Via al-Andalus: Chief of Religious Affairs

Information about the early medieval papacy’s relations with the Carolingians reached al-Andalus where it was recorded by Ibn Hayyan (d. 496/1076) and al-Bakri (d. 487/1094). We may recall that al-Bakri refers to a bishop of Rome called ‘Yuwanish’ who commissioned the construction of a new city on the other bank of Rome’s river and who may be identified with John VIII (sed. 872-82), the contemporary of Charles the Bald.60 In the same passage, al-Bakri claims that the Roman church of Saint Peter (Shanta Batir) contained images of several kings, including of a certain ‘Charles’ (Qarluh), in solid gold, a reference that possibly applies to the mosaic of the so-called ‘Triclinium Leonianum’, an image of Charlemagne, Peter, and pope Leo III in the Lateran.61 In a context which clearly addresses the activities of Charles the Bald (d. 877), Ibn Hayyan claims that a Frankish ruler named ‘Qarlush b. Ludhwiq’ produced a richly adorned image of Jesus which he sent to the ‘master of the golden church’ (sahib kanisat al-dhahab). While Ibn H ayyan does not provide further information on this enigmatic personality, the Maghrebian historiographer Ibn ‘Idhari (d. after 712/1312-13), who calls the donor ‘Qarulush’, locates the recipient in Rome (bi-Ruma).62 The Liber pontificalis mentions a similar present sent to the pope by the same Charles.63 Latin sources record several encounters between the pope and the Muslim world in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, which involve al-Andalus or regions nearby. According to Liudprand of Cremona (d. 970 or 972), pope John XII (sed. 955-64) sent emissaries to Adalbert, the Lombard king of Italy, who had taken refuge in the Saracen raider colony Fraxinetum in around 963.'64 The Ottonian chronicler Thietmar of Merseburg (d. 1018) describes a rather unfriendly exchange of envoys between Benedict VIII (sed. 1012-24) and a ‘Saracen king’ (rex Saracenus),

'о al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 804, p. 478. See Chapter 7.1.2.

'I Krautheimer, Rom (2004), p. 133; another interpretation in Scarcia, ‘Roma’ (2002), p. 160; Schilling, ‘Karl’ (2004), p. 218.

  • 62 Ibn Hayyan, al-muqtabis 11-2, ed. Makki, pp. 130—1 with n. 2; Ibn ‘Idharl, al-bayan, ed. Colin and Levi-Proven^al, vol. 2, p. 108. Ibn ‘Idharl places the event in the ruling period of Muhammad I b. ‘Abd al-Rahman (ruled 238—73/852—86). See also Ibn ‘Idhari, Historias, trans. Fernandez Gonzalez, pp. 211—12. Drawing on MS A and B, the translator gives the name of the Frankish ruler as ‘Fardha- land’, a reading refuted by Colin and Levi-Proven^al, but also used by Ibn al-Khatib, a'mal al-alam, ed. Levi-Proven^al, p. 23. Cf. Levi-Proven^al, Histoire, vol. 1 (1950), p. 282 n. 3. See Chapter 6.2.1.
  • 63 Liber pontificalis, ed. Duchesne, vol. 2, cap. CVII (Nicolaus, sed. 858—67), § 600 (§ LII), p. 161: ‘Interea Karolus rex sancto apostolo optulit purissimo auro et gemmis constructam uestem, habentem gemmas prasinas, hiacinthinas et albas.’ cf. Levi-Proven^al, Histoire, vol. 1 (1950), p. 282 n. 3. See Chapter 6.2.1.
  • 64 Liudprandus, Liber de rebusgestis Ottonis, ed. Becker (MGH SS rer. Germ. in us. schol. 41), cap. 4, pp. 160—1; cf. Zimmermann, Papstregesten 911—1024, vol. 2 (1998), a. 963, § 312, pp. 95-6; Althoff, Ottonen (2005), p. 116.

i.e. the ruler Mujahid of Denia, in 1016.65 Neither episode of encounter is recorded in Arabic-Islamic sources.

More information seems to have been collected in the eleventh century. Following a copy of Ibn Rustah’s passages on the pope and the reason for Roman Christians shaving,66 al-Bakri proffers one of the most vivid ethnographic descriptions of Latin-Christian customs in medieval Arabic-Islamic literature. Under the heading ‘Some information about the lifestyle of the Romans, their history and their traditions’ (dhikr shay min siyar al-Rum wa-akhbarihim wa-madhahibihim), al-Bakri explains why Christians observe Sunday worship, describes the ritual of consuming the eucharist (al-qurban), and deals with gender relations, addressing topics such as everyday dealings between the sexes, marriage, adultery, and divorce as well as men’s and women’s rights of inheritance. Social phenomena such as distinctive symbols of rule, judicial discrimination of the weak, the consequences of sexual relations with dependent women and the legal status of their children, also kindled his interest. Following this, al-Bakri deals with the Christian practice of Lent. Here, he distinguishes between the Christian practice under Muslim and under Christian rule (f mawdl mamlakatihim).67

Al-Bakri obviously regarded the pope, mentioned only a few paragraphs earlier, as the leader of this Christian community. But as opposed to Ibn Rustah, who reduced the pope to the status of a local urban ruler upholding ancient Christian traditions, al-Bakri makes it plain that the pope led a Christian community that transcended the urban confines of Rome. According to al-Bakri, Christian rulers were obliged to fall on their knees before the pope and to kiss his feet. They were only allowed to get up when the pope allowed them to do so78 That the pope’s authority reached beyond the eternal city also becomes clear in al-Bakri’s description of the marital scandal involving count Ramon Berenguer I of Barcelona (ruled 1035-76), which features the earliest Arabic-Islamic description of the effects of papal excommunication. Rumours circulating in the eastern parts of the Iberian Peninsula must have reached the Andalusian scholar: Al-Bakri tells us that Ramon (Ray Mund b. Balanqir b. Burril) set out for Jerusalem in 446/1054 and fell in love with the wife of his host during his stop in Narbonne. On his way back from Jerusalem to Barcelona, he abducted and married the woman. Supported by her family, Ramon’s former wife went to Rome to complain to ‘her superior’ (‘azimuha), ‘the chief of religious affairs’ (sahib al-din) called ‘the pope’ (al-babah). Producing witnesses, she complained that her husband had left her for no reason—an action not permitted in the Christian religion, al-Bakri comments. Therefore, the pope barred Ramon’s access to churches, denied him burial, and ordered the Christian community to exclude him. Ramon, however, successfully mobilized several clerics and bishops with the aid of bribes and intrigues. In the pope’s presence, the latter asserted that Ramon was related too closely to his former wife, and that his new [1] [2] [3]

wife had been too closely related to her former husband. Because of this, the pope revoked his earlier measures.[4]

In this way, al-Bakri describes the pope’s wide influence among Christians. Unfortunately, he does not circumscribe this Christian sphere apart from mentioning the Christians of Rome, of the Iberian Peninsula, and Christian rulers outside Rome. Neither does he name his sources. He may have acquired his knowledge about Christian customs and traditions through contact with Iberian Christians. This does not rule out, however, that al-Bakri also received information from eyewitnesses who had been in Christian territories adjacent to Muslim al-Andalus or even in Rome itself. His observation that Christians under Muslim rule practised Lent more strictly than Christians under Christian rule,[5] his reference to inhabitants of Rome who went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela/[6] [7] [8] and his knowledge about the image of Charles in one of Rome’s churches/2 certainly point in this direction.73

  • [1] Thietmar Merseburgensis, Chronicon, ed. Holtzmann (MGH SS rer. Germ. NS 9), lib. VII, cap.45 (31), pp. 452—3. For the context, see Bruce, ‘Piracy’ (2010), pp. 235—48.
  • [2] al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 803-05, pp. 478—9.
  • [3] Ibid., § 806—08, pp. 479—80. See Scarcia, ‘Roma’ (2002), pp. 129—72. 68 al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 803-05, pp. 478—9.
  • [4] Ibid., § 1527, pp. 910-11; cf. Aurell, Noces (1995), pp. 261-78.
  • [5] al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 808, p. 480.
  • [6] Ibid., § 1489, p. 891. 72 Ibid., § 804, p. 478.
  • [7] 73 Cf. Simone and Mandala, L’immagine (2002), p. 17.
  • [8] 74 Cf. Houben, Roger II (2002), pp. 102-7, on the employment of al-Idrisi.
 
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