Sunday 8 June 2014

italy week: oultrejordain

During our tour of the Mediterranean coast and the Bay of Genoa, we had the chance to explore the stunning and secluded coves of Porto Fino and the fishing villages of Cinque Terre. These sites were absolutely amazing and edifying as well. It was hard to believe that such jewels, essentially untouched but possibly re-touched as there seemed to be an element of keeping up appearances what with the carefully placed boats lolling in the harbour and in the way of cruise ships but nothing phony, existed and we wondered how such refined but remote places came to be and came to be regaled with such treasures. The picturesque quality was certainly endearing but seemed to be a little elevated out of proportion—nothing disappointing and certainly leagues better than a block of luxury hotels, just incongruous, somehow.
Though it is no account of all the incidents and accidents by any means, the elevation of Genoa and other maritime superpowers originated in the power of vacuum created with the fall of the Roman and Byzantine Empires. With new-found sovereignty and a need for a uniting mission among the independent powers, the houses of Europe went crusading. It was then that Genoa secured its place as an expanding empire, and for its missives to the Middle East, these protected coves sheltered their armada and acted as their commissariat.
Porto Fino, for instance, earned this bounty from the Kingdom of Jerusalem, with this church that housed the plundered relics of Saint George (the dragon-slayer), and many other holy treasures were heaped up as tribute from the long list of short-lived Crusader States established.
It certainly sounded like a legitimate and worthy adventure, despite the costs and the potential reward was of course great and enduring.  This hybridized form of colonization created all sorts grasping exclaves that were never quite reconciled and who can say whether forgiven, among the combatants and much less among the sending-forces.

The claims and honours were various with duchies and marches granted often under dubious authority—like everything to the west of the River Jordan. Incidentally, the Crusades were not limited to the Holy Lands but was also a claim-jump in Greece and neighbours as well—referred to as Frankokratia, the period of rule by the French and the Germans.
This incursion cemented the division between the Western and the Eastern Church, with other repercussions down to this day.
Do not believe for a second that we were not dazzled and relaxed, but rather knowing a bit of the history and context of what's resisted time and tide and what's been preserved and dismissed certainly enhanced our experience.