Michael Wood on ‘Bringing the Holy Land Home’

A contribution by

Michael Wood

At the heart of this book is a brilliant piece of detective work. One of the key conclusions is a painstaking reconstruction of the programmatic nature of the images. Reduced until now to hundreds of fragments in museum storerooms, the cycle of combat images with their Latin inscriptions has now been restored with computer analysis to re-create the floor’s entire composition, along with its lost Latin texts. The theme of the entire mosaic floor, not just the combat roundels, has been established. The theme is the crusades, the colossal series of military expeditions that captured the twelfth- and thirteenth century imagination when European kings and nobles and their followers gave their wealth and their lives in the attempt to capture the Holy Land from the Muslims.

The scholarly team that has contributed have vividly conjured up the lives, the ideals, and even the feelings of the time, opening up extraordinarily wide vistas on the thirteenth-century world. Precious survivals from the medieval past are contextualized within the realms of art, architecture, politics, religion, and the crusades.

The objects and narratives addressed in this volume challenge the outdated perception that medieval Europe, and in particular medieval England, was a monocultural place. Rather, especially during the crusades, the inhabitants of medieval England were deeply interested in and influenced by objects that arrived in their land from diverse cultures around the Mediterranean and beyond: textiles, paintings, reliquaries, ewers, bowls, pilgrim flasks, and weapons.

This was a radically transformative time, when old boundaries between civilizations were being broken down and new worlds being born. That is one of the messages of this thought-provoking and moving project. With precision and delicacy of scholarship, combined with sympathetic imagination, it opens our eyes to an exciting and, before now, a largely untold story.

Bringing the Holy Land Home
The Crusades, Chertsey Abbey, and the Reconstruction of a Medieval Masterpiece

Edited by Amanda Luyster
ISBN 978-1-912554-94-2
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