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Negotiating the Sacred: Byzantium, Venice and the True Cross in Late Medieval Venice

Negotiating the Sacred: Byzantium, Venice and the True Cross in Late Medieval Venice

Paper by Holger Klein

Given at the International Center of Medieval Art, on February 18, 2015

Introduction: Separated from each other by almost a thousand nautical miles, yet inextricably linked to one another by a long history of political, commercial and cultural interactions, the Byzantine capital Constantinople and Venice were arguably the most prosperous and culturally refined cities in the medieval Mediterranean. Venice, as Dr. Nicol once noted, was born a province of the Byzantine empire, grew into an ally, came of age as a partner, and matured as the owner of extensive colonial possessions within the disintegrated structure of the Byzantine world. But not only in terms of its political, commercial and cultural ambition did Venice mature from an ally to a partner to a powerful rival of Byzantium, also a collector and guardian of sacred objects did Venice compete with and eventually supersede the Byzantine empire and its capital.

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