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Jerusalem, Latin sermons, Islam


This paper investigates how Christian writers from late antiquity through the twelfth century transformed explanations of encounters with Middle Eastern peoples and lands into a complex theological discourse. Examinations of sermons and narrative sources from antiquity through the first century of Crusades (1096-1192) serve as evidentiary bases because of the polemical way in which Pope Urban II’s 1095 sermon at Clermont defined Muslims. In that sermon, chroniclers recorded that the pope rallied Frankish support for an armed pilgrimage by disparaging Muslims who had overrun Jerusalem and the Holy Sites – calling them a “race utterly alienated from God” (gens prorsus a Deo aliena) -- and associating late-eleventh century Arabs with the return of what Richard of St. Victor would later identify as an “ancient enemy” (hostis antiquus). The article also shows that western sermon writers of the High Middle Ages explained issues of alterity and periphery by employing a system of classifications, or discourse, that relied upon biblical typologies, heretical fears, and eschatology instead of referring to direct twelfth-century encounters between Christians and Muslims (e.g., the Crusades in the Levant).