September 16, 2009

Naples, Normans & Nabbings

By the twilight of the first millennium, the isles in the Bay of Naples had become demonstrably Greek at heart and passed over to the jurisdiction of Naples, which at long last had declared independence from Byzantium.

Naples’ autocratic rule, however, was short lived on account of the expansionism of the Normans (short for ‘Northmen’), a Scandinavian tribe and descendents of the Vikings, who had settled northern France.

The first exposure that I had to a true-to-life Norman was in my senior year of college, during which time I roomed with a brilliant exchange student from Normandy. His ancestors were valiant warriors, who, in the 12th century, gained a foothold in all of southern Italy through the mediation of the duke of Naples, who had solicited the Normans to exact revenge on an enemy and drive out the Arabs from Sicily.

But the duke’s scheme backfired. In 1139, Naples was annexed to the Norman monarchy whose capital was conveniently set up in Sicily on the remains of an eroding society, which the Normans imbued with new economic vigor. The Kingdom of Sicily, which comprised the southern half of the Italian peninsula, was born.

Every component of civil life, including customs and language, had long been fused to the religious life that the Greek Byzantine Church had propagated in Naples and its island-specked bay.

Thus, when Naples pledged allegiance to its new landlords, who were the land tenants of the Roman papacy, a vibrant campaign to Latinize the Church and religious life was set on foot. Clashes on doctrine and debates over the theology rocked the established order, spinning off liturgical and monastic reforms.

With the disembarkation of every intruder, a renewed wave of decimation, punishment, and torture (retribution for our ancestors’ loyalty to the previous regime) crashed on the shores of the islands.

Such was the case in 1194 when the scepter was then conferred to the Swabian emperors, better known as the Hohenstaufens of southwest Germany. The Italian peninsula was torn from the top to toe over the issue of authority as the Pope and the “Germanized” Holy Roman Empire competed for power.

Under both the Normans and the reign of Germanic kings, the Kingdom of Sicily, Naples, and the isles were imbued with various Gothic influences. Gothic men wore tunic-like “cotes” with tight sleeves. Knee-length and party-colored, these garments sported belts with elaborate buckles. Hats consisted of hoods or conical caps.

Eventually the tunic gave way to the doublet, a snug-fitting buttoned jacket. A shorter version of the tunic also developed, the cotehardie, which was buttoned down the front and covered the buttocks.

A square male silhouette was introduced through cloaks and mantles of the times. Tights were worn on the legs, while shoes were low cut. Hair was cut in a jaw-length bob with bangs.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
Several designers have looked to the medieval knight for their 2010 inspiration, creating tops that resemble a coat of mail—the cumbersome armor that was formed into a mesh with thousands of tiny metal rings. Adapted versions for 2010 include chunky-knit sweaters, mesh shirts and tees, and perforated garments.

Eventually the mail was replaced by the coat of armor, which consisted of full-body plates of metal. For more reading on these influences in 2010, please refer to my articles Tonight is the Knight I and II with Ontrfont and Knights in Armor by Asger Juel Larsen.

Although developed in later periods, hose were worn by men in this period, just like the leggings that are gaining popularity for 2010! It so turns out that, what we consider feminine today, was not feminine at all in the past!

Photo top left, Ruggiero II the Norman, Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.
Photo middle right, Knights in Armor, Copyright
Asger Juel Larsen.
Photo middle left, Frederick II Hohenstaufen Duke of Swabia, Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.
Photo bottom center, Castel Nuovo or Maschio Angioino, port of Naples, Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.

1 comment:

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