HST280: Sacred Violence in the Medieval Mediterranean

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader: Dr Danielle Park



Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.


Module Summary

During the thirteenth century, an expansionist and militant Christendom fought wars all around the Mediterranean to re-conquer the lands that had once belonged to the Roman Empire but had been lost over the centuries. Muslims, Jews, heretics and others who inhabited the region were commonly seen as deadly enemies of the true faith who had to be converted or destroyed. This module will investigate the wide-ranging activities of popes, kings, crusaders, missionaries and merchants as they worked together to impose Latin Christianity on the lands and peoples of the Mediterranean. Beginning with the First Crusade, the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and its loss to Saladin in 1187, we will look at the diversification of ‘sacred violence’ in the aftermath of that humiliation. We will examine the reconquista in Spain; the Albigensian Crusades against heretics in the south of France; the wars against the Hohenstaufen emperors in southern Italy and Sicily; the Fourth Crusade and its aftermath in the Byzantine Empire and the crusades in support of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. Attention will be given to the role of the papacy, which saw itself as the supreme power on earth, responsible for directing medieval society in the work of defence, expansion and conversion. Papal policy was often implemented by the new religious orders of Franciscans and Dominicans, who were deeply involved in the development of new ways to engage in dialogue with heretics and non-Christians, including the establishment of the Inquisition. The importance of successful 're-conquest' of territories around the Mediterranean in the emergence of strong, centralised kingdoms will be explored. Finally, the complicated tangle of individual motivations as they were articulated by contemporaries, and the unresolved tension between crusade and mission will form the backdrop.


Teaching and Assessment

This module will be taught through one lecture and one seminar per week. The programme below is a provisional outline.

  Lectures Seminars
1 The worlds of the thirteenth-century Mediterranean Religion, violence and ‘sacred violence’
2 The ordering of society: power, authority and faith Pope Innocent III and the assertion of papal authority
3 Holy war: theory and practice Crusades and crusaders
4 The Kingdom of Heaven, 1096-1187: Conquering and losing Jerusalem Saladin and the humiliation of Christendom
5 The Fourth Crusade and the Latin conquest of the Byzantine Empire Greeks into heretics: justifying the conquest of Constantinople
6 The Spanish Reconquista Strategies of control: Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Spanish kingdoms
7 ‘Kill them all and God will know his own’: the Albigensian Crusades Confessing to the Inquisition
8 Crusading for Jerusalem: Part I Negotiating for Jerusalem: the crusade of an ex-communicate Emperor
9 Crusading for Jerusalem: Part II Louis IX: suffering saint in the battlefield
10 Crusading against Christians Antichrists abroad: Papacy vs. Empire
11 The re-conquest of the Mediterranean Empire-building in the Mediterranean

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level2


Selected Reading

A coursepack will be made available at the start of the module.

  • Malcolm Barber, The Two Cities: Medieval Europe, 1050-1320, (London: Routledge, 1992) (recommended) [Electronic Text Available]
  • Benjamin Z. Kedar, Crusade and mission: European approaches toward the Muslims, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, c1984)
  • Malcolm Lambert, Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2002)
  • Colin Morris, The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991) (recommended) [Electronic Text Available]
  • Joseph F. O'Callaghan, Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)
  • J. R. S. Phillips, The Medieval Expansion of Europe, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)
  • Jane Sayers, Innocent III. Leader of Europe, 1198-1216 (London: Longman, 1994)
  • Christopher Tyerman, God's War: A New History of the Crusades (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2007) (recommended)
  • Robert Bartlett, The making of Europe: conquest, civilization and cultural change 950-1350 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994)


Intended Learning Outcomes
Plus Icon