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Mediterranean Encounters in Medieval Italy


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Dr Robert Maniura
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (100%)

Module description

At the beginning of the eleventh century, southern Italy was politically divided between Byzantines, Lombards and Arabs. Over the course of the century, the entire region was conquered by Normans, resulting in the foundation of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1130.

In this module we explore the visual arts in southern Italy from the beginning of the conquest until the death of King William II in 1189. The material will include religious and secular architecture, mosaics, painting, regalia, portable objects and sculpture. Preliminary lectures and seminars will cover the historical and artistic context of the Norman conquest and the medieval Mediterranean. The rest of the module will be divided into four units:

  • Art in the midst of conquest
  • Religious culture in Norman Palermo
  • Court culture in Norman Palermo
  • Portability and cultural exchange: silk, ivory and metalwork

Indicative syllabus

  • The medieval Mediterranean and ancient Rome
  • Constantinople and Byzantine art
  • Cairo and Mediterranean artistic exchanges
  • Southern Italy and the Norman Conquest: cultures in flux
  • Pathways of portability: the circulation of luxury objects
  • Sicily: a conflux of influences
  • The Palace Chapel, Palermo: an ensemble of influences
  • Art and the performance of identity: Roger II
  • Monreale Cathedral: reflecting on medieval Sicily
  • Gardens and summer palaces in Italo-Norman visual culture

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have:

  • detailed knowledge of aspects of the visual arts in southern Italy, 1000-1189
  • the ability to observe, identify and analyse works of visual culture
  • a critical awareness of the functions of such works within the social and cultural contexts of their production and reception
  • familiarity with current debates and approaches to the subject.