Medieval Tents as Locations of Power in the Context of Crusades

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University Club, Room 212
@ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

image of 13th century painted miniature depicting fighting knights on horses in the top section and two people playing chess within a tent in the bottom section.
Image: Miniature by an anonymous artist, c. 1287, from Boulogne-sur-mer – Bibliothèque Municipale – Ms 142 Guillaume de Tyr, Histoire d’Outremer, Saint-Jean d’Acre. Top: John II Komnenos in the siege of Shaizar (1138). Bottom: Raymond of Poitiers Count of Antioch and Josselin II Count of Edessa playing chess.

Monday Seminar:

Elizabeth Lapina

Resident Fellow (2019-2020)

History, UW-Madison


The Eastern Mediterranean during the period of crusades was a crucial “contact zone” where Western Christians, Eastern Christians, Muslims, and Jews interacted in a variety of ways, both on and off the battlefield. The talk will explore this “contact zone” from a new and perhaps surprising perspective: through an examination of the Western elites’ uses of tents. Made of cloth and hence highly perishable, medieval tents have not survived to this day. Perhaps for this reason, historians tend to underestimate the crucial role that they played in the lives of medieval aristocrats. This role was not merely practical, as protection from the elements, but also symbolic. The talk will address the question of how medieval nobility used tents to proclaim their power, to defend their authority and to undermine the prestige of their rivals and enemies.

Elizabeth Lapina is an Associate Professor at the History Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interests revolve around crusades, medieval historical writing, and visual culture. She is the author of a monograph, Warfare and the Miraculous in the Chronicles of the First Crusade, and is a co-editor of two volumes, The Uses of the Bible in Crusader Sources and The Crusades and Visual Culture.