See trips hub: Europe Road Ways

For themes of conflict, present in any country, see Studying War.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Hamburg. Clergy, scribes, and church wealth? The will of Johan Widingh.

 Medieval Script Translation Effort

A.  Translating the Johan Widingh Will.
B.   The Script possibilities
C.   The setting for wills
FN 1   A start at translating.  An ongoing effort.
A.  Translating the Johan Widingh Will

In Hamburg, we looked up a medieval will disposing of part of the estate (land passed by deed, not will, we understand) of one Johes Widingh.  In records, the name is given as Johan, but the script is hard to read, and looks more like Johes. Here, mentally rotate this until I can find it and edit. Top is lower left.  About 2" into the first line, see Johes Widingh.

B. The script looks like

1. Early or Later Curialis,  see that at Medieval Writing, at  The style is also known as Littera Romana from the 11th Century, location, "the papal curia in Rome".   It was to be used for papal bulls, and also (at the site) the example appoints an abbot with privileges.Pass the cursor over the English letters to see the Curialis equivalent.  The home page at Medieval Writing sets the stage, and the difficulties. see

2.  Or German Gothic, see 

3.  Or, Late Caroline or Carolingian script, German 13th Century, see Script Samples from Manuscript Leaves at; also called Caroline Minuscule at the medievalwriting site, glossary. It was developed from various sources, but "established" at the Court of Charlemagne. A/k/a Carolingian minuscule, free download available they say at This sample is similar to ours Other samples look too Gaelic.

4.  Or Romanesque Documentary, see example at;

5.  Or Pointed Anglo-Saxon Minuscule, with the lines above letters but an earlier script, see

Find our efforts at translating at FN 1. 

C.  The process of drafting and executing and authenticating medieval wills: was there room for skulduggery (of course, as now).  Is there a way to determine what and where and why centuries later?  Probably not. See an overview of the bequest process and implementation at Medieval Sources Bibliography at, wills as proven in ecclesiastical courts and executed among the well to do.

 How educated were people then? Was literacy generalized, were wills made in advance by themselves by prudent folk, who then authenticated the document in some way;  or written at death's door, and, if so, by whom.  How to authenticate the desires of the dying, in extremis.When did the sacrament of last rites become "enacted" so that someone would be bound to call in the priest at the end lest the dying lose paradise. Was there a conflict of interest, if the priest, there for last rites, or a healing even, chose to write down some bequests other than the dying had directed; or if the priest told the dying one that leaving property to the church would unlock the gates of paradise very well.
The issue arose later when we were at a large Cistercian monastery in Denmark, Esrom or Esrum Abbey, see, where the information given stated that the Cistercians in the space of, say, 200 years, had acquired huge holdings of land, farm after farm after farm was left to them.  How easy to pass a deed to a dying person for signature. Did that happen?This followed the directives of Bernard of Clairvaux, to firm up the institution.  The materials describe the life of the monks within the Rule.

At the bottom of this is our Johan Widingh. What did he leave, and to whom, in his will. Does the "h" suggest hof or farm?

The setting:  In 1376, there was no whiff of a Reformation.  That came in the 16th Century, with a series of reformers like Martin Luther.  See a timeline of German history at House of Names,  In 1439, the doctrine of purgatory was confirmed, and the seven sacraments fixed, see Dogma Timeline. Earlier, in 1215, the doctrine of auricular confession, the priest as necessary confessor, confess in the priest's ear, became doctrine. See a negative view of that at Cutting Edge, So, the Roman branch of Christianity was moving ahead with firm ideologies. Johan Widingh would have needed the priest as confessor, if he was a believer.  And we do not know the circumstances of his will.


FN 1.  Translating the will, best efforts. Nothing quite fits the alphabet forms, so individual styles make deciphering difficult.  We think we have a d with top fancy loop, and with that, and ignoring lines and ovals over letters and gaps in spacing syllables. We include as is the capitalizations.

In noie Dmime (domine?) Ego Johes Widingh hret corpore debilis mentis--- [no, this takes an expert -- have to quit].

[there is a] Margarete mee sororis in Lubeck(?)
[and is there a/an]  Albertj Widingh filho '

The low long f's could be s's

[I know some Latin  but just can't make this out]

No comments:

Post a Comment