Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Gender, Choice of Names, and Marriage

On the Construction of Social Identity in Late Medieval Urban Society

Heads: Prof. Dr. Gabriela SignoriDr. Christof Rolker, Prof. Dr. Gadi Algazi

Involved: Karin Czaja, Lilach Assaf

Formerly involved: Kathrin Stutz


Marriage, Family, and Identity. Social practices and scholarly fictions (abstract)
Prof. Dr. Gabriela Signori

The Name Game. Women, Family and Society in Late-Medieval Konstanz (ca. 1350 - ca. 1510) (abstract)
Dr. Christof Rolker

Moving Immovables. Patrician Houses and Familiy Identity in Late Medieval Nuremberg (abstract)
Karin Czaja

Jews in German Towns (12th-14th Century). Identity, Names, and Acculturation (abstract)
Lilach Assaf


Houses, House Names and House Signs. Material Culture and Identity in the Later Middle Ages (abstract)
Kathrin Stutz


Mobility stamped the late medieval city far more strongly than has been traditionally thought: people came and people went, without it always being possible for us to reconstruct their movement in an out if the city (usually to the next one). Whoever arrived to stay had to “somehow” fit in, become integrated, which meant if necessary shedding an old identity and take on a new one. To this end, the late medieval city offered a series of possibilities—which German-language (as opposed to both French and Anglo-American) research has broadly ignored. Work on one’s own identity was undertaken with the help of things (clothes, houses, work-implements, etc.), but above all with the help of names and signs referring to things, for example to one’s own house.

It seems to us that the approach taken to signs (emblems, seals, house-marks) and names, especially the modes of naming, usage of names, and name changing as well as their relation to the house, represents a key to understanding the cultural conditions for integration. But behavior in marriage (connubium) needs to also be considered, especially the practice, widespread in medieval cities, of polygamy, with connubium here being itself understood as work on one’s identity.

Our project will initially focus on  four urban societies north of the Alps (Basel, Constance, Stralsund, and Nuremberg) in comparison to Marseilles, Venice, and  Florence. The period studied is limited for source-specific reasons to the end of the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries.



Gabriela Signori,Karin Czaja (ed.): Häuser, Namen, Identitäten. Beiträge zur spätmittelalterlichen und frühneuzeitlichen Stadtgeschichte, Konstanz: UVK, 2009. (Spätmittelalterstudien 1)


Christof Rolker und Gabriela Signori (ed.): Konkurrierende Zugehörigkeit(en). Praktiken der Namengebung im europäischen Vergleich, Konstanz: UVK, 2011. (Spätmittelalterstudien 2)

Konkurrierende Zugehörigkeiten. Mittelalterliche Praktiken der Namengebung im europäischen Vergleich
Vortrag im Rahmen der Clustertagung, Juli 2010, Ittingen
Gabriela Signori, Christof Rolker, Karin Czaja, Lilach Assaf
lectures, presentation (both in German)