All content on this blog is protected by copyright.
Content used elsewhere without attribution constitutes theft of intellectual property and will be prosecuted.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Life in the Crusader States: Icons

 It was not merely in the production of miniatures on parchment that Frankish painters excelled. Acre and Frankish Cyprus both developed into centres for icon painting, that is, larger-scale paintings on wood, while Tripoli and Antioch appear to have engaged in icon production on a smaller scale. The popularity of private icons to hang in one's home was taken back from the Latin East to Italy where the tradition evolved into what we know as paintings -- images on square of canvas that serve a decorative rather than devotional purpose.


Cyprus was particularly famous for its ‘vita’ icons, in which a central image of a saint was surrounded by smaller scenes depicting his or her life. Like Frankish sculpture, Frankish icons fused elements from the artistic heritage of the culturally diverse population of Outremer. Frankish knights and ladies (based on their dress) pray to Eastern saints; dedications were often bilingual in Latin and Greek.

Surviving Frankish icons reveal their high quality and distinctive features. One of their particularly telling features was the popularity of ‘soldier saints’ — St. George, St. Theodore, St. Demetrios, St. Bacchus and St. Minas. These were invariably depicted in armour and mounted on high-stepping or rearing horses. Some carry lances, while others — significantly — are armed with bows, suggesting native Christian patronage of substantial means. Another notable feature of Frankish icons is the frequent inclusion of female patrons — a distinctly Western tradition incorporated into an Eastern art form.

These icons highlight the degree to which icons had become popular for private devotion among the Frankish elites and the Italians. The inhabitants of Outremer increasingly wanted to own and hang icons in their homes. Unlike sculptures or frescoes anchored to the buildings they decorated, icons could be packed away, transported or given as gifts. They even made their way to Italy, where the icon evolved into paintings as we know them today — images painted on canvas or wood hung on walls.[i]

[i] Andrew Jotischky, Crusading and the Crusader States (London: Pearson Longman, 2004), 149.


The bulk of this entry is an excerpt from Dr. Schrader's comprehensive study of the crusader states.

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is also the author of six books set in the Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades.


           Buy Now!                                                  Buy Now!                                                    Buy Now!

          Buy Now!                                               Buy Now!                                                      Buy Now!



1 comment:

I welcome feedback and guest bloggers, but will delete offensive, insulting, racist or hate-inciting comments. Thank you for respecting the rules of this blog.