Madrid and its surprises by Corinne Mühlemann

The forecast predicted rain. Madrid’s sun was the first surprise we encountered on this trip. We felt as if the winter is gone. While enjoying the sun we were thinking about the workshop Dialogues in the Late Medieval Mediterranean: Methodological Encounters and (Dis)Encounters which was organized by the Cost Action Islamic Legacy: Narratives East, West, South, North of the Mediterranean and should take place the following day.

The workshop was held at the Casa Árabe, the second surprise. Al-bait al-‛arabī is a meeting point between Spain and the Arab world in Madrid as well as Córdoba. It exists since 2006 and allows different institutions, private as well as public, to dialogue and interact. The location was perfectly chosen by the organizers since our discussions were diverse ranging from Mudejar inscriptions to Cyrillic script on Ottoman diplomatic documents to medieval textiles from Iberia. The researchers themselves showed a wide geographical range too, from as far as Croatia and Serbia in the East to the US in the West. This variety in topics as well as in different methodological approaches enriched our discussions in many ways. It was just the perfect surrounding to present our thoughts about the transfer of craft knowledge between Baghdad, al-Andalus and Norther Europe on the basis of the Niello technique for metalwork and the Lampas weave for textiles. Furthermore, this workshop enabled us to think about a future workshop Global Horizons will organize in 2021 together with Antonio Urquízar and Borja Franco (both UNED, Madrid) from the Cost Action.

The third and last surprise certainly was the special exhibition Las artes del metal en al-Ándalus at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional. We were able to see one of the Niello objects discussed in our paper. Seeing this casket in front of us created further questions about its marvelous making. How discussions in front of objects enrich our thinking is something we will keep in mind for the preparation of our workshop in 2021.

Metal Work in Al-Andalus – exhibition architecture made of metalwork