Masons at Work

Heather Grossman
University of Illinois at Chicago
On Transmission and the Practice of Building in the Crusader Mediterranean
This paper considers the problem of the transmission of architectural knowledge amongst architectural ateliers in the Eastern Mediterranean at the time of the Crusades. Crusader architecture has long been regarded as a hybrid of western European forms with local design practices, often giving considerable agency to the Latin patrons of church buildings in the Syro-Palestinian, Cypriot and mainland Greek crusader contexts. This paper seeks to re-inscribe the role of masons and other related craftsmen into the creation of buildings that outwardly look "Western" but, upon close examination, are shown to exhibit far more mixed and nuanced systems of construction, structure and even decoration. The buildings themselves reveal the local and imported architectural practices involved in their planning, wall construction and vaulting, filling gaps where texts are silent or do not exist. Furthermore, the siting of groups of churches, linked either physically in the landscape or through patronage networks, demonstrate the circulation of workshops and their construction and design practices across geographical regions. Such movement allowed for the transmission and growth of architectural knowledge throughout the eastern Mediterranean in the period, breaking down distinctions between 'Western' or 'Byzantine' building practices.

Dr. Grossman’s work will be published will appear shortly as: Heather E. Grossman, "On Memory, Transmission and the Practice of Building in the Crusader Mediterranean." In Mechanisms of Exchange: Transmission in Medieval Art and Architecture of the Mediterranean, ca. 1000-1500, eds. Heather E. Grossman and Alicia Walker. Special Issue of Medieval Encounters, 18, no. 4-5 (December, 2012): 481-517.