Commerce due to pilgrimage and trade has shown us an incredible exchange of knowledge between cultures like an exquisite glass goblet decorated with trails of Lapis Lazuli known as the “Luck of Edenhall”. In Lapis Lazuli in the Islamic World we`ll learn how pilgrimage helped the trade of our beloved lapis through large distances.
Lapis Lazuli was a stone of such value that it was fundamental for a Muslim pilgrim. It could pay for the expenses of to renew one´s submission to Allah in Mecca. Pilgrimage was never cheap. You needed something in your bags to pay for your lodging and also your keep. The importance of the pilgrimage, or hajj, to a Muslim led to the spirit of enquiry both mental and physical so characteristic of the medieval Islamic world.
Pilgrimage is an important part of the story, the journey of the devout. It is an intrinsic part of all religion. The Prophet Muhammad, having received the word of God in a hillside cave above Mecca. He imposed five obligations on all Muslims. They were: to bear witness to God, to pray five times a day, to fast in the month of Ramadan, to give alms and also to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. This Pilgrimage was dangerous and a Lapis Lazuli amulet was believed to protects one´s path.
Pilgrimage necessitated travel; the medieval Muslim accounts of the journey to Mecca, known as rihla, are some of the world´s earliest travelogues. With travel came the exchange of goods, ideas and technologies. Muhammad had been a merchant before he became the messenger of God. Mecca had long been a major commercial as well as religious center. Trade was at the heart of the subsequent Muslim expansion.‘The truthful merchant will sit under the throne of God’ was one of many sayings of the Prophet' Click To Tweet
Beads cut from Lapis Lazuli have been crucial guides to the travels of the precious stone. It´s easy to imagine a hajj pilgrim setting out from the Oxus world with some pieces of beautiful Sar-i-Sang Lapis Lazuli in his bags. He would sell it carefully as he travels across Khurasan, then Iraq, perhaps also joining the Baghdad hajj caravan for safety. Selling the last remaining pieces of lapis in Mecca in order to buy goods for his return. The purchaser in Mecca of those lapis beads could be another pilgrim maybe from Africa. He would head for Cairo where he might have met in the market place a merchant from Jenne or Timbuktu. That second merchant might have taken the Lapis Lazuli to the stone carver (probably Jewish; the craft often seems to have been concentrated in Jewish hands) to have it turned into trade beads.
Such networks of merchants linked to pilgrimage played a crucial role in the transmission of precious goods, specially our magnificent Lapis Lazuli. Lapis was found around the Middle East and Mediterranean. In such final stops as Constantinople, Alexandria, Aleppo, Baghdad, and also away along that Great Khurasan Road to Merv, connecting there with eastern trade routes, the Oxus and the mines themselves.
The tradition of fine glass making has a long history in Syria and also in Egypt. The glass makers of the medieval world of Islam benefiting from the wealthy patronage of the court circle. ‘Nowhere in the world like Damascus, can one see more beautiful glass objects’.
Luck of Edenhall
The “Luck of Edenhall” belongs to a tradition of the finest medieval Islamic glass making. The greatest achievement of the thirteenth to fourteenth century glass makers was in enameling of glass. Decorating the blown vessel with calligraphy (the writing of Arabic), floral decoration and also arabesques. One of the most dominant colors is blue derived from finely ground Lapis Lazuli.
The blue of the Luck of Edenhall comes from finely ground Lapis Lazuli as if made for pigment. Then mixed with a lead oxide flux that would enable the blue decoration to fuse to the blown vessel at much lower temperature than that used for the vessel itself.
It is sixteen centimeters high and and according to Wikipedia it was probably made in Syria. It is of brownish colorless glass and densely decorated with blue, white, green and also red arabesque. All the Lapis Lazuli on it surely gives it a sacred role.
This beautiful work of art is now in the Medieval Renaissance Gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Pilgrimage is one of the foundations of trade. Is the reason beautiful object like our magical Lapis Lazuli from across the world finished in the local bazaar or market. It connects different cultures and religions. This is another proof of the impact lapis had in another religion. Lapis Lazuli has been tied to Islam since the Prophet Muhammad . Till next time.