The Wandering Throne of Solomon

Objects and Tales of Kingship in the Medieval Mediterranean


In The Wandering Throne of Solomon: Objects and Tales of Kingship in the Medieval Mediterranean Allegra Iafrate analyzes the circulation of artifacts and literary traditions related to king Solomon, particularly among Christians, Jews and Muslims, from the 10th to the 13th century.

The author shows how written sources and objects of striking visual impact interact and describes the efforts to match the literary echoes of past wonders with new mirabilia. Using the throne of Solomon as a case-study, she evokes a context where Jewish rabbis, Byzantine rulers, Muslim ambassadors, Christian sovereigns and bishops all seem to share a common imagery in art, technology and kingship.

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Biographical Note

Allegra Iafrate, Ph.D (2013), Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, is postdoctoral fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. The project of this book has been awarded the ‘Prix Marc de Montalembert’ 2014.

Review Quotes

"This book is excellent.. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Christian apocrypha and in "Abrahamic" legends more generally. While the author does not speak about a particular text, she reveals much about the world in which the apocrypha were made. Her work highlights the importance of looking beyond religious and even textual boundaries." Gavin McDowell in Apocrypha 28, 2017.

Table of contents

A Map of the Wanderings
Between Legend and Reality: the Place of the Throne
Notes on the Mediterranean Circulation of the Throne
A Debate of Longue Durée
Flying on the Throne: Chronological and Geographical Span of the Journey
The Limits of the Mediterranean

Chapter one: A King of Small Things
An Aesthetics of Prestige: Claiming Solomon’s Treasure
The Cup
The Pillars
The Table
The Transfer of Metal-Working Techniques
Unfamiliar yet Beautiful: Sabres and Cuirasses
Casting Bronze like Hiram: Lamps and Vessels
Working “à l’œuvre Salomon”: Spurs, Saddles, Furniture

Chapter two: The Solomonic Throne in Constantinople

The Magnaura Throne
The Throne in Byzantine Chronicles
A Throne for a New Solomon
The Case of the Golden Plane Tree
Courtly Automata
The Organ as a Soundtrack for the Empire
Sharing Elements of Kingship: Silks and Precious Objects in Circulation

Chapter three: The Throne of the Rabbis

Scholarship on the Throne
The Throne in Midrashic Literature
The Relationship between Legends and Reality
Midrash Esther Rabbah
Midrash Leviticus Rabbah
Targum Sheni: between Ekphrasis and Reality?
Enlivening the Scene: the Echoes of the Magnaura
The Wandering of the Throne
The Reception of Midrashim about the Throne in Other Contexts

Chapter four: The Throne of Solomon in the Islamic World

Jewish Sources for Arabic and Persian Accounts
Lions and Griffins: a Lost Solomonic Throne?
Building Solomon’s Throne on Persian Royal Ruins: Takht-i Sulaymān
Mapping Solomon’s Kingdom
Flying Thrones and Flying Carpets

Chapter five: The Throne of Solomon in the Christian West

My Kingdom for a Lion: Papal and Imperial Seats
Henry VI and the Sedes Sapientiae
Sedes Sapientiae and Divine Wisdom
A Seat for the Virgin
Rabanus Maurus
Guibert de Nogent
Nicholas de Clairvaux
Richard of Saint-Laurent
The Sedes Sapientiae as the Throne of Solomon: a Marian Interference
The Throne of Solomon as Spiritual Ladder

Chapter five: A Literary Abode for the Throne

The City of Brass
The Jüngere Titurel

Appendix: Weather Lore and the Throne of Solomon




All interested in the cultural exchanges in the Medieval Mediterranean and anyone concerned with Solomon-related traditions in general.

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