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Title: An archaeology of memory : the 'reinvention' of Roman sarcophagi in Provence during the Middle Ages
Author: Wyche, Rose-Marie
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis is an exercise in the archaeology of memory. It investigates the reuse and ‘reinvention’ of late antique sarcophagi during the Middle Ages in the southern part of Gaul, with a particular emphasis on their reinvention for saints. The region of Provence has a large number of sarcophagi reused for the burial of saints (at least 20), including many of its most important holy figures such as Mary Magdalene, Cassian and Honorat. I shall analyse three groups of sites: the Alyscamps in Arles, Saint-Maximin and Tarascon (the sites connected with Mary Magdalene and her companions) and the monastery of Saint Victor in Marseille. In each case, the sarcophagi became part of an invented narrative created around the imagined antiquity of the site. These narratives varied significantly: some were monastic, others episcopal or biblical, still others heroic: but all were created around antique sarcophagi. Antiquities thus became monumental realms of memory for individuals and events that were thought to have been of significant historical importance in Provence. They formed part of the popular history and collective identity of the region. I will show that their association with saints changed the very function of these objects, as many were no longer seen simply as tombs but also as relics in their own right. I use a variety of sources to help reconstruct this imagined history, particularly saints’ vitae that often provide information about cults, particularly regarding the location of sarcophagi and sometimes even details of miracles that they produced, but also medieval chartae, sermons, and pilgrims’ descriptions of sites and rituals. The results of this study show that sarcophagi were of major importance in the religious history of Provence during the Middle Ages, as they became "proof" of the antiquity of local cults and of the histories based on these legends that the region created for itself. My work contributes to our knowledge of medieval Provence and the history of its collections of sarcophagi.
Supervisor: Elsner, Jas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archeology ; Materials studies (archaeology) ; Reception of Classical antiquity ; Late antiquity and the Middle Ages ; sarcophagi ; Provence ; Roman ; medieval ; Middle Ages