InstitutionUniversity of Toronto
Title: "Charles II’s capella at San Nicola in Bari: Inventories, Material Culture, and Artistic Techniques"
In 1296, Charles II of Anjou, King of Sicily, established a capella regis at the pilgrimage shrine of St. Nicholas (San Nicola) in Bari, Italy. Endowed with a diverse collection of liturgical vessels, manuscripts, and vestments, this “royal chapel” was not an architectural entity, but an institutional and administrative one. St. Nicholas, the early Christian bishop whose relics were translated from his tomb in Asia Minor in 1087, had helped secure Bari’s place with networks of trade and pilgrimage in the eastern Mediterranean. Charles II’s capella was intended, I believe, to shift the visual features, liturgy, and, effectively, the meaning of the venerable cult away from its Mediterranean context and Byzantine roots. The foundation helped tie the southeastern coast to Naples, the newly established capital of the kingdom, and to Paris, the key source of the ruling dynasty’s prestige.
I conceptualize Charles II’s foundation as activating two networks, and use those networks to examine the patronage of Charles II and the complex visual culture of southern Italy. One of the networks I define as administrative and constructed around the authority and activities of specific individuals and institutions. The other network I characterize as material, and constructed around liturgical objects and textual evidence pertaining to them and to related works. The administrative and material are not mutually exclusive categories, however, and should be imagined as complementary and mutually reinforcing.
My research focuses on the liturgical objects, vestments, and manuscripts that either were part of Charles II’s initial donation or entered the capella treasury within one hundred years. Surviving objects and three fourteenth-century inventories indicate the diversity of the treasury’s holdings. Some items works were old, and some were newly made, expressly for Bari; many were from northern Europe, some were from Naples, and others from northern Italy; some contained materials or utilized artistic ideas and techniques from the Byzantine and Islamic worlds.
Some of the key questions I am asking are:
1) How many items are associated with a particular person or place in the inventories? What would a map of the “catchment areas” look like, and how does the map change over time? How do administrative and liturgical/material networks activated by the capella correlate or intersect?
2) How is linguistic specificity developed over time in the inventories, and with various types of objects?
3) How and when are specific artistic techniques described?
4) How many of the inventory entries link a technique with a specific place (e.g., opus veneciarum, Venetian work)? Does materiality register in such definitions that link technique and place, and if so, how and when?
5) How and how often are specific materials and media described, represented, or, as I know in at least one case, misrepresented?
I am participating in the Roots and Routes Institute to develop a better sense of how digital tools could help me probe these questions in Bari and in contemporary inventories (e.g., Boniface VIII; San Marco, Venice). Geographical maps, network diagrams, charts, and other modes of representing evidence would help me analyze and present my findings and push my ideas in new directions.
This work on Bari constitutes one part of my current SSHRC-funded research project, entitled “Pilgrimage, the Cult of Saints, and Patronage in southern Italy, ca. 1300.” This comparative project also examines the cults of San Gennaro in Naples and St. Andrew in Amalfi.
I am a neophyte when it comes to using digital tools, beyond the basic jpegs, graphs, maps, and diagrams I have worked with on Powerpoint.
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