Like a Psalter for a Queen: Sancha, Melisende and the New Testament Cycle in the Chapter-House at Sijena

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This article discusses the paintings of the chapter-house of Sijena, most of which were destroyed by fire in 1936. To this end, the paper makes use of earlier photographic material, proposes a new reading of the biblical cycle, reconstructs the architectural and ornamental setting of the chapter-house and examines the historical and largely unknown liturgical context that lay behind the selection of images. The striking correspondence between the New Testament cycle at Sijena and the prefatory cycle of miniatures in the Melisende Psalter (1131–43), as well as the use in the nunnery of a liturgy based on that of the canons regular of the Holy Sepulchre and the presence of a Lignum crucis in the chapter-house, sheds light on Sijena’s links to the art and liturgy of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and on Queen Sancha’s motives as patron of this Hospitaller foundation. Thus, we hope to present a holistic interpretation of the chapter-house in relation to queenship, pious devotion and the evocation of the Holy Land. This ultimately points up the cross-cultural interests of the Kingdom of Aragon and its developing projection into the Mediterranean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-96
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of the British Archeological Association
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • crusader Art
  • genealogies of Christ
  • Holy Sepulchre
  • Hospitallers
  • Lignum crucis
  • Melisende
  • Queen Sancha
  • queenship
  • Sijena


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