Combat and Conversation: Interfaith Dialogue in Twelfth-Century Crusading Narratives

Document Type


Publication Date



The crusading movement offered a large number of lay knights from Western Europe the chance to see and interact with Muslims face to face, albeit often with weapons in hand and priorities other than cultural dialogue. Multiple crusading narratives, including both the "traditional" history of Robert of Rheims and the more "literary" Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi, depicted religious conversations between Christian and Islamic individuals on or near the field of battle, providing an alternative picture of how the Medieval Christian West perceived religious difference in the context of holy war. How did writers describe these encounters? To what degree do the opinions expressed in these conversations confirm or contradict what we understand to be contemporary religious knowledge? Is it likely that these encounters were based on historical reality or literary imagination, and what difference does it make? And what does the analysis of these dialogues contribute to our knowledge of the crusading movement and interfaith contact in the Middle Ages? In this article I address these questions and ultimately conclude that the episodes in these two sources represent a perspective in which reason, violent action, and religious faith complement, motivate, and justify one another.


Susanna A. Throop was affiliated with the University of New Hampshire at Manchester at the time of publication.

Published in Medieval Encounters, Volume 13, Issue 2, pages 310 – 325.

Details of final version can be found here: 10.1163/157006707X195011

This document is currently not available here.