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Cultural Interactions in the Medieval Subcaucasian Region: Historiographical and Art-Historical Perspectives

English title Cultural Interactions in the Medieval Subcaucasian Region: Historiographical and Art-Historical Perspectives
Applicant Bacci Michele
Number 197295
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Domaine Histoire de l'art et Archéologie Département des sciences historiques Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Visual arts and Art history
Start/End 01.01.2021 - 31.12.2023
Approved amount 631'383.00
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Keywords (7)

Medieval Cultures; Art & religious practices; Intercultural Intractions; Subcaucasian Region; Sacred space; Historiography

Lay Summary (German)

Das Projekt zielt darauf ab, die mittelalterliche Kunst der kaukasischen, den heutigen Gebieten von Georgien, Aserbaidschan, Armenien und Osttürkei entsprechenden Länder aus historiographischer und historisch-anthropologischer Perspektive zu untersuchen.
Lay summary

Einerseits wird eine Analyse kunsthistorischer Schriften der Region durchgeführt, mit Schwerpunkt auf dem russischen Kolonialdiskurs in der Herrschaftszeit; den Beschreibungen der künstlerischen Monumente und ihres Wertes durch westliche Reisende im 19. und 20.Jh.; den sowjetischen Anmerkungen zur Gegend; der Osmanischen und Türkischen Betrachtung der Kunstproduktion der Region (bis c. 1990).

Die zweite Hauptachse der Untersuchung wird sich mit den Dynamiken befassen, durch welche im Sub-Kaukasus spezifische Formgruppen, Objektarten und mit anderen Kulturen assoziierte Muster angeeignet, transformiert und an lokale Kontexte angepasst wurden. Der Fokus liegt dabei sowohl auf allgemein geteilten wie auch auf spezifisch auszeichnenden Elementen, die mittelalterlichen liturgisch genutzten Bauwerken zu Grunde liegen. Jene werden hier als räumlich relationale, zu erfahrende, performative Strategien angesehen, die der Inszenierung einer Interaktion mit dem Göttlichen durch Riten, Gottesdienst und Anbetung einer Gemeinschaft dienen. Besondere Aufmerksamkeit wird gelten: a) dem sich wandelnden Bezug zwischen innerer Aufteilung der Kirchen und liturgischem Brauch; b) den Auswirkungen der liturgischen Hierarchisierung des Raumes auf die Ausformung von Architektur und figürlicher Ausstattung; c) den Wegen in welchen das Aufgreifen analoger Muster zur Ausformung sowohl ähnlicher wie auch andersartiger Räume und Bilder beitrug.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.10.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
173395 Georgien als Treffpunkt der mittelalterlichen Kunst 01.04.2017 International Exploratory Workshops


The main objective of this Lead agency project is to investigate exchanges and interactions between the medieval cultures of present-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, including monuments in Eastern Anatolia, now in Turkey. The project, dealt with in synergy by a Czech and a Swiss team, will focus on a complex understanding of the cultural contacts characterising these geographical spaces from the 5th to the 13th century, within a “global” dialogue, and is expected to have an impact on both the scholarly domain and a wider audience.The main issue with such an endeavour is a series of historiographical layers preventing a confident analysis of the material, visual, and ritual cultures of this area. Indeed, the cultures of the Caucasian and Sub-Caucasian regions (Zekiyan 1996) have had a complex and contested history throughout the period of modern art history’s existence. Its historical situation has led to multiple colonial interests. In the 19th century, for two centuries, the region was divided between the Russian Empire and its Ottoman counterpart. Later, it was torn between the USSR and Turkey. Under the USSR, three formal states appeared - Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia - which became independent nation states only in 1991. This condition had its roots in the medieval period, when the different states somewhat corresponded to the present ones. To make this situation even more complex, Eastern Anatolia was from 1915 to 1921 the setting of an event that is considered by many states, including Switzerland and the Czech Republic, a genocide. Subsequently, medieval monuments were destroyed or heavily damaged in the region, probably by the Turkish army. An art historical problem thus also touches on contemporary history. However, looking at a map where medieval Armenia, Albania, and Georgia are superposed at the moment of their greatest expansion, we are forced to consider that almost half of the described territory was, at a certain point, shared. Moreover, considering the monuments from the period under investigation, many connecting elements appear throughout the region and point out that a constant dialogue occurred throughout the Middle Ages. Real differences of a political, religious, or linguistic nature were thus united by a series of coherences in visual and material culture.The panorama described above determines this project. The two teams involved will be working together on two main lines of study, intrinsically linked. I) A historiographical analysis of art historical writings on the region will be carried out, with a special focus on: a) Russian colonial discourse during the Imperial period, especially after the creation of the overarching unit of the Viceroyalty of the Southern Caucasus; b) the description of artistic monuments and their value by Western travellers during the 19th and early 20th centuries; c) Soviet observations on the art of the region; d) the Ottoman and Turkish outlook on the artistic production of Eastern Anatolia (until c. 1990). II) The second main line of research will investigate the dynamics by which specific sets of forms, object-types, and patterns associated with other cultures were appropriated, transformed, and adapted to local contexts in the Subcaucasian area. The focus will be on both the shared and distinctive elements underlying the making of Medieval liturgical buildings, here interpreted as spatial-relational, experiential, and performative strategies for the mise-en-scène of a community’s interaction with the divine sphere through rite, collective worship, and devotion. A special emphasis will be laid on a) the shifting relation between the inner arrangement of churches and the adoption of liturgies associated with Jerusalemite, Constantinopolitan, or other usages; b) the impact of the liturgical hierarchization of spaces on the shaping of architectural and figurative décors; c) the prominent role played by buildings associated with the Jerusalem holy sites erected during the so-called 7th-century golden age; d) the ways in which the adoption of analogous patterns lead to the shaping of both similar and dissimilar spaces.