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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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5. ‘Never Was Raised Such a Monument of this Stature’: The Alhambra and Palace of the Popes in the 14th Century: (April L. Najjaj)


April L. Najjaj

During the rule of the Nasrid Sultan, Yusuf I (1333–1354 CE), Muslim forces from the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada and Marinid North Africa defeated Christian armies off the coast of Gibraltar in 1340 CE. Six months later, under the command of Alfonso XI (1325–1350 CE), the king of Castile, the Christians counter-attacked at the southern port of Tarifa, resulting in a Christian victory that essentially ended North African intervention in the Iberian Peninsula.263 Later that year, a delegation from Alfonso traveled to the papal court of Pope Benedict XII (1334–1342 CE), in Avignon to bring the papacy’s share of the proceeds, including standards and shields taken from the battlefield, which were subsequently displayed on the walls of the papal palace.264 Whether considered by the sources or by later historians as reconquest, crusade, or jihad, the Battle of the Rio Salado in 1340 CE, and the successful two-year Christian siege of Algeciras four years later, established the status quo in medieval Iberia for the next one hundred and fifty years.

The capitals of this 14th century drama were the palace-cities of the Alhambra and the Palace of the Popes; these two locations have more often been considered as settings for medieval adversaries rather than as dynastic structures serving similar purposes. Both places are distinct from other locations in that they served as royal permanent residences but also as physical symbols for the leaders of their respective faiths, whether Muslim or Christian....

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