The Medieval Iberian Treasury in Context: Collections, Connections, and Representations on the Peninsula and Beyond.

The Medieval Iberian Treasury in Context: Collections, Connections, and Representations on the Peninsula and Beyond

Therese Martin

National Research Challenge Grant, Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities, AEI/FEDER, RTI2018-098615-B-I00 (2019-2022) 

This project takes as its jumping-off point the medieval objects once gathered in medieval treasuries in order to highlight transcultural networks, shining a light on issues of broad relevance for scholarship and society today. Foremost among these is the necessity of bringing different types of evidence to bear in order to put long-held assumptions to the test. The treasury at San Isidoro de León, due to its remarkable range of high-quality pieces and its various written sources, functions in this project as a test case from which our research branches out to comparative study of treasured collections from the Iberian Peninsula to Palermo, Germanic lands, and the Eastern reaches of Europe. We address broad socio-cultural questions concerning the role of sumptuary collections as evidence of contacts both within and beyond Iberia during the central Middle Ages. These collections offer an opportunity for reading evidence over time, weighing the sometimes contradictory conclusions from documentary or visual sources against scientific analysis.

In the project, art historians, archaeologists, curators, historians, and musicologists from six countries examine the geographically charged nature of objects and investigate women as vectors of cultural exchange. We argue that an investigation of how and why medieval objects crossed cultural and religious boundaries addresses two urgent challenges faced by modern-day society. First, transcultural objects make manifest the connections all too often missing from official history: they demonstrate materially what would otherwise remain invisible. This is especially important for recognizing the multiple layers of contacts in medieval Christendom and Islam, often belicose but not exclusively so. Second, this project pays particular attention to moments in which medieval women took a lead role in the movement of objects from distant lands. Female protagonism, indisputably evident in León-Castilla, will be tested against other medieval treasuries to determine whether the case of San Isidoro is an exception or an as-yet unrecognized rule.

PI: Therese Martin

Project members:

Verónica Abenza Soria, CSIC;  Silvia Armando, John Cabot University, Roma; Ana Cabrera Lafuente, Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España; Jordi Camps, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya; Amanda Dotseth, Meadows Museum of Art, Dallas; María Judith Feliciano, New York; Julie A. Harris, Chicago; Jitske Jasperse, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin;  Alicia López Carral, CSIC;  Eduardo Manzano, CSIC; Pierre Alain Mariaux, Université de Neuchâtel; Christian Raffensperger, Wittenberg University; Laura Rodríguez Peinado, Universidad Complutense de Madrid; Mariam Rosser-Owen, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Shannon Wearing, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, University of Toronto.

Recent publication in open access:

Therese Martin, ed., The Medieval Iberian Treasury in the Context of Cultural Interchange (Expanded Edition), Leiden: Brill, 2020: Open Access,