Post-classical history

Art in the Latin East



When the armies of the First Crusade took Jerusalem on 15 July 1099, they succeeded wonderfully in fulfilling many of the main goals articulated by Pope Urban II in his famous speech at Clermont. Urban had vividly described the oppression of Christian churches in the East, and how the infidels had desecrated or destroyed Christian monuments. He had called on arms bearers to go to the aid of their brethren in the Holy Land and to liberate the Christian holy sites from the heathen.

The artistic traditions which the participants in the First Crusade brought with them from Europe were varied, deriving from Lorraine, the Meuse Valley, Normandy, the Île de France, southern France and South Italy in the late eleventh century. The crusaders also carried certain portable art objects with them: essentials for a long expedition such as prayerbooks and liturgical vessels (chalices, portable altars, reliquaries, etc.); there were also painted standards, arms and armour, and, of course, coins, common currency from Valence and Lucca among other places. The remarkable fact is that, when these European crusaders arrived in the Holy Land, the art they sponsored there changed rapidly and dramatically from that associated with their homelands. The changes varied according to medium and project, and were apparently caused by the new context and environment and the special functions the art was called on to serve. There was also a rich and different multicultural socio-religious and artistic milieu: a bringing together of artists and patrons from diverse backgrounds; new media such as icon painting to deal with; new materials such as the local stone; and the local Christian, that is, Byzantine, Syrian, and Armenian artistic traditions and artists as well as Muslim monuments from which to learn. The new art of the Franks is sometimes called ‘Crusader Art’.

It took several years for the settlers to consolidate their remarkable conquests of 1099. Fortifications and church buildings were needed everywhere, but very little figural art survives from the three northern settlements of Edessa, Antioch, and Tripoli. Most of what we have is coinage: strongly Byzantine- influenced coin design at Antioch and Edessa, but designs firmly rooted in French (specifically Toulousain) numismatic tradition at Tripoli. It is in the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, stretching from Beirut to Aqaba, that Frankish artistic activity can be observed most fully throughout the twelfth century.

With the capture of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Nazareth in 1099, the crusaders re-established Christian control over the main holy sites of Christendom—the birthplace of Christ, the site of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre, and the place of the Incarnation—setting the agenda for some of the most important art sponsored by the Franks in the twelfth century. Two of these sites also served important political roles. The church of the Nativity in Bethlehem served as the coronation church of the Latin kings in the first quarter of the century. The church of the Holy Sepulchre was the burial place of the Latin kings from 1100 to 1187 and it became the coronation church from 1131 onwards.

Given the importance of the Holy Sepulchre, it is not surprising that artistic attention would be centred on this complex site from the very beginning. In 1100, when Godfrey of Bouillon died, his tomb was placed at the entrance to the chapel of Adam at the foot of Calvary, and this provided a precedent for every subsequent king before 1187. In 1114, following the momentous decision to install Augustinian canons at the Holy Sepulchre, a large cloistered residence was built for them to the east of the Byzantine triporticus, that is, the arcaded courtyard of the Byzantine church of the Holy Sepulchre rebuilt in the 1040s.

At about the same time attention was concentrated on the aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre, a small free-standing building sheltering the tomb which stood within the Anastasis rotunda. The Russian pilgrim, Daniel of Chernigov, who visited the Holy Land in the years 1106 to 1108, mentioned a life-sized silver statue of Christ that was placed on top of the aedicule by the Franks. Daniel’s testimony is our only source for what must have been the first Latin effort to beautify the Sepulchre. In 1119, however, the aedicule was completely redecorated with marble sculpture and mosaics. The famous drawing by Bernhard von Breydenbach, circulated as a woodcut in the fifteenth century, and Jan van Scorel’s painted image from the 1520s give us some idea of the aedicule, but do not, unfortunately, record details of the programme of redecoration the Franks sponsored, which are known to us only by later pilgrims’ accounts. It is notable that all of the early work at the church of the Holy Sepulchre featured art rooted in western European traditions.

While artistic activity was getting underway in Jerusalem sponsored by king and patriarch, in Bethlehem it was the pilgrims to the holy site who apparently commissioned devotional icons for the church of the Nativity. In the south aisle, an icon of the Virgin and Child Glykophilousa was painted directly on the fifth column. Along with prayers and labels, the date of 1130 can be read among its inscriptions, identifying this work as the earliest dated ‘crusader’ monumental painting extant. Here a Byzantine-trained western artist combines the Greek enthroned madonna type with Italian sensibilities for the human relationship between Mary and her son. Furthermore, a cave is indicated as the background in this work, which here at Bethlehem can only refer to the grotto of the Nativity beneath the crossing of the church. Thus for the first time, site-specific iconography is seen in a work for a pilgrim painted by an artist conversant with Byzantine, western, and local traditions.

The 1130 fresco is an important example of the shift we see in crusader art with the second generation of settlers. Fulcher of Chartres had commented on the transformation of outlook in a famous passage written about the time the crusaders captured Tyre in July 1124: ‘For we who were Occidentals have now become Orientals. He who was a Roman or a Frank has in this land been made into a Galilean or a Palestinian. He who was of Reims or Chartres has now become a citizen of Tyre or Antioch. We have already forgotten the places of our birth; already these are unknown to many of us or not mentioned any more.’

The patrons who stimulated this transformation in the arts after 1131 were the patriarchs of Jerusalem, King Fulk, and especially Queen Melisende, the first rulers to be crowned in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Fulk was a great castle builder. His armies carried the ensign of the kingdom, a reliquary of the True Cross, on all their major expeditions. So important had relics become that an important centre for goldsmiths’ work had grown up in Jerusalem just south of the Holy Sepulchre to produce the characteristic double-armed cross reliquaries for pilgrim patrons. The handsome True Cross reliquary now in Barletta was probably made in Jerusalem about 1138.

King Fulk’s most important commission was, however, the Psalter of Melisende. No expense was spared on this manuscript. At least seven persons collaborated on the production of this luxury manuscript by early 1135. A team of four illustrators (including Basilius, a Byzantine-trained ‘crusader’ artist who signed the Deesis image) combined with a northern French scribe for the calendar and text of the Latin psalter, a ‘crusader’ ivory carver for the book covers, and a ‘crusader’ embroiderer for the silk spine of the book embroidered with silver thread. The decoration of the book reflects crusader taste that Byzantine was synonymous with aristocratic style in artistic terms, and it reflects Melisende’s Orthodox religious sensibilities. This manuscript is the most important extant work from the scriptorium of the Holy Sepulchre in the twelfth century and, along with the 1130 icon in Bethlehem, it represents a new phase of crusader art in which East and West are distinctively integrated.

Queen Melisende was a figure of extraordinary importance in the Latin kingdom from 1131 to 1161: she was the daughter of King Baldwin II, the wife of King Fulk, and the mother of two kings, Baldwin III and Amalric; as has already been pointed out in Chapter 6, she was a powerful force in politics and the arts, at least until 1152, when Baldwin III took control. Melisende, as the daughter of a Frankish father and an Armenian mother, was the embodiment of the new eastern perspective seen in the arts of this flourishing period. The 1140s were an especially remarkable time for her patronage and crusader art in general.

William of Tyre, the famous historian of the Latin East, writing in the 1180s, tells us that Melisende commissioned the building of the convent of St Lazarus at Bethany at the site of Lazarus’s Tomb for her younger sister Yvette. Melisende must have had a significant hand in numerous other major works: one of her earliest projects may have been the rebuilding of the convent of St Anne while Yvette lived there, that is prior to 1144. In 1141 the Dome of the Rock was consecrated as the church of the Templum Domini and Melisende may have helped sponsor an entire new programme of mosaic decoration along with a splendid iron-work grille around the rock inside. In the early 1140s, the royal residence was moved from the Templum Salomonis to the south side of the citadel, an undertaking in which she obviously must have been heavily involved.

The most outstanding project of the 1140s was, of course, the rebuilding of the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Chroniclers say remarkably little about the church—pilgrimage church, patriarchal cathedral, and state church of the Latin kingdom— but it was dedicated on 15 July 1149, fifty years after the crusader conquest of Jerusalem, and shortly after the leaders of the ill-fated Second Crusade had returned home to Europe.

The plan to rebuild the Byzantine church had apparently evolved in the early 1130s after the coronation ceremonies were moved from Bethlehem to Jerusalem; the main work was carried out in the 1140s. The programme was impressive; as we will see in Chapter 8 the holy sites were reorganized within the context of a unified architectural complex anchored by the aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre, the hill of Calvary, and the Prison of Christ. For this purpose a western pilgrimage-road church plan for the crossing, choir, and ambulatory with radiating chapels was introduced to integrate the pre-existing rotunda into a single building with two domes, a bell tower, and a magnificent new southern main entrance. Major decorative programmes of figurai and non-figural capitals were introduced on the interior and exterior. The entire interior of the church and the Calvary chapels were given a vast programme of mosaics of which only one image of Christ survives; the Anastasis mosaic in the eastern apse now lost is at least reflected in the design of the seal of Patriarch Amalric of Nesle (1157-80). The south transept façade was resplendent with mosaic imagery of the Noli Me Tangere and handsome carved lintels, the latter deriving from Italian sources. Over the left door, a series of scenes illustrated the life of Christ as related to holy sites located in and around Jerusalem. Over the right door, a vine-scroll lintel evoked the arbor vitae under what may have been an image of the Crucifixion in the tympanum above. Overall the architectural and decorative programme of the Holy Sepulchre was rich and varied, a magnificent statement of the amalgamation of East and West in this unique crusader project. As the culmination of a long undertaking to decorate this most important holy site—a project probably not fully finished until well into the 1150s—the crusader church of the Holy Sepulchre set a high standard for schemes at Bethlehem and Nazareth yet to come.

Whatever Melisende’s role in the rebuilding of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, she abruptly dropped out of public prominence following Baldwin III’s forceful accession to power in 1152. The only subsequent project with which she can be associated is her handsome tomb, located in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, just inside the entrance of the Tomb of the Virgin. That she was a remarkable woman is reflected in the eulogistic verbal portrait accorded her by William of Tyre.

Baldwin III began his reign by introducing a new royal coinage identified with an image of the Tower of David, that is the citadel of Jerusalem where he had wrested power away from his mother. He followed this with a great military victory in 1153, the conquest of Ascalon, which had remained in Fatimid

hands since 1099. Meanwhile both the military orders of the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitallers were beginning to take a major role in the defence of the Latin East. During this period of relative prosperity and stability, churches in honour of St John the Baptist were erected at Ramla, Gaza, and Sabastiya. The cathedral at Sabastiya, which contained the tomb of St John, was the first major Latin church in the East to receive a programme of historiated capitals on its façade, in a manner similar to many French churches: this church is unusual because of its direct architectural ties to the cathedral of Sens. In fact most Latin churches were built in a distinctively Levantine- Romanesque style, with broad pointed arches, flat roofs, and often a dome over the crossing.

Baldwin III was not known for his artistic patronage, but his younger brother, Amalric, was. Shortly after his accession to power in 1163, Amalric sought to forge a new alliance with the Byzantines against the Fatimids in Egypt. With this end in mind, he introduced a new coin type which emphasized the Byzantine Anastasis rotunda in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, ordered that his regalia be designed along Byzantine lines, and married a Byzantine princess, Maria, in 1167. His most important artistic commission was also an important act of political statecraft and ecclesiastical diplomacy. Between 1167 and 1169 Amalric joined Emperor Manuel Comnenus and Bishop Ralph of Bethlehem in sponsoring a complete redecoration of the church of the Nativity.

The unique programme of mosaics and fresco painting carried out at Bethlehem was a joint project in which Orthodox and crusader traditions were brought together in terms of patrons, artists, and goals, with fruitful artistic results. A bilingual inscription in Latin and Greek on the south wall of the bema (sanctuary) of the church, now very fragmentary, recorded the commission. The Latin praised King Amalric as a ‘generous friend, comrade of honour, and foe of impiety’, Emperor Manuel as ‘generous donor and pious ruler’, and Ralph as ‘generous . . . worthy of the bishop’s throne’. The Greek version referred to the three donors and identified Ephraim as the mosaicist who finished this task in the year 1169.

The programme was enormous, on a scale with the interior of the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Mosaics of the Virgin and Child, feast scenes of the life of Christ, and the Nativity—all strongly Byzantine in style and iconography—were located in the apse, transepts, and grotto respectively. Down the nave there were images of the Seven Oecumenical Councils of the Church (south wall) and six provincial councils (north wall). Between the clerestory windows, striding angels progressed towards the apse; below the councils there were bust-length portraits of the ancestors of Christ. On the interior west wall there was a large image of the Tree of Jesse. On the columns of the nave below, additional devotional icons of eastern and western saints were added in fresco to complement the images previously painted.

This project was a milestone in crusader artistic development because many artists from a variety of backgrounds took part. Basilius, mosaicist of the angels in the nave, was Syrian Orthodox. A Venetian artist named Zan, that is John, appears to have worked in the south transept. Ephraim, a Greek Orthodox monk and mosaicist, seems to have overseen the work. Thus, for a major programme of monumental painting at one of the holiest sites in Christendom, we find a multicultural team of artists working together under joint Frankish- Byzantine sponsorship. The integration of eastern and western elements of style and iconography by a number of artists from different traditions is therefore quite reminiscent of the Melisende Psalter, but occurs here on a much larger scale. Here the heavily Byzantine-influenced medium of mosaics and the Greek of most council texts combine with Syrian Orthodox content in the council texts, and strong crusader elements—such as the Tree of Jesse, the use of bilingual inscriptions, Latin for the text in the image of the Seventh Oecumenical Council, and the very idea of an inscription to identify patrons and artists— to produce a remarkably rich, harmoniously integrated, and high quality result.

The work at Bethlehem apparently inspired a variety of other decorative programmes in fresco painting—at Abu Ghosh, at the Damascus Gate chapel, at Bethany, even at Crac des Chevaliers far to the north—but none in mosaics. It is, therefore, surprising to find that the most important subsequent artistic projects in the Latin kingdom were carried out in sculpture during the last years before the fall of Jerusalem in 1187. The Hospitallers decorated the chapel of their castle at Belvoir with handsome figural sculpture in the early 1170s and the Templars sponsored a large and important workshop in the Temple area in Jerusalem in the 1170s and 1180s to decorate their conventual buildings in and around the Templum Salomonis. The most important endeavour in the 1170s, however, was the project sponsored by the archbishop of Nazareth to rebuild and decorate the church of the Annunciation over the holy site of the House of the Virgin, where the Incarnation had taken place.

The church of the Annunciation was the only Latin church to receive a full programme of portal sculpture in the manner of French twelfth-century examples: a tympanum with an enthroned image of Christ Incarnate with angels, voussoirs (arch-stones) with signs of the zodiac, and statues on either side of the doorway of apostles and prophets. The most creative sculptural programme was reserved for the interior, however, where the aedicule over the grotto of the Annunciation was given a series of remarkable polygonal capitals. These capitals represented narrative incidents from the lives of the apostles who had founded this church at Nazareth, according to tradition, in honour of the Virgin Mary. Moreover, larger rectangular capitals appeared on the piers of the church immediately surrounding the shrine monument. Very likely these sculptors were ‘crusaders’, that is, Frankish settlers born in the Latin East, trained in their craft by French masters, working in a dynamic fluid style in the local stone under the influence of indigenous Christian traditions as well as of Muslim architectural sculpture.

It was a bold choice to decorate the holy site of Nazareth primarily in monumental sculpture, remembering of course that the sculpture was no doubt intended to be painted. It was a choice apparently made to give Nazareth a distinctive identity in contrast to the more heavily Byzantine-influenced projects at Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Finally, it was a choice that indicated a new level of maturity and development within the realm of crusader artistic activity: combining a distinctively western medium with eastern stylistic influence and iconographic elements in the service of a programme specially attuned to a unique holy site. Previously the most important achievements in crusader art were to be found in painting—both miniature and monumental—and architecture. In the 1170s and 1180s, however, figural sculpture becomes the newly prominent medium.

Following the death of King Amalric in 1174, the fortunes of the Latin East declined precipitously. King Baldwin IV valiantly attempted to fend off Saladin, but he succumbed in 1185 to leprosy. His successor, Baldwin V, reigned for less than two years before he died, at the age of 8. Sculptors from the Templar workshop prepared the most elaborately decorated of all royal tombs for the boy king in 1186-7. Others worked on a project to rebuild and decorate the Coenaculum, the site of the Last Supper, in the church of St Mary on Mount Sion. This important site is one of the last crusader projects before the fall of Jerusalem, and one of the few which reflects some authentic Gothic influence on the otherwise Levantine-Romanesque configuration of twelfth-century crusader art.

Following their catastrophic defeat at the Horns of Hattin on 4 July 1187, the Frankish settlers lost Jerusalem on 2 October 1187. The Latin East, and crusader art, was dealt a severe, almost fatal, blow by Saladin, not only because of the loss of land and resources, but also by the destruction and dispersals. When Jerusalem was taken, Imad ad Din, a Muslim chronicler wrote: ‘Jerusalem was purified of the filth of the hellish Franks.’

In order for the Frankish settlements to continue, political, ecclesiastical, and commercial viability and stability had to be re-established. The Third Crusade at least partly restored the Latin kingdom and a major new component was added to the Latin East with the conquest of Cyprus in 1191 by Richard I of England, but the major holy sites were not regained.

Crusader art continued after 1187, especially after the retaking of Acre in 1191, but its circumstances and context were fundamentally changed. The sites of its production were altered dramatically: the ports of Acre and Tyre were now the main cities because there was no longer a focus on the holy places inland. All of the major patrons had relocated: the patriarch of Jerusalem, the Hospitallers, and the Templars were headquartered in Acre, and the king no longer necessarily resided in the Latin kingdom: he sometimes lived on Cyprus. Patronage expanded, becoming less exclusively aristocratic and ecclesiastical, and more bourgeois: the king and patriarch were joined by merchants and soldiers from commercial towns and ports along the coast. Thus while the religious function of some crusader art continued for liturgical and devotional use, new non-religious, secular purposes emerged. Crusader art becomes less distinctively tied to its roots in the Latin East, to the Holy Land specifically, and becomes more a part of the commercial and artistic ‘lingua franca’ of the Mediterranean world in the thirteenth century.

Some slender threads of continuity were apparently maintained from twelfth-century developments. Manuscript painting was produced by scriptoria in Acre and possibly Antioch in the 1190s. A missal now in Naples was probably done by a south Italian artist working in Acre in the tradition of the scriptorium of the Holy Sepulchre. A monumental bible, now in San Danieli del Friuli, shows exquisite and distinctive Byzantine, Armenian, and even Syrian-influenced style and iconography in a series of historiated initials unlike anything from Jerusalem or the West. The possibility exists that the unique features of this artist can be explained in the context of Antioch, despite the absence of comparable examples from this period.

Because the holy sites remained in Muslim hands after the Third Crusade, Pope Innocent III sent another crusade to the East in 1202. As we have seen, it was diverted to Constantinople and a third Latin enclave came into being in the Near East after 1204. The Latin empire, consisting of Constantinople and Frankish Greece, generated much castle building, but little painting or sculpture survives on the churches. Whether there was manuscript illumination and icon painting remains an open question, but one major fresco cycle with images of St Francis is extant in a Constantinopolitan chapel of the Kalenderhane Camii, dating from c.1250. Enormous booty from the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, especially in the form of reliquaries and other goldsmiths’ work, sent back to Europe, partly compensated for the interruption of the flow of pilgrims’ souvenirs from Jerusalem after 1187. Despite the ransom paid by Louis IX for the relics of the Crown of Thorns in the 1240s, however, there is little evidence that a thriving Frankish metalwork industry developed in the Latin empire before its demise.

In the Latin kingdom, the need for castle building remained a top priority even while truces between Franks and Muslims kept the precarious peace. The Hospitallers enlarged and strengthened their great castle at Crac des Chevaliers, perhaps shortly after an earthquake of 1202: the entire system of outer walls and towers was added at this time and, in addition, the main chapel was redone with a new south entrance and a fresco of the Presentation in the Temple was executed for an external chapel on its north side. The paintings at Crac and in the castle chapel of Margat, done in the 1200s, are important because they demonstrate that the military orders and especially the Hospitallers sponsored figural arts for their soldiers. Farther south, the Templars built Chastel Pèlerin in the winter of 1217-18, with manpower made available from a crusading expedition led by Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI of Austria. A remarkable round church, now in ruins, is one of the most distinctive architectural components of this castle, but the only figural decorations to survive are three sensitively carved heads in Gothic style on corbels from the great hall. Finally, the castle of Montfort was built in the hills west-north-west of Acre at the time of Frederick II’s crusade in the late 1220s, to be the headquarters of the Teutonic Knights. Montfort was one of the earliest crusader castles to be excavated; a variety of objects was found on the site, including small-scale figural sculpture, large- scale foliate sculpture on bosses for vaulting systems, and fragments of glass for stained-glass windows.

After 1204, a variety of expeditions set out to aid the Holy Land. Of these, ironically it was only Frederick II who, although excommunicated twice in the process, managed to regain the holy sites, not by conquest, but by diplomacy. In February 1229 he signed a treaty with Sultan al-Kamil by which Christians reoccupied the holy places of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Lydda, and Nazareth, but no new building or other significant artistic activity was apparently allowed at these sites under the terms of the agreement.

Very little important art associated with the Latin kingdom from the late 1220s to the early 1240s is known. Manuscript illumination apparently continued with the production of the Riccardiana Psalter and a sacramentary now in the British Library; the Pontifical of Apamea was also executed, but received no figural decoration. Significant relics, presumably in suitable reliquaries made in the Latin kingdom, possibly in Jerusalem, were received in England from the Holy Land in the 1230s and 1240s at Bromholm and Westminster. Philip of Aubigny had his tombstone inscribed, decorated, and placed just outside the main entrance to the church of the Holy Sepulchre in 1236, the last known crusader burial at this holy place.

When the truce of 1229 expired, hostilities resumed and in August 1244 the Khorezmian Turks overran and sacked Jerusalem. Only Bethlehem and Nazareth among the major holy places remained open to Christians thereafter. In the wake of this disaster, King Louis IX came to the aid of the Holy Land in 1248. When his attack on Egypt failed, he went to the Latin kingdom where he resided for four years, rebuilding fortifications at Acre, Caesarea, and Jaffa, and building a new castle at Sidon. Louis had a strongly reinvigorating impact on the kingdom religiously and artistically. Religiously, the king manifested his exemplary devotion by his symbolic visit to the holy site of Nazareth in 1251, restating the centrality of these places to European Christianity. Artistically, Louis is apparently responsible for breathing new life into crusader painting at Acre.

Two major manuscripts produced at Acre during Louis’s sojourn redefined what crusader painting would look like in the second half of the thirteenth century. The Arsenal Bible was a selection of Old Testament texts translated into Old French, assembled with a royal programme of frontispiece decoration. These panel miniatures established strong links to the Sainte- Chapelle in Paris, highlighted ideals of kingship in the Holy Land, and celebrated the strong women of the Old Testament, possibly as parallels to Louis’s intrepid wife, Margaret, who accompanied him on crusade and ransomed him from prison in Egypt. In style the Arsenal Bible is a distinctive blend of Gothic stained-glass ornamental motifs and Byzantine-influenced form executed by a crusader artist trained in the Franco-Italian tradition. It is closely comparable to aspects of the St Francis frescos done in Constantinople.

The same Franco-Italian formal characteristics under strong Byzantine influence are found in the second of the Acre manuscripts, the Perugia Missal. This manuscript is significant because its style parallels that found in the Arsenal Bible and is closely comparable to icon painting now extant in works preserved in St Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai: compare the Crucifixion in the manuscript to an icon of the Crucifixion on Sinai with very similar stylistic and iconographical features. Furthermore, the Perugia Missal calendar preserves an entry commemorating the Dedicatio ecclesie Acconensis on 12 July, explicit evidence that this codex was written and decorated by a crusader artist in Acre c.1250.

The appearance of icon painting as an important new medium of crusader art is most apparent between 1250 and 1291. Whereas icons painted for Frankish patrons already existed in the twelfth century, it is from the second half of the thirteenth century that the greater number survive, almost all in the monastery of St Catherine’s, Mount Sinai. Among all crusader painting, these icons are the most problematic in terms of determining the artist’s background, place of execution, patron, and function, but they also provide us with some of the most outstanding crusader work of the period. A bilateral icon with the Crucifixion on one side and the Anastasis on the other is such an example. Probably done by an artist of Venetian background, the iconography is a combination of Byzantine and Frankish elements, the inscriptions are large, handsomely designed Latin texts, and the expressive style with strong linear proclivities is close to the Byzantine model it was copying.

Some crusader icons show the hands of several different painters. A triptych also now at St Catherine’s has an enthroned Virgin and Child flanked by angels as the central interior image, combined with an unusual set of four scenes of the life of Christ reflecting the joys and sorrows of the Virgin, on the interior of the two wings. The style of the life-of-Christ scenes is clearly very closely associated with the Arsenal Bible miniatures, whereas the enthroned Virgin and Child was done by a crusader painter in the manner of Italian thirteenth-century painting under the influence of Byzantine icons.

The Virgin and Child image of the triptych forms a point of reference for one of the greatest problems of crusader art after 1250. How does the variety of crusader painting relate to Byzantine (Constantinopolitan and provincial), Armenian, Italian (Maniera Greca), and Cypriot (Maniera Cypria) art of this period, as well as the art of the ‘lingua franca’, that is, painting thoroughly Byzantine-influenced, but clearly nonByzantine in origin, for which a specific place of execution, a particular artistic context, and a patron cannot be identified? The Virgin and Child of the triptych, for example, is clearly crusader in its admixture of artistic components and is probably from Acre, whereas the Kahn Madonna in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, has been proposed to be Constantinopolitan and is essentially purely Byzantine, while the Pushkin Madonna in Moscow is identified as art of the Maniera Greca and said to be from Pisa. Against these important examples of the 1250s and 1260s, the famous Mellon Madonna in the National Gallery in Washington, DC, appears to be a work of the ‘lingua franca’. Where was it done, for whom, and for what purpose?

Despite this difficult problem, much progress has been made in the study of crusader icons, revealing a previously unimagined diversity of origins. Besides icons attributed to Acre on stylistic grounds and to Sinai based on site-specific iconography in the period 1250-91, we also have crusader icons for which attributions have been proposed to Lydda (an icon of St George, now in the British Museum), Resafa (an icon of St Sergius, now on Sinai), and to the Qadisha Valley region near Tripoli (St Marina, now in the Menil Collection, Houston). Other problematic icons, such as various Virgin and Child Hodegetria icons now in St Catherine’s, may shed important light on contemporary developments on Cyprus.

After Louis IX returned to France in 1254, Frankish power declined steadily in the face of relentless Mamluk conquests. In these dangerous times, it is remarkable that artistic activity continued at Acre, and indeed a new secular art developed. Cut off from their Christian confrères inland and growing more and more isolated, the settlers increasingly relied on artists who came from the West. The last major crusader artist so far identified was a manuscript illuminator who came from Paris after 1276 and worked in Acre during the last decade of its existence. Heading a large and productive workshop, the Hospitaller Master produced a wide variety of illustrated books, mostly secular, for members of the Order of St John and others. His output included illustrated codices of the History of Outremer by William of Tyre, the Histoire Universelle, the Livre de César, and even the Livre des Assises by John of Ibelin, all in the vernacular, Old French. His style was purely French Gothic of the 1270s, to which the eastern ambience contributed new aspects of colour and iconography. His last manuscript cycle remained unfinished and his hand has not been found elsewhere; we may wonder whether he died during the final siege of Acre in May 1291.

Of those Frankish settlers who survived the siege of Acre, some relocated on Cyprus where the Hospitallers and Templars briefly established their headquarters. Frankish culture in the eastern Mediterranean lived on in Lusignan Cyprus, Frankish Greece, and after 1309 on the island of Rhodes. But the multicultural, cosmopolitan crusader art that had characterized the settlements on the Syrian and Palestinian coast, and especially the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, was never equalled by the developments in these more provincial circumstances in quality and quantity, or richness and diversity. The Latin Orient lived on in markedly changed circumstances after 1291, but crusader art did not.

Crusader art developed in all media during the twelfth century, but flourished in the thirteenth mainly through architecture and painting. After 1187 it was still strongly Byzantine- influenced with occasional Syrian and Armenian aspects that combined with important western European components, especially French and Italian traditions, to produce a distinctive multicultural regional phenomenon. While crusader art participated in the artistic ‘lingua franca’ of the Mediterranean world, it did not lose its identity. Although certain features of crusader art—and certain crusader artists—appeared to be strongly colonial from time to time, it was not a colonial art.

The development of crusader art was markedly less coherent between 1187 and 1250 than earlier, but the re-establishment of a centre of crusader painting in Acre between 1250 and 1291 gave new focus and vitality to the enterprise. Whereas crusader art in the twelfth century had drawn its function and inspiration directly from the religious and political importance of the holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, after 1250, indeed after 1187, the pilgrimage aspect declined sharply. In the thirteenth century, crusader art became an art of the remarkably prosperous commercial port cities, especially Acre. The fact that so little of this art survives is testimony to the policy of destruction and ‘cleansing’ of the Frankish presence in Muslim-held territory. Christian holy places were tolerated after 1291, but at Nazareth and elsewhere the stipulation was that ‘stone shall not be set upon stone to rebuild the church’.

Ultimately the crusades failed to realize the goals which Urban had enunciated at Clermont in 1095. Yet collectively the crusaders produced art that was magnificent and complex, and this accomplishment, at least, lives on to this day.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!