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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

a) Bringing the Middle Ages to life

3) Reframing the Crusades: the representation of space, landscape and architecture in the comics series Croisade

Sandra Gorgievski

Texte intégral

1By nature the chivalric myth of the Crusades allows for the fertile representation of space with the appearance of varied mirabilia. In both medieval and contemporary culture, defamiliarization in space frames the imagined relationship with the other in fantasized views of the East. This paper addresses ways the creative imagination functions in the contemporary Belgian comics series Croisade by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Xavier (First Cycle). The Third Crusade following Saladin’s 1187 conquest of Jerusalem provides a tentative historical reference point as well as mythical patterns of the rise and fall of ambitious individuals, the splitting of political alliances, deadly religious feuds, divided loyalties, and the disregard of family ties. For the authors, designing an imaginary space seems to have entailed representing a highly personalized period, calling on the imagery of contemporary postmodern heroic fantasy as well as nineteenth-century Orientalism. Far from reducing space and architecture through pseudo-historical re-creation of the past, they foster a self-reflexive vision of competing universes, from the Celtic to the ancient Roman, from the Moorish to the Gothic. The cultural relativism of our contemporary era seems more relevant than any attempt to historicize faithfully the otherwise fictional plot.

2According to Dalibor Vesely, the fragmented state of society and the splintered identities of our technology-dominated contemporary era represent a fascinating challenge for space designers. Beyond the physiognomy of buildings, representing space concerns our relation with architecture and space. The result is a complex framework of references shifting the traditional medieval cosmological conception of space as a highly ordered, understandable universe with an easily identifiable symbolism recognized and shared by all, to more fragmented, historical conceptions representative of the twenty-first-century malaise.

3These remarks will examine how these comic books exploit the visual evidence of space as what Michel Foucault has described as “heterotopias”: either emblematic natural sites like the desert as a privileged, sacred place without geographical marks, where humans undergo a major crisis (first principle of heterotopias); or architectural space, including the sacred city of Jerusalem, burial sites (second principle of heterotopias), the sultan’s palace with its oriental garden as a happy, universalizing microcosm (third type of heterotopias), and the crusaders’ fortress. From the medieval, sanctified, stable ensemble of places forming a space of emplacement, where everything is localized, our epoch has increasingly become, from the nineteenth century onward, characterized by juxtaposition and dispersion in an infinitely opened, somewhat desanctified space, thus creating anxiety.

4Refashioning the Crusades as an age of conflict and arbitrariness in plot, the authors of Croisade juxtapose varied ideological and religious discourses objectified in fantasized buildings and typologies of space—whether ancient Roman, Celtic, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. Far from being a mere hybrid collage of diverse aesthetic tendencies or a proselytizing comment on the Crusades, the drawings exemplify our difficulties in recognizing any unified view of the contemporary world, with all its historical layers and giddying access to other cultural patterns and ideologies. Creative design serves as mediation, granting access to a new level of reality where architectural and landscape designs are used as a visual language trying to emancipate itself from history and tradition, restoring the original communicative context with the audience. Although highly personal and self-referential, the series can be understood and shared by a community of readers. In an age when it is difficult to reconcile the abstract, conceptual representations of our world—from highly technicized, globalized representations to virtual reality—and the particular conditions and aspirations of our lives, these fascinating medievalist comics series offer not only a form of emancipation but also a sense of wholeness that helps transcend the fragmentary, discontinuous experience of today’s world.

Jean Dufaux & Philippe Xavier, Croisade, III, p. 32 © Bruxelles, Le Lombard, 2009

Jean Dufaux & Philippe Xavier, Croisade, III, p. 32 © Bruxelles, Le Lombard, 2009


5Dufaux – Xavier, Croisade
Foucault 1984
Vesely 2004

Table des illustrations

Titre Jean Dufaux & Philippe Xavier, Croisade, III, p. 32 © Bruxelles, Le Lombard, 2009
Fichier image/jpeg, 449k


Université de Toulon

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