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Abbasid  

Robert Hillenbrand

[‛Abbasid]

Islamic dynasty that ruled from several capitals in Iraq between ad 749 and 1258. The Abbasids traced their descent from al-‛Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, and were thus able to claim a legitimacy that their predecessors had lacked (see Umayyad, §1). The Abbasids rose to power in north-east Iran by channelling disaffection with Umayyad rule, but they soon established their capitals in a more central location, founding Baghdad in 762. Although they initially encouraged the support of Shi‛ites, the Abbasids quickly distanced themselves from their erstwhile allies to become champions of orthodoxy. Upon accession, each caliph adopted an honorific title, somewhat like a regnal name, by which he was later known. For the first two centuries, the Abbasids’ power was pre-eminent, and their names were invoked from the Atlantic to western Central Asia. From the middle of the 10th century, however, real power was transferred to a succession of Persian and Turkish dynasts (...

Article

Jane Geddes

Deluxe manuscript (Aberdeen, U. Lib., MS. 24) made in England around 1200. It is remarkable for its lavish illustrations, amply covered in gold leaf; for the wealth of its codicological data and for its close relationship to the Ashmole Bestiary. The book was left unfinished, so sketches and the detailed instructions for its colouring and assembly remain visible. The last few pages were completed in the 14th century. The book begins with a Creation cycle of full-page miniatures culminating in Adam Naming the Animals and Christ in Majesty. A portrait or narrative illustration of each animal precedes every text description.

The manuscript contains the press mark of King Henry VIII’s library, mainly assembled after the dissolution of the monasteries, but its provenance before 1542 is not known. Muratova (1986, pp. 118–144) uses cumulative information from a group of related manuscripts to suggest a provenance in the north-east Midlands; Geddes (...

Article

Sheila S. Blair

[Abu Ṭāhir]

Persian family of potters. The family is sometimes known, somewhat improperly, by the epithet Kashani [al-Kashani, Qashani], which refers to their home town, Kashan. It was a major centre for the production of lustre pottery in medieval Iran, and they were among the leading potters there, working in both the Monumental and the Miniature styles (see Islamic art, §V, 3(iii)). As well as the lustre tiles for many Shi‛ite shrines at Qum, Mashhad, Najaf and elsewhere, they made enamelled and lustred vessels. Three other families of Persian lustre potters are known, but none had such a long period of production. At least four generations of the Abu Tahir family are known from signatures on vessels and tiles, including dados, large mihrabs and grave covers. The family may be traced to Abu Tahir ibn Abi Husayn, who signed an enamelled bowl (Cairo, Mus. Islam. A.). A lustre bowl in the Monumental style (London, N.D. Khalili priv. col.), signed by ...

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Article

Whitney S. Stoddard

[Lat. aquae mortuae: ‘dead waters’]

Town in Gard, southern France, in the north-western section of the Rhône Delta or Camargue. It is one of the largest surviving medieval fortified towns. Although documents show that there was a port on the site of Aigues-Mortes in the late 12th century and first third of the 13th, the town was officially not founded until the Charter of 1246, which exempted inhabitants from taxes. Louis IX (reg 1226–70) conceived of the walled city. He wanted a port to establish a royal presence in, and access to, the Mediterranean, and he needed a fortified town to protect crusaders, pilgrims and merchants, providing a safe haven from which to launch crusades, as well as a commercial centre for trade between the Levant and northern France. The only land available for this purpose lay between that owned by the bishop of Maguelonne and king of Aragon (which included the region around Montpellier) on the west, and Provence controlled by Emperor Frederick II on the east. Negotiations with the Benedictine monks of Psalmodi for the acquisition of land for the walled city began in ...

Article

Nabil Saidi

[ Jamāl al-Dīn ibn ‛Abdallah al-Mawṣulī Yāqūt al-Musta‛ṣimī ]

(d Baghdad, 1298).

Ottoman calligrapher. Yaqut served as secretary to the last Abbasid caliph, al-Musta‛sim (reg 1242–58), and reportedly survived the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 by seeking refuge in a minaret. He perfected the ‘proportioned script’ developed by Ibn Muqla and refined by Ibn al-Bawwab , in which letters were measured in terms of dots, circles and semicircles ( see Islamic art, §III, 2(iii) ). By replacing the straight-cut nib of the reed pen with an obliquely cut one, Yaqut created a more elegant hand. A master of the classical scripts known as the Six Pens (thuluth, naskh, muḥaqqaq, rayḥān, tawqī‛ and riqā‛), he earned the epithets ‘sultan’, ‘cynosure’ and ‘qibla’ of calligraphers. He is said to have copied two manuscripts of the Koran each month, but surviving examples are rare (e.g. 1294; Istanbul, Topkapı Pal. Lib., E.H. 74). Despite their small size, a typical folio has 16 lines of delicate ...

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Alamut  

Abbas Daneshvari

[Alamūt]

Mountainous valley in Iran, 35 km north-east of Qazvin, and the name of one of the fortresses that defended the valley. From 1090 to 1261 it was the main headquarters of the Nizari branch of the Isma‛ili Shi‛ites, a religious community organized on a military basis. Their rigid hierarchy, esoteric practices and use of terrorism encouraged the development of romantic tales about them. Reputed to use hashish, they became known in the West as ‘Assassins’ (Arab. hashhīshiyyīn). Like all Isma‛ili fortresses, Alamut is strategically located on rocky heights and has an elaborate storage system for water and provisions so that the fortress was never taken by force. It consists of two parts: a higher and larger western fort and an eastern one.

Enc. Iran. F. Stark: The Valley of the Assassins (London, 1934) W. Ivanow: Alamut and Lamasar (Tehran, 1950) P. Willey: The Castles of the Assassins (London, 1963)...

Article

Alchemy  

Laurinda Dixon

Ancient science from which modern chemistry evolved. Based on the concept of transmutation—the changing of substances at the elemental level—it was both a mechanical art and an exalted philosophy. Practitioners attempted to combine substances containing the four elements (fire, water, earth, and air) in perfect balance, ultimately perfecting them into a fifth, the quintessence (also known as the philosopher’s stone) via the chemical process of distillation. The ultimate result was a substance, the ‘philosopher’s stone’, or ‘elixir of life’, believed capable of perfecting, or healing, all material things. Chemists imitated the Christian life cycle in their operations, allegorically marrying their ingredients, multiplying them, and destroying them so that they could then be cleansed and ‘resurrected’. They viewed their work as a means of attaining salvation and as a solemn Christian duty. As such, spiritual alchemy was sanctioned, legitimized, and patronized by the Church. Its mundane laboratory procedures were also supported by secular rulers for material gain. Metallurgists employed chemical apparatus in their attempts to transmute base metals into gold, whereas physicians and apothecaries sought ultimately to distill a cure-all elixir of life. The manifold possibilities inherent in such an outcome caused Papal and secular authorities to limit and control the practice of alchemy by requiring licences and punishing those who worked without authorization....

Article

Phillip Lindley

(fl 1291–1317).

English sculptor. His first recorded works are in connection with the funerary monuments for Queen Eleanor of Castile (d 1290), the first wife of King Edward I. Alexander of Abingdon supplied wax models for three small images cast by William of Suffolk for the heart tomb in the Dominican church of the Blackfriars, London, as well as a painted cloth and ironwork to stand round the tomb (all destr.). From 1291 to 1294 he was also employed with Dymenge de Legeris on carving the Purbeck marble tomb-chest for the bronze effigy (both destr.) of Eleanor in Lincoln Cathedral. From William Sedgwick’s drawing of c. 1641, which is included in Sir William Dugdale’s Book of Monuments (London, BL, Loan MS. 38, fol. 98v), it appears to have been very similar to that still surviving at Westminster Abbey, London. Alexander supplied seven images at a cost of 5 marks each for the Charing Mews Eleanor Cross (destr.; ...

Article

[Alfonso, King of Germany]

(b Toledo, Nov 23, 1221; reg 1252–84; d Seville, April 4, 1284).

Spanish ruler and patron. He was a man of wide learning, a legislator and a poet. Although moderately successful in the Reconquest, following the tradition of his father Ferdinand III, King of Castile and León (reg 1217–52), he provoked opposition by raising taxes and seeking election as Holy Roman Emperor (1256).

Alfonso sponsored translations of Arab writings on astronomy and astrology. He himself composed works of history, poetry and law. His Cantigas de Santa María, a collection of over 400 poems, which survive in four manuscripts (Madrid, Escorial, Real Bib. Monasterio S Lorenzo, MSS B.I.2 and T.I.1; Madrid, Bib. N., MS. 10069; Florence, Bib. N. Cent., MS. B.R.20), were written in Galician over a period of 25 years ending in 1279. The songs of the Virgin are accompanied by an important and extensive series of over 1000 small genre scenes ‘structured like a modern comic-strip to tell the song’s narrative visually’ (Burns). Bullfights and street scenes are shown; battles depict both Christians and Muslims, and several pictures reveal Alfonso himself (he considered himself to be a troubadour of the Virgin Mary, ...

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Algarve  

Kirk Ambrose

Southern-most region of mainland Portugal. Its name is derived from ‘the West’ in Arabic. This region has relatively few medieval buildings: devastating earthquakes in 1722 and 1755 contributed to these losses, though many buildings were deliberately destroyed during the Middle Ages. For example, in the 12th century the Almoravids likely razed a pilgrimage church, described in Arabic sources, at the tip of the cape of S Vicente. Mosques at Faro, Silves and Tavira, among others, appear to have been levelled to make room for church construction after the Reconquest of the region, completed in 1249. Further excavations could shed much light on this history.

Highlights in the Algarve include remains at Milreu of a villa with elaborate mosaics that rank among the most substantial Roman sites in the region. The site further preserves foundations of a basilica, likely constructed in the 5th century, and traces of what may be a baptistery, perhaps added during the period of Byzantine occupation in the 6th and 7th centuries. The period of Islamic rule, from the 8th century through to the 13th, witnessed the construction of many fortifications, including examples at Aljezur, Loulé and Salir, which were mostly levelled by earthquakes. Silves, a city with origins in the Bronze Age, preserves a substantial concentration of relatively well-preserved Islamic monuments. These include a bridge, carved inscriptions, a castle, cistern and fortified walls, along which numerous ceramics have been excavated. Most extant medieval churches in Algarve date to the period after the Reconquest. These tend to be modest in design and small in scale, such as the 13th-century Vera Cruz de Marmelar, built over Visigothic or Mozarabic foundations. The relatively large cathedrals at Silves and at Faro preserve substantial portions dating to the 13th century, as well as fabric from subsequent medieval campaigns. Renaissance and Baroque churches and ecclesiastical furnishings can be found throughout Algarve....

Article

Antonio Fernández-Puertas and D. Fairchild Ruggles

(Granada)

The palaces of the Alhambra and Generalife in Granada, Spain, form the most important architectural ensemble to survive from the Nasrid period (1232–1492). Art created under the Nasrid dynasty in the Iberian Peninsula (see Islamic art, §II, 6(iv)(e) ) provided the spark of originality for art in the neighbouring Christian kingdoms and for Marinid and Abd al-Wādid art in Morocco and Algeria. By the 9th century the citadel on the Sabīka spur of the Sierra Nevada overlooking Granada was called al-ḥamrā’ (Arab.: ‘the red’) because its ageing white stuccoed walls, probably belonging to a Visigothic fortress, were already stained red with ferruginous dust. In the 11th century the Zirids built defensive walls that linked this fortress with Albaycín Hill to the north and Torres Bermejas to the south. In 1238 the first Nasrid sultan, Muhammad I, organized the supply of water by canal, which allowed the building of a royal city on the Sabīka from the 13th to the 15th century. Enlarged and embellished by his descendants, the walled Alhambra city comprised the Alcazaba (...

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Article

Joan Isobel Friedman

(b Florence, May 1265; d Ravenna, ?14 ?Sept 1321).

Italian writer. He is universally recognized as the greatest poet of the Middle Ages. His masterpiece, the Divine Comedy (begun 1307 or 1314), contains many passages in which Dante expressed his appreciation of painting and sculpture, and the themes in the poem have challenged artists from the 14th century to the present day.

Dante was the only child of a notary, Alighiero II, son of Bellincione degli Alighieri and his first wife Bella. The Alighieris were descendants of the Elisei, an ancient and noble Florentine family. Dante may have studied at Bologna University, but he admitted to having taught himself the art of versifying. About 1283 he married Gemma di Manetto Donati, who bore him four children. His sons Pietro and Jacopo wrote commentaries on the Divine Comedy.

Dante met Bice Portinari, whom he called Beatrice, in 1274. He recorded his love for her in La vita nuova, c....

Article

Almohad  

Karl-Heinz Golzio

[al-Muwaḥḥidūn]

Islamic dynasty that ruled parts of north-west Africa and Spain from 1130 to 1269. Muhammad ibn Tumart (d 1130), a Masmuda Berber, preached a faith based on the Koran and the Sunna, stressing above all the oneness of God (Arab. tawḥīd), a doctrine from which the movement took the name al-Muwaḥḥidūn (‘believers in the oneness of God’). Ibn Tumart, who declared himself also as the infallible Mahdí, was able to unite disparate groups of Berbers and in 1121 began an insurrection against the Almoravid rulers with the help of the Berbers of the Atlas Mountains. After the conquest of the Anti-Atlas and Sus region, he emigrated to Tinmal (Tinmallal), south of Marrakesh in the High Atlas, an event likened to the Prophet’s Hegira from Mecca to Medina in ad 622. A defeat near Marrakesh temporarily stopped the rise of the Almohads, and even Ibn Tumart’s lieutenant and successor, ‛Abd al-Mu’min (...

Article

Sarit Shalev-Eyni

Thirteenth-century Ashkenazi illuminated Bible (Milan, Ambrosiana, MSS. B.30–32 INF). One of the earliest illuminated Hebrew manuscripts originating in Germany, it is a giant manuscript in three volumes, containing the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible. As attested by a colophon at the end of the first volume, the Bible was commissioned by Joseph ben Moses from Ulmana, possibly referring to Ulm in Swabia or to Nieder-Olm in the Rhineland. The Bible was copied by Jacob ben Samuel and was massorated and vocalized by Joseph ben Kalonymus in collaboration with another masorete. The first part was completed between 1236 and 1238. The three volumes were illuminated by two artists, whose style is related to the 13th-century school of Würzburg. Illustrations with biblical scenes are located mainly within the initial word panels of the various biblical books, or at their end. Some of the illustrations carry a messianic or eschatological meaning. A broad cosmological composition occupies an opening at the end of the third volume, suggesting an impressive climax for the entire Bible. The full page miniature on the right illustrates the seven heavens, accompanied by the four animals of Ezekiel’s vision and the luminaries (fol. 135...

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Amol  

Gordon Campbell

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Anasazi  

[Navajo: ‘the ancient ones’]

Term applied to the prehistoric ‘Basketmakers’ (fl to c. ad 750) of the south-western United States and their successors, the Pueblo tribes, who still live in the region. The Anasazi are famous for their communal buildings, many now ruined, which were known as ‘pueblos’ by the first Spanish explorers (see Native North American art, §II, 2). The most celebrated of these stone and adobe structures were multi-room, multi-family dwellings built atop mesas and in natural caves found at the base of canyons (see fig.). Built c. 1100–c. 1300, they are located at various sites, including Mesa Verde in south-west Colorado and Chaco Canyon in north-west New Mexico. The Anasazi also produced painted pottery, basketry, and weaving.

Article

Carl D. Sheppard

[Fr. Andreville]

Town in Elis, Greece, 55 km south-west of Patras. As Andreville it was the unfortified capital of the Frankish principality of the Morea from the 13th to the 15th century. Andravida, the strongly fortified port of Clarence (modern Killini), and Chlemoutsi Castle formed a triangle at the north-western tip of the Peloponnese designed to control the hinterland and the sea lanes. The only physical evidence of the Franks at Andravida are the remains of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, in which Prince Geoffrey Villehardouin I and his barons met to determine policy and justice.

The cathedral is the only surviving example of a rib-vaulted Gothic church in Greece. The extant remains consist of three square-ended eastern chapels and the foundations of a nave of at least ten bays. There was no transept. The building was of sandstone, with re-used ancient granite columns in the nave. The first building campaign started during the reign of Prince Geoffrey Villehardouin I (...