Thursday, October 4, 2018

Diversity and multiculturalism in medieval times (2) - quotes

"(...) During the Crusades, coexistence manifested itself in another way. Richard the Lionheart (king of England, 1189–1199) attempted to arrange a marriage between his sister and the brother of Saladin (the most famous hero of the Counter-Crusade and founder of the Ayyubid Dynasty). Intermarriage between Christians and Muslims was commonplace in Anatolia, and it was quite frequent between the Seljuk Turkish (who had conquered Byzatium in 1071, TN) and Byzantine elite.

At the same time, recent scholarship (...) has uncovered that many Byzantine women who married into the Seljuk Dynasty maintained their Christian religious practices and passed them onto their children (future Seljuk sultans), many of whom were baptized at the Hagia Sophia, the main cathedral in Constantinople. A consciousness of conversion did develop in the medieval period, but a thirteenth-century Cilician Armenian law code suggests that conversions to Islam were reversible."

This blog quotes from "Diversity in the Medieval Middle East - Inclusions, Exclusions, Supporters, and Discontents" by Rachel Goshgarian, Chapter 9 in Lucia Volk's The Middle East in the World: An Introduction (Foundations in Global Studies) (Routledge, 2015) on;; source illustration

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Diversity and multiculturalism in medieval times (1) - quotes

"It might be surprising to imagine that the societies of the medieval Mediterranean were brimming with diversity.  (...) 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. (...) 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."

This blog quotes from "Diversity in the Medieval Middle East - Inclusions, Exclusions, Supporters, and Discontents" by Rachel Goshgarian, Chapter 9 in Lucia Volk's The Middle East in the World: An Introduction (Foundations in Global Studies) (Routledge, 2015) on;; source illustration

Thursday, September 20, 2018

11th century Benedictine translations of Islamic manuscripts

"Peter the Venerable (c. 1092 – 25 December 1156) was between 1122 and 1156 abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Cluny. Despite his active life and important role in European history, Peter's greatest achievement is his contribution to the reappraisal of the Church’s relations with the religion of Islam.

A proponent of studying Islam based upon its own sources, he commissioned a comprehensive translation of Islamic source material, and in 1142 he traveled to Spain where he met his translators. One scholar has described this as a “momentous event in the intellectual history of Europe.”

The Arabic manuscripts which Peter had translated may have been obtained in Toledo, which was an important centre for translation from the Arabic. However, Peter appears to have met his team of translators further north, possibly in La Rioja, where he is known to have visited the Cluniac monastery of Santa María la Real of Nájera. The project translated a number of texts relating to Islam (known collectively as the "corpus toletanum"). They include the Apology of al-Kindi; and most importantly the first-ever translation into Latin of the Arabic Qur'an (the "Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete") for which Robert of Ketton was the main translator. (...) The translation was completed in either June or July 1143, in what has been described as “a landmark in Islamic Studies. With this translation, the West had for the first time an instrument for the serious study of (and attack on; TN) Islam.”

Source text and illustration Wikipedia

Monday, August 6, 2018

Templar sites in the Allier department, Central France.

On internet much information on the Knights Templar (Templiers) in France is available. Many mix fact and imagination, myths and truths. Two sites are above question.

Project Beauceant  ( is an extensive website (in French), with the main objective to set up a kind of encyclopedia on the Templar Order and a catalogue of diverse historical remnants that the presence of these men has left everywhere in Europe and the Middle-East. To do it, the Project is open to any person, professional or not, who wants to share his research and experiences on this topic. It also contains much information on Templar commanderies.  Regretfully many commanderies in the Centre of France seem to be missing. For these other sources have to be considered, such as the ones below. is another great website (in French) with a lot of information on the Knights Templar and the crusades. It includes very detailed descriptions of the French commanderies, in alphabetical order and per Département.

From this latter source TemplarsNow composed a new map containing all known and probable Templar sites in the Allier department according to This map is shown below and can also be reached by this link. The work on the map continues, adding information from other sources. TemplarsNow acknowledges gratefully that this map could not have been made without the data from