In the medieval Low Countries, the donating of devotional objects to churches and founding of liturgical ceremonies were directly linked with remembrance. The memories of ancestors remained alive through the church furnishings they had given and the rituals they had founded. The foremost expression of this intertwinement between patronage and memory were epitaphs that were hung against church walls. These were privately donated commemorative tablets depicting the deceased and urging onlookers to pray for their souls.
In the sixteenth century, however, the Protestant Reformation fiercely criticized this longestablished practice. By refuting the usefulness of praying for the souls of the deceased and donating devotional objects in obtaining heavenly salvation, the Reformation created a vivid public debate about what was appropriate in practices of divine worship as well as of remembrance of ancestors. While these were questions that had far-reaching social consequences, their practical and material repercussions on community life have hardly been studied.
This interdisciplinary project has the ambition to remedy that scholarly lacuna. By combining historical with art historical methods, this project will study the epitaphs preserved in the Low Countries and consider them as significant markers of the sociocultural influence of the Reformation on religious material culture and patronage between 1520 and 1585.