Welcome to CITYFALL!

Mother Ningal, like an enemy, stands outside her city. The woman laments bitterly over her devastated house. Over her devastated shrine Ur, the princess bitterly declares: “[..] Alas, my city has indeed been destroyed before me []. Outside the city, the outer city was destroyed before me – I shall cry ‘Alas, my city.’ Inside the city, the inner city was destroyed before me – I shall cry ‘Alas, my city.’

Lament for Ur, 7. Kirugu, c. 2000 BCE

This is the blog of the Horizon 2020-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Project CITYFALL. The project is based at the Institute of Classical Philology at the University of Bern where it is closely aligned with the SNF-funded project Lege Josephum! Professor Gerlinde Huber-Rebenich is both the principal investigator of that project and the institutional supervisor of CITYFALL.

Both the blog and the project are run by me – Christoph Pretzer.

In this blog you can expect insights into the various aspects of the research involved with the project, like the sources at the heart of CITYFALL, the epistemological problems I encounter on the way and the theoretical tools I employ to (hopefully) solve these problems. It will also include funny, noteworthy, or simply bizarre observations made along the way, self-indulgent pop-culture references, unabashed medievalist geekery, and reliably tenuous connections to present-day issues and events.

I am aiming for fortnightly posts but in practice this will probably mean a torrent of early posts, which will then settle into a more comfortable semi-regular rhythm, to then infallibly peter out as the actual project work proceeds.

This blog is also hopefully not going to be a one-way-street but rather a welcome space for me to interact with a wider readership, both academic and non-institutionalised, so please feel free to e-mail me, use the contact form of this blog, or flock to the comment section. I am here.

About the project

The project examines the lament for the Levantine city of Acre, which was conquered by the Mamluks in 1291. Of particular interest is how the medieval lamentation for the loss of Acre across various texts written from the late 13th until the mid-14th-century – both Latin and vernacular – ties into ancient and biblical traditions.

The objective of CITYFALL is to understand how medieval authors used biblical and ancient traditions lamenting the falls of cities in their own texts to create the political and cultural identities of the high and later Middle Ages and to negotiate current events by contextualising them in these ancient and biblical traditions. This objective is achieved by pursuing the main research aims:

Aim 1: to track the process of transformation, in which traditions negotiating collective trauma and cultural loss are reshaped into political narratives which could serve as foundational myths for medieval European polities like the German Empire.

Aim 2: to show how medieval authors lamenting fallen cities in medieval texts claim their heritage and make their historical prestige and authority available for the communities they are writing for. With this, new identities can be constructed and contemporary concerns of political and cultural belonging can be negotiated.

Aim 3: to gain a better understanding how medieval authors responded to their audiences need for guidance in the face of historical occurrence they could not bring in line with the cultural axioms of their worldview and how biblical and ancient narrative models helped to reconcile the expectations shaped by these axioms with their evident suspension by historical occurrence.

The goal for of CITYFALL beyond the research objective is to contribute to a growing understanding how medieval Europe was part of a greater East-West continuum of political and cultural imagination, which rested on a shared pool of narratives and discursive techniques.