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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.
Despite the area being a major channel of communications between East and West in this period, long-standing political fragmentation and linguistic differences have led to a lack of dedicated scholarly attention to the Adriatic as a whole. This volume addresses this gap by bringing together an international group of sixteen scholars, from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, to generate powerful new perspectives on the Medieval Adriatic, and makes much material available to a wider audience for the first time, particularly new archaeological evidence and existing scholarship previously only published in Italian or Croatian. This introduction sets up the volume by outlining the broad context for the Adriatic in this period, before underlining the scholarly rationale for this volume in more detail and providing an overview of each chapter.
The Adriatic has long occupied a liminal position between different cultures, languages and faiths. This book offers the first synthesis of its history between the seventh and the mid-fifteenth century, a period coinciding with the existence of the Byzantine Empire which, as heir to the Roman Empire, lay claim to the region. The period also saw the rise of Venice and it is important to understand the conditions which would lead to her dominance in the late Middle Ages. An international team of historians and archaeologists examines trade, administration and cultural exchange between the Adriatic and Byzantium but also within the region itself, and makes more widely known much previously scattered and localised research and the results of archaeological excavations in both Italy and Croatia. Their bold interpretations offer many stimulating ideas for rethinking the entire history of the Mediterranean during the period.
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