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IMC 2015: Sessions

Session 103: The Church in Its Setting: Case Studies

Monday 6 July 2015, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Paulette Barton, Department of Modern Languages & Classics / Department of History, University of Maine
Paper 103-a'Pilgrim Armature': Transformations in the Architecture of Mount Sinai under the Imperial Influence in Justinian's Time
(Language: English)
Zina Uzdenskaya, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, Downtown
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Art History - General
Paper 103-bSeeing is Believing: Church Visibility and the Genesis of a New Religious Landscape in 11th- and 12th-Century England
(Language: English)
Christine Bertoglio, Department of History, Boston College, Massachusetts
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Computing in Medieval Studies, Lay Piety, Religious Life
Paper 103-cThe Representation of Noah's Ark in Monreale Cathedral in Sicily
(Language: English)
Mika Takiguchi, School of Commerce, Meiji University, Tokyo
Index terms: Art History - General, Art History - Painting

Paper -a:
Mount Sinai, in the Sinai Peninsula, has been an important destination for Christian pilgrims since as early as the 4th century. In the earliest surviving pilgrims' accounts it is described as a group of anchorite settlements scattered around the site of the Burning Bush. However, during Justinian's reign (527-565), the place was transformed into a fortified monastery complex. In my paper, I analyze the changes in the architecture of Mount Sinai, applying the theory of 'urban armature' developed by William MacDonald in his study of Roman architecture. I show that this transformation resulted in the development of a structure, which I call 'pilgrim armature'. The visual information conveyed by this structure served as propaganda bringing forth the idea of Empire.

Paper -b:
The widespread construction of new monumental monastic and cathedral churches in the 11th and 12th centuries permanently altered the medieval English religious landscape. This period marks a crucial shift in the representation and embodiment of religious space, and emphasized the importance of sacred space in the wider landscape. In this paper, I use GIS to model the visibility and intervisibility of these new churches on a regional basis. I argue that churches in this period - which in some cases towered over even local castles - served as highly visible reminders of the centrality of religion in medieval life, and whose size and style conveyed important messages to their viewers about the power of the Church and humanity's relationship with the divine.

Paper -c:
The Monreale Cathedral is a basilica situated on a hill, 310 meters above sea level, overlooking Palermo in Sicily. The foundation was constructed by King William II of Sicily in 1174. The cathedral contains a mosaic decoration of 7500 square meters which is the largest surviving ensemble in Italy. It was intended as a royal mausoleum, and the scale of construction surpassed the churches of other Norman kings, even competing with the great power of the Archbishop of Palermo. The scheme of mosaics begins in the nave with the Old Testament scenes, and progresses to the Life of Christ in the crossing, transepts, and nave aisles.

The purpose of this paper is to decipher messages of images that cover the walls of Monreale. First, a brief survey of the social situation around the time of construction is given, focusing on the relation between the Popes, Archbishops and Norman kings. Second, previous studies on the mosaic decoration are examined. Third, an overview of the relation between the architectural scheme and the mosaic program in the Cappella Palatina in Palermo is offered, for the cathedral imitates many iconographic features of the Cappella Palatina. However, some aspects of the mosaic decoration in Monreale are unique to the cathedral, connoting certain intriguing messages.

Among the Old Testament cycle, the scenes of Noah’s Ark are specifically arranged, expanding the comparable subject in the Cappella Palatina. I argue that the peculiar form of the Ark might be connected with the intention of the king who wished to proclaim his supremacy over the Palermo Cathedral. His intention might also be reflected in the location of the cathedral itself, being closely connected with floods in Sicily in the 12th century. He might have regarded the cathedral as the promised land where the Ark drifted ashore, surviving the flood with the blessing of God.