Stereotomy of the Late-Medieval Mediterranean. Crossroads of Experimental Design

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Abstract

This paper analyses some specific case studies of vault and spiral staircase construction built in Sicily in the 12th and 13th centuries during Norman and Swabian rule, as a site of experimenta-tion in the field of stereotomy. The list of such examples still extant (in Palermo some details of the cathedral, the muqarnas in the Zisa Palace and its palatine chapel – the first stone muqarnas in the Mediterranean -, in Syracuse and Catania the castles built during the reign of Frederick II, etc) must be considered in conjunction with similar constructions, now lost or ruined, especially by earthquakes (eg. the intriguing Hall of Syracuse and Mongialino Castle). Among these exam-ples are buildings of great interest, though almost unknown, that can be connected with the sud-den appearance of innovative solutions in western stone architecture. Descriptions and travellers’ diaries, as well as the buildings themselves reveal clues that could help solve some unanswered questions about the origin and development of European stereotomy It is the aim of this paper to argue that the largest islands of the Mediterranean, such as Sicily, acted as bridges between East and West and contributed significantly to the subsequent flowering of stereotomy in the Early Modern period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages239-246
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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