To look at one of the treasures on display in this wonderful exhibit, the Kennicott Bible, is to view an example of the shared heritage of Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is the key note of Crossing Borders. The Kennicott Bible and the other stunning, hand-written works on display show the “cross-pollination” of art and ideas among the cultured elites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam during the Middle Ages. More to the point, it is a testament to the shared devotion of these three faiths to the same God.
The Metropolitan Museum exhibition charts the fascinating, if complex, process of cultural transformation that took place throughout the Middle East during the seventh to ninth centuries. For all of the thrust-and-parry military campaigns that took place, a spirit of mutual accommodation often characterized relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates that governed the Islamic world for much of the Middle Ages.
For English-speaking peoples, 1066 and 1776 still evoke powerful recollections of liberty lost and freedom won. For most people in the West, however, 711 hardly strikes a note of any significance. But it should, for that was the year when a small force of Muslim Arabs and Berbers from Morocco crossed over from North Africa to Spain. Islam reached Europe in 711 and the world has never been the same.