Promoting Holy War in Composite Societies: The Cases of Jaén and Cyprus

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 9:30 AM
Room 111 (Hynes Convention Center)
Thomas C. Devaney , Brown University
This paper considers how two promoters of holy war against Islam responded to religious plurality within their own societies. The careers of Miguel Lucas de Iranzo, Constable of Castile and ruler of the frontier bastion of Jaén, and Peter of Thomas, Papal Legate to the East, offer the opportunity to consider medieval frontier societies at either end of the Mediterranean under similar circumstances. Drawing on contemporary sources, including the anonymous Hechos del Condestable, Philip de Mézières's Life of Saint Peter Thomas, and Leontios Machairas's Chronicle, I examine how they publicly addressed tensions inherent in the contradictory ideas of conflict and co-existence that defined life on the frontier. Cyprus and Jaén played, for reasons of geography, key roles in struggles between Christians and Muslims. Yet these cities were more than points of strategic significance. Both had long and complex histories and had diverse populations that included a number of religious communities. Although religious intolerance was a significant social force in the frontier cities of the medieval Mediterranean world, it took place in an atmosphere of regular interaction, competition, and cooperation that forced Miguel Lucas and Peter of Thomas to carefully craft their public personae and to conduct public spectacles that emphasized the cooperative nature of society while abandoning absolute understandings of religious identity. Despite their peripheral locations and composite societies, the medieval history of these borderlands was one of remarkable stability. In seeking to understand this permanence, we should consider how public spectacle eased inter-communal tensions and united diverse groups toward common ends.
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