Adriatic Connections

BSR-BSA Adriatic Connections Fellow Magdalena Skoblar tells us about the ‘Adriatic Connections’ research programme sponsored by the British Academy, an exciting collaboration between the British School at Rome and the British School at Athens.


BSR-BSA Adriatic Connections Fellow Magdalena Skoblar. Photograph by Antonio Palmieri.

‘This January, the BSR hosted a three-day conference on the Adriatic Sea from the seventh century until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. By focusing on the Adriatic as a major channel of communication between the East and West during the ascent and decline of Byzantium, the conference brought together specialists in a wide range of fields such as political and social history, the Crusades, medieval Venice, hagiography, pottery, sigillography, painting and sculpture. The conceptual framework for the conference was the Adriatic as a threshold to Byzantium which was discussed through three interconnected strands: the nature and scope of the Byzantine presence in the Adriatic; the networks of connectivity and exchange that existed between the cities of the Adriatic and Constantinople; and the formation and rise of Venice as a major Adriatic centre. The conference also served as the basis for the publication of the edited volume which will contain the articles resulting from the conducive sessions and discussions, and which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.


The port of Classe near Ravenna, sixth-century mosaic in the basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. Photo courtesy of akg-images / Cameraphoto

The conference formed part of the British Academy sponsored ‘Adriatic Connections’ research programme which has been ongoing since October 2013 as a collaboration between the BSR and the British School at Athens. ‘Adriatic Connections’ was the brainchild of Professor Judith Herrin who, as a member of the BSA’s Committee for the Society, Arts and Letters, identified it as an opportune and exciting research topic. The realisation of her initiative was made possible thanks to the directors of the BSA and BSR, Professor Catherine Morgan and Professor Christopher Smith, who secured the funding through the British Academy Strategic Research Initiative. Apart from the conference, the ‘Adriatic Connections’ research programme was also supported a two-day workshop on the Roman and late Roman Adriatic organised by Dr Ed Bispham (University of Oxford) and Professor Christopher Smith (BSR) which was held at the BSR in October 2014.

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Participants of the ‘Adriatic Connections’ workshop held at the BSR in October 2014. Photograph by Antonio Palmieri.

In addition, as the Adriatic Connections Postdoctoral Research Fellow I have been able for eighteen months to pursue research into the cult of the Virgin Mary in the early medieval Adriatic (from the mid-seventh to the late-eleventh century). This will result in a forthcoming book on the figural sculpture in Dalmatia, and in a number of articles dealing with the cult of Marian icons in Apulia and with the Marian iconography in the Veneto, Ravenna and Rome. The fellowship was hosted primarily in the BSA but concluded with a three-month residency at the BSR.

That the Roman and medieval Adriatic continues to attract considerable scholarly interest is reflected in the fact that Enrico Cirelli, a participant in the ‘Adriatic Connections’ workshop, is organising a conference on the Adriatic in both of these periods. His Transformations of Adriatic Europe 2nd–9th century will be held at Zadar (Croatia) in February 2016. Given that the Adriatic Connections book is scheduled to come out in the same year, there has never been a better moment to work on the fascinating borderland that is the Adriatic’.

Magdalena Skoblar (BSR-BSA Adriatic Connections Fellow 2013-15)