Christian-Muslim Understanding in the Later Middle Ages: Richard Fletcher Asks to What Extent Medieval Christians and Muslims Sought to Move beyond Mutual Hostility. (Cross Current)
Fletcher, Richard, History Today
IN 1396 A CRUSADING ARMY, possibly the largest ever assembled, set off under the command of King Sigismund of Hungary to halt the advance into Europe of the Ottoman Turks. The crusaders' route lay down the valley of the Danube into the Balkans. In what is today northern Bulgaria they settled down to besiege the strategically important town of Nicopolis. There they were surprised by a Turkish relieving force and comprehensively defeated. The most ambitious crusading expedition of the later Middle Ages had ended in humiliating failure.
Among those who set themselves to ponder this reverse was a Provencal diplomat named Honorat Bouvet who was moved to embody his reflections in a poem. In it he identified the moral shortcomings of Christendom as conduct displeasing to God: divine displeasure had been responsible for the catastrophe. There was nothing new here: clerical moralists had been accounting for crusading failures in this manner since the time of St Bernard nearly three centuries earlier. What was new, however, was that in Bouvet's poem the diagnostician was not a Christian but a Muslim, and that some of his diagnosis took the form of a comparison between Christian and Muslim societies in favour of the latter. For example, wrote Bouvet, Christians had gone soft through self-indulgence, while Muslims had been made tough by austerity. Now, the literary device of using the outsider as critic involves thinking neutrally or benevolently about that outsider and his views. If Bouvet was better disposed towards the Muslim enemy than we might expect in crusading circles, then we need to ask what other circles there were, what …
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Publication information: Article title: Christian-Muslim Understanding in the Later Middle Ages: Richard Fletcher Asks to What Extent Medieval Christians and Muslims Sought to Move beyond Mutual Hostility. (Cross Current). Contributors: Fletcher, Richard - Author. Magazine title: History Today. Volume: 53. Issue: 4 Publication date: April 2003. Page number: 20+. © 2009 History Today Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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