Cyprus-Piacenza-Turin and a diplomat (or what can a 19th century manuscript tell us about Medieval epigraphy).

Certain research topics are able to shed a slim ray of light on the intricacies of history. This is the story of how a group of inscribed funerary slabs from the Lusignan period in Cyprus are connected to the man who played a key role on the birth of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1861. Also, how team work, method, intuition and a pinch of luck can lead to unexpected and satisfying results.

One may think that archives have little or nothing to do with the epigraphist’s tasks, since epigraphists spend most of their time studying inscriptions exposed to the public rather than manuscripts, but they might be actually much more closely related than what they appear at first sight. An important and relatively recent branch of philosophy has been dealing with the idea that ‘things’ and ‘objects’ embody the hubs of social relationships. Because the nature (and the actors) of these social relationships shift over time, the values and the functions represented by culturally connotated objects change as well. From this assumption, epigraphists, art historians and archaeologists – essentially all those researchers that are used to dealing with objects – have been taking a closer look to what has been poetically called ‘the cultural biography of things’. As a living being, objects get old, move, change meaning, affect and are affected by the people that over time came in contact with them.

This is why one of the goals of Graph-East project is to trace, as much as possible, the long life of medieval inscriptions in Latin characters coming from the Eastern Mediterranean, from the moment they were created to the present. 

Continue reading “Cyprus-Piacenza-Turin and a diplomat (or what can a 19th century manuscript tell us about Medieval epigraphy).”

GRAPH-EAST en Ethiopie

Une RENCONTRE INTER-UMIFRE à Lalibela

Le projet Graph-East a été présenté lors d’une rencontre inter-UMIFRE entre le Centre de recherche français à Jérusalem (CRFJ) et le Centre français des études éthiopiennes (CFEE), à Lalibela en juin 2023.

La rencontre a débuté le samedi 3 juin avec l’inauguration de l’exposition “Lalibela Carving the faith”, au Centre culturel de Lalibela, suivie le lendemain de la visite du site. Onze églises médiévales monolithiques ont été creusées dans la roche volcanique. Leur construction est attribuée au roi Lalibela qui, au XIIe siècle, entreprit de construire une « Nouvelle Jérusalem » après que les conquêtes  musulmanes eurent mis un terme aux pèlerinages chrétiens en Terre Sainte. 

L’exposition fait partie d’un projet lancé en 2021 sous le nom “Sustainable Lalibela”, en faveur de la préservation du patrimoine en Ethiopie, avec le soutien financier de l’Agence Française de Développement et de la Fondation ALIPH.  Ce projet comporte cinq composantes : -Une campagne de restauration d’urgence des églises pour sécuriser les zones les plus instables et fragiles ; -  La restauration et conservation préventive des peintures, sculptures et manuscrits de Lalibela ; -  Un programme complet de formation aux métiers du patrimoine ; -Des fouilles archéologiques, dont les découvertes seront révélées dans un parcours touristique sur l’histoire du site et de la région ; -  La mise en place d’un centre de ressources numériques sur le patrimoine éthiopien.

Les lundi 5 et mardi 6 juin, quatre tables rondes consacrées aux relations entre le Levant-Sud (Israël, Palestine, Jérusalem) et la Corne de l’Afrique (Éthiopie, Djibouti, Somaliland, Somalie, Érythrée), suivant les 4 axes structurants des laboratoires (archéologie, histoire, mondes contemporains, expériences et gestions de la recherche), ont permis de faire dialoguer les chercheurs des deux terrains, de faire partager leurs parcours, les enjeux de leurs recherches, leurs méthodes et leurs résultats.

Pour Graph-East, ce fut l’occasion de présenter “la gravure sur pierre dans l’Orient latin: techniques, outils et artisans”, et de partager les questions générales du projet, à savoir : Quel était le mode opératoire pour graver ? Les techniques et les outils de la taille de pierre et de la gravure étaient-ils les mêmes dans l’Orient latin et dans l’Occident ? Qui étaient les artisans/artistes ? Peut-on discerner des ateliers ? Et une division du travail entre artisans spécialisés ? Peut-on trouver des sources iconographiques, diplomatiques ou narratives en Méditerranée orientale ? Comment ces inscriptions lapidaires ont-elles été conservées et transmises ? Ces interrogations et la méthodologie développée rejoignaient particulièrement les réflexions de Sylvain Bauvais sur l’économie du fer pendant la période franque, ou encore Antoine Garric, tailleur de pierre et photogrammètre, qui participe aux travaux de restauration, de conservation et de mise en valeur des églises rupestres du site de Lalibela et d’autres sites rupestres et mégalithiques éthiopiens. 

CFEE-CRFJ Workshop Program

Une seconde rencontre aura lieu en 2024 à Jérusalem et sera consacrée aux pistes de valorisation de ces tables rondes via notamment des publications en OpenEdition.

Mission to the Istanbul Archaeology Museums: Rediscovery of the Genoese Inventory

As a part of the ERC GRAPH-EAST led by Dr Estelle Ingrand-Varenne and acting as a postdoc researcher for the project team, I visited the Istanbul Archaeology Museums for three weeks between January–February 2023, where I had a valuable chance to visit its storages in order to document the Genoese lapidary artifacts and it has eventually become a very fruitful journey. The mission primarily aimed to document two important sets from the museum inventory, being the mural inscriptions that were removed from the Galata Walls, and the tombstones that were brought from the Arab Mosque, formerly the Church of San Domenico.

The Galata suburb of Constantinople / Istanbul, located on the other side of the Golden Horn beyond the main Historical Peninsula part of the city, was a renowned and thriving Genoese colony under the name of Pera between 1267–1453. During this period, the Genoese gradually expanded their trade quarter, which eventually reached an area between the modern Tophane, Karaköy, Azapkapı and Kuledibi neighbourhoods all along the Bosphorus as well as the Golden Horn. The Genoese surrounded this area with walls and towers in different stages, where each significant construction was usually commemorated by a monumental mural slab, having the coats of arms of the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Genoa, the doge of Genoa and the podesta of Pera. Moreover, inscriptions in Latin accompanied the heraldic devices and provided noteworthy information about the defensive works themselves; by whom and when they were executed. Among the approximately 45 mural slabs that were ever documented from the Genoese period of Galata, fifteen inscribed examples belong to the inventory of the museum today. They were primarily compiled and published by Victor Marie de Launay in the 19th century, in a time when the Galata Walls were started to be demolished for new urban development and the mural slabs were removed to the museum. Later studies of Luigi Tommaso Belgrano and Ettore Rossi not only updated as well as elaborated the information about them but also provided detailed visuals for the first time.

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Rhodes and the Knights Hospitaller – my internship with GRAPH-EAST

As it is rare for Master’s students to get the chance to contribute to research, I was happy to hear about the possibility to do an internship with the team of the ERC project GRAPH-EAST, which they announced during a presentation of their work to first year students of Medieval Studies in Poitiers. I was interested to learn how an international project of this scale is managed and to discover more about medieval epigraphy, a field that I had not yet explored before coming to Poitiers for my ERASMUS studies. Thus, I got in contact with Estelle Ingrand-Varenne and my internship was scheduled for five weeks in May and June 2023. It presented an instructive end to my studies in Poitiers, before returning to my home university in Heidelberg, Germany.

My work was centred around the medieval inscriptions in the Latin alphabet on Rhodes. From 1309 onwards, Rhodes was the main base of the Knights Hospitaller Order, until the island was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1522. Over the two centuries of their presence, the Knights left many archaeological and epigraphic traces around the town that are still visible today. My task was to register the inscriptions in the HEURIST database of the project, based on the information that I gathered from already published works.

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Les inscriptions d’Orient en France ? Les réserves du Musée de Cluny

Un des objectifs de GRAPH-EAST est de “penser l’épigraphie en mouvement” dans l’espace et le temps. S’il y a bien une écriture que l’on croit naturellement liée à une certaine stabilité, une fixité, voire une immobilité, c’est l’écriture épigraphique, tant par sa pesante matérialité que par la persistance de certains choix d’écriture et de langage. Cette source qui produit sa propre légende d’immutabilité. Pourtant, l’écriture en alphabet latin en Méditerranée orientale est bien une écriture migrante, voyageant au gré des vagues des Occidentaux, des pèlerins, des ordres militaires, ou encore des marchands. Les textes et les supports circulent. Penser le mouvement permet aussi de redonner vie à l’objet épigraphique, dans la longue durée, jusqu’à aujourd’hui, en suivant son parcours, ses multiples changements de statuts et de régimes de valeurs.

Pour donner une idée de ces mouvements, voici la carte des lieux de conservation des inscriptions du Royaume latin de Jérusalem (1099-1291).

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