In July 2017 I will be giving a paper at the conference, The Normans in the South: Mediterranean Meetings in the Central Middle Ages.
This is an abstract of my paper:
Robert Guiscard as Patron and Plunderer
This paper will examine the artistic patronage of Robert Guiscard and will argue that, as Guiscard consolidated his authority in Italy, his patronage shifted away from his identity as a Norman and increasingly became a tool for building an identity as a legitimate Mediterranean ruler. The events that we call the ‘Norman Conquest’ were often violent and destructive and Guiscard, in particular, is known as a fearsome military leader. But violence was not his only strategy in the conquest. He also made use of diplomacy and patronage of the arts as tools for the consolidation of his military success. This paper will be divided into two sections. The first section will examine how, early on in the conquest, Guiscard first acted as an artistic patron by sending looted objects and money back to Normandy. For example, the Norman Geoffrey de Montebray travelled to southern Italy in c.1050 and was given precious objects looted from Calabrese churches by Guiscard. On Guiscard’s part this was partly a strategy for encouraging other Normans to join him in Italy, but it was also an expression of Normanitas. At that early stage, Guiscard and his companions still perceived Normandy as home. The second part of the paper will examine the redistribution of spoils from the conquest of Sicily. In 1073 Guiscard donated columns, acquired during the conquest of Palermo, to Bishop Stephen of Troia in northern Puglia. I will argue that he also donated a Sicilian Arab tombstone to the cathedral of Bisceglie. This demonstrates a change in the way Guiscard saw his patronage and his own authority. By moving and re-configuring the material culture of Sicily and making donations to churches in Puglia, he was asserting his possession of his territories.
Top: one of the panels from the south door of the cathedral of Troia, showing a bishop.
Bottom: the main portal of the cathedral of Bisceglie.