Tutor: Harry Munt
Module type: MA Option
Module code: HIS00075M
Jerusalem is perhaps the definitive medieval holy city: an urban space teeming with shrines in a region (Palestine or ‘The Holy Land’) crowded with even more, and considered to be holy by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. This module will explore the multiple understandings of the city’s sanctity from the Islamic conquest of the seventh century to the aftermath of the Crusades as they were constructed by members of all three religious groups. Constructions of places as sacred or holy are not static and this module will emphasise a diachronic approach to the various attitudes held by pilgrims, religious scholars and rulers to Jerusalem’s sanctity. After the Islamic conquest, did Muslims attach significance to the same sites as their Christian and Jewish predecessors, or did they create new holy places and new meanings for old ones? How did Christians and Jews, in both Europe and the Middle East, react to the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem? Did the second great changeover of political rule in Jerusalem, from Muslims to Christians, during the Crusades have much of an impact on the ways in which scholars and rulers thought about and utilised Jerusalem’s sanctity. We will also address the matter of when and why Jerusalem was envisaged as a site of conflict between members of the different faiths, and when and why it was imagined as a city shared peacefully between them.
A wide variety of sources are available for such a study, ranging from chronicles, local histories, pilgrim guides and travel narratives to epigraphy, archaeology, numismatics and artistic representations. Moreover, the shared appreciation of Jerusalem’s sanctity among Christians, Jews and Muslims means that such sources are drawn from an excitingly wide range of linguistic and cultural traditions. As we investigate what Jerusalem’s sanctity meant to different people at different times, we will bring medieval Arabic sources fully to bear alongside those written by Europeans.
The provisional outline for the module is as follows: