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Consensus Politics in Medieval Spain

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On the tomb of the warrior-king Fernando III in the converted mosque-cathedral of Seville were four epitaphs in Latin, Castilian, Arabic and Hebrew. Each celebrated Fernando’s virtues as a wise and courageous leader, but the content differed subtly depending on the notional community of readers. Nearby was kept a richly illuminated copy of the Cantigas de Santa María, a collection of Marian miracles that were sung in the cathedral on important feast days. In these miracle stories and illuminations, typically set in the cities and fields of medieval Castile, Jews, Christians and Muslims are portrayed as united in their recognition of the Virgin. Beginning with Fernando’s epitaphs, this paper revisits the significance of polylingual texts and inscriptions, examining how texts on coins, copes, churches, doors, documents and reliquaries could construct an idealised consensus, neutralise dissent, articulate victory and act as apotropaic signs of difference.

This talk is part of the Medieval Art Seminar Series series.

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