KUSHCH T.V. The Tunic of Christ and the Crown Jewels: Relics in the Byzantine Diplomacy of the Fourteenth Century

DOI: https://doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2021.6.14

Tatiana V. Kushch

Doctor of Sciences (History), Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Ancient and Medieval History,

Ural Federal University,

Prosp. Lenina, 51, 620000 Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation;

Chief Researcher,

Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

Prosp. Leninsky, 32a, 119334 Moscow, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. This article discusses the “reliquary diplomacy” introduced by Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos during the Ottoman siege of Constantinople (1394–1402). The emperor widely used the relics in the creation of the anti-Ottoman alliance. This article addresses a specific case of this diplomatic practice, Manuel II Palaiologos’ request to Venice for a loan for the deposit on the Tunic of Christ and other relics.

Methods. From the juxtaposition of sources and the comparative analysis of the fourteenth-century relations between Byzantium and Venice there are good reasons to discover the motives behind the Venetians’ denial of the emperors’ proposal.

Analysis. After 1261 Constantinople kept numerous relics, particularly the Seamless Tunic of Christ and the Purple Robe. The sources in possession do not allow an unequivocal conclusion if the artifact offered to the Venetians was the Seamless Tunic or another one. In the author’s interpretation, the reason of Venice’s withdrawal from the deal was the empire’s bad “credit history.” In August 1343, the Senate of Venice gave credit of 30,000 gold ducats to the Empress Anna of Savoy for the deposit of the jewels of the crown. The Venetians permanently reminded Byzantium about the repayment of the debt and the ransom for the jewels, and, moreover, offered to take the island of Tenedos as a compensation. Therefore, the unsolved problem of the old debt made the new deal with the emperor hopeless in the Venetians’ eyes.

Results. The case under analysis sheds light on the state of the Empire in the late fourteenth century. Manuel II Palaiologos put into the “diplomatic circulation” the relics which were convertible in the Christian West. The failure of his negotiations with Venice turned him to active search for other allies, whom he sent parts of the Tunic of Christ in order to gain their military and financial support.

Key words: Late Byzantium, Venice, Manuel II Palaiologos, relics, reliquary diplomacy.

Citation. Kushch T.V. The Tunic of Christ and the Crown Jewels: Relics in the Byzantine Diplomacy of the Fourteenth Century. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2021, vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 161-170. (in Russian). DOI: https://doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2021.6.14.

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The Tunic of Christ and the Crown Jewels: Relics in the Byzantine Diplomacy of the Fourteenth Century by Kushch T.V. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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