museum Catharijneconvent in the same city has over 20 memorial pieces, originating from institutions all over the Netherlands.

Manuscripts containing memorial registers and the narrative sources from the churches and monasteries have also come into the possession of the cities as a result of the Reformation. Such textual sources can be found in the archives and libraries and can only be seen by request, and sometimes by appointment only. A number of memorial registers have been fully digitised and made available online on the websites of the holding institutions. They have also been made available through links in the descriptions of the registers in the MeMO database.