NetMAR address the interrelations between medieval arts and rituals within the framework of four interconnected thematic clusters.
The first cluster concerns the various medieval practices involving rituals with arts — such as pilgrimage, devotion, education, war, and diplomacy — their particular actors, and their change throughout time. This cluster mostly focuses on the different settings of rituals and ritual arts: the specific material and topographical contexts that they acquire each time. The interactions between Byzantine and later medieval ritual settings in Cyprus are also relevant. Furthermore, this cluster is interested in how space division along with other elements, such as light— natural or candlelight—, textiles, attire, accessories, and furniture determine the forms and performances of rituals and arts, and how the latter in turn define and transform their settings. In this context, the patrimonial, political or religious authorities behind the rituals and their arts are also considered, as they play an instrumental role in determining the ritual settings and their changes, both synchronically and diachronically. The most important material sources for this cluster comprise archaeological sites, monuments, mosaics, frescoes, objects, icons, sculptures and artifacts, while the textual evidence consists of monastic foundation documents, books of ceremonies, war manuals, epistolography, historiography, hagiography, and oratory.
The second cluster moves from the ritual settings to focus on the conception of rituals and ritual arts themselves, and on how rituals invite arts and vice versa: how arts invite rituals. More specifically, under discussion are the shapes, themes and structures of rituals and arts, and the ways in which rituals inform and are informed by arts, as well as how different artistic works interact with each other during or while referring to a certain ritual. In other words, the Structures cluster concentrates on rituals as arts and on arts as rituals. The material used for the purposes of this cluster falls into two main categories: i) manuals offering information and instructions about the performance of rituals and the composition of artistic works, such as liturgical books, books of courtly ceremonies, music manuscripts, school exercises, commentaries and advice literature; and ii) individual works (e.g. icons, illuminated manuscripts, frescoes, sculpture, artefacts, oratory, homiletics, poetry and hagiography).
This third cluster turns to the participants in rituals, to their expectations and needs (personal, familial, and communal), their ideas (social, religious, and political) and their experiences (sensual, emotional, and mental) as determined by their gender, age, origin, and status. The Experiences cluster is interested in what rituals and ritual arts mean for female and male participants of different origin, varied ages and status, how rituals affect different participants, either individually or collectively, and what they aim to achieve for them. Since the involvement of participants reaches its peak when artistic works acquire miraculous qualities, thus creating further performances within the framework of a ritual (e.g. the Hodegetria icon in Constantinople with its regular Tuesday miracle during the rite), miraculous arts are also important for this cluster. The sources employed for the needs of the Experiences Cluster are iconographical and textual. The iconographical sources are illuminated manuscripts, icons, frescoes, mosaics and sculptures depicting human gestures and facial expressions associated with rituals, as well as miracles within rituals. The textual sources belong to genres, such as historiography, hagiography, polemic literature, treatises and oratory, which provide information about medieval ritual and miracle experiences.
The Influences cluster is concerned with the afterlife of Byzantine rituals and ritual arts from the fifteenth century to the present with a particular geographical emphasis on Cyprus. This cluster is interested in Byzantine-Cypriot, Frankish-Cypriot and Venetian-Cypriot continuities and the survival of the medieval heritage of the island. In contrast to Western medieval culture, its Byzantine counterpart has had a dominant presence in Greek-Cypriot society, which has always been highly conventional and church-oriented, chiefly among rural populations. This is primarily due to the traditionally strong power of the Orthodox Church in Cypriot daily, political and cultural life. In order to establish a continuity with Constantinople, the capital of Orthodoxy, Cyprus Church has cultivated a neo-Byzantine religious culture through a number of media such as rhetoric, architecture, icons, frescoes, liturgical artifacts, liturgy and panegyria: the celebrations of the feast days of the patron saints of villages or towns.