The Mediterranean Artistic Context of Late Medieval Malta (1091-1530)
Maltese History and Social Studies, Maltese Architecture, Art in Malta
270mm x 220mm
No. of Pages:
The 439 years before the arrival of the Knights of the Order of St John, were a period of transition for the Maltese Islands. It saw Malta go from a Muslim island, conquered in 870, gradually changing into a bulwark of Latin Christianity, and in the meantime being ruled by several powers: the Normans, Swabians, Genoese Counts, Angevins and the Aragonese, all of which left their impact on the islands, and on its art and architecture.
This book studies the Mediterranean context of art and architecture in the Maltese Islands between 1091, when they made their first contact with the newly imposed Norman government of Sicily and South Italy, and 1530, when they passed under the control of the Knights of St John.
A primary concern has been to establish a meaningful politico-economical and socio-religious context to the art and architecture of a period that can be loosely called Late Medieval. This was a time when the islands where very much a melting pot of cultural cross-currents blowing from Islamic North Africa and Latin Christian Europe. The coming together of these different and often antagonistic cultural traditions lie at the root of the Maltese national identity. This study also shows that influences came not only from Sicily, South Italy and North Africa, but also from more distant Mediterranean regions and sometimes from quite unexpected sources.
The presumed sources of influence are discussed in a meaningful art historical context, but allowance is made for geophysical and climatic factors that sometimes produced similar architectural and settlement pattern solutions.
Another important focus is to show that Malta before the Knights was not the artistic desert that it is often thought to have been. There was an important divide in lifestyle and artistic preoccupations of the gentry and professional and artisan classes of the Civitas, the Castrum Maris and the Gozo Castello, and their suburbs on the one hand, and the beduini of the countryside. It shows that artistic patronage could sometimes be surprisingly well-informed and that the Renaissance had already manifested itself on the islands well before the coming of the Knights in 1530.