Sunday, September 24, 2017

Depicting "Saracens" in the Middle Ages - part 1

"How were Saracens depicted from 1200-1420, and what can this tell modern scholars about the way that western artists and audiences viewed and depicted Saracens? ...

Throughout the images created in the 13th and 14th centuries it is possible to discern a noticeable change in the depiction of Saracens. In the 13th century they are clearly depicted with almost no physical differences from Christians, and they must be differentiated through the use of equipment and heraldry. This might be an example of  artists attempting to create a cotemporary struggle for their audience to relate to, or perhaps it was a means of creating adequate enemies for the crusaders to battle.

Regardless of the reason, this seems to change in the later manuscripts from the 14th century. Throughout this period, in both the History of Outremer and the Grandes Chroniques de France, the depictions of Muslims become more and more focused on racial differences. Furthermore the depiction of Saracens begins to lean upon eastern headdresses such as turbans, and the variations, to depict Saracens. The topos for depicting Saracens that appears is then based almost entirely on dark skin and turbans.....

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

RIP - Dr Bernadus Theodoor (Ben) Brus - 1917 - 2016

In The Netherlands only a few researchers focus on the Knights Templar and their presence in the Low Countries. One of them is Dr Ben Brus.

Today I found out that Dr Brus passed away almost one year ago, only a year before his one hundredth birthday, which would have been next Saterday, September 30th.

I had the honour to be in contact with Dr Brus for my own research several times. His work, summarized on his website and visually quoted on Templars Now, is the cornerstone of Templar research in The Netherlands and will remain so for many years to come. With great respect I acknowledge his work and vow to continue it as much as I can in my own way.

Rest in Peace, Dr Ben Brus.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Financing the Crusades - general taxation

"A "first crude experiment" in compulsory almsgiving, the levy of 1166 begins the history of general taxation for financing the crusades.

The peril of the Holy Land again evoked an extraordinary levy in 1183, when king Baldwin IV with the consent of a general council imposed a tax on the kingdom of Jerusalem. It was levied at the rate of one bezant on a hundred of movables and debts (and income of mercenary soldiers) and of two bezants on a hundred of the revenues of churches, monasteries, barons, and their vassals. The poor were to pay a hearth tax of one bezant or what they could; the unfree were to be taxed by their lords at the same rate. Four men were chosen in each civitas of the realm to assess and collect the tax, but the taxpayer might declare under oath that he was over-assessed and pay according to his own declaration.Altogether the levy showed considerable development beyond that of 1166.

The kings of England and France followed the new model in levying another crusade tax on their subjects in 1185. The unit of one hundred was employed, and the annual rate was roughly the same as in Jerusalem, but the levy was taken for three years and so was the heaviest thus far collected. The sanctions remained ecclesiastical, and the tax was still administered by the clergy, though the bishops were replaced as collectors by a Templar and a Hospitaller appointed in each diocese. The exemptions of goods necessary to the taxpayer's profession presaged the Saladin Tithe"

Blog quotes from Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe  (1989), Chapter IV, "Financing the Crusades". The quotes presented here focus on the situation in the first half of the 12th Century. Illustration Norwich Tollhouse source

Friday, September 1, 2017

People behind the Knights Templar

Usually the Knights Templar are referred to as if it was a a coherent body. This may have been the case in their later days. But in their early days, when the concept of knight-monks and the organisation were as such new, it seems more likely that they were a on-coherent group of individuals of different origins, mainly coming from early 12th century Francia.

In a series of blogs, TemplarsNow endeavours to explore the people behind the Knights Templar on the basis of published information. This first blog quotes a part (slightly adapted) of the internet paper by Helen Nicholson entitled "The Templars, Hospitallers and other military orders in the eyes of their contemporaries, 1128-1291".

"Virtually nothing is known about the origins of the founders of the first military orders, although legends grew up around them later. Clearly, they were not particularly important people. Most of those who joined the military orders came from the lesser nobility, the ordinary knights or rich peasant farmers ... . There were very few really rich or influential members. Instead, we find many examples of men joining the orders as a means of gaining influence and promotion which would otherwise have been beyond their reach ...

Women also joined the Military Orders, including the Order of the Temple, despite the fact that the Templar Rule forbad the admission of women.The brothers rapidly discovered that they could not afford to offend female patrons by refusing them admission to the order...."

Illustration Hughes de Payns, the first Master of the Knights Templar (source)