Powers, War, Violence & Dispute Resolution in Spanish Romanesque

War, Violence and Dispute Resolution in Monastic and Secular Romanesque Art: The Ecclesiastical Message in Spain

James Powers (College of the Holy Cross)

This paper examines the complex messages provided by the decorative arts in Spain and elsewhere in the Mediterranean as a reflection of the turbulence, both internal and external, evident during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.  Despite the message of peace urged by Christ’s Beatitudes, Christian churches of the era depict violent disputes between individuals and groups in a wide array of examples both on the exterior and in the interior of ecclesiastical buildings, much of it in the most visible and didactically important positions of these structures.  Focusing especially on Spain, the paper offers a survey of these examples and the role they played in the instruction of the literate and non-literate audiences who would have viewed them.  The pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela had a major part in connecting France and Spain and their religious and artistic communities, both tied to external conflict by the crusading movement and the conquest of the Islamic south.  In addition, churches became involved in the struggle for power within the domestic nobility, a conflict centering around landed power and patronage.  Furthermore, the church was drawn into individual disagreements through the use of the ordeal by combat to settle legal disputes.  The church reflected all of these forces in the decorative arts, which are reviewed in the presentation.  The paper seeks to evaluate how effectively churchmen formulated a compromise between Christian  peace and the violence of the era.