In the wake of Jerusalem's fall in 1099, the crusading armies of
western Christians known as the Franks found themselves governing
not only Muslims and Jews but also local Christians, whose culture
and traditions were a world apart from their own. The
crusader-occupied swaths of Syria and Palestine were home to many
separate Christian communities: Greek and Syrian Orthodox,
Armenians, and other sects with sharp doctrinal differences. How
did these disparate groups live together under Frankish rule?
In The Crusades and the Christian World of the East,
Christopher MacEvitt marshals an impressive array of literary,
legal, artistic, and archeological evidence to demonstrate how
crusader ideology and religious difference gave rise to a mode of
coexistence he calls "rough tolerance." The twelfth-century
Frankish rulers of the Levant and their Christian subjects were
separated by language, religious practices, and beliefs. Yet
western Christians showed little interest in such differences.
Franks intermarried with local Christians and shared shrines and
churches, but they did not hesitate to use military force against
Christian communities. Rough tolerance was unlike other medieval
modes of dealing with religious difference, and MacEvitt
illuminates the factors that led to this striking divergence.
"It is commonplace to discuss the diversity of the Middle East in
terms of Muslims, Jews, and Christians," MacEvitt writes, "yet even
this simplifies its religious complexity." While most crusade
history has focused on Christian-Muslim encounters, MacEvitt offers
an often surprising account by examining the intersection of the
Middle Eastern and Frankish Christian worlds during the century of
the First Crusade.
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