Culture and civilisation in the Norman world

The Anglo-Norman Territories The Normans in the Mediterranean

The complex and multi-faceted culture spread by the Normans through medieval Europe encompassed the principal regions into which they extended their power so rapidly (Normandy, Britain and Southern Italy). A question which has been frequently posed is whether the ways of life and styles of artistic expression appearing in the conquered territories can really be classified in a generic manner as ‘Norman’. To put it another way, did there exist one or more elements linking either deeply, or superficially, the social, cultural and artistic character of each of the territories subjected to the Norman conquest and settlements ?

The traditional image of the Normans is that of a warrior race known more for their brutal military conquests than for their capacity to transform the character of the regions where they settled. However, beyond their undoubted urge to consolidate and extend their conquests, the Normans showed, at the same time, that they possessed a remarkable ability to adapt to local conditions. They also demonstrated extraordinary political acumen in giving life to early forms of the modern state.

In the cultural sphere, the Normans left their image as warriors behind in their promotion of the freedom of artistic expression which manifested itself in the vast territories they dominated. The result is an eclectic and very attractive one in which the stylistic traditions of northern Europe blend with those of Rome, Byzantium and the Arab world.