© 2002 Maria Rose Menocal
Ornament of the World is the story of a unique civilization in medieval Europe, one which ultimately disintegrated but left a hopeful legacy. For hundreds of years, Europe hosted a distinctly Islamic polity: Andalusia, the last stand of the Umayyads. The inheritors of Muhammad’s empire, they were driven out by a palace coup and reestablished themselves across the Mediterranean, building a glorious realm of their own. They brought the best of an ascendant civilization and combined it with the remnants of the classical world; theirs was a world of fusion which allowed not only Muslims, but Christians and Jews to flourish and contribute as well. Ornament covers a thousand years of Spanish history, mixing literature, art, and politics to deliver with flourish the story of a lost but golden age. Though heavily romanticized, the author’s lovestruck tone makes it an enticing introduction to medieval Spain.