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Almería Silk and the French Feudal Imaginary

Toward a “Material” History of the Medieval Mediterranean
  • Sharon Kinoshita
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Just after their marriage, Chrétien de Troyes’s protagonists Erec and Enide lead a procession to church, where Erec donates 60 silver marks and a gold crucifix containing a piece of the True Cross once belonging to Emperor Constantine. Enide then approaches the altar, prays for the birth of an heir, and makes her offering:1

Puis a ofert desor l’autel

un paisle vert, nus ne vit tel,

et une grant chasuble ovree;

tote a fin or estoit brosdee,

et ce fu veritez provee

que l’uevre an fist Morgue la fee

el Val Perilleus, ou estoit;

grant antante mise i avoit.

D’or fu de soie d’Aumarie;

la fee fet ne l’avoit mie

a oes chasuble por chanter,

mes son ami la volt doner

por feire riche vestemant,

car a mervoille ert avenant;

Ganievre, par engin molt grant,

la fame Artus le roi puissant,

l’ot par l’empereor Gassa;

une chasuble feite an a,

si l’ot maint jor en sa chapele

por ce que boene estoit et bele;

quant Enide de li torna,

cele chasuble li dona;

qui la verité an diroit,

plus de cent mars d’argent valoit. (2353-76, emphasis added)

[Then she placed on the altar a green paille, the likes of which no one had seen, and a great embroidered chasuble all embroidered in pure gold. It was well known that Morgan la Fay had made it in Val Perilleus. She had taken great care over it. It was of gold Almería silk. The fairy hadn’t at all made it to be a chasuble to sing mass in, but wanted to give it to her lover to make a rich garment out of. Through a clever scheme, Guenevere, wife of the powerful King Arthur, got it through Emperor Gassa. She had a chasuble made from it, and had kept it in her chapel for a long time, for it was good and beautiful. When Enide left her, she gave her this chasuble; in truth, it was worth more than a hundred silver marks.]

Keywords

Twelfth Century Shared Culture Rock Crystal Arabic Inscription Clever Scheme 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    This passage occurs in an interpolation unique to BN 794, attributed to the scribe Guiot of Provins. Chrétien de Troyes, Erec et Enide, ed. Mario Roques (Paris: Champion, 1976), p. xlix.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Anna Muthesius, Studies in Byzantine and Islamic Silk Weaving (London: Pindar Press, 1995) p. 142. On silk chasubles, see p. 122.Google Scholar
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    E. Jane Burns, Courtly Love Undressed: Reading Through Clothes in Medieval French Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), chapter 6. My focus on silks from Islamic Almería complements Burns’ study of eastern, Islamic and particularly Byzantine, silks, pp. 182–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Contrast the notorious Pesme Avanture episode of Chrétien de Troyes’s Le Chevalier au Lion, in which the manufacture of silk is shown to be the work of three hundred exploited captive maidens. Le Chevalier au Lion, ed. Mario Roques (Paris: Champion, 1978), ll. 5182–5340.Google Scholar
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  29. 42.
    The term muqarnas refers to the distinctive stalactite or honeycomb vaulting widespread in Islamic architecture between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries. For their development and symbolic associations, see Yasser Tabbaa, The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001), chapter 5. William Tronzo, The Cultures of His Kingdom: Roger II and the Cappella Palatina in Palermo (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), pp. 142–43, Trésors fatimides du Caire, pp. 220–21;Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© E. Jane Burns 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon Kinoshita

There are no affiliations available

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