Go to the 4 chapters of the website Go to the section of the selected chapter Go to the text of the page
You are here : Home > Lexicon
Text of the page
Back to the previous page Lexicon


Abacus : a slab forming the top of a capital.

Abbey-church : the main church of an abbey.

Abbot commendataire : Abbot who benefited from the commende, a personal share of the revenues from an abbey's mense.

Abbé : Cf. abbaye.

Ansate digitated (fibula) : handle-shaped with an flat extension that is cut into finger shapes.

Apotropaic : used to turn aside evil influences.

Atrium : in early Christian architecture, a courtyard surrounded by porticos that was placed in front of a church's façade. At Saint-Denis, the necropolis surrounded by galleries appears to have played the same role as the obligatory passageway for entering the basilica.

Barbotine : diluted clay applied to the wall of a piece of pottery, either for covering the piece entirely or for creating a decorative pattern.

Barrel vault : tunnel-shaped vault formed by a semi-circular arch.

Basilica : in architecture, a rectangular church with a nave and side aisles; also the name given to certain privileged churches.

Bay : the part of an interior space that is included between two facing support points or arches.

Brette : a stonecutter's tool fitted with two serrated cutting edges.

Canon : a member of a religious order who lives according to the "Rule of Saint Augustine", and whose chapter is attached to a collegiate church.

Castellum sancti Dionysii : fortification built by Charles the Bald in 869 around the abbey of Saint-Denis; the zone delimited by the walls of this castellum.

Cephalophoric : term describing saints who carry their own heads; it is used in reference to several martyrs who, after being decapitated, continued to praise God.

Cervoise : a popular beverage in the Middle Ages, similar to beer.

Chapter room : room where assemblies of monks were held.

Châtelet : a fortress defending the Compoise Gate of the castellum sancti Dionysii, which became the seat of the criminal courts of the monastic town.

CNRS (or Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) : a state establishment created in 1939 that is under the supervision of the ministry in charge of research; the CNRS evaluates and carries out research for the advancement of science.

Cochet (or petit coq) : the nickname given to the standard measure, also known as the "griffon's claw", which the sergeants of the abbey used to check the units of measure of the taverns of Saint-Denis.

Coping : a dressed block of stone used to protect the top of a wall.

Customary rights : regional usages, as opposed to written law in the Roman tradition.

Denier : a silver coin and the basic unit of currency until the French Revolution.

Doublet : a fake gem consisting of two rock crystal or glass lenses between which is placed a layer of color in function of the stone to be imitated (blue for a sapphire, green for an emerald, etc.).

DRAC : Regional Office of Cultural Affairs

Early Neolithic : period between 4700 and 4000 BCE.

Electric prospection : used to search for anomalies in soil resistivity and to detect buried vestiges based on procedures carried out above ground.

Experimental archaeology : a practice that consists of using experimentation to verify hypotheses based on the analysis of an archaeological vestige (discovering how archaeological objects were used and the way in which they were made, etc.).

Fibula : a brooch with a single pin on the back, used as a garment fastener.

Fuller : craftsperson that took woven woolen cloth and transformed it into felt by pressing and compressing it.

Graduel : hymnal used in the mass.

Hand of Justice : scepter topped with a hand

Hearth : group of people living in the same household, which was used as the basis for calculating taxes.

Hypostyle room : room whose ceiling is supported by columns.

IGN :National Geographic Institute.

Imperial chapter : assembly of canons, instituted by the emperor Napoleon I.

INRAP : National Preventive Archaeology Research: a Public Administration Establishment (EPA) created by the Law of 17 January 2001, placed under the twin supervision of the ministries for culture and research. The INRAP's mission is to carry out rescue archaeology operations as directed by the State.

Iron Age : Originally, this term was used to designate a period in European protohistory that was characterized by the use of iron metallurgy. It was coined by the Danish archaeologist C.J. Thomsen. Today, we know that this period followed the Bronze Age. In northern Europe, the Iron Age began around 750 BCE and ended in 52 BCE.

Jet : a variety of fossil carbon that can be cut and polished.

La Tène : an archaeological site on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, whose name is used to designate the period between 450 and 52 BCE. It is divided into three phases: Early, Middle and Late La Tène.

Lignite : fossil coal.

Lives : accounts of the lives of the saints, also called hagiographies.

Manne : large woven basket.

Martyrology : a liturgical book that lists the names of the saints.

Mense : ecclesiastical revenue.

Meplat : slightly raised in relation to the surface.

Metapodes : bones of the feet and hands (metatarsals et metacarpals) to which the digits (phalanxes) are attached.

Mortmain : assets belonging to a serf to which a lord was entitled; a tax levied at the time of succession.

Mullion : in architecture, a freestone element that divided the bay of a window, or constituted the spokes in a rose window.

Municipal franchise : privilege granted by a lord to a community.

Obituary : a register listing the dead for whom one prayed.

Open-air firing :firing of pottery in the open air and directly on the ground, a method that is still practiced in certain areas of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa

Opus sectile : pavement or wall decoration made of shaped tiles of colored marble, often assembled in a geometric pattern.

Paleochannel : ancient arm of a river.

Paleo-environment : reconstruction of a site's natural environment (climate, plant life, fauna, etc.) based on auxiliary sciences such as palynology (the study of pollens), paleocarpology (the study of plant vestiges), anthracology (the study of carbonized wood), among others.

Pontifical : book containing the text of services that had to be performed by a bishop.

Poulies : the place where textiles were hung out to dry.

Putto : nude young boy.

Regional Archaeology Office : State office under the authority of the regional cultural affairs directors and the regional prefects. On a regional level, the office carries out State archaeological missions. The office is headed up by an archaeological curator and ensures that legislation relative to archaeology is applied. Its mission is to study, protect, preserve and promote the archaeological heritage of the region.

Rescue archaeology : this practice takes place prior to works or projects that are likely to damage vestiges preserved underground; interventions take the form of either diagnostics or excavations. The goal of rescue archaeology is to preserve and study significant elements of our archaeological heritage that are threatened by development.

Reticulated (decoration) : having a net-like pattern. Term used to describe a décor consisting of twisted strips of colored glass

Saxons : Germanic tribe, a part of which colonized southern England. Those remaining on the continent were conquered by the Franks in 785.

Sceat : silver coin, equivalent to the Merovingian denier, which was struck in Frisia and England in the 7th and 8th centuries.

Scramsax : a short singled-edged sword, characteristic of Merovingian weaponry.

Situliform : bucket-shaped

Tannin : powdered oak bark used to prepare leather

Fond de cabane : petite construction semi-excavée, destinée à abriter des activités domestiques ou artisanales.

Thermo-remanent magnetism : a method for dating fired clay, also called archaeomagnetism. In unfired clay, the grains display an arbitrary magnetic orientation. When the clay is heated, thermal agitation causes the magnetism to change. Certain grains are thus magnetized and align themselves parallel to the terrestrial magnetic field. The direction and intensity of the thermo-remanent magnetism are measured in order to date the firing of the clay. To date a potsherd by the direction of its thermo-remanent magnetism, it must have remained in situ since its firing.

Toponym : a name derived from a place or geographic feature

Tremisse : a gold coin from the Merovingian era, worth one-third of a sou.

Trou provendier : water supply point on the Rouillon used to feed the Croult canal and the sluice gate that distributed water to the various water sources inside the town.

Tubuli : (plural of the Latin tubulus) in Antiquity, terracotta pipes placed in a wall that brought hot air up from a hypocaust (a sort of underground furnace).

Villeneuve-Saint-Germain : site excavated in France's Aisne Valley, near Soisson. The name is used to designate the period from 4700 to 4600 BCE.

West front : the western part of a church placed opposite the choir and usually consisting of a porch or narthex, chapels on an upper floor, and towers.


End of the text of the page
Back to the top of the page