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Hunt, L-A., 2017.

"The emperor Michael VIII (1261-1282) and Byzantine/Melkite-Genoese cultural agency between Constantinople and the Near East: Art at Sinai, Behdaidat, and the pallio of San Lorenzo in Genoa, and in Egypt"

Output Type:Chapter in a book
Publication:Ambassadors, Artists, Theologians: Byzantine Relations with the Near East from the Ninth to the Thirteenth Centuries, Eds. Z. Chitwood and J. Pahlitzsch
Publisher:University of Mainz

The role of artistic and cultural agency within the strategy of the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII to consolidate Constantinople as his restored capital, following the demise of the Latin Empire of Constantinople in 1261, is examined. Case studies of icons at Sinai, the wallpainting programme of the Church of St. Theodore and of the embroidered peplos/pallium of San Lorenzo in Genoa propose artistic, ecclesiastical, diplomatic and mercantile links between the Greek Orthodox/Melkite communities under Latin and Mamluk and Mongol rule and Constantinople. Artistic activity functioned within networks operating between ecclesiastics and theologians in Constantinople and Greek Orthodox/Melkite patriarchs and bishops in the Near East. Arguably of particular significance was Michael VIII's relationship with Patriarch Euthymios of Antioch (1260-1263?) and Euthymios' role in stimulating Syrian Melkite artistic activity. The productivity of Syrian Melkites can be traced not only in icons at Sinai but also in wallpainting in the County of Tripoli, studied here in the painted programme at the Church of St. Theodore at Behdaidat, and in textile manufacture (the peplos/pallium). This exposes the participation and prosperity of the Syrian Melkite community in trading activity with their Byzantine and Genoese partners across geopolitical boundaries of the Mamluk and Mongol worlds and with the West.
Michael VIII's activities through agents and proxies facilitated his diplomatic activity between incompatible allies. Thus, simultaneously with his involvement in the Near East, he negotiated with the Papacy for Church union. Michael's Melkite clients in the County of Tripoli arguably affiliated as confratres with the Hospitallers in the defence of Latin Syria, discussed through the painted programme at Behdaidat. Allusions to relics play an important role here emphasising links between Constantinople and Antioch. Finally, this study questions the art historical categorisations of "Crusader" and "Palaeologan" art history, with wide implications.