Christian art in the Islamic world
- Sheila S. Blair
- and Jonathan M. Bloom
Large areas of the world that came under Muslim sway beginning in the 7th century—notably the Iberian peninsula, North Africa, Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Central Asia—had sizeable Christian communities, and it took several centuries for Muslims to become the majority population in these regions. Christian minority communities continue to survive—and even flourish—in such regions as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Christians—as well as Jews, Zoroastrians and others—shared the visual vocabularies of their Muslim neighbors, if not their faith, and it is often difficult if not impossible to distinguish a work of “Islamic art” made for a Muslim from one made for a non-Muslim. Indeed, many of the craftsmen making “Islamic art” may have been Christians or Jews, for Islamic art has been defined as the art made by artists or artisans whose religion was Islam, for patrons who lived in predominantly Muslim lands, or for purposes that are restricted or peculiar to a Muslim population or a Muslim setting. In some times and places, Muslims and Christians violently contested the same spaces, whether during the “Reconquest” of the Iberian Peninsula or the Crusades in the Levant. Despite the bellicosity, in both cases artistic interchange created such distinctive traditions as ...