In the Syrian Taste: Crusader churches in the Latin East as architectural expressions of orthodoxy

In the Syrian Taste: Crusader churches in the Latin East as architectural expressions of orthodoxy

By Susan Balderstone

Mirabilia, Vol. 10 (2010)

Abstract: This paper explores how the architectural expression of orthodoxy in the Eastern churches was transferred to Europe before the Crusades and then reinforced through the Crusaders’ adoption of the triple-apsed east end “in the Syrian Taste” in the Holy Land. Previously, I have shown how it can be deduced from the archaeological remains of churches from the 4th-6th C that early church architecture was influenced by the theological ideas of the period. It is proposed that the Eastern orthodox approach to church architecture as adopted by the Crusaders paralleled the evolution of medieval theology in Europe and can be seen as its legitimate expression.

Introduction: Pope Urban II hoped the Crusade that he instigated in 1095 would be an instrument for promoting unity between Rome and the Eastern Orthodox churches. His legate Adhemar recognized Symeon II as the lawful head of the Jerusalem Church, in full communion with the western church. The other main groups of eastern Christians, the Armenians, Jacobites and Maronites, were regarded as schismatics by the Latins and were granted virtual religious autonomy. The Latin clergy’s position under Adhemar’s settlement was analogous to that of Latin clergy in Jerusalem who served the needs of western pilgrims before the first crusade. Once Adhemar was dead, the crusader leaders suggested that the pope himself should occupy the throne of S. Peter at Antioch: they believed it improper that an Orthodox bishop should exercise spiritual authority over Catholics and appointed a Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.

The Crusaders found the shrine churches of the Holy Land either destroyed during the reign of Caliph al-Hakim (996-1021) or decayed due to long neglect. In Jerusalem, they undertook a major rebuilding campaign aimed at restoring the places associated with Christ’s life and teaching. In other places they built new churches to replace earlier chapels at pilgrimage sites.

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