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Artistic Production in Lusignan Cyprus (1192-1489): Encounters and Resistances within a Society in Motion


CERES-Palais, Raum "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

Guest Lecture in English presented by Marina Toumpouri (Athens)

In 1191, during the third Crusade Richard I the Lionheart conquered Cyprus. This event marked the end of a period of more than three centuries of Byzantine rule. The island was offered in 1192 to his vassal, Guy de Lusignan, who became the founder of the Lusignan dynasty that would rule the island for almost three centuries (1192-1489). With the arrival of the new sovereigns, the local population experienced rapid and successive changes in political structures, social organization, accessibility to cultural references, artistic practices and norms, since the Lusignans remained faithful to their cultural and religious identity. Despite the absence of violent conflicts between the two main religious group throughout the three centuries of Frankish rule, day-to-day contacts did not result in large scale fusion. Between the end of the thirteenth and the fourteenth century Cyprus was enjoying an extensive period of political stability and economic prosperity. Within this frame the two dominant cultures on the island came to achieve finally a rapprochement that was not previously observed, reflected in the realm of the arts. However, this new eclectic style was promoted by the elites, both Latin and Greek, while the largest part of the Greek-Cypriot population was constantly resisting the alien influences and novelties, preferring to remain strongly attached to its Byzantine Orthodox heritage.

In this presentation I will make an attempt to contextualize the above through presenting and discussing a number of monuments and artefacts (panel and monumental paintings, manuscripts, architecture) produced in Cyprus, or, commissioned by members of the Cypriot nobility (Latin or Greek) during the time of Lusignan rule. What will be discussed will be therefore the impact of the social changes on the artistic production of the island, including how the concerns of the two religious groups were expressed throughout the period considered.