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

Hardcover | April 26, 2009

byJohn 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-Kamil. 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 ofChristianity, 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-Kamil, on the other hand, is variously presented as an enlightened pagan monarch hungry for evangelical teaching, a crueloriental 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 auniquely broad but precise vision of the evolution of Western attitudes towards Islam and the Arab world over the last eight hundred years.

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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-Kamil. 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...

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).

other books by John V. Tolan

Europe and the Islamic World: A History
Europe and the Islamic World: A History

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:416 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.1 inPublished:April 26, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019923972X

ISBN - 13:9780199239726

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Table of Contents

IntroductionThirteenth to Fourteenth Centuries1. Francis, model for the spiritual renewal of the Church. Jaques de Vitry (1220 and 1223-25)2. Al-Kamil, worthy adversary of the crusaders. An anonymous crusade chronicler. (1227-1229)3. Great thirst for matyrdom. Thomas of Celano, Vita prima (1228)4. Epic hero and eminent professor. Henry of Avraches (1229-1230)5. Bearer of the precepts of life. The Bardi alterpiece (1240s)6. Burning with a perfect love. Bonaventure, Legenda maior (1263)7. Trial by fire. The Assisi fresco (late thirteenth century)8. Father of the Spirituals. Angelo Clarenco (1329)9. The sultan converted. The Deeds of Blessed Francis and his Companions (1327-1337)Fourteenth to twenty-first centuries10. The trial by fire in painting and sculpture11. The Saint of Assisi confronts barbarous infidelity, 16th and 17th centuries12. Saint and Sultan seen by Philosophes and traditionalists, 18th century13. Francis in Jerusalem14. Francis, apostle of peaceEpilogue

Editorial Reviews

`This book is a major lesson in history. It incarnates the learned memory represented by the historical sciences, used masterfully against the 'savage' manipulation of memory. It shows that we are not prisoners of the past, but that the past is constantly brought up to date according to theneeds of the present.'Henry Laurens, L'Orient