Cloth from the Promised Land

Appropriated Islamic Tiraz in Twelfth-Century French Sculpture
  • Janet Snyder
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The fme cloak from which the Italian Norman Bohemond fashioned Crusaders’ badges was most likely an Islamic textile and his action of marking his warriors with arm bands follows the Islamic fashion. Similar decorative bands adorn sleeves and skirts of column-figures installed in church portal programs in northern France between the 1140s and the 1160s, linking them to the Islamic/Crusader mode of dress (see figure 9.1). This essay will address the appropriation of arm bands along with other borrowed elements of Islamic dress and textiles. More than the whim of fashion was involved in this appropriation: Although it is unlikely that Europeans could read the inscribed bands or fully grasp the concept that objects associated with the caliph brought blessings, they could observe the material success of the califs followers.2 The puttingon of the arm bands characteristic of the dress of the Islamic ruler’s coterie seems to suggest that a parallel status might be assumed by the Europeans similarly attired. For success in the Holy Land, Christian warriors had been promised eternal salvation, but for some of them, their exploits brought temporal power as well, giving them titles and property in the Levant. Decorative arm bands applied to sleeves of Europeans during the twelfth century serve as multivalent signs of success.


Fine Linen Silk Cloth Twelfth Century Metropolitan Museum Promise Land 
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© E. Jane Burns 2004

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  • Janet Snyder

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