The sharp divide between sacred and secular objects is ultimately an arbitrary one: sacrality is less a quality inherent in the object itself than a product of the way in which the object is seen. This is particularly evident in medieval universal histories, in which all events are brought within the economy of salvation history, serving as threads in a larger fabric of the narration of the past. In the construction of this historical web, monumental objects play an important role. In the thirteenth-century Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César, copied at the Crusader stronghold of Acre, objects such as the gates of Janus in imperial Rome, the Tower of Babel, and the fortified city of Troy serve as potent emblems of turning points in the historical past and as potential springboards toward an imagined future. These monumental points of reference form a lattice of historical parallels that impose form upon past time.

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