Friday, December 8, 2017

Pre-crusade Muslim religious tolerance in the Holy Land


In his book "Dungeon, Fire and Sword - the Knights Templar in de Crusades" (1991) John J. Robinson describes religious tolerance in the pre-crusade Holy Land as follows:

"Christians in the Holy Land were permitted to practice their religion, and there was no barrier to pilgrims visiting the Holy Places. They had to pay a toll to enter Jerusalem, but they also had to pay a toll to pass through the gates of London or Paris. As for the “Saracen“ rulers of Palestine, they had no problem with the presence of either Orthodox or Latin Christians in their territory, whether as pilgrims or as permanent residents.

The Benedictine Rule prevailed among Roman clerics in Palestine, and was followed by a small order that was permitted to maintain a hostel or “hospital“ for Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem. It had been founded about twenty years earlier, in 1075, by Citizens of the Italian city of Amalfi. The order was dedicated to St. John the Compassionate, sometimes called St. John the Alms-giver, a seventh-century Patriarch of Alexandria known for his pious works of Charity.

With such religious tolerance on the part of the Muslim rulers of Jerusalem, and with access to the Holy Places for Christian pilgrims, it was going to take some skillful effort on the part of the pope to stir up the people of Europe to the point that they would leave their homes to risk their lives in a foreign land."

source: "Dungeon, Fire and Sword - the Knights Templar in de Crusades" (M. Evans & Company, Inc. 1991) by John J. Robinson

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Depicting "Saracens" in the Middle Ages - part 2

Saladin source
"Representations of Saracens as "the other" abound in ... the earliest manuscripts of the 13th century to the copies of the early 15th century books. These images reinforce stereotypes of Muslims that depict them as barbarians, berserkers, idol worshipping pagans, and nothing less than the enemies of God and mankind. Highly racial and pejorative depictions of these figures highlight their negative qualities through dark skin and distorted facial features.

Despite this there are also many images from the manuscripts examined in this study that depict Saracens and Christians similarly and acknowledge certain admirable Saracens. The depictions of Saladin and Ferragut as western figures, kings and Knights no less, establish a different kind of representation of Saracen than the biased views of other depictions. Although individuals like Saladin and Ferragut are rare, this demonstrates that the artists of these manuscripts understood that these figures could be received favorably by their audiences. ...

By depicting them with western characteristics these figures were elevated from the standard Saracen topos and honored by the extension of a kind of pseudo western status to them. This is hardly an example of tolerance, for the favorable depiction of them is entirely on standard Christian terms, but it still displays a kind of nuanced understanding of the figures that is important to note. It demonstrates that Christians from the time understood Saracens as more than the monsters that they so often depict them with in the other manuscripts examined in this study..."

This blog quotes from the conclusions of "Benjamin Anthony, "Monstrous Muslims? Depicting Muslims in French Illuminated Manuscripts from 1200-1420" (2015). Honors Theses and Capstones. 236 to be found here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Medieval treasure discovered at the Abbey of Cluny suggests Arab link - quotes



In a Medievalists.net paper of November 17, 2017 the unearthing of a large treasure at the Abbey of Cluny, France was reported. The precense of Arab world currency illustrates a direct connection between Cluny and the Arab world. The following text quotes parts of the paper:

"In mid-September (21017, TN), a large treasure was unearthed during a dig at the Abbey of Cluny, in the French department of Saône-et-Loire: 2,200 silver deniers and oboles, 21 Islamic gold dinars, a signet ring, and other objects made of gold. Never before has such a large cache of silver deniers been discovered. Nor have gold coins from Arab lands, silver deniers, and a signet ring ever been found hoarded together within a single, enclosed complex. ...

The excavation campaign, authorized by the Bourgogne–Franche-Comté Regional Department of Cultural Affairs (DRAC), began in mid-September and ended in late October. It is part of a vast research program focused on the Abbey of Cluny. ...

This is an exceptional find for a monastic setting and especially that of Cluny, which was one of the largest abbeys of Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The treasure was buried in fill where it seems to have stayed for 850 years.

It includes items of remarkable value: 21 gold dinars and a signet ring, a very expensive piece of jewelry that few could own during the Middle Ages. At that time, Western currency was mostly dominated by the silver denier. Gold coins were reserved for rare transactions. The 2,200 or so silver deniers, struck at Cluny or nearby, would have been for everyday purchases. This is the largest stash of such coins ever found.

The fact that Arab currency, silver deniers, and a signet ring were enclosed together makes this discovery all the more interesting."

Quoted text, illustration and further reading medievalists.net; caption illustration:"Gold dinar. Credit: Alexis Grattier-Université Lumière Lyon 2"

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A six phase origin of the Order of the Temple

In his paper The first Templar Knight (part 2), the origin of the Temple, Josè Maria Fernandez Nùñez proposes a six phase development period of the premordial Order of the Temple, from 1104 to 1120.
"The first history of the Brotherhood is known as the time that occurs between the Synod of Nablus until the Council of Troyes, where the Order is definitely created, but...what about before? Before this period that covers from 1104 through 1120...what occurs during this period? ...
Some 16 years had transpired that would encompass the novitiate, the temporal acknowledgment; the creation of the Brotherhood or congregation in the aforementioned Synod. It can be stratified in six different periods.
  1. Ideological and embryonic phase from 1104 until 1107, in which the creation of a police force is perceived as necessary. Creative steps are taken that leave Godfrey of Sainte-Omer tasked with its creation
  2. Formation of the Militia Christi phase, incorporating same with knights related to the conquerors that take Palestine as the new promised land, there where the mister nobody’s can become someone, forcing that social stratification. In the long run, the church had served on not few occasions as a means of social climbing.
  3. Phase of activation with the presence of the Hugh’s (Hughes of Payns and Hughes Count of Champagne TN) from 1114 to 1120, where their relationship would be without rules, habits, monastic vows, no dependency on military or ecclesiastical authorities, bound only by the particular and personal oath of each of its members. Here we may apply from William of Tyre who wrote “the knights wore secular garb, they wore clothing such as all folk wear...”
  4. Foundation phase, Synod of Nablus (1120 TN) of the congregation or brotherhood, with a proper name, rules, dwellings, monastic vows, uniformity, disciplines, etc.,
  5. Acceptance by the church at Troyes (Council of Troyes, 1129 TN) phase. The Creation of the Order.
  6. Definite consolidation of the Order in 1139 by the Omne Datum Optimum Papal Bul"
text quoted from here; illustration from here