medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
From: Chris Laning <[log in to unmask]>
> It seems to have been the norm in several European cultures for children to
be named after one of their godparents;
this is, of course, impossible to verify for periods before which we have any
parish records at all surviving.
which means, effectively, the very end of the m.a. at the earliest.
in the Chartrain charters --again, from the 11-13th cc.-- i have come across a
single near-sure case of a child being named for his godfather.
Raginald, lord of the _villa_ of Ouarville, en plein Beauce, came back from
the 2nd crusade c. 1150 and gave a relic which he had picked up in
Constantinople to the collegial church of St. John of Chartres, together with
some property which he held.
this gift was solemnized in a charter which mentions, in its closing
"signatures" that it was witnessed by Raginald's wife and sons, including the
youngest one (mentioned last) named Goslen, as well as by the Bishop of
Chartres, Goslen of Muzy, "who held him at the font".
the name is not otherwise found in the namengut of the family, and young
Goslen --extraordinarily-- can be traced through the documents of the diocese
from, literally, his cradle to the grave :
from this charter mentioning his baptism,
through his career as a canon, then an archdeacon (or maybe a provost, i
forget) of the cathedral chapter,
ending as the Chanter (second highest Dignitary of the Chapter, after the
to the execution of his will (1220s) by his nephews, one of whom was then Lord
the coincidence of the names of the godfather/Bishop and his godson and
Goslen's being devoted to an ecclesiatical career is, of course no coincidence
at all, and i believe we may safely assume that we are in the presence here of
a child being named after his godfather.
the only other instance i can recall where this *might* be the case was that
of an early 12th c. family of serfs --that of the _major_ of a _villa_,
actually-- who had one or perhaps two children who carried the name of the
local Lord (and/or his Lady) who owned the _villa_.
in this case the father had an "archaic" ("Frankish") name (Godescalc, i
believe it was), while the nobles and the children in quesion carried "modern"
ones (Goslen, i believe).
i strongly suspect that in this instance we also have one in which the
children were named after the godparents, but, documentation at this period
not being particularly thick on the ground, it is impossible to be certain.
>or second most common, after a parent or other relative.
in my period, virtually always the case, the names being drawn from the family
namengut which meant, effectively, that the children were named after
"relatives", near or far.
the instance of the Count's first born being named after his (more
illustrious) wife's daddy is the only one i know of where this happened,
though subsequent children --male and female-- being named after members of
the wife's family are not uncommon.
i believe that, ideally, the first son was named after his paternal
grandfather and that, after that, other factors determined what names were
> One of the "blips" happens to be around the 12th century, where there seems
to have been a fad in several places for giving children unusual names, many
derived from romances: this is when we see girls named "Diamante" (diamond)
for instance, or boys named "Lancelot."
this, and George's "Atheist" name, put me in mind of a curious feature.
sometimes, in the charters, we come across a "Paganus" cognomen, sometimes
alone, sometimes in conjunction with a "real" nomen ("N, qui et Paganus"),
sometimes a child, sometimes clearly an adult.
it has been speculated that this nickname originally indicated a child who
was, for some reason, not immediately baptised --and was, thus, a little
Pagan-- and that the nickname stuck, even after baptism, sometimes even into
there was, more rarely, a cognomen "Comitessa" or "Princess" applied to girls,
which was, perhaps, an indication of the same circumstance.
(the speculation was by Joseph Depoin, the indefatigable editor of, among
other things, the charters from St. Martin-des-Champs, and makes sense to
> Of course, all this has more to do with how certain names _stayed_ popular
than of how they became acceptable "Christian" names in the first place.
although some of the names i see in my charters were "originally" "Christian"
(eg., Philip or John), i really don't believe that this was a significant
consideration in the process of name choosing in my period/region.
of course, over time, as more saints were minted (or whatever the process
was), lots more names became "Christian".
no Louis, that i know of, was a saint before St. Louis, for example, but after
the 13th c. the name could be styled "Christian", i suppose.
> My guess would be that, as with many of the more rigid Roman Catholic
"rules" prevalent in the early 20th century, the dictum about Catholics being
"required" to have a saint's name may be a product of the 19th century,
intended as a mark of Catholic distinctiveness in what was then (at least in
the U.S.) a Catholic society that was feeling a bit paranoid and rather
i'd say that this is a good enough guess.
certainly the practice/doctrine (whatever) is post-midevil.
"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but
they've always worked for me."
-- Hunter S. Thompson,
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