Medieval Memoria Online

3. Manual


The MeMO database catalogues and describes objects and texts that played a role in medieval commemoration of the dead.

Searching and navigating the database can be done in three ways:

  • Browse database: search using filters; intended for global searches
  • Search database: search using a search form; intended for advanced searches, for instance using a combination of search criteria
  • Full text search: search using free text and names; intended to search all fields

A search produces an overview of the objects, texts and/or institutions that meet the search criteria. By clicking the result you will open the corresponding record.

Please note that the case studies in this chapter are simple examples intended to illustrate the use of the database.


3.1 The building blocks of the MeMO database

The MeMO database is the result of a catalogue project. The information provided is based partly on extensive research over the past two decades, especially where the memorial images are concerned (Van Bueren). The results of this research were used for the database and website Representations of Medieval Memoria / Memoria in Beeld, a direct precursor of the MeMO database. The data in Representations of Medieval Memoria have now been included in the present database, in which descriptions have also been included of newly discovered memorial images. The research into the memorial images studied the actual images or used photographs.

A large number of the floor slabs and tomb monuments have been researched in situ and have been photographed by a professional photographer (subsidised by the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE). We have moreover made use of the photographic collections and information of various parties, including the Foundation for Ecclesiastical Art and Artefacts Netherlands (SKKN), a number of churches, Van Hoogevest Architecten and private persons, for which we are grateful. In part MeMO had to rely on (older) literature, because it was impossible for us to visit every holding institution to perform on-site research. Moreover, a number of objects could not be traced due to (recent) restorations and refurbishments and relocations.

The descriptions of the memorial registers are partly based on research of the text carriers themselves, but also on digitised images of the manuscripts and additional information provided by the holding institutions. A large part of the inventory is based on the inventory project of the nineteen nineties by members of Contactgroep Signum. This project was continued in the period 2004-2006 by Werkgroep Memorieboeken that also initiated a pilot for the description of memorial registers.

For the narrative sources MeMO made use of the Narrative Sources project, which is based in turn on the inventory of Carasso-Kok. Not all narrative sources could be consulted within the framework of the MeMO project, which is why it is possible that not all required information has been included in MeMO. This has been indicated in the descriptions in the relevant cases.

See the chapters four (objects), five (text carriers and texts) and six (institutions) for an overview of the sources and research on which the information is based.

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3.2 Search using Browse database

The MeMO database can be searched for:

  • Objects: tomb monuments and floor slabs, and memorial images
  • Text carriers: text carriers that contain narrative sources that had a function in the commemoration of the dead and/or memorial registers
  • Original institutions: the institutions in which the objects and texts had a function

The Browse facility allows the user to search for records by selecting a specific aspect (also called criterion of facet). This is referred to as filtered (faceted) search. There are six main facets for all objects, and these are extended into a number of subfacets in the case of objects and text carriers that facilitate further restrictions on the selection. Every facet allows the specification of specific facet values that define the search. The facet values do not support subvalues.

The Browse function allows you to quickly select groups of sources, such as all objects from a specific region, or all objects and text carriers from specific types of institution. Such selections are not supported by the Search facility. (see 3.4 for the Search facility). The Browse facility comprises the following main facets, facets and subfacets:

  • What
    • Memorial objects
      • Type of memorial object
        • Floor slab
        • Tomb monument
        • Commemorative marker
        • Memorial piece (consisting of one part)
        • Memorial piece (consisting of more than one part)
      • Elements present on objects
        • Decorations
        • Heraldry
        • Inscriptions
        • Portraits
        • Saints
      • Information available about
        • Artist
        • Commemorated party
        • Commissioning party
    • Text carriers
      • Type of text carrier
        • Manuscript with more than one text
        • Manuscript with one text
        • Printed text (edition) with one text
        • Printed text (edition) with more than one text
        • Transcription with more than one text
        • Transcription with one text
      • Surrogates available
        • Edition
        • Facsimile
      • Memorial text type
        • Biographies (Narrative source with one or more biographies)
        • Chronicles (Narrative source containing one or more historical events)
        • Register of gifts
        • Register of graves
        • Register of memorial services
        • Register of names
        • Register of pittances
      • Information available about
        • Commissioning party
        • Author/compiler/scribe
        • Function of memorial text(s)
    • Original institutions
  • Where (Type of original institution)
    • Chapter
    • Chapel
    • Corporation (e.g. confraternity, guild)
    • Hospital or orphanage
    • Monastery, convent or religious house
    • Parish
  • Where (location of original institution)
    • List of Dutch provinces
  • Where (holding institution)
    • List of countries where the objects and text carriers are being kept
  • When (from)
    • List of periods (50 year intervals)
  • When (until)
    • List of periods (50 year intervals)

When using dates in a search, you must consider that When (from) selects everything that was produced from the year that was selected. By subsequently clicking When (until), you can indicate the latest date of the period for the search. If you are searching for objects, text carriers and/or institutions from the period 1450-1500 you will select 1450 in the When (from) list, and 1500 in the When (until) list.

Once a facet has been selected, it appears at the top, under Criteria. By clicking an already selected facet, you remove it from the search. Only one facet value can be selected within each facet when using the Browse facility. The Search facility allows several facet values for each facet (see 3.4).

The numbers show for the facets and subfacets the number of records (descriptions of objects, text carriers and institutions) that meet that specific criterion.

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3.3 Two case studies using Browse database

A first orientation for a research into a specific area
A historian wants to find out whether there are any suitable materials for research into the commemoration of the dead and the formation of identity in several regions in the Low Countries. By way of a first orientation she consults the MeMO database. This database takes the modern provinces as the point of departure, but for the first orientation this is no problem, because the historian can later order the material according to the medieval regions of her choice. As she can only select a single province at one time, she first selects the province of Noord-Holland.

She requires both an overview of the objects and the texts and of the holding institutions. She can therefore skip the main facets What? and Where (type of original institution)? and go straight away to the main facet Where (location of original institution)?.

She gets a results list with 322 records which she can now browse through. She finds that the results list presents the memorial objects first, followed by the text carriers and then the holding institutions.

Using the Browse Database function

A genealogist tracing the tomb slabs or tomb monuments of his ancestors
A genealogist researches old families in Zeeland and he has succeeded in tracing some of them to the mid fifteenth century. He wants to use the MeMO database as one of his tools to find even earlier traces of these families and he starts looking for tomb slabs and floor slabs pre 1450. Using Browse database he can subsequently select the following criteria:

  • Memorial Objects
  • Type or memorial object: Tomb slab or floor slab
  • Where (location of original institution): Zeeland
  • When(until): 1450

Using the Browse Database function

This search results in a total of thirteen slabs.

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3.4 Search using Search database

The MeMO Search database function enables the user to use three search forms to perform separate searches of:

  • Objects: tomb monuments and floor slabs, and memorial images
  • Text carriers: text carriers that contain narrative sources that has a function in the commemoration of the dead and/or memorial registers
  • Original institutions: the institutions in which the objects and texts had a function

The search forms for each of the three databases allow the specification of one or more search terms. These terms can be typed by the user, or they can be selected from the existing menus. All objects, text carriers or institutions will be shown if no term is specified in the search form.

PLEASE NOTE: the search form for Memorial objects is the default search form. Remember to click Text carrier or Institution if you wish to search these databases.

The three search forms have a similar design. They contain four types of search fields:

  • Free text fields: in these fields text can be entered, such as names and descriptions, or parts of these. Many text fields work with AJAX technology, which provides a completion facility when entering terms. When the user has entered a few letters, the possible values for that field are matched to that specific letter combination, and the matching ones are shown immediately. The user can then select one of these results.
  • Date fields: these fields can be used to enter a year or period. An approximate date can be indicated with 'ca.', or by using the symbols '>' and '<'. PLEASE NOTE: the symbols and 'ca.' must be used immediately before the dates without a blank space.
  • Yes/no menus: these can be used to indicate whether objects, text carriers or holding institutions have certain characteristics, such as whether portraits are present on an object, or whether the original institution where a text was used is known. PLEASE NOTE: If an object or text carrier consists of several components, then 'no' means that the selected characteristic does not occur on at least one of the components of the object text carrier. It is however possible that such a characteristic does occur on other parts of an object, or in other texts in a text carrier. For instance: if an objects has more than one inscription not all of these inscriptions necessarily contain a name. Search offers a possibility to select on inscriptions without a name. The result list can include objects with an inscription without a name that also contain other inscriptions with a name.
  • Menus (drop down lists): an overview of the terms or descriptions used in the database for certain aspects. It is possible to add multiple values from the drop down lists by clicking the plus icon behind the field, which provides additional search fields. The additional search fields can be removed by clicking the minus icon.

A large number of search fields are followed by a question mark. If you click on this question mark you find a short explanation of the possibilities of this search field.

Survey of the design of the search forms
The following table provides a description of the various fields in the search forms:

Feature Description
Memorial objects Searches the memorial objects database.
Please note: the default search form is the search form for the Memorial objects. Remember to click Text carriers or Institutions if you wish to search these databases.
Text carriers Searches the text carriers database.
Institutions Searches the database with the original institutions where the objects and texts originated.


This button is used to execute the search.
Clear PLEASE NOTE: this button is used to remove earlier selection criteria that you may have entered.
Require all When this box is checked only records matching all the specified search fields are returned. Search fields that are left blank are ignored. If multiple alternatives are specified for a search field (with the plus-button) then records matching any or the alternatives are returned.

→ Expand

This button is used to expand the choice of search fields. Click the icon or the label for more specific search fields.
↓ Collapse This button is used to deselect the choice of search fields.
? Help function with explanations about the practical usage of the search fields. A number of these help texts contain links to more detailed explanations in the introduction to the database (i.e. the body of texts you are reading now).
+ and - button The + button is used to add another search field of the same type, allowing you to enter multiple search terms of the same type. The - button is used to remove the additional field.

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3.5 Two case studies using Search database

Searching for a memorial painting mentioned in an inventory of furnishings of the Diepenveen convent
A student has found an entry mentioning a memorial painting with devotional portraits in an inventory of furnishings of the convent of the canonesses regular at Diepenveen (Overijssel). It says 'Scilderie tot memorie van onse mater and haere ouders ende haere broeder heer Gisbert mit hun heylighen agter hun' (Painting in commemoration of our mother superior and her parents and her brother, Sir Gijsbert, with their patron saints behind them). This memorial painting is not known to us at present, but it may be traceable using the MeMO database. Unfortunately the central image is not mentioned, but the entry still offers a number of clues. The memorial piece is

  • a painting, containing
  • a canoness regular
  • her parents
  • her brother, who is apparently a priest (considering the use of the title 'Sir'), and
  • patrons saints, who are standing behind them.

Using Search database the student searches for a description of this memorial painting in the MeMO database. She selects the Institutions database. In the field Name in the search form she enters the name and the institution: Diepenveen. The institution is in the database, but the object is not found. This can mean either of two things:

  • The object has been lost
  • The object still exists, but it is not known from which institution it originated

For checking this second possibility the student again uses the search form for memorial objects in the Search database. She can select the following fields:

  • 1. Original institution: Original institution known? Select 'No'
  • 2. Portrait: Portraits present? Select 'Yes'
  • 3. In Portrait: Type of clothing she can best select two possibilities using the +-button
    • 'Member of a convent' and
    • 'Clothes of an ecclesiastical office holder'
  • 4. She also selects
    • Saint: Saints depicted? Select 'Yes'

This search results in 40 objects that meet the criteria. The student can now check every record on the characteristics of the painting that is described in the inventory of the Diepenveen convent. See the screenshots below.

Using the Search Database function

The student has also found another option by searching via original institution and commemorated party:

  • 1. Original institution: Original institution known? Select 'No'
  • 2. Commemorated party: Person. Select: Canonesses Regular
This search results in 10 objects that meet the criteria. See the screenshots below.

Using the Search Database function

Source critical research into the value of miscellanies for memoria-research
A researcher wants to set up a research project in which he focuses mainly on the problems and possibilities of manuscripts containing a combination of various types of memorial sources. In Search database he selects the Text carrier database, and uses the following fields:

  • 1. Category: Classification: Miscellany
  • 2. Original institutions: Type of institution: Monastery
This search results in 58 text carriers that meet the criteria. See the screenshots below.

Using the Search Database function

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3.6 Search using Full text search

Full text search supports searching all records in the database for the occurrence of any text, such as names and dates. Full text search can therefore be used to search database fields that have not been indexed through the Browse or Search function, such as fields with additional explanations and references to the literature. For this search possibility the Google search engine is implemented, which will only search the records of the MeMO database.

To obtain the best results from Full text search, it is advised to execute the search using variations of the search terms. Though an effort has been made to use standard phrases for all text fields, they may vary. You may consult the glossary for inspiration in the selection of suitable terms.

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3.7 Three case studies using Full text search

Search for references
The librarian of a museum library wants to know whether the results from his museum's most recent catalogue of paintings have already been incorporated into the MeMO database. Using Full text search he enters the title and sees that the catalogue is not yet mentioned in the descriptions of the objects from his museum. He subsequently notifies the MeMO project that the new catalogue has been published by completing the Add extra information form that can be clicked for each record describing an object from his museum. In this form a number of fields have already been completed, including the MeMO ID, the name and - if known - the original and holding institutions.

Search for biographies of people mentioned by name
Among the narrative sources there are a number of descriptions of lives of important persons, including big names within the Modern Devotion, such as Johannes Brinkerink and Geert Grote. These biographies can be searched using Full text search by entering the names of these persons.

Using the Full text search function

Search for tomb monuments, tomb slabs and floor slabs with specific characteristics
Floor slabs and tomb monuments appear to have been an eminently suited medium for people to express their status. For instance, who were these people who were buried under slabs and monuments with (cadaver)effigies of the deceased, and whose graves were decorated with brasses? Can certain patterns be established?

Full text search is the best option to find the suitable materials for an investigation into these matters.

1 Tomb monuments and floor slabs with images of the deceased:
Images of the deceased have not been categorised under Decorations in Search, because they are not decorations but representations of the deceased. They can be present on tomb monuments and on floor slabs. Full text search offers the best possibilities to gain an overview. Using Full text search, enter:

  • Effigy for two or three-dimensional images in which the commemorated persons are represented as being alive
  • Cadaver for two or three-dimensional images in which the persons are shown as a putrefying corpse or as a skeleton, sometimes dressed in a shroud

Using the Full text search function

2 Brasses:
Brasses are engraved plates made of copper alloy. They can be large plates with a life-size effigy of the deceased, for example, but also much smaller plates with the heraldry of the deceased or decorations like the symbols of the four evangelists. Antiquarian drawings and manuscripts such as that of the Utrecht historian Arnoldus Buchelius (1565-1641) show that this type of tomb cover existed in large numbers in the Netherlands. A relatively small number has survived, however. In a number of cases the metal rivets remain with which they were affixed to the stone. Also the indents are still visible. Whether indents indeed indicate the former presence of brasses needs to be established through research of each case, because they may also indicate the presence of heraldry in stone, which were chopped off during the French Revolution. Due to its motto of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, heraldry and other references to a person's status were considered undesired decorations.

Using Full text search, enter:

  • Brass for an overview of the described brasses
  • Indent for an overview of the tomb monuments and floor slabs with one or more visible indents
  • Rivet for an overview of the tomb monuments and floor slabs with metal rivets

Using the Full text search function

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3.8 The result lists

Upon selecting one or more facets (Browse) or after your search using Search or Full text search you will see an overview of the objects, texts and/or institutions that meet your search criteria. This overview of results contains basic information and - if available - pictures of the objects, text carriers and institutions. Each (full) page shows ten results in ascending ID-number order. The basic information consists of:

Memorial objects/Text carriers
  • title
  • type: memorial object/text carrier
  • MeMO memorial object/text carrier ID (identification number)
  • current location (settlement, province, name of institution)
  • short description
(Original) Institutions
  • name: Dutch name (incl. variants) and English name
  • type of institution
  • MeMO institution ID (identification number)
  • location of the institution according to current geography (settlement, province)

Buttons of the result overview

Feature Description
New search Click New Search to start a fresh search in the database of the same type (Memorial object, Text carrier or Institution) that has already been searched. Clicking 'Search' in the menu bar will return the settings to the default institution (Memorial objects).
Name or image Click the name or the image to open a record.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 etc. These buttons can be used to navigate the result overview for a next or previous page of results. Each full page shows 10 results.

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3.9 The records

The records, i.e. detailed views, contain the descriptions of the separate objects, text carriers and institutions. The design of the three types of detailed views is largely similar. Each detailed view opens with a general description of the object, the text carrier or the institution. You can consult other aspects and specified information using the tabs in the left column.

Memorial objects
For the memorial objects the information has been ordered at different levels:

  • 1) A general description of the entire object (General description (of entire object))
  • 2) A short description of each separate part of a memorial object (Object part). For a triptych there are five Object parts (central panel, inside left wing, inside right wing, outside left wing, and outside right wing). An additional part has been added if there is a predella or separate text panel. Only the parts are described that (as far as is known) have been provided with images and/or texts and/or heraldry and/or decorations.
  • 3) Descriptions of specific elements that are present on the various Object parts:
    • a. Portraits of the persons to be commemorated (Portraits)
    • b. Heraldry (Heraldry)
    • c. Inscriptions (Inscriptions)
    • d. Saints (Saints). Note that these are only the patron saints standing near the portrayed persons, see 7.4
    • e. Decorations (especially for tomb monuments and floor slabs) (Decorations)
  • 4) Descriptions of the persons who are represented through portraits, inscriptions or heraldry (Person Description, each with their own MeMO person description ID).

Records in the MeMO memorial objects database

Text carriers
The information on the text carriers and the separate memorial registers and narrative sources with a function in the commemoration of the dead is provided in several tabs:

  • 1) A general description of the text carrier (Text carriers)
  • 2) Description of authors, compilers and scribes (Authors)
  • 3) Descriptions of the separate memorial registers, each with their own MeMO memorial text ID. These have been subdivided into seven separate types (that can occur more than once):
    • a. Narrative source containing one or more biographies
    • b. Narrative source containing one or more historical events
    • c. Register or gifts
    • d. Register or graves
    • e. Register or memorial services
    • f. Register or names
    • g. Register or register or pittances

Records in the MeMO text carriers database

The information on the institutions is provided in several tabs:

  • 1) A general description of the institution (Institution)
  • 2) Its building history (Building history)

Records in the MeMO institutions database

Buttons on the record views

Feature Description

Add extra information

Allows users to complete the form to communicate new information or corrections for an object or text (or text carrier).
→ Expand This button is used to expand the choice of search fields. Click the icon or the label for more specific search fields.
↓ Collapse This button is used to deselect the choice of search fields.
Back to results Leads you back to the list of results that you had selected.
(depending on the language settings of your browser)
Allows you to browse to the next result of the search.
(depending on the language settings of your browser)
Allows you to browse to the previous result of the search.

Please note:

  • The detailed views of the Memorial objects and the Text carriers contain links that lead to the description of the original institution in which the object or the text carrier had a function. You can also search using Institutions by clicking each separate Memorial object and Text carrier from this institution. Please note:
    • Clicking a link can move you to a different database, for instance the Institutions database, or the Objects or Text carriers database. The Next/Volgende and Previous/Vorige buttons will then show the next or previous description in that particular database.
    • Clicking the back-button in your browser leads you back to the descriptions in your list of results.
  • If you wish to save the results of your search you can save the page (i.e. the results overview or the record) as a Bookmark. The search and its results will be saved. It might be useful to assign a recognisable name to the saved page in your bookmark list.

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3.10 How to cite the MeMO database


  • Referring to the entire database: Database Medieval Memoria Online. Commemoration or the dead in the Netherlands until 1580, eds. Truus van Bueren, Rolf the Weijert, a.o. (Utrecht University 2013). URL: and the date of use (day or period)
  • Citing the introductory texts: Database MeMO, Introduction, paragraph title and subparagraph number (date of consultation.)
    Example: Database MeMO, Introduction, Purpose and intended users, 2.4 (25-3-2013)
  • Citing individual records:
    • Objects: MeMO memorial object ID [number] (date of consultation).
      Example: MeMO memorial object ID 504 (04-02-2013)
    • Text carriers: MeMO text carrier ID [number] (date of consultation).
      Example: MeMO text carrier ID 56 (17-03-2013)
    • Separate memoria text: MeMO memorial text ID [number] (date of consultation).
      Example: MeMO memorial text ID 339 (16-06-2013)
    • Institutions: MeMO institution ID [number] (date of consultation).
      Example: MeMO institution ID 4 (09-12-2013)
  • Referring to other MeMO products (which are not part of the database): the title of the product, the name(s) of the composer(s), the URL, and the date of use (day or period).

Note: mentioning the date of your last consultation of the MeMO websites is important, because the MeMO products are frequently updated, added to, and corrected.

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3.11 Literature and websites

See for literature for each of the database chapter four (objects), chapter five (text carriers and texts) and chapter six (institutions).

See chapter seven for a general overview of the literature and websites mentioned in these introductory texts.

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Medieval Memoria Online v1.1 — © 2013 Utrecht University