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10 - Icons in the Adriatic before the Sack of Constantinople in 1204

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 March 2021

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The earliest preserved painted icons in the Adriatic date from the thirteenth century. In fact, apart from Rome, the entire Latin West seems to have embraced icons simultaneously overnight as soon as they started coming in great numbers from Byzantium following the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204. This chapter argues that the Adriatic was particularly responsive to these painted icons because it had already embraced Byzantine relief icons in the eleventh century. The examination includes both the material and written evidence for the existence of icons in the eleventh-century Adriatic, such as the extant marble Hodegetria icon from Trani and the recorded commission of a gilt silver icon for Siponto Cathedral in 1069. When it comes to Dalmatia, this investigation looks into a donation document recording five icons, one of which was made of silver, in a church built and furnished by a Croatian dignitary in the 1040s. The analysis demonstrates that by the thirteenth century, the Adriatic was conditioned by relief icons to embrace easily portable painted icons reaching its shores after the fall of Constantinople and that this area as a whole experienced a strong prestige bias towards Byzantine artefacts.

Byzantium, Venice and the Medieval Adriatic
Spheres of Maritime Power and Influence, c. 700-1453
, pp. 245 - 275
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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