21/11 ACUH Seminar: “Town Halls in the Low Countries (c.1400-1500)” & “The Transformation of Granada into a Christian City (c.1500-1600)”, Nathan van Kleij & Gerard Wiegers

In this seminar, Nathan van Kleij and Gerard Wiegers will present their work in progress on medieval urban history.

Town Halls and Urban Society in the Low Countries, c.1400-1500 (Nathan van Kleij)
The Low Countries in the fourteenth and mainly fifteenth centuries saw the rise of the purpose built town hall and the operation of its interior (public) courtrooms. The buildings facilitated the expanding administrative tasks, in an era of growing legal and political monopoly of urban magistrates. But town halls were also public buildings, frequently visited by various members of urban society. How did historical actors use town halls, which ideas did the buildings embody, and how did their interior organization develop?

This paper will introduce the various themes of my dissertation on the late medieval town hall in Ghent, Aalst, Leiden, Gouda and Haarlem. Studying the buildings from a socio-cultural perspective, it will discuss the spatial design and logic of the buildings; the operation of both open and enclosed spaces and activities; disturbances and regulation; and the semiotics of materiality and iconology. Magistrates aimed to show their legitimacy and ability to manage and monitor the buildings and activities within. Many other visitors searched the boundaries, in behavioral terms, or by entering spaces they were not allowed to. Moreover, the multifunctional use of the building led to many challenges. In other words: the meaning and operation of the town hall was still negotiated. This study accordingly engages broader debates on public and urban space, the agency of built environment and visual elements, and the publicity of legal and political procedures.

Granada: The Difficult Transformation of a Muslim into a Christian city in the Sixteenth Century (Gerard Wiegers)
This paper will discuss the transformation of the Muslim city of Granada between its conquest in 1492 and the end of the sixteenth century. It will analyse the emerging ideology of the Christian conquerors to legitimize the city’s alleged Early Christian roots and new building activities, amongst which the construction of the Cathedral and the transformation of Muslim buildings such as the Alhambra. I will also discuss the forced Christianisation of the Muslim population, and the role of a parchment discovered in the ancient minaret of the Friday Mosque and the so-called Lead Books, which were discovered on the slopes of Mount Valparaíso.

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