The ocean in the Middle Ages: practices, imaginary and representations

Paulo Catarino Lopes (FCSH/NOVA-FCT)
Bloco 1, Sala 1.12
Start time:
14 July, 2017 at 16:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel intends to answer fundamental questions related to the way of conceiving the ocean and the practices associated with it during the Middle Ages, particularly in the centuries that preceded and inaugurated the movement of Iberian discovery and expansion (12th to 15th centuries).

Long abstract:

How was the ocean conceptualized in the Middle Ages? More specifically, how was this element conceived in the beginnings of Portuguese medieval history when, in the 12th century, the new peninsular kingdom affirmed itself as the most western of the frontiers of rural Christianity against urban and mercantile Islam? And how did this vision evolve in the Iberian panorama until the time of the great oceanic voyages that marked the broad movement of the Iberian discoveries and expansion? What practices and motivations defined the relation of the contemporaneous man of these centuries to the oceanic element? What is its nature, constancy, distinctive features and forms of material expression? The 12th and 13th centuries witness the affirmation of a non-exclusive Portuguese effort to Christianize the sea and its consequent integration into the Christian orb - safe and orderly. This effort has been felt throughout Christendom, in parallel with the resumption of urban life and the consolidation of European territorial expansion towards the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Thus, while Christianity was transposing its shade of continental and rural civilization, surrounded by antagonistic maritime peoples who disputed and cut off access to the sea, and defined itself as a space open to the great maritime and mercantile routes, about to recover part of its old urban profile, it gains an increasingly irreversible weight the modern look on the oceanic vastness. From cartography to trade, the most diverse areas of late medieval human life gradually alter its vision and relation with the ocean.