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As she returned to the Salento in 1415/6, dowager queen of Naples and Countess of Lecce Maria d’Enghien commissioned an extensive fresco cycle in the Franciscan church of Santa Caterina, founded by her first husband three decades earlier in Galatina (Lecce). A translation of Angevin iconography, the murals include a remarkable cycle of the Book of Revelation closely drawn from Neapolitan apocalypses found on panels, murals and manuscripts. These images will be the focus of the talk, which aims to re-centre the experience of the local Greek community in the reception of Santa Caterina’s frescoes.
In the Quattrocento, the Salento (the heel of the Italian boot) was characterised by the presence of both Greek and Latin communities, and Galatina was included in a list of bilingual towns where mass was celebrated in both rites as late as 1577/80. However, these Greek individuals are virtually absent from the secondary literature on Santa Caterina, which has predominantly focused on the aristocratic patrons and the friars. An overly militant interpretation of the foundation bull – it speaks of providing mass in Latin for those who did not speak Greek, not of latinisation -, has also contributed to this omission. My work readdresses this imbalance and argues that, although the Greeks were not involved in the creation of the images, their interpretation of the frescoes is worthy of study as a creative, productive process. To do this, I will place the Apocalypse in communication with the rest of the cycle, and foreground Greek ideas about salvation and eschatology, morality and ritual in my analysis of Santa Caterina’s remarkable frescoes.
Maria Harvey is Rome Fellow 2020-21 at the British School at Rome. After reading History of Art at the University of Cambridge, she completed an MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art on the arts of the medieval Mediterranean, where she became fascinated with southern Italy. Her thesis, at the University of Cambridge, was a monographic study of the church of Santa Caterina at Galatina, in the Salento, with a focus on the relationship between the Greek and the Latin communities. Maria was an Affiliated Lecturer at Cambridge in 2019-20, after having spent a year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow. In New York, she worked on the museum’s Byzantine micromosaic icon of the Virgin Eleousa, and developed a second project on Simone Martini and Filippo Sangineto, lord of Altomonte in Calabria. Maria is interested in questions about the relationship between art and identity, broadly understood, including the ‘Questione Meridionale’, the meaning of visual languages and how engagement with art is central to the articulation and production of (personal, communal, confessional, etc) identity.