History of the World in Objects and Art

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History of the World in Objects and Art Timeline

Since its earliest times, the Christian Church had been subject to disputes over what constituted orthodoxy— a claim to be the true Church with an unbroken link to the faith, doctrine, and practices of the ancient Church. Within the Byzantine Church a rift developed over the use of icons— painted images of Christ, the saints, and the Virgin Mary. Veneration of icons occupied a central role in Byzantine Christianity, and especially in popular devotion. However, some theologians were uneasy about prayers being directed toward the icons, claiming it verged on worship and therefore amounted to idolatry. In 726, Emperor Leo III issued an edict forbidding the veneration of images, a measure confirmed by his successor, Constantine V, at the Church council in Hieria in 754. For a century, the Byzantine Church was torn apart by the doctrinal dispute between those who were opposed to the icons (the iconoclasts) and those who favored their use (the iconodules). There were violent episodes of icon-smashing and persecution of iconodules in the army.

The icons were restored in the 780s, but opposition to icons (iconoclasm) returned in 815. Only the accession of Michael III in 843, with his mother the iconodule Theodora as regent, led to the restoration of the icons, an occasion celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox churches as the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Icons came to occupy an even more important position in Byzantine Christianity, with images of the saints and episodes from the life of the Virgin Mary adorning every church. Smaller icons also found an honored place in every household.

The armies of Islam conquered much of the Middle East and North Africa in the 7th and 8th centuries. This mixing of cultures created a powerful fusion of new religious ideas and existing traditions, producing original political and artistic visions.
A caliphate was an Islamic state ruled by a caliph—a religious and political leader who was a successor to Muhammed and other prophets. The Umayyad caliphate was based in Damascus, from where its power extended west to Morocco.

As they moved into areas that had been controlled by the Byzantines, local craftsmen built mosques for the Umayyads in a style following Byzantine architectural traditions. In 750, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads and created Baghdad as the new capital. They were patrons of the arts and also cultivated scientific knowledge. Meanwhile, in 909, the Fatimid dynasty established itself in Tunisia, and went on to conquer Egypt, making Cairo their capital. Internal revolts and the Crusades weakened their empire, which ended in 1171. In 1258, Baghdad was sacked by the Mongols, by which point Abbasid power had already waned in the Islamic World.

The Conquest of Mecca

The Islamic lands of southern Spain and Maghreb (northwest Africa) developed distinctive political and artistic traditions. The fusion of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian ideas in southern Spain led to great scientific and cultural achievements.
Islamic rule was established in Spain in 711. In 929, Abd ar-Rahman III of the Umayyad dynasty set up a caliphate there. The caliphs patronized art and literature, especially poetry, and built a number of mosques. Jewish and Christian communities were tolerated in the Umayyad Empire, and this combination of traditions produced the unique culture of Islamic Spain, or al-Andalus. In 1031, civil war destroyed the Umayyad caliphate. It was replaced by the Almoravids and Almohads— more austere dynasties from Morocco (part of Maghreb).

Meanwhile, Christian Spanish kingdoms made steady progress in their campaigns to reclaim the peninsula. By 1238, only the Nasrids of Granada survived to build the great Alhambra, before they were conquered by the rulers of Castile and Aragon in 1492.

The Rebellion of An Lushan

The Coronation of Charlemagne

The Coronation of Charlemagne

The Coronation of Charlemagne