The Mystery of the Marble Man and His Hat: A Reconsideration of the Bari Episcopal Throne

Rowan W. Dorin


The iconographic programme of the episcopal throne in the basilica of San Nicola in Bari, Italy, has proven tenaciously enigmatic, particularly on account of the central figure on the throne’s base, whose identity has so far eluded scholars. This article reinterprets the Bari throne in light of late eleventh-century ecclesiastical politics, notes artistic echoes within the Adriatic, and demonstrates the crucial importance of contemporary Fatimid art to an understanding of the central figure likely to be intended to represent a Muslim. The throne is, thus, reconceived as the expression of a dialogue between a crusading pope and a consolidating prelate, as a response to the social upheaval prompted by the Norman conquest of southern Italy, and as new evidence for cross-Mediterranean cultural contacts at the dawn of the Crusades.

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