The term Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture, Norman-Sicilian culture or, less inclusive, Norman-Arab culture, (sometimes referred to as the "Arab-Norman civilization") refers to the interaction of the Norman, Latin, Arab and Byzantine Greek cultures following the Norman conquest of Sicily and of Norman Africa from 1061 to around 1250. This civilization resulted from numerous exchanges in the cultural and scientific fields, based on the tolerance showed by the Normans towards the Greek-speaking populations and the Muslim settlers. As a result, Sicily under the Normans became a crossroad for the interaction between the Norman and Latin Catholic, Byzantine-Orthodox and Arab-Islamic cultures.
In 965 Muslims completed their conquest of Sicily from the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire following the fall of the final significant Greek citadel of Taormina in 962. Seventy three years later, in 1038, Byzantine forces began a reconquest of Sicily under the Greek general George Maniakes. This invasion relied on a number of Norse mercenaries, the Varangians, including the future king of Norway Harald Hardrada, as well as on several contingents of Normans. Although Maniakes' death in a Byzantine civil war in 1043 cut the invasion short, the Normans followed up on the advances made by the Byzantines and completed the conquest of the island from the Saracens. The Normans had been expanding south, as mercenaries and adventurers, driven by the myth of a happy and sunny island in the Southern Seas. The Norman Robert Guiscard, son of Tancred, invaded Sicily in 1060. The island was split politically between three Arab emirs, and the sizable Byzantine Christian population rebelled against the ruling Muslims. One year later Messina fell to troops under the leadership of Roger Bosso (the brother of Robert Guiscard and the future Count Roger I of Sicily), and in 1071 the Normans took Palermo. The loss of the cities, each with a splendid harbor, dealt a severe blow to Muslim power on the island. Eventually Normans took all of Sicily. In 1091, Noto in the southern tip of Sicily and the island of Malta, the last Arab strongholds, fell to the Christians.
The Kingdom of Africa was an extension of the frontier zone of the Siculo-Norman state in the former Roman province of Africa[a] (Ifrīqiya in Tunisian Arabic), corresponding to Tunisia and parts of Algeria and Libya today. The main primary sources for the kingdom are Arabic (Muslim); the Latin (Christian) sources are scanter. According to Hubert Houben, since "Africa" was never mentioned in the royal title of the kings of Sicily, "one ought not to speak of a ‘Norman kingdom of Africa’." Rather, "[Norman Africa] really amounted to a constellation of Norman-held towns along coastal Ifrīqiya."
The Sicilian conquest of Africa began under Roger II in 1146–48. Sicilian rule consisted of military garrisons in the major towns, exactions on the local Muslim population, protection of Christians and the minting of coin. The local aristocracy was largely left in place, and Muslim princes controlled the civil government under Sicilian oversight. Economic connections between Sicily and Africa, which were strong before the conquest, were strengthened, while ties between Africa and northern Italy were expanded. Early in the reign of William I, the "kingdom" of Africa fell to the Almohads (1158–60). Its most enduring legacy was the realignment of Mediterranean powers brought about by its demise and the Siculo-Almohad peace finalised in 1180.
An intense Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture developed, exemplified by rulers such as Roger II of Sicily, who had Islamic soldiers, poets and scientists at his court, and had Byzantine Greeks, Christodoulos, the famous George of Antioch, and finally Philip of Mahdia, serve successively as his ammiratus ammiratorum ("emir of emirs"). Roger II himself spoke Arabic and was fond of Arab culture. He used Arab and Byzantine Greek troops and siege engines in his campaigns in southern Italy, and mobilized Arab and Byzantine architects to help his Normans build monuments in the Norman-Arab-Byzantine style. The various agricultural and industrial techniques which had been introduced by the Arabs in Sicily during the preceding two centuries were kept and further developed, allowing for the remarkable prosperity of the Island. Numerous Classical Greek works, long lost to the Latin speaking West, were translated from Byzantine Greek manuscripts found in Sicily directly into Latin. For the following two hundred years, Sicily under Norman rule became a model which was widely admired throughout Europe and Arabia.
The English historian John Julius Norwich remarked of the Kingdom of Sicily:
"Norman Sicily stood forth in Europe --and indeed in the whole bigoted medieval world-- as an example of tolerance and enlightenment, a lesson in the respect that every man should feel for those whose blood and beliefs happen to differ from his own."
John Julius Norwich
During Roger II's reign, the Kingdom of Sicily became increasingly characterized by its multi-ethnic composition and unusual religious tolerance. Catholic Normans, Langobards and native Sicilians, Muslim Arabs, and Orthodox Byzantine Greeks existed in a relative harmony for this time period, and Roger II was known to have planned for the establishment of an Empire that would have encompassed Fatimid Egypt and the Crusader states in the Levant up until his death in 1154. One of the greatest geographical treatises of the Middle Ages was written for Roger II by the Andalusian scholar Muhammad al-Idrisi, and entitled Kitab Rudjdjar ("The book of Roger").
At the end of the 12th century, the population of Sicily is estimated to have been up to one-third Byzantine Greek speaking, with the remainder speaking Latin or Vulgar Latin dialects brought from mainland Italy (Gallo-Italic languages and Neapolitan language), Norman and Sicilian Arabic. Although the language of the court was Old Norman or Old French (Langue d'oïl), all royal edicts were written in the language of the people they were addressed to: Latin, Byzantine Greek, Arabic, or Hebrew. Roger's royal mantel, used for his coronation (and also used for the coronation of Frederick II), bore an inscription in Arabic with the Hijri date of 528 (1133–1134).
Islamic authors marvelled at the forbearance of the Norman kings:
Interactions continued with the succeeding Norman kings, for example under William II of Sicily, as attested by the Spanish-Arab geographer Ibn Jubair who landed in the island after returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1184. To his surprise, Ibn Jubair enjoyed a very warm reception by the Norman Christians. He was further surprised to find that even some Christians spoke Arabic and that several government officials were Muslim:
"The attitude of the king is really extraordinary. His attitude towards the Muslims is perfect: he gives them employment, he choses his officers among them, and all, or almost all, keep their faith secret and can remain faithful to the faith of Islam. The king has full confidence in the Muslims and relies on them to handle many of his affairs, including the most important ones, to the point that the Great Intendant for cooking is a Muslim (...) His viziers and chamberlains are eunuchs, of which there are many, who are the members of his government and on whom he relies for his private affairs."
Ibn Jubair, Rihla.
Ibn Jubair mentioned that some Christians in Palermo wore the Muslim dress and spoke Arabic. The Norman kings continued to strike coins in Arabic with Hegira dates. The registers at the Royal court were written in Arabic. At one point, William II of Sicily is recorded to have said: "Every one of you should invoke the one he adores and of whom he follows the faith".
Numerous artistic techniques from the Byzantine and Islamic world were also incorporated to form the basis of Arab-Norman art: inlays in mosaics or metals, sculpture of ivory or porphyry, sculpture of hard stones, bronze foundries, manufacture of silk (for which Roger II established a regium ergasterium, a state enterprise which would give Sicily the monopoly of silk manufacture for all Western Europe). During a raid on the Byzantine Empire, Roger II's admiral George of Antioch had transported the silk weavers from Thebes, Greece, where they had formed a part of the, until then, closely guarded monopoly that was the Byzantine silk industry.
The new Norman rulers started to build various constructions in what is called the Arab-Norman style. They incorporated the best practices of Arab and Byzantine architecture into their own art.
The Church of Saint-John of the Hermits, was built in Palermo by Roger II around 1143–1148 in such a style. The church is notable for its brilliant red domes, which show clearly the persistence of Arab influences in Sicily at the time of its reconstruction in the 12th century. In her Diary of an Idle Woman in Sicily, Frances Elliot described it as "... totally oriental... it would fit well in Baghdad or Damascus". The bell tower, with four orders of arcaded loggias, is instead a typical example of Gothic architecture.
The Cappella Palatina, also in Palermo, combines harmoniously a variety of styles: the Norman architecture and door decor, the Arabic arches and scripts adorning the roof, the Byzantine dome and mosaics. For instance, clusters of four eight-pointed stars, typical for Muslim design, are arranged on the ceiling so as to form a Christian cross.
The Monreale cathedral is generally described as "Norman-Arab-Byzantine". The outsides of the principal doorways and their pointed arches are magnificently enriched with carving and colored inlay, a curious combination of three styles—Norman-French, Byzantine and Arab.
The Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio built in 1143 by Roger II's "emir of emirs" George of Antioch was originally consecrated as a Greek Orthodox church, according to its Greek-Arab bilingual foundation charter, and was built in the Byzantine Greek cross style with some Arab influences. Another unusual church from this period is the country church of Santi Pietro e Paolo d’Agrò in Casalvecchio Siculo; it has been described "one of the most sophisticated and coherent works of architecture to emerge from the Norman rule of the island".
Other examples of Arab-Norman architecture include the Palazzo dei Normanni, or Castelbuono. This style of construction persisted until the 14th and the 15th century, exemplified by the use of the cupola.
The points of contact between Europe and Islamic lands were multiple during the Middle Ages, with Sicily playing a key role in the transmission of knowledge to Europe, although less important than that of Spain. The main points of transmission of Islamic knowledge to Europe were in Sicily, and in Islamic Spain, particularly in Toledo (with Gerard of Cremone, 1114–1187, following the conquest of the city by the Spanish Christians in 1085). Many exchanges also occurred in the Levant due to the presence of the Crusaders there.
Arabic and Greek art and science continued to be influential in Sicily during the two centuries following the Norman conquest. Norman rule formally ended in 1198 with the reign of Constance of Sicily, and was replaced by that of the Swabian Hohenstaufen Dynasty.
In 1224 however, Frederick II, responding to religious uprisings in Sicily, expelled all Muslims from the island, transferring many to Lucera over the next two decades. In this controlled environment, they couldn't challenge royal authority and they benefited the crown in taxes and military service. Their numbers eventually reached between 15,000 and 20,000, leading Lucera to be called Lucaera Saracenorum because it represented the last stronghold of Islamic presence in Italy. The colony thrived for 75 years until it was sacked in 1300 by Christian forces under the command of Charles II of Naples. The city's Muslim inhabitants were exiled or sold into slavery, with many finding asylum in Albania across the Adriatic Sea. Their abandoned mosques were destroyed or converted, and churches arose upon the ruins, including the cathedral S. Maria della Vittoria.
Even under Manfred (died in 1266) Islamic influence in Sicily persisted, but it had almost disappeared by the beginning of the 14th century. Latin progressively replaced Arabic and Greek, the last Sicilian document in the Arabic language is dated to 1245.
ISBN 0-521-25551-1" "At the end of the twelfth century ... While in Apulia Greeks were in a majority – and indeed present in any numbers at all – only in the Salento peninsula in the extreme south, at the time of the conquest they had an overwhelming preponderance in Lucaina and central and southern Calabria, as well as comprising anything up to a third of the population of Sicily, concentrated especially in the north-east of the island, the Val Demone.
The Church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani (Italian: Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani) is a church in Messina, Sicily (Italy). It is an example of Norman architecture on Sicily.
The church dates from the 12th century, when Sicily was under Norman rule. Built on top of the ruins of an older temple dedicated to Neptune, the church is an example of Sicilian Norman architecture with its mix of different cultural elements. The church displays influences from Arab and Byzantine architecture and also contains Roman elements. Particularly the apse is unusually well-preserved. The name of the church derives from merchants from Catalonia who established a presence in Messina in the 16th century.County of Sicily
The County of Sicily, also known as County of Sicily and Calabria, was a Norman state comprising the islands of Sicily and Malta and part of Calabria from 1071 until 1130. The county began to form during the Christian reconquest of Sicily (1061–91) from the Muslim Emirate, established by conquest in 965. The county is thus a transitional period in the history of Sicily. After the Muslims had been defeated and either forced out or incorporated into the Norman military, a further period of transition took place for the county and the Sicilians.Islam in Italy
Muslim presence in Italy dates back to the 9th century, when Sicily came under control of the Abbasid Caliphate. There was a large Muslim presence in Italy from 827 (the first occupation of Mazara) until the 12th century. The Norman conquest of Sicily led to a gradual decline of Islam, due to conversions and emigration of Muslims toward Northern Africa. A small Muslim community however survived at least until 1300 (the destruction of the Muslim settlement of Lucera). Thereafter, until the 20th century, Islam was virtually non-existent in Italy.
During the 20th century, the first Somali immigrants from Somalia began to arrive. In more recent years, there has been migration from Albania, Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia.Islamic influences on Western art
Islamic influences on Western art refers to the influence of Islamic art, the artistic production in the Islamic world from the 8th to the 19th century, on Christian art. During this period, the frontier between Christendom and the Islamic world varied a lot resulting in some cases in exchanges of populations and of corresponding art practices and techniques. Furthermore, the two civilizations had regular relationships through diplomacy and trade that facilitated cultural exchanges. Islamic art covers a wide variety of media including calligraphy, illustrated manuscripts, textiles, ceramics, metalwork and glass, and refers to the art of Muslim countries in the Near East, Islamic Spain, and Northern Africa, though by no means always Muslim artists or craftsmen. Glass production, for example, remained a Jewish speciality throughout the period, and Christian art, as in Coptic Egypt continued, especially during the earlier centuries, keeping some contacts with Europe.
Islamic decorative arts were highly valued imports to Europe throughout the Middle Ages; largely because of unsuspected accidents of survival the majority of surviving examples are those that were in the possession of the church. In the early period textiles were especially important, used for church vestments, shrouds, hangings and clothing for the elite. Islamic pottery of everyday quality was still preferred to European wares. Because decoration was mostly ornamental, or small hunting scenes and the like, and inscriptions were not understood, Islamic objects did not offend Christian sensibilities.In the early centuries of Islam the most important points of contact between the Latin West and the Islamic world from an artistic point of view were Southern Italy and Sicily and the Iberian peninsula, which both held significant Muslim populations. Later the Italian maritime republics were important in trading artworks. In the Crusades Islamic art seems to have had relatively little influence even on the Crusader art of the Crusader kingdoms, though it may have stimulated the desire for Islamic imports among Crusaders returning to Europe.
Numerous techniques from Islamic art formed the basis of art in the Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture of Norman Sicily, much of which used Muslim artists and craftsmen working in the style of their own tradition. Techniques included inlays in mosaics or metals, ivory carving or porphyry, sculpture of hard stones, and bronze foundries. In Iberia the Mozarabic art and architecture of the Christian population living under Muslim rule remained very Christian in most ways, but showed Islamic influences in other respects; much what was described as this is now called Repoblación art and architecture. After the Reconquista Mudéjar styles produced by Muslim or Morisco artists now under Christian rule showed clear Islamic influence in many ways.Islamic world contributions to Medieval Europe
During the high medieval period, the Islamic world was at its cultural peak, supplying information and ideas to Europe, via Andalusia, Sicily and the Crusader kingdoms in the Levant. These included Latin translations of the Greek Classics and of Arabic texts in astronomy, mathematics, science, and medicine. Other contributions included technological and scientific innovations via the Silk Road, including Chinese inventions such as paper and gunpowder.
The Islamic world also influenced other aspects of medieval European culture, partly by original innovations made during the Islamic Golden Age, including various fields such as the arts, agriculture, alchemy, music, pottery, etc.
Many Arabic loanwords in Western European languages, including English, mostly via Old French, date from this period. This includes traditional star names such as Aldebaran, scientific terms like alchemy (whence also chemistry), algebra, algorithm, etc. and names of commodities such as sugar, camphor, cotton, coffee, etc.Magna Graecia
Magna Graecia (, US: ; Latin meaning "Great Greece", Greek: Μεγάλη Ἑλλάς, Megálē Hellás, Italian: Magna Grecia) was the name given by the Romans to the coastal areas of Southern Italy in the present-day regions of Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily; these regions were extensively populated by Greek settlers, particularly the Achaean settlements of Croton, and Sybaris, and to the north, the settlements of Cumae and Neapolis. The settlers who began arriving in the 8th century BC brought with them their Hellenic civilization, which was to leave a lasting imprint on Italy, such as in the culture of ancient Rome. Most notably the Roman poet Ovid referred to the south of Italy as Magna Graecia in his poem Fasti.Muslim settlement of Lucera
The Muslim settlement of Lucera was the result of the decision of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dynasty (1194–1250) to move 20,000 Sicilian Muslims to Lucera, a settlement in Apulia in southern Italy. The settlement thrived for about 75 years. In 1300, it was sacked by the Christian forces of Charles II of Naples and its Muslim inhabitants were exiled or sold into slavery.Outline of the Byzantine Empire
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Byzantine Empire:
Byzantine Empire (or Byzantium) – the Constantinople-centred Roman Empire of the Middle Ages. It is also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, primarily in the context of Late Antiquity, while the Roman Empire was still administered with separate eastern and western political centres. In its own time, there was no such thing as "the Byzantine Empire," there was just the ongoing Roman Empire; "Byzantine Empire" is a scholarly term of convenience to differentiate the empire from its earlier existence during classical antiquity before the western half collapsed (see decline of the Roman Empire). Its citizens continued to refer to their empire as the Roman Empire (Greek: Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων, Basileia Rhōmaiōn; Latin: Imperium Romanum) or Romania (Ῥωμανία). After the Western Roman Empire fragmented and collapsed in the 5th century, the eastern half continued to thrive, existing for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During much of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe.Santi Pietro e Paolo d'Agrò
Santi Pietro e Paolo d’Agrò is a church in Casalvecchio Siculo, in the Metropolitan City of Messina on Sicily (Italy). It is one of the foremost examples on Sicily of Norman architecture.Southern Italy
Southern Italy or Mezzogiorno (Italian pronunciation: [ˌmɛddzoˈdʒorno], "South", literally "Midday") is a macroregion of Italy traditionally encompassing the territories of the former Kingdom of the two Sicilies (all the southern section of the Italian Peninsula and Sicily), with the frequent addition of the island of Sardinia and, historically, some parts of Lazio as well.The Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) employs the term "South Italy" to identify one of the five statistical regions in its reportings without Sicily and Sardinia, which form a distinct statistical region denominated "Insular Italy". These same subdivisions are at the bottom of the Italian First level NUTS of the European Union and the Italian constituencies for the European Parliament.Tarì
A tarì (from Arabic طري ṭarī, lit. "fresh" or "newly minted money") was the Christian designation of a type of gold coin of Islamic origin minted in Sicily, Malta and Southern Italy from about 913 to the 13th century.Tunisian people
Tunisian people or Tunisians (Arabic: تونسيون Tūnisiyyūn, Tunisian Arabic: توانسة Twensa), are a Maghrebi ethnic group and nation native to Northwestern Africa, primarily Tunisia, who speak Tunisian (Derja) and share a common Tunisian culture and identity. In addition, a Tunisian diaspora has been established with modern migration, particularly in Western Europe, namely France, Italy and Germany.
Prior to the modern era, Tunisians were known as Afāriqah (Roman Africans), from the ancient name of Tunisia, Ifriqiya or Africa in the antiquity, which gave the present day name of the continent Africa.