Saturday, May 6, 2017

Setting the stage for the Crusades - daily life

"The sixth century marked the beginning of the Dark Ages in western Europe. While the Byzantine Empire generally prospered, despite its loss of territory, western Europe spent the six centuries after the death of Justinian in chaos, war, cultural degeneration, superstition, ignorance, and poverty. The majority of western Europe, including Italy, Gaul (modern France), and Spain, had fallen to the barbarian tribes who had earlier overtaken Rome. Plague and famine decimated Europe. By 550, Rome, which once had a population of one million people, was reduced to forty thousand souls, half of whom were maintained hy papal alms.

Life was harsh and hrutal. The peasantry, although free, were poor, uneducated, and politically impotent. Skin disease was epidemic because of the Church's prohibition against nudity and bathing. (Other sources indicate that -at least in a later part of the Middle Ages- personal hygiene as well as bathing did exist; TN *). Lice and similar vermin tormented all, regardless of social class. By the beginning of the seventh century, literacy was reserved for the clergy. Science, medicine, and literature were replaced by magic, superstition, and religious texts. Eighty percent of the population during the Dark Ages never moved more than ten miles from their place of birth. As a result of poor nutrition and medicine, the average life expectancy was thirty years, while the average height for men was not more than five feet three inches (about 160 cm; TN).  Throughout the ninth and tenth centuries, Europe endured a perpetual state of war, decimated by continuous aggression from Scandinavian, castern European, and Germanic trides, as well as Muslims. Savagery and faith, ignorance and piety, agriculture and aggression, this mixture embodied the intellectual stagnation of the Dark Ages."

This blog quotes from Chapter 2 of "The Templars and the Assassins: the militia of Heaven" by James Wasserman (Rochester, 2001); * Additional source on bathing and illustration from

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"An Analysis of Prophet Muhammad’s Covenants with Christians"

In his paper "Religious Pluralism and Civic Rights in a “Muslim Nation”: An Analysis of Prophet Muhammad’s Covenants with Christians" Craig Considine

"examines the roles that religious pluralism and civic rights played in Prophet Muhammad’s vision of a “Muslim nation”.

He demonstrates how Muhammad desired a pluralistic society in which citizenship and equal rights were granted to all people regardless of religious beliefs and practices. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of his time are used as a framework for analysis. These documents have received little attention in our time, but their messages are crucial in light of current debates about Muslim-Christian relations.

The article campaigns for reviving the egalitarian spirit of the Covenants by refocusing our understanding of the ummah as a site for religious freedom and civil rights. Ultimately, Considine argues that the Covenants of Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of his time can be used to develop a stronger narrative of democratic partnership between Muslims and Christians in the “Islamic world” and beyond."

This blog contains the (slightly edited) entire Introduction to the following paper: Considine, C. Religious Pluralism and Civic Rights in a “Muslim Nation”: An Analysis of Prophet Muhammad’s Covenants with Christians. Religions 2016, 7, 1, which can be found at  Illustration: A Christian and a Muslim playing chess, illustration from the Book of Games of Alfonso X (c. 1285; from

Financing the Crusades - Papal support

"The privileges of popes and princes for the crusaders reveal the great importance of credit arrangements in financing the crusades. From the First Crusade on the popes took not only the persons of the crusaders and their families but also their property under papal protection. Crusaders who found it difficult to secure the return of pledged lands were able thus to call upon the church for help. ...

(Pope) Eugenius III in 1145 conceded to crusaders the privilege of pledging lands, even fiefs, without the consent of relatives or lords, if the latter were not themselves willing to lend the money needed. At the same time Eugenius granted crusaders a moratorium on repayment of debts and sought to free them from the payment of interest on loans while they were under the cross"
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: Pope Eugene III from this source

Friday, April 7, 2017

Financing the military orders in medieval times

"Ultimately the financial support of the military orders and the confraternities derived from the alms and legacies of the faithful. By his gift to one of the orders any Christian could share in the great enterprise and in the spiritual rewards promised to crusaders.

As early as 1101 pope Paschal II joined with the patriarch of Jerusalem, Daimbert of Pisa, in offering an indefinite remission of penance to those who gave aid to the Hospital. Innocent II in 1131 promised remission of one seventh of enjoined penance to those who gave of their goods to the Hospital, and the same privilege was soon extended to the Temple.

Confraternities also received indulgences and could pass on some of their rewards to those who supported them. Great gifts as well as innumerable small ones were made: in 1134 Alfonso I of Aragon bequeathed a third of his kingdom to the two military orders and the Holy Sepulcher; Bela of Hungary, Byzantine heir-apparent and "duke", in 1163—1169 gave 10,000 gold bezants to the Hospital; and Henry II of England sent 30,000 marks sterling to the Templars and the Hospitallers for the defense of Tyre in 1188. Until the Third Crusade the Hospital and the Temple were the usual recipients of alms and legacies for the Holy Land."

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 coins Knights Templar France. Philip IV Le Bel, 1268-1314 AD; source; illustration source.