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The Military Orders and the Conversion of Muslims in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

The Military Orders and the Conversion of Muslims in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

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Journal of Medieval History 28 (2002) 1–22www.elsevier.com/locate/jmedhist
The military orders and the conversion of Muslims in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
Alan Forey
The Bell House, Church Lane, Kirtlington, Oxon OX5 3HJ, UK 
Abstract
Descriptions of the activities of military orders only rarely included any reference to theconversion of Muslims, and in practice the orders did not seek to impose Christianity by force.They were at times also reluctant to allow voluntary conversions among their Muslim vassalsand slaves, although claims that they sought to prevent Muslims in neighbouring Islamic terri-tories from accepting Christianity are questionable. The explanation of the attitudes displayedby the orders is not to be found in the fear of losing their
raison d’eˆtre
or in the extent of their understanding of the Islamic faith: they were adopting current attitudes, which were basedon economic advantage and probably also on perceptions of the nature of Islamic society. Asmore attention came to be devoted in the West to missionary work, some criticised the orders’military activities for hindering peaceful missions, while it was also argued — for exampleby Lull — that the orders should engage in the work of conversion, using force as well aspreaching. But the writings of theorists had little practical effect.
2002 Elsevier ScienceLtd. All rights reserved.
Keywords:
Military orders; Conversion; Muslims; Slaves; Raymond Lull
The warfare to which military orders devoted themselves in Mediterranean landsduring the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was seen to serve various purposes.
1
Insome documents stress was placed on fighting as a means of salvation for brethren:‘they do not fear to shed their own blood as martyrs, and thus rejoice eventually toend their lives for God alone’.
2
The practical objective was most frequently described
1
For a brief survey, see A.J. Forey, ‘The emergence of the military order in the twelfth century’,
 Journal of Ecclesiastical History
, 36 (1985), 184–6.
2
J. Gonza´lez,
El reino de Castilla en la e´poca de Alfonso VIII 
, 3 vols (Madrid, 1960), vol. 2, 745–7, doc. 432.
0304-4181/02/$ - see front matter
2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.PII: S0304-4181(01)00014-8
 
2
A. Forey / Journal of Medieval History 28 (2002) 1
 –
22
as defence, both of territories and of the Church and the faithful: some scribes likenedthe orders to a wall or a shield.
3
Yet military orders were also seen to be
ghtinga war of vengeance and expansion. The latter task was usually said to involve thefreeing of parts of the Church from subjection and the recovery of lands which hadearlier been seized from Christians. Charters of donation not only include generalisedcomments about expansion but also at times in the Iberian peninsula refer to assist-ance given in particular campaigns and to possible conquests by the orders them-selves.
4
It has been argued, however, that a handful of royal charters also envisage theconverting of non-Christians by the Templars and Hospitallers. A grant was madeto the Hospitallers in the middle of the twelfth century by Raymond Berenguer IV,count of Barcelona,
for propagating (
 propagandam
) the faith and religion of holyChristianity
, and of the Templars it was said by Peter II of Aragon in 1208 that
wherever the religion of the Christian faith thrives, they devote themselves to itspropagation (
 propagationi
) and defence
.
5
Similar statements may be found in thedocumentation of Spanish military orders. In 1171 Fernando II of Leon asserted thatthe brothers of Santiago had undertaken to
ght against the in
del
for extending(
dilatanda
) the faith of Christ
, and in the same year the archbishop of Compostela,in favouring the same order, said that he wished
to propagate (
 propagare
)
andextend (
dilatare
) the faith and Church of God
, while in 1231 Gregory IX referredto the zeal which the brothers of Calatrava
are known to have for the propagation(
 propagationem
) of the Christian cult
.
6
Yet it is questionable whether such statements were meant to refer to any involve-ment of the military orders in conversion, especially as some of those making themshowed no interest themselves in winning Muslims over to Christianity. The Chris-tian faith could be extended in various ways which did not involve conversion: itcould, for example, be a consequence of the expulsion of in
dels or the removal at
3
Gonza
´
lez,
El reino de Castilla
, vol. 2, 331
2, 364
5, 745
7, docs 200, 220, 432; vol. 3, 139
41,doc. 641.
4
See, for example, Gonza
´
lez,
El reino de Castilla
, vol. 2, 305
7, doc. 183; J. Gonza
´
lez,
Reinado ydiplomas de Fernando III 
, 3 vols (Co
´
rdoba, 1980
6), vol. 3, 43
4, 65
7, 305
6, 314
16, 317
21, docs531, 550, 739, 751, 753
4;
Libro de privilegios de la orden de San Juan de Jerusale
´ 
n en Castilla y Leo
´ 
n(siglos XII 
 –
 XV)
, ed. C. de Ayala Mart
ı´
nez (Madrid, n. d.), 321
2, doc. 143.
5
H. Nicholson,
Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights. Images of the military orders, 1128
 –
1291
(Leicester, 1993), 18. Although I have not accepted some of its conclusions, I have found this work very helpful. For the texts quoted, see J. Delaville Le Roulx,
Cartulaire ge
´ 
ne
´ 
ral de l
ordre des Hospitaliersde Saint-Jean de Je
´ 
rusalem
, 4 vols (Paris, 1894
1906), vol. 1, 141
3, doc. 181; A.J. Forey,
The Templarsin the Corona de Arago
´ 
n
(London, 1973), 377
8, doc. 12. See also Delaville Le Roulx,
Cartulaire
, vol.2, 239
40, 299
301, docs 1603, 1742;
Documentos de Jaime I de Arago
´ 
n
, ed. A. Huici Miranda andM.D. Caban
˜
es Pecourt, 5 vols (Valencia, 1976
), vol. 1, 73
5, doc. 32.
6
J.L. Mart
ı´
n,
Orı´ genes de la orden militar de Santiago (1170–1195)
(Barcelona, 1974), 212
15, 224
5 docs 42, 51;
Bullarium equestris ordinis S. Iacobi de Spatha
, ed. A.F. Aguado de Co
´
rdoba, A.A. Alema
´
ny Rosales and J. Lo
´
pez Agurleta (Madrid, 1719), 5
6, 7
8;
Bullarium ordinis militiae de Calatrava
, ed.I.J. de Ortega y Cotes, J.F. Alvarez de Baquedano and P. de Ortega Zu
´
n
˜
iga y Aranda (Madrid, 1761), 63.
 
3
 A. Forey / Journal of Medieval History 28 (2002) 1
 –
22
least of their rulers.
7
Some documents relating to military orders do in fact refer tosuch expulsions: the count of Barcelona in 1143 made concessions to the Templarspartly
for the expelling of the race of Moors
, and when in 1172 a group of inhabi-tants of Avila associated themselves with the order of Santiago, they proposed toextend their activities to Morocco
when the Saracens have been driven from theparts of Spain on this side of the sea
.
8
The exiling of Muslims in fact characterisedsome conquests both in the Holy Land and in the Iberian peninsula.Although the relevance to conversion of charters which allude to the propagationor expansion of Christianity may be questioned, a very few twelfth- and early thir-teenth-century sources do explicitly seek to link military orders with the convertingof Muslims. Alexander III
s con
rmation of the order of Santiago issued in 1175contains the injunction:
in their warfare they should devote themselves to this objec-tive alone, namely either to protect Christians from their [the Saracens
] attacks orto be in a position to induce them [the Saracens] to follow the Christian faith
.
9
Thisstatement was incorporated into the rule of Santiago and was also included in latercon
rmations of Alexander
s bull.
10
In 1088 Urban II had sought to promote theconversion of conquered Muslims in Spain
by word and example
,
11
but cardinalAlbert of Morra, who was responsible for the 1175 bull,
12
did not elaborate on hisprecise meaning and the later sources are no more explicit.
13
As Humbert of Romanspointed out a century later, force might serve in various ways to further conversion:conquest facilitated preaching to subjugated in
dels
although missionary activitywas in practice more characteristic of the thirteenth than of the twelfth century
7
When writing in the early twelfth century about lands in Spain conquered from the Muslims byAlfonso VI, the author of the
Historia Silense
referred to
provinces recovered from their sacrilegioushands and converted to the faith of Christ
, but he was not referring to the conversion of Muslims: ed.J. Pe
´
rez de Urbel and A. Gonza
´
lez Ruiz-Zorrilla (Madrid, 1959), 119.
8
Coleccio
´ 
n de documentos ine
´ 
ditos del Archivo General de la Corona de Arago
´ 
n
, ed. P. de Bofarully Mascaro
´
, etc., 41 vols (Barcelona, 1847
1910), vol. 4, 93
9, doc. 43;
Colec.cio
´ 
diploma`tica de la casadel Temple de Barbera` (945
 –
1212)
, ed. J.M. Sans i Trave
´
(Barcelona, 1997), 110
14, doc. 35; Mart
ı´
n,
Or 
ı´ 
genes
, 226
8, doc. 53;
Bullarium S. Iacobi
, 8
9.
9
Mart
ı´
n,
Or 
ı´ 
genes
, 248
54 doc. 73;
Bullarium S. Iacobi,
13
17.
10
E. Gallego Blanco,
The rule of the Spanish order of St James, 1170
 –
1493
(Leiden, 1971), 110 cap.30;
Bullarium S. Iacobi
, 30
1, 36
40, 51
2, 57
8, 79
81, 173
4; D. Mansilla,
La documentacio
´ 
n ponti-
 fi
cia hasta Inocencio III (965
 –
1216)
(Rome, 1955), 145
51, doc. 124; Mart
ı´
n,
Or 
ı´ 
genes
, 350
1, 403
5docs 168, 226. In a thirteenth-century vernacular version of Santiago
s rule, the reference to conversionwas replaced by the more neutral phrase
for the increase (
acrescemiento
) of God
s faith
: D.W. Lomax,
 La orden de Santiago (1170
 –
1275)
(Madrid, 1965), 225
6 doc. 1 cap. 34.
11
Mansilla,
Documentacio
´ 
n ponti
 fi
cia
, 43
5 doc. 27.
12
See A. Ferrari,
Alberto de Morra, postulador de la orden de Santiago y su primer cronista
,
Bolet 
ı´ 
nde la Real Academia de la Historia
, 146 (1960), 63
139.
13
When referring to the wording of Alexander III
s bull, M. Rivera Garretas,
Los ritos de iniciacio
´
nen la orden militar de Santiago
,
Anuario de estudios medievales
, 12 (1982), 281, maintains that thepapacy
conceived of the religious
military vocation as a means of extending European culture
a civilis-ing expansion which permitted the creation of cultural and economic relations of lordship, in which theChristians would safeguard their lives and property
. This does not seem a very helpful comment.

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