Craft industry and trades

Cermaics & Pottery

During the Norman period, pottery was one of the rare items to circulate in vast quantities over great distances, and, after importing eastern models, Norman Italy in turn began to export.

In the early 11th century, a fair proportion of the pottery used in the Mezzogiorno was imported from the Byzantine or Moslem East. These were notably luxury ceramics with designs that were passed on by the workshops of Sicily (Piazza Armerina, Agrigento, Cefalů…), which remained an area of intensive production during the Norman rule. The most refined pieces were also used for the architectonic decoration of churches and palaces where geometrical polychrome compositions made copious use of this material during the Norman period, here again copying models taken from Eastern civilizations.

Ordinary pottery was produced in vast quantities in many local workshops, for all kinds of everyday uses – cooking, tableware, lamps… – and also for the transport and storage of food products. Roman Italy had brought pottery production almost up to an industrial scale, distributing its output to all parts of the Mediterranean Basin. In a century of Norman presence, archaeologists have identified a revival of these production methods, notably with regard to the storage of grain, oil, wine etc.

The stages of pottery production are known from written accounts which identify the various specialities, from the master of the workshop to the clay preparer, taking in the specialists making the finished products: cooking pots, amphorae, earthenware jars etc. The potters’ skill is clearly seen in the production of ordinary thin-walled pots. The decoration on the larger pieces is made up of strips of red typical of the period. Luxury crockery, decorated with finely carved patterns and glazed, was still based on the Arab and Byzantine models in the 11th and 12th c., leading up to a fully-fledged regional production in the early 13th c. Excavations of aristocratic dwellings in Campania, especially Salerno, have unearthed vestiges of these various productions.

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