The Mystic Cave

A History of the Nativity Church at Bethlehem

Michele Bacci
Each book of the series, will be created by a different young artist designer - the first issue was conceived by Anna Kelblová
Collana: Convivia, 1
Pubblicazione: 2017
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Edizione cartacea
pp. 321, 14,50x22 cm, hardback
ISBN: 9788867288199
€ 70,00 -15% € 59,50
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The present work is the first monographic book published in English, since 1910, on the history of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. In comparison to other Holy Land monuments, the latter underwent relatively minor alterations in the course of time: spared from the destructions that affected other holy sites, such as the Holy Sepulchre, the basilica at Bethlehem stands out for its still well preserved architecture, dating from the late 6th century, and its exuberant mosaic décors completed in 1169, in the period of Crusader rule in Palestine. This book offers a general description of the vicissitudes of the holy site since its very beginnings in Late Antiquity until the present times, with a special focus on the ways in which the complex relationship between the underground holy site, the Nativity cave housing the very spot of Christ’s birthplace and the manger, and the sumptuously decorated upper church came to be variously negotiated in the course of time by means of different forms of mise-en-scène. The book is accompanied by a rich apparatus of colour illustrations, plans, and a bibliographic annex.

  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter I: The Beginnings and the First Mise-en-Scène (2nd-6th Centuries)
    • Experiencing the Holy in a Cave
    • The Birth of Jesus’ Birthplace
    • The First Mise-en-Scène of the Holy Cave (ca. 330 – End of the Sixth Century)
    • The Church of Constantine and Helena
    • The Earliest Decoration of the Church Interior
    • The Nativity Church and its Topographic Network
  • Chapter II: The Second Mise-en-Scène (6th-11th Centuries)
    • Destruction and Reconstruction in the Sixth Century
    • Most Noble Apses and Glittering Columns
    • The Superposition of Sacred Space and Holy Site
    • Site-Bound Religious Experience in a New Setting
    • Visual Markers in the Church Decorum
    • The Bethlehem Masjid: The New Setting of the South Transept Under Islamic Rule
    • The Myth of Bethlehem in the Latin West
    • Bethlehem Under Fatimid Rule
  • Chapter III: The Third Mise-en-Scène Under Latin Rule (11th-12th Centuries)
    • The Crusaders in Bethlehem and the Latin Appropriation of the Holy Site
    • The First Painted Decorum
    • A Byzantine-Latin “Joint Venture”
    • Master Ephraim and his Workshop
    • The Decoration Program of the Nave
    • Mosaics in the East End
    • Embellishing the Holy Cave
  • Chapter IV: Protected by God: The Nativity Church from Saladin’s Conquest to the Present Day (12th-20th Centuries)
    • Saladin, the Second Latin Rule (1229 –1244), and a New Phase of Pilgrimage
    • Expanding the Topographic Network (Late Thirteenth to Early Sixteenth Centuries)
    • From the Mamlukes to the Ottomans
  • Epilogue
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Michele Bacci

Michele Bacci, Professor of Medieval Art History at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, is the author of several publications on the cultural and art-historical contacts of East and West in the Middle Ages and on the history of the religious practices associated with cult-objects and holy sites. His books include Il pennello dell’Evangelista (1998), Pro remedio animae (2000), Lo spazio dell’anima (2005), San Nicola il Grande Taumaturgo (2009) and The Many Faces of Christ (2014). He is editor-in-chief of the periodical Iconographica.

Anna Kelblová

Anna Kelblová was trained as graphic designer at the High School of Art and Design and as art historian at the Masaryk University in Brno. She designed several books, logos and posters, and since December 2015, she is a member of the graphics team of the international journal Convivium. Exchanges and Interactions in the Arts of Medieval Europe, Byzantium, and the Mediterranean. Seminarium Kondakovianum Series Nova. In March 2017, she conceived and designed the first issue of Convivia: a book by Michele Bacci entitled The Mystic Cave. A History of the Nativity Church at Bethlehem, published between Brno and Rome.

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