Saint Francis and the Sultan: The Curious History of a Christian-Muslim Encounter

Saint Francis and the Sultan: The Curious History of a Christian-Muslim Encounter

by John V. Tolan

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In September, 1219, as the armies of the Fifth Crusade besieged the Egyptian city of Damietta, Francis of Assisi went to Egypt to preach to Sultan al-Malik al-Kâmil. Although we in fact know very little about this event, this has not prevented artists and writers from the thirteenth century to the twentieth, unencumbered by mere facts, from portraying Francis alternatively as a new apostle preaching to the infidels, a scholastic theologian proving the truth of Christianity, a champion of the crusading ideal, a naive and quixotic wanderer, a crazed religious fanatic, or a medieval Gandhi preaching peace, love, and understanding. Al-Kâmil, on the other hand, is variously presented as an enlightened pagan monarch hungry for evangelical teaching, a cruel oriental despot, or a worldly libertine. Saint Francis and the Sultan takes a detailed look at these richly varied artistic responses to this brief but highly symbolic meeting. Throwing into relief the changing fears and hopes that Muslim-Christian encounters have inspired in European artists and writers in the centuries since, it gives a uniquely broad but precise vision of the evolution of Western attitudes towards Islam and the Arab world over the last eight hundred years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780191608186
Publisher: OUP Oxford
Publication date: 03/26/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

John V. Tolan was educated at Yale and Chicago. He has taught at universities in North America and Europe and is currently Professor of Medieval History at the University of Nantes. He has published widely in both French and English, including most recently Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination (2002).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xiii

Abbreviations xv

Introduction 1

I Thirteenth to Fourteenth Centuries

1 Francis, Model for the Spiritual Renewal of the Church: Jacques de Vitry (1220 and 1223-1225) 19

2 Al-K&ahat;mil, Worthy Adversary of the Crusaders: Anonymous Chronicle of the Crusade (1227-1229) 40

3 Great Thirst for Martyrdom: Thomas of Celano, Vita Prima (1228) 54

4 Epic Hero and Eminent Professor: Henry of Avranches (1229-1230) 73

5 Bearer of the Precepts of Life: The Bardi Dossal (1240s) 93

6 Burning with a Perfect Love: Bonaventure, Legenda maior (1263) 109

7 Trial by Fire: The Assisi Fresco (Late Thirteenth Century) 135

8 Father of the Spirituals: Angelo Clareno (1326) 147

9 The Sultan Converted: The Deeds of Blessed Francis and his Companions (1327-1337) 162

II Fourteenth to Twenty-First Centuries

Introduction to Part II 172

10 The Trial by Fire in Painting and Sculpture 173

11 The Saint of Assisi Confronts Barbarous Infidelity: Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries 206

12 Saint and Sultan Seen by Philosophes and Traditionalists: Eighteenth Century 234

13 Francis in Jerusalem 257

14 Francis, Apostle of Peace 294

Epilogue 325

Notes 329

Index 373

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