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The Medieval Mediterranean: A Crossroads

The Medieval Mediterranean: A Crossroads

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Lectures (6)

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The Overview

The cultural and artistic traditions that developed around the shores of the Mediterranean have traditionally been studied as autonomous developments. When exchanges or borrowing were acknowledged, they usually focused on the influence that European motifs had on the Eastern Mediterranean, starting in the eighteenth century. The aim of this project is to focus on preceding centuries, illuminating the rich web of cultural, artistic and especially architectural exchanges that crisscrossed the Mediterranean before modernity.

The current of such borrowings, adaptations and reinterpretations crossed the Mediterranean, frequently flowing westward rather than eastward. The anecdotal evidence that has been offered for the direction of that flow, which crossed religious as well as national and geographic boundaries, has encountered ideological resistance. Our aim is to focus on the architectural evidence to lay a first systematic and unequivocal basis for the argument that borrowings and cross-pollination gave rise to multiple but related architectural languages across a region roughly extending from the Caspian Sea to the European shore of the Atlantic.

While we will rely on visual evidence to remedy the scarcity of textual documentation for such early periods we do not aim to offer formal or typological comparisons. Rather, we intend to ground our discussion historically, formulating hypothesis concerning the physical routes, nodes, workshops and forms of transmission along which ideas, including architectural ones—schemes, motifs, structural systems—traveled, were adopted and adapted.