Via Sicily and Hungary: Supreme Christian Authority

In Sicily, the geographical work of al-Idrisi (d. c.560/1165) proves that data about the pope was available to Muslims of the island and, thanks to their connections with the rest of the Islamic world, maybe to the latter. Employed at the Norman court of Roger II/[1] [2] al-Idrisi had access to the networks maintained by Sicily’s ruling elite and was thus able to draw on source material not available to other Arabic-Islamic scholars of his time/5 Al-Idrisi asserts that Rome is ‘one of the pillars of the Christians’ (rukn min arkan al-nasara)[3] [4] and then describes the city of Rome:

one can see the palace of the ruler called pope (al-baba) in Rome. This ruler is more powerful than all other rulers who assign to him the position of the Creator (yuqimunahu maqam al-bari jall wa-‘azz). He governs with justice, punishes oppressors, protects the weak and the miserable and prevents that wrong is committed. His power surpasses that of all other Christian rulers (muluk al-Rum), and none of them can oppose his will. The grandeur and magnificence of Rome are such that it is impossible to describe them appropriately. The dependences of this city are numerous and famous. Among them are Magliano, Ostia, Mentana and Castello.77

Although al-IdrIsI reproduces well-known topoi associated with Rome in Arabic- Islamic literature, his access to different sources is reflected in this very explicit definition of the pope’s role within Christendom. Al-BakrI had already highlighted the pope’s authority vis-a-vis the rulers of Christianity by describing the conventions of protocol and the mechanisms of excommunication. Even more poignantly, al-IdrIsI assigns a position of absolute spiritual authority to the pope. This clearly corresponds to the image promoted by the reform papacy in the wake of Gregory’s VII (sed. 1073-85) dictatuspapae7z It seems justified to suppose that al-IdrIsI reproduced a definition that was current in Norman Sicily with its close, albeit problematic ties to the reform papacy of the late eleventh and twelfth centuries.[5] [6] His rather positive description of the pope as a ruler caring for the maintenance of justice reflects an internal Christian perspective not necessarily shared by other Muslim observers of the crusading period, as will be seen shortly. In this way, al-IdrIsI merged traditional Arabic-Islamic material on the city of Rome with a Christian definition of the papacy.

Al-IdrIsI was not the only Muslim in Sicily informed about the pope. In an effort to win support for his protege, the future Frederick II, pope Innocent III (sed. 1198-216) addressed two letters to the Muslims of Sicily in 1199 and 1206. In the earlier letter, directed at ‘all Saracens established in Sicily’, Innocent warned these Muslims not to cooperate with Frederick’s rival Marcovald.[7] [8] [9] [10] In the later letter, addressed to the ‘qadI and all leaders of the communities of Entelle, Platani, Iato and Celso as well as all other Muslim leaders and Saracens established in Sicily’, Innocent again appealed to his addressees to support Frederick^1 In spite of Innocent’s pleas, the Muslims of Sicily did not support the future emperor, engaged in fighting with him in the following years, and were eventually deported to Apulia in the 1220s.82 Given the precarious situation of the Sicilian Muslims under Frederick II, extant Arabic-Islamic sources failed to take notice of these two instances of direct communication between the pope and an almost-neighbouring Muslim community and focused on these Muslims’ fate.83

Although in no way comparable to Sicily, twelfth-century Hungary also featured a substantial Muslim population that necessarily held a different perspective on the ‘Latin West’ than its coreligionists in the heartlands of Islam.84 Two ArabicIslamic authors of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries confirm that information about the papacy was transmitted via Hungary to the Islamic world. The Andalusian traveller Abu H amid al-Gharnati (d. 565/1169-70) visited Hungary (bilad Unquriyya; Bashghurd; Bashghurd) in 545/1150, and stayed there for a few years before travelling in the Middle East.85 In Hungary, Abu Hamid received information about Rome (Rumiyya) which is recorded in his al-murib ‘an bad, ‘aja’ib al-Maghrib, written in the years before 556/1161, and in the tuhfat al-albab wa-nukhbat al-ajab, written around 557/1162.86

In the earlier al-mu ‘rib, Abu Hamid clearly distinguishes between Rome (Rumiyya al-‘uzma) and Constantinople (al-Qustantiniyya), placing Hungary in the area between both cities.ю In this account, Constantinople is ruled by the ‘master of Constantinople’ and ‘ruler of the Rum’ (malik al-Rum).88 The later description of Rome in the tuhfat al-albab seems to conflate Rome with Constantinople. Here Abu Hamid claims that Rome (Rumiyya, Rumiyya al- ‘uzma) was surrounded by the Black Sea (al-bahr al-aswad), a description that applies to Constantinople^ Then again, he asserts that the city was ruled by a person of overriding importance for Christians whose position was equivalent to that of the caliph. This description applies to the pope rather than to the Byzantine emperor.[11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] Abu Hamid’s portrayal of Rome in the tuhfat al-albab, allegedly, is based on the testimony of Hungarian Muslims who had visited the city.91 According to a rather obscure passage, they dissuaded him from travelling to Rome because of political tensions in the city, claiming that several princes (al-umara) were involved in a territorial fight which ‘the supreme ruler’ (al-malik al-akbar) was not able to calm.92 According to Cesare Dubler, this concurs with the fact that pope Eugene III (sed. 1145-53) had difficulties dealing with the local Roman aristocracy led by Arnold of Brescia and consequently only spent one-eighth of his papacy in Rome73 However, considering that the ‘supreme ruler’ allegedly married his daughter to the brother of the Hungarian king, Abu H amid is probably referring to the Byzantine emperor rather than the pope in this context^4

In spite of these incongruities, Abu H amid’s works suggest very strongly that information about Rome and the pope was available to Hungarian Muslims and, thanks to their relations with the Islamic Middle East, to the latter also. This is confirmed by the geographer Yaqut (d. 626/1229). He recounts that he encountered a group of blond and fair-skinned H anafi Muslims in Aleppo who defined themselves as ‘al-Bashghardiyya’. One of them explained that they were from the realm of a Frankish people called ‘al-Hunkar’ which bordered on the lands of the pope in the south, information that is followed by Yaqut’s definition of the pope’s position within Christendom.^

  • [1] 75 On al-Idrisis sources, see Ducene, Poland (2008), p. 9; Ducene, ‘Sources’ (2012), pp. 128-30.
  • [2] 76 A citation taken from Ibn Hawqal, surat al-ard, ed. Kramers, p. 202.
  • [3] 77 al-Idrisi, Opus geographicum, ed. Bombaci et al., fasc. VII, pp. 751, 752: ‘wa-fi madinat Ruma
  • [4] qasr al-malik al-musamma al-baba wa-laysa fawqa l-baba fawq fi l-qadr wa-l-muluk dunahuwa-yuqimunahu maqam al-bari’ jall wa-'azz yahkum bi-l-haqq wa-yataharra al-mazalim wa-yarfuqbi-l-du'afa’ wa-l-masakin wa-yanfi al-daym 'an al-muhtadamin wa-hukmuhu nafidh madin 'ala jami'muluk al-Rum wa-la yaqdir ahad minhum yarudd 'alayhi. wa-madinat Ruma akbar min an tusaf awyuhat bi-awsaf mahasinuha kathira wa-husna. wa-li-madinat Ruma bilad kathira wa-qawa'id mashhurafa-minha Awrat wa-Mal Malyar wa-Wastu wa-Mant Ya’ni wa-Qashtal.’
  • [5] On Gregory VII’s ideas for church reform, see Cowdrey, Gregory VII (2004), pp. 495—583.
  • [6] Holtzmann, ‘Rapporti’ (1958), pp. 20—35; Deer, Papsttum (1972); Morton, ‘Alexander II’(1975), pp. 362-82.
  • [7] Historia diplomatica Friderici secundi, ed. Huillard-Breholles and de Albertis de Luynes, vol. 1,1,pp. 37^0: ‘Innocentius . . . universis Saracenis in Sicilia constitutis . . .’, esp. p. 38; cf. Taylor, Muslims (2005), p. 5.
  • [8] Historia diplomatica Friderici secundi, ed. Huillard-Breholles and de Albertis de Luynes, vol. 1,1,pp. 118-20, 118: Archadio et universis Gaietis Antelle, Platane, Jaci, Celsi et omnibus Gaietis et Sar-racenis per Siciliam constitutis . . .’; cf. Taylor, Muslims (2005), pp. 5-7, 86.
  • [9] 82 Ibid., pp. 5-13.
  • [10] E.g. al-HimyarI, al-rawd al-mictar, ed. Abbas, lemma ‘Lujara’, p. 514; al-YunInI, dhayl, s. ed.,vol. 3, AH 676, pp. 254—5. 84 On Muslims in Hungary and the two sources dealt with in the following paragraphs, see Lederer,‘Islam’ (1992), pp. 1-23; Berend, Gate (2001), pp. 64-8, 84-7, 237^4; Catlos, Muslims (2014),pp. 229-50.
  • [11] Abu Hamid, tuhfa, ed. Ferrand, pp. 194—5; Abu Hamid, al-mu ‘rib, ed. Dubler, § 27—34,pp. 27—37; cf. Hrbek, ‘Bericht’ (1955), pp. 205—30; Dubler, Abu Hamid (1953), pp. 123—32.
  • [12] Ibid., pp. 131—2.
  • [13] 87 Abu Hamid, al-mu rib, ed. Dubler, § 29, p. 29: ‘wa-tilka al-wilaya min Rumiyya al- ‘ uzma ilahadd Qustantlniyya’. There is another reference to Rome at ibid., § 34, p. 35.
  • [14] Ibid., § 30, pp. 31—2. 89 Abu Hamid, tuhfa, ed. Ferrand, p. 193.
  • [15] 90 Ibid., p. 194: ‘wa-yusamma dhalika al-malik ‘ indihim al-malik al-rahim bi-manzilat al-khalifa fi
  • [16] l-muslimin wa-jamf al-nasara yarji‘ una ila hukmihi wa-yutf una qawlahu.’
  • [17] Ibid., pp. 194—5: ‘kuntu fi Bashghurd sanat khams wa-arba in wa-khamsimia kana bayniwa-bayna Rumiyya ayyam yasira wa-saaltu ba d al-muslimin alladhina yusafiruna ilayha mimman fiBashghurd ‘ an sifatiha fa-wusifa li ka-ma katabtuhu hahuna . . .’.
  • [18] 92 Ibid., pp. 194—5.
  • [19] Dubler, Abu Hamid (1953), p. 234. Cf. Maleczek, ‘Eugen III’ (1989), pp. 78—80; Horn, Studien(1992), pp. 175-82.
  • [20] Byzantine-Hungarian relations, including marital relations were intensive in this period. Cf. Stephenson, ‘Manuel I’ (1994), pp. 251-77; Vajay, ‘Prinzessinnen’ (1979), pp. 15-28.
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >