Narrating the Treasury: What Medieval Iberian Chronicles Choose to Recount about Luxury Objects

In: Medieval Encounters
Ana Rodríguez Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas

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Chronicles written in the Kingdoms of Castile and León between the reigns of Alfonso VI and Fernando III, the period of greatest expansion against al-Andalus, assert the importance of the spoils of battle and the circulation of objects between Christian and Muslim lands, and between rival Christian institutions. The chronicles’ accounts of the looting of churches by monarchs and nobles in the context of repeated internecine conflict give few details about pillaged objects. Rather, they define these pieces by materials without making note of individual characteristics; although certain objects did spark their interest, in most cases, the tales respond to the need to identify a given piece in order to construct a narrative. Their value comes not only from precious materials or the specialized work of their manufacture, but also from their ability to exemplify personal and collective virtues or defects, along with individual and family identities.

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