This article concerns lead burial plaques and their engraved Latin obituaries in France, England, and the southern Low Countries. Lead plaques and their inscriptions were buried with the dead in their shroud or coffin from the seventh century onwards but they became popular in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Originally, they contained brief inscriptions with the name of the dead person accompanied by some penitential prayers. From the tenth century onwards the biographical information increased to the extent that the prayers were cast aside and the texts developed into obituaries. This article will set the obituaries in the context of the concept of life-writing which offers a fresh and nuanced approach to biographical writing. It seems that only very specific information was included in obituaries on the lead plaques, such as important events in someone’s life or career. The texts were not meant to be full narratives from birth to death. The lead plaques and their obituaries are found with elite or near-elite men (mostly high-status clergy) and women and also some children. Several cases studies for women and children are included to illustrate the type of information given in the Latin obituaries. Although lead burial plaques and their inscriptions have been studied by medieval archaeologists, epigraphers and liturgists, this article argues that historians can learn a great deal from the objects and their inscriptions especially as testimony to the Latin life-writing on individual men and women in the Middle Ages.
van Houts, Elisabeth
"Life-writing on Lead: Burial Plaques and Their Obituaries, c.950-1200,"
Medieval People: Vol. 36:
1, Article 12.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/medpros/vol36/iss1/12