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02 March 2019The Kingdom in the Sun: Classical & Medieval Sicily
17 February 2018Study morning - Sculpture in the 20th Century

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The Kingdom in the Sun: Classical & Medieval Sicily Jane Angelini Saturday 02 March 2019

at The Bakehouse, Bennett Park, Blackheath, London SE3

The Kingdom in the Sun: Greek, Roman, Arabic & Norman Sicily

Few islands have played such a significant role in history as Sicily, and none which is so  small. Poised between Africa and Europe, midway in the Mediterranean, it has been both a gateway and a crossroads attracting a long line of invaders from Greeks, Romans and Arabs to the Normans, Spanish and Italians. The legacy of so many dominant civilisations has produced a cultural mix of great richness and variety, for the chequered history of Sicily has included periods of exceptional wealth and artistic achievement. 

The Study Day will comprise two separate lectures of approx 1 hr 30  min each

The First lecture:  Sicily Greek,  Phoenician and Roman - will look at the period between 8thcentury B.C. to 4thcentury BC, a period the witnessed the settlement of both Greek and Phonecian trading colonies around the shores of the island. This was a period of tremendous wealth and artistic achievement, when Sicily became the most important area of Magna Graecia and a pivotal centre of the Phoenician world. We shall examine some of the splendid surviving Greek Doric temples dating to the period as well statuary, and pottery. Moving to the period of Roman occupation.  The main focus will be on the famous Roman Villa Casale in Piazza Armerina, built circa 300 AD.,   one of the best preserved large country villas of the Roman period and one of the most outstanding monuments history has bequeathed us.  It is especially famed for the splendid mosaic pavements, decorating nearly all the rooms and showing a kaleidoscope of  life, a celebration of hunting and fishing, dancing, massage and love -making.    

The Second Lecture  The Medieval Centuries  - covers the centuries between the fall of the island to the Romans after the Punic Wars, through the medieval centuries when the island was held successively by the Byzantines,  the Arabs and famously the Normans. We shall look at the legacy of the Arab occupation, epitomised by the red drummed mosques of Palermo, which are now converted into churches  and dwell at length on the period  of  Norman - Byzantine Sicily- when for a short while in the 12thcentury under the Normans,  Palermo was the most intellectually active and artistically eclectic centre in Europe The great cathedrals of Cefalu, and  Monreale, the  Palatine Chapel of the Norman Palace, and the small church of  Santa Maria Dell’Ammiraglio, witness to a brilliant fusion of  Norman, Arab and Byzantine art and architecture and contain the finest examples of 12thcentury Byzantine mosaic work  - the mosaics covering the walls of the cathedral of Monreale  cover 6,000 sq. metres presenting a veritable cartoon of the entire Bible story.  In general the arts of this period witnesses  to the astonishing eclecticism of the age, a fusion of Arab, Romanesque and Byzantine styles and ideas that is quite unique to Sicily. 

Suggested Reading:

J.J. Norwich     The Normans in Sicily  (1986)

J. Beckwith      Early Christian & Byzantine Art  (1968)

K. Tronzo        The Cultures of His Kingdom  (1997)

L. M. Findlay    A History of Sicily (1967)