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'Otherness’ in Space and Architecture

Jews, Muslims and Christians in Western European Art (1200-1650)

Maria Portmann

This conference proceeding (Sessions on "Otherness in Space and Architecture", International Medieval Conference, Leeds, 2017 and 2018) is a compilation of articles written by both young and senior scholars, who are working on the question of the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ in Christian, Jewish and Islamic cultures. The articles examine how material, ‘oriental’ objects and knowledge originating in non-Western communities helped building and strengthening the identity of Iberia’s, southern France and northern Italian nobility and its lineages. It is shown how, in the perception of Christians, the public image of Jews and Moslems became constructed as that of adversaries, while their cultural knowledge, at the same time, would be integrated into Christian culture in a paradox manner, in which the ‘self’ necessarily depends on the ‘other’ and how visual tensions in art and space have been used as symbols of power.

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2. The Castle and the Lily: Samuel Ha-Levi’s Synagogue and the Crises of 14th-Century Castile: (Michael Conrad)


Michael A. Conrad

Quite similar to the rest of Europe, 14th-century Castile was marked by a multitude of political, social and economic crises.54 Not only did the Black Death eradicate large portions of the population, with King Alfonso XI (r. 1312–1350) ranking among one of the most famous victims, but also a simultaneously raging agricultural crisis would cause many survivors to starve. While social tensions, especially those related to the coexistence of Jews, Christians and Muslims, had been appeased during the past century, they would now intensify. Tensions between the high nobility (grandes) and the Kingdom of Castile increased as well and eventually exploded in a civil war during the reign of King Pedro I (r. 1350–1369). Sometimes referred to as the “Primera Guerra Civil Castellana,” this conflict started off as a local war of succession initiated by Pedro’s half-brother, Enrique de Trastámara, but soon spread over the whole realm, eventually resulting in a proxy war connected to the Hundred Years’ War between France and England. At its end, Enrique would emerge victorious, thereafter reigning as Enrique II (r. 1367–1379)55 and establishing a new dynasty. Together with the other crises of the 14th century and other forms of continued violence, such as the “War of the Two Peters” between Castile and the Kingdom of Aragon (1356–1375), Pedro’s reign was a time of great domestic instability.

Fig. 1. The decoration on the eastern wall of Samuel Ha-Levi’s synagogue. Photo:...

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