Funerary Feasting in Early Medieval Gaul and Neighboring Regions

  • Bonnie Effros
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


One last, but certainly not the least important, aspect of rituals related to food and drink to be discussed here, pertains to ceremonies conducted in conjunction with burial and anniversaries of the deaths of ancestors. Of all of the topics covered thus far, this set of practices was the most ubiquitous in early medieval communities until at least the seventh century.Yet, it was also the most poorly documented by clerics in Gaul. The most vivid images of funerary feasting date not from the early Middle Ages but Roman antiquity when such customs were widespread and received extensive attention in the writings of contemporary pagan authors. Some of the most impressive remains of cemeterial meals also derive from Gallo-Roman sites (Figure 5.1). In excavations in 1851 and 1893 at Martres-de-Veyre (Puy-de-Dôme), for instance, a number of extremely well-preserved second-century graves with remains of food deposition rites were uncovered. Along with an assortment of ceramic and glass vessels and woven baskets, the sepulchers contained fragments of nuts and seeds from grapes and apples or pears; the glass vessels exhibited residues of liquid that may have been a grape- or a honey-based beverage. Although none of the organic materials were retained by the excavators, and many of these items crumbled soon after being exposed to air, Auguste Audollent noted with astonishment the unique state of their survival.1


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© Bonnie Effros 2002

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  • Bonnie Effros

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