CfP: The History of Heralds in Europe (12th-18th c.). State of the art and new perspectives (Workshop, Münster/Germany, Part 1: March 26-28, 2014)

(version française ; deutsche Fassung)


HistoryofHeralds_leftThe history of heralds is a largely underexplored one. In spite of the important role the office of heralds played in the late medieval courtly culture and beyond, only few scholars have dedicated their attention to this office by now. However, their number has been growing over the past years.

The workshop at the University of Münster will offer an occasion to scholars interested in the research of the office of arms to meet and discuss their interests and their common topics under a systematic approach. The workshop aims to structure the field of research in mutual discussions and to combine the different efforts and ideas to a first synthesis. The goal of the two-part workshop (March 2014, March 2015) is to elaborate a compendium on the history of the office of arms written in co-authorship. It is supposed to identify the state of the art, to define the broad lines for future research, and to demonstrate the topic’s huge opportunities for historical research.


A better knowledge of the history of heralds will not only contribute to a better understanding of the social and cultural development and function of this office itself. It will also offer new perspectives on such different topics like aristocratic and courtly culture, diplomacy, tournaments and warfare, communication, literature, honour or espionage, as well as on the evolution from feudal society to the princely state at the end of the Middle Ages. The workshop will particularly emphasise the comparative potential of this pan-European phenomenon.

The office of arms

If we speak of the history of heralds, we usually fall back to the same narrative: It starts with their emergence at the tournaments of the 12th century and their persistent humble existence as constant wanderers. It continues with their astonishing rise in the middle of the 14th century when they suddenly entered the services of kings and princes, cities and noblemen all over Europe. Their scope of duties widened immensely, now also including tasks in the military, courtly representation and diplomacy, and their office became closely linked to the idea of honour and chivalry. The narrative usually ends with the apparent decline of heralds at the turn of the 16th century, when their numbers rapidly decreased again and their office – now in the hands of noblemen – shrunk to a mere ceremonial one. It is obvious that this narrative is full of blind spots and in strong need of clarification and differentiation.

State of the art

Since the studies of Anthony R. Wagner in the middle of the last century and since scholars such as Maurice Keen and especially Gert Melville brought up this topic again 25 years ago, some research has certainly been done. Especially on the court of Burgundy in the 15th century, which will play an important role in the workshop as well. But focusing primarily on the heydHistory of Heraldsays of the office, the different papers and studies published so far nevertheless only scratch the surface. What is even more, they invariably focus on individual aspects. Neither has the incredible rise of this office in the 14th century and its spread all over Europe been sufficiently explained, nor have the antecedents of this rise or the development of the office after its apparent decline in the beginning of the 16th century been explored at all. There has not been a structured overall assessment of the history of heralds so far – which is nevertheless urgently needed to link the different existing and upcoming studies and initiatives and to provide a common frame for the interpretation of their results. The potentialities for long-time comparative studies this pan-European office offers have yet to be assessed.

General topics structuring the workshop could be, for instance:

  • General historical development of the office (from 12th to 18th c., its spread over Europe, the inner hierarchy of the office, social backgrounds, etc.);
  • Particularities of the office and its history (the oath, the habit, the office names, its immunity, privileges, etc.);
  • Functions, duties and missions (different fields of function, competences and knowledge, the link between heralds and heraldry, etc.);
  • The writings of heralds (chronicles, reports, treatises, armorials, poems, etc.);
  • The perception of the office of arms by the heralds themselves and by others (legends of origins, satirical poems, etc.).

All suggestions are most welcome.

Scholars interested in participating in the workshops are warmly invited to send a message including a summary of their interests in the presented field of research (100-200 words) and a short CV in English, French or German by 30.11.2013 to:

For further information and an update on the progress of the project (e.g. the group on Zotero that is planned for the workshop), please have a look at:

Provisional programme
March 26, 2014

14:00 Reception and Introduction
14:30- 16:00 Presentation of the projects and research subjects of the participants
16:30 -18:00 Presentation of the projects and research subjects of the participants

March 27, 2014

9:00-10:30 Presentation of the projects and research subjects of the participants
11:00-12:30 Presentation of the projects and research subjects of the participants
14:00-15:30 Presentation of the publication project and discussion
16:00-18:00 Discussion on the structure and content of the planned co-authored publication


March 28, 2014

9:00-10:30 Constitution of different working groups
11:00-13:00 Questions of organisation and general discussion



The Workshop is sponsored by:


The performance of coats of arms” (Dilthey Fellowship of the VolkswagenFoundation)

“Fondation pour la protection du patrimoine historique, culturel et artisanal” (Lausanne)

Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität MünsterInternational Office of the University of



Jun.-Prof. Dr. Torsten Hiltmann
Juniorprofessur für die Geschichte des Hoch- und Spätmittelalters / Historische Hilfswissenschaften
Historisches Seminar
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Domplatz 20-22
48143 Münster



OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Torsten Hiltmann (January 24, 2014). CfP: The History of Heralds in Europe (12th-18th c.). State of the art and new perspectives (Workshop, Münster/Germany, Part 1: March 26-28, 2014). History of Heralds. Retrieved July 23, 2024 from

Torsten Hiltmann

Torsten Hiltmann is Juniorprofessor for the High and Late Middle Ages and Auxiliary Sciences at the University of Münster. He is interested in medieval and early modern visual communication and heraldry, the medieval notion of kingship and the methods and technologies of Digital Humanities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search