Friday, September 9, 2016

Interreligious protection of the “people of the book” - theory and practise

"It might be surprising to imagine that the societies of the medieval Mediterranean were brimming with diversity. The concepts of diversity and multiculturalism seem, in many respects, to be associated with modernity. However, linguistic and religious diversity were facts of everyday life throughout the medieval world. And—very much like today—diversity had its share of proponents and its discontents.

In considering the religious diversity of the medieval Middle East, scholars often praise Islam for inclusive policies toward Christians and Jews, even when aspects of those policies were discriminatory. The concept of dhimma — the protection of the “people of the book”—meant that Christians and Jews could continue practicing their own religions even when conquered by Muslims. In fact, the model of dhimma as defined in the Quran and in the hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) stipulated that while Christians and Jews must pay a supplemental tax in exchange for exemption from military service, they were not to be forcibly converted to Islam. Dhimma policies thus stipulated a separate tax (which can be considered discriminatory), and yet the tax non-Muslims paid granted them privileges and allowed them to practice their faiths. In fact, dhimma as a concept was considered a novelty of tolerance when it was elaborated in the seventh century.

The protection of the “people of the book” was prescribed by the Quran and the hadith, but some descriptive sources from the medieval period (from the seventh through the fifteenth centuries) show that these prescriptions were not always followed. For example, in many cities under Islamic rule, Christians and Jews were compelled to wear specific colors and/or types of clothing in order to physically distinguish themselves from Muslims. Non-Muslims were not allowed to mount horses in certain cities and towns, and making public noise associated with Christian and Jewish religious practices, such as chanting, singing, and bell-ringing, was discouraged and occasionally considered a punishable offense. Forced conversion was legally restricted, but in practice, mechanisms to encourage conversion were occasionally developed and even institutionalized as a means to integrate local non-Muslim populations into the larger Muslim society."

Quoted from "Diversity in the Medieval Middle East - Inclusions, Exclusions, Supporters, and Discontents" by Rachel Goshgarian; source

illustration: A Jew and a Muslim playing a game of chess; source: The Book of Games (Libro de los juegos), f°63v; Public domain image at this URL.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Economic and religious independence of the Knights Templar

"Independent and permanent, (made so by the papal bulls Omne datum optimum (1139), Milites Templi (1144) and Militia Dei (1145), TN)  the Templars needed the means to sustain themselves. As defenders of the goods of the Church it was appropriate to exempt them from the payment of tithes, while at the same time giving them the right to acquire them, provided that they had the assent of the bishops and their clergy.

Moreover, such a structure needed not only material resources, but spiritual guidance as well, and the bull granted the Order its own priests for the first time. Once in the Order, these priests were as much under the control of the Master as the knights and sergeants, despite the fact that the Master was not ordained. The Order was similarly allowed its own oratories, where divine office could he heard undisturbed by seculars, and around which they and their associates could be buried.

source text:  Malcolm Barber The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple (Canto) (New Ed) [Paperback]; illustration source

Friday, July 8, 2016

The militarization of the Hospitallers, mid 12th century

Blessed Gerard (source Wikipedia)
"Gerard, a native of Provence, was at this period (start of the 12th century; TN) at the head of the society (of the Hospital of St. John; TN), with the title of “Guardian of the Poor.”

He was succeeded (A.D. 1118) by Raymond Dupuy, a knight of Dauphiné, who drew up a series of rules for the direction and government of his brethren. In these rules no traces are discoverable of the military spirit which afterwards animated the order of the Hospital of St. John.

The Abbé de Vertot, from a desire perhaps to pay court to the Order of Malta, carries back the assumption of arms by the Hospitallers to the year 1119, and describes them as fiercely engaged under the command of Raymond Dupuy, in the battle fought between the Christians and Dol de Kuvin, Sultan of Damascus; but none of the historians of the period make any mention whatever of the Hospitallers in that action. De Vertot quotes no authority in support of his statement, and it appears to be a mere fiction.

The first authentic notice of an intention on the part of the Hospitallers to occupy themselves with military matters, occurs in the bull of Pope Innocent the Second, dated A.D. 1130. This bull is addressed to the archbishops, bishops, and clergy of the church universal, and informs them that the Hospitallers then retained, at their own expense, a body of horsemen and foot soldiers, to defend the pilgrims in going to and in returning from the holy places; the pope observes that the funds of the hospital were insufficient to enable them effectually to fulfil the pious and holy task, and he exhorts the archbishops, bishops, and clergy, to minister to the necessities of the order out of their abundant property. The Hospitallers consequently at this period had resolved to add the task of protecting to that of tending and relieving pilgrims.

A from 1168, after the failed expedition to Egypt in which te Hospitallers participated (whereas the Templars refused to do so), however, the character of the order of the Hospital of St. John was entirely changed; the Hospitallers appear henceforth as a great military body; their superior styles himself Master, and leads in person the brethren into the field of battle. Attendance upon the poor and the sick still continued, indeed, one of the duties of the fraternity, but it must have been feebly exercised amid the clash of arms and the excitement of war. "

source "The History of the Knights Templars, Temple Church and The Temple", by Charles G. Addison Esq (London 1842)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Foundation of the Hospitallers of Saint John at the end of the 11th century

"In the eleventh century, when pilgrimages to Jerusalem had greatly increased, some Italian merchants of Amalfi, who carried on a lucrative trade with Palestine, purchased of the Caliph Monstasser-billah, a piece of ground in the christian quarter of the Holy City, near the Church of the Resurrection, whereon two hospitals were constructed, the one being appropriated for the reception of male pilgrims, and the other for females.

Several pious and charitable Christians, chiefly from Europe, devoted themselves in these hospitals to constant attendance upon the sick and destitute.

Two chapels were erected, the one annexed to the female establishment being dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, and the other to St. John the Eleemosynary, a canonized patriarch of Alexandria, remarkable for his exceeding charity. The pious and kind-hearted people who here attended upon the sick pilgrims, clothed the naked and fed the hungry, were called “The Hospitallers of Saint John.”

On the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders (1199; TN), these charitable persons were naturally regarded with the greatest esteem and reverence by their fellow-christians from the west; many of the soldiers of the Cross, smitten with their piety and zeal, desired to participate in their good offices, and the Hospitallers, animated by the religious enthusiasm of the day, determined to renounce the world, and devote the remainder of their lives to pious duties and constant attendance upon the sick. They took the customary monastic vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, and assumed as their distinguishing habit a black mantle with a white cross on the breast. Various lands and possessions were granted them by the lords and princes of the Crusade, both in Palestine and in Europe, and the order of the hospital of St. John speedily became a great and powerful institution."

source "The History of the Knights Templars, Temple Church and The Temple", by Charles G. Addison Esq (London 1842)