Research Trips - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Research Trips

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Research Trips


Crossing Frontiers: Christians and Muslims and their Art in Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus

Research Trips

Crossing Frontiers church in fieldEach research trip lasts nine or ten days. The format of each trip follows a standard pattern, combining visits to monuments where project members present the material and short sessions at the hotel at which participants draw on their own research interests and discuss the larger thematic strands identified by the group.

Our aims are to make first-hand examinations of all the monuments and sites that we visit, so that we can experience them in different lighting conditions, understand how the spaces work, and how they fit their urban or rural locations. Discussions are led by the international core of scholars who are leading the project, but we also ask participants to prepare brief presentations or introductions to particular aspects of the sites, where appropriate. We are particularly interested in the overlaps between cultures – where particular motifs, architects or networks can be traced working across political, religious and cultural borders. Our goal is to consider how monuments can fit into many different art histories that cut across traditional national boundaries of art history. In preparation for the trips we recommend readings which become a lively focus for ideas before and between the trips.

More information and images of the sites visited to date can be found on the Crossing Frontiers image website.

Turkey – July 2016

The first travelling seminar, in July 2016, visited a series of monuments in the eastern half of Turkey. Concentration was on monuments from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a critical period of cultural interaction between all the groups we are interested in. The territory of the Republic of Turkey incorporates the lands ruled by the Seljuk Turks as well as the Roman territories known as Greater Armenia, which still held large Armenian populations in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In addition to the large number of Seljuk and Turkoman cities with important monuments, the group saw a number of major Armenian monuments, notably the old Armenian capital of Ani. The team also spent a day among the Georgian churches in the valleys to the north of Erzurum. Mosques and madrasas, churches and monasteries, mausolea and tombs were all examined, as well as secular structures including bathhouses and caravanserais.

Key sites:

Armenia – September 2016

The second seminar, in September 2016, visited Armenia, which contained a large body of monuments from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, closely tied to contemporary developments among the Seljuks and other Turkic principalities in the region, as well as in Georgia and north-western Iran. Caravanserais with bi-lingual Armenian and Persian inscriptions demonstrate close links also to Iran to the south east. The visit included time in the Matenadaran, the main depository of Armenian manuscripts, many of which were made and illuminated at the sites visited in Turkey and Armenia.

Key sites:

Georgia – September 2017

The third seminar visited Georgia in September 2017, beginning Phase II of the project. Georgia was the dominant power in the Caucasus at the start of the thirteenth century, until the arrival of the Mongols. Traditionally, Georgia has been thought to lie slightly outside the shared visual world of Armenia and Turkey. But emerging evidence (e.g. of stucco from the palace excavated at Rustavi) shows that it was more closely tied than is normally thought. The visit will include study of materials in the National Center for Manuscripts and the National Museum, as well as trips to Ateni, Qintsvisi, Timotesubani, Daba, and the monasteries of the Gareja desert.

Key sites:

Jerusalem – December 2018

The fourth seminar will travel to Jerusalem for seven days in December 2018. Jerusalem is the appropriate final visit for this project. It was the real and imagined world centre for all the groups and cultures that we have been studying; and a concentrated site of interaction between them – with major Christian and Islamic sites built in close proximity to each other. The city and its surroundings also hold important collections of manuscripts and objects produced by and for all these different communities, many of which are visible in local museums but are very poorly published. This trip will be shorter than all three previous trips and confined to Jerusalem and some sites in the West Bank.

Key sites:

  • Armenian quarter
  • Mount of Olives
  • Holy Sepulchre
  • Tower of David/City Walls
  • Temple Mount
  • Rockefeller Museum
  • Wailing wall tunnels
  • Davidson center Archeological park
  • Monastery of Holy Cross
  • Israel Museum
  • LA Mayer Museum of Islamic Art
  • Bethlehem
  • Abu Ghosh
  • Khirbat al-Mafjar
  • Bethany

Although we will try to run the programme following this pattern, sometimes we might have to modify the itinerary, possibly at short notice. This will be to take account of operating issues, local conditions and other factors, and so we have to reserve the right to do this.

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