Monthly Archives: June 2024

Michael J. Sanders, PhD Candidate, presents at 2023 conference in Israel and researches in Spain with support of History Department, GSAS, and Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Institute

The History Department’s Leahey Fellowship and O’Connell Initiative Graduate Travel Grant as well as a Student Support Grant from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and travel aide from the Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Institute allowed PhD Candidate Michael J. Sanders to spend most of July 2023 abroad in Israel and Spain. In Israel, Michael presented a paper in Jerusalem at the Ben-Zvi Institute’s international conference, “Jerusalem: From Umbilicus Mundi to the Four Corners of the Earth and Back.” Encouraged to apply by one of the New York Public Library-Fordham Fellows in Jewish Studies, Prof. Eyal Ben-Eliyahu, Michael was one of the few graduate students chosen to participate in the conference. Michael’s paper, “From Santiago to the Holy Land: Itinera per Hispaniam to Jerusalem in Iberian Political Culture (1100–1300),” examined the origins of the Spanish Route—various itineraries proposed throughout the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period that took crusaders from the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal) across North Africa or the Mediterranean Sea to Jerusalem. This little-known idea initially arose from the minds of Santiago de Compostela’s first archbishop, Diego Gelmírez, and the Aragonese king, Alfonso the Battler. Michael’s presentation, available to watch at, argued the translation story of the Arca Santa, a famous chest of relics, from the Holy Land to Iberia by Bishop Pelayo of Oviedo, a contemporary of Gelmírez and Alfonso, attested to the Spanish Route’s proliferation throughout twelfth-century Iberia.

Michael Sanders atop Tower of David in Jerusalem

The Spanish Route forms an important part of Michael’s dissertation, “Forgotten Roads: Jerusalem in Iberian Political and Religious Culture from Medieval to Modern Times.” This project explores the significance of the city, especially regarding identity, kingship, and empire, for Iberians, chiefly in the kingdoms of León-Castile and Catalonia-Aragon, from 1123 until 1516. After the conference in Israel, Michael traveled to Spain to conduct research for this project, which had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, he visited the city of Valencia to examine medieval and modern material culture that featured bat heraldry. During the Middle Ages, the bat became an apocalyptic symbol for an Iberian king who would usher in the end times by conquering Jerusalem. Second, Michael traveled to Córdoba and looked at manuscripts within the library of the city’s beautiful Mosque-Cathedral. In particular, he was interested in a manuscript compiled by Pedro de Casis, a royal agent at the papal court in Avignon, which demonstrated Castilian designs on Jerusalem during the early fourteenth century. Finally, Michael ended his trip in Madrid, where he analyzed a little-known chronicle by Bishop Gonzalo de Hinojosa at the Royal Library of the Monastery of El Escorial, viewed more bat heraldry in the Royal Armory of Madrid, and consulted some of the holdings in the National Library. Such a wonderful trip, which will help him to complete his dissertation next year and has already enhanced his teaching (as his students last year in UHC: Renaissance to Revolution in Europe and Between Conquest and Convivencia: The Spanish Kingdoms will attest) would not have been possible without the Leahey, O’Connell, Student Support, and Ben-Zvi grants. Michael would like to thank the History Department, GSAS, and Ben-Zvi Institute for all of their support.     

Bat Heraldry in Mercat de Colom

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Patrick C. DeBrosse, PhD Candidate, publishes an article entitled “The First Draft of a Saladin Legend: Saladin’s Reputation in the Latin West prior to 1187”

Patrick C. DeBrosse, PhD Candidate, published his article entitled “The First Draft of a Saladin Legend: Saladin’s Reputation in the Latin West prior to 1187” in Viator 54, no. 1 (2023): 141-73.

Below is the abstract:

In 1187 the sultan Saladin (1138–93) famously won a victory at the Battle of Hattin that enabled him to conquer most of the territory of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In response, the rulers of the Latin West launched the Third Crusade (1187–92), one of the largest and most elaborate expeditions in the history of the crusades. Scholars of the period have explained the intensity of crusader sentiments in the Latin West through reference to the sense of trauma that gripped Europe after the news of Hattin, and they have shown how Saladin himself became the focal point of polemical crusade propaganda. But Saladin’s reputation in the Latin West prior to 1187 remains a relatively unexplored topic of scholarly inquiry. This essay offers an analysis of three Latin chronicle accounts composed between circa 1170 and 1186, in order to ascertain the sorts of claims Latin Europeans made about Saladin and his family before Hattin. These three chronicles (by Lambert of Wattrelos, Geoffrey of Vigeois, and Robert of Torigni) offered salacious accounts of events in the East, which made use of the same exotic storytelling devices that we can find in contemporary epic and romance. The independence of these accounts suggests that gossip about Saladin had, after crossing the Mediterranean, coalesced into an international set of recognizable tropes. Many of the chroniclers’ details about Saladin and his family anticipate the polemical claims that promoters of the Third Crusade advanced about the sultan after Hattin. Such echoes are significant because they suggest that preexisting perceptions about Saladin helped shape the reaction to Hattin, encouraging disdain and contempt for the sultan among the inhabitants of the Latin West. Scholars should therefore regard the culture of exotic storytelling about “Saracens” in the East as being among the long-term causes of the crusade. At the same time as these early rumors about Saladin encouraged outrage in the West and violence in the East, they also established literary themes about the sultan’s life that would persist in the literature of later centuries, by which time Latin European authors had reimagined Saladin as a chivalric hero.

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Leahey Fellowship 2023-2024 Report: Maria Carriere

With funding from the History Department’s 2023-2024 Leahey fellowship, Maria Carriere spent two weeks in France visiting departmental archives in Blois and Chartres. The visit was part of preliminary research for Maria’s dissertation, which focuses on the activities of Alix of Brittany, the countess of Blois, who gathered a large number of troops and traveled to the Holy Land after her husband Jean’s death in the late thirteenth century. There, Alix erected two towers at Acre and was involved in the commissioning of a Histoire Universelle, a “history of the world.” Maria spent a week in Blois, gathering archival material related to activities of Alix and her husband Jean, including evidence of Alix’s burial from the cartulary of a house of Poor Clares. She spent an additional week in Charters, where she gathered further archival evidence for Alix and Jean’s administration of their county and their religious patronage. While in France, she made time to visit the famous Chartres cathedral, tour Saint-Denis, and view the Tour de France parade. Maria now has collected seventy-seven archival documents from which she can begin to reconstruct the movements of Alix and Jean during their time as the counts of Blois and upon which portions of her dissertation will be based. She looks forward to cataloging, organizing, and translating the material she gathered.

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