Contact: Helen Damico 277-7448 or
Carolyn Gonzales 277-5920

March 6, 2001


The University of New Mexico Institute for Medieval Studies presents its 16th annual spring lecture series Monday, March 19 through Thursday, March 22. Titled "Medieval Spain: Land of Three Cultures," the series brings international experts to address topics such as music, sculpture, art, medieval science and more.

All lectures will be held in Woodward Hall room 101 and are free and open to the public.

"Seven separate lectures are offered, providing an extensive picture of the interaction of Spain's three cultures and religions: Arabic/Islamic, European/Christian and Hebrew/Jewish," says Helen Damico, director, Institute for Medieval Studies. Some of the focus areas for the lectures are musical traditions, manuscript art, scientific traditions and exchange between cultures as well as artistic and architectural achievements.

The Iberian Peninsula - Spain and Portugal, and most of Western Europe, was invaded many times through the Middle Ages. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century, Iberia experienced its most significant invasion, that of the Muslim people who first came as invading armies and later as settlers who called their kingdom al-Andalus.

The Arabic rule began with the conquest of 711 and lasted in some areas of Spain until the Spanish Christian Reconquest in 1492, under Ferdinand and Isabella. "During those 700 years, the peninsula was home to often conflicting but also intensely interactive cultures, the Islamic, the Christian and the Jewish, whose interwoven fates during this period can still be seen in the literary and artistic legacy they left to us in architecture, art, mathematics, philosophy, science and literature. Those achievements set the cultural level of medieval Spain and Portugal far above that of the west of western Europe," says Damico.

The abilities and traditions of medieval Iberia's three religious cultures gave us such achievements as the Alhambra, the Cantigas de Santa María and the music of the Sephardic Jews. "While we should not underestimate the tensions and struggles of this multifarious Iberian culture, its ability to bring different groups together productively offers an important instance of tolerance and multiculturalism in an age often remembered for its oppressive intolerance," says Damico.

Monday, March 19, 7 p.m. "Frontier Society in the Land of Three Religions: Medieval Spain Before the Discovery of America," presented by Joseph F. O'Callaghan

O'Callaghan, a Fulbright scholar from Fordham University and one of the leading scholars of medieval Spain in the United States, offers a perspective of Spain as a frontier land divided between the Muslims and Christians during the medieval age. He will describe the Muslims in power over the Christians and Jews until the late 12th century when the balance of power shifted in favor of the Christians. He will present evidence of the interactions of the three groups and how Muslim and Jewish philosophy influenced western Christian philosophy.

Tuesday, March 20, 3:30 p.m. "Alfonso X, the Learned, and the Cantigas de Santa María: A Personal Testament," presented by Joseph O'Callaghan.

The Cantigas de Santa María, a collection of miracle stories from Europe, is a personal testament of King Alfonso X of Castile, known as el sabio, the Wise or the Learned. O'Callaghan will discuss Alfonso's declaration that he was Mary's troubadour and that he chose Mary as his advocate before the judgment seat of God in the hope that she would help him gain eternal salvation. Alfonso gathered more than 400 cantigas written in verse and accompanied by musical annotation and colorful illustrations. O'Callaghan will describe how the king turned to the Virgin Mary for consolation and protection and that he believed he would triumph over his enemies and be saved from the fires of hell.

Tuesday, March, 20 7. p.m. "Nationalism and Internationalism in the Art of Reconquest Spain," presented by Elizabeth Valdez del Alamo.

Valdez del Alamo, a specialist in the art of medieval Spain, is an associate professor of Art History in the Department of Fine Arts at Montclair State University in New Jersey. She will discuss how the Iberian peninsula, because of its position west of Europe and the Mediterranean, was in contact with Europe, North Africa and the Near East, all areas of multiple cultures. Valdez del Alamo will illustrate the ways the art of medieval Spain embodied the political and spiritual needs of its populace. Emphasis will be placed on Christian art, particularly on the royal promotion of the cult of saints.

Wednesday, March 21, 4 p.m. "The Transmission of Arabic Science in Latin and Hebrew," presented by Thomas F. Glick.

Glick, professor of history and director of the Institute for Medieval History at Boston University, is a trained Arabist specifically in the areas of the transmission of science, technology and institutions from the Muslim world to Christian Europe via medieval Spain.

Glick will explain how Greek science and philosophy was translated into Arabic in the ninth and 10th centuries and that this was the start of a cultural movement in the 12th and 13th centuries when the same body of knowledge, added to by the Arabs, was translated into Latin and the Romance Languages, primarily in Spain. Glick will present ideas about the important social and political motives behind them.

Wednesday, March 21, 7 p.m. "Women and Musical Transmission in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Cultures," presented by Judith Cohen.

Cohen, a scholar and performer of Sephardic music and a member of the graduate faculty at York University in Toronto, discusses how the multiculturalism of medieval Iberia led to both the exchange of ideas in science and philosophy as well as the intermingling of musical forms and traditions. Cohen will address women's roles in musical transmission in all three cultures of medieval Iberia.

Thursday, March 22, 3:30 p.m. "Music of Spanish Borderlands," presented by Judith Cohen.

Cohen continues the discussion of the intermingling of musical forms and traditions and addresses the ethnomusicology of Crypto-Jewish border regions in Portugal and Spain and how the music had its origins in the culture and diversity that defined medieval Iberia.

Thursday, March 22, 7 p.m. "The Royal Palaces of the Alhambra and Cultural Identity," presented by Eva Hoffman.

The final lecture focuses on one of the greatest monuments to medieval Islamic architecture in the world, the Alhambra, the most well known monument in Spain. Hoffman, assistant professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Tufts University and teacher of Islamic art, Orientalism and portable arts, describes the Alhambra as an example of 14th century Islamic court art and how the Alhambra exploits the two essential components of Islamic art - calligraphy and ornament.

"The multiple cultures of medieval Spain, and their interaction, was intensely productive. It reminds us of what is possible in a society that is able to welcome, value and make use of the varied contributions of its people, rather than limiting cultural participation on the basis of race or religion," says Damico.

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