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Religious Toleration in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age

An Anthology of Literary, Theological, and Philosophical Texts

Albrecht Classen

More than ever before do we need the critical engagement with religious tolerance. Historical perspectives allow us to gain access to the discourse on this universal, often very contested topic. Already the Middle Ages and the early modern age witnessed the emergence of significant voices addressing toleration, if not even tolerance. This anthology opens many new perspectives toward this centrally important topic, adding a cultural-historical, religious, literary, and philosophical dimension mostly unknown today.

„Albrecht Classen reminds us in this volume that, "we all know just too well that the survival of the human species and its future development depends existentially on its ability and willingness to subscribe to the fundamental ideals of at least toleration, if not tolerance." As with others of Classen's works on the full range of medieval and early modern culture, this book could not be more timely or more urgently needed, especially for its positive approach to a highly volatile topic."

Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, Creighton University, Omaha, NE

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Li dis dou vrai aniel: The Tale of the True Ring


This verse narrative was composed sometime in the late thirteenth, maybe early fourteenth century and is contained in a manuscript along with a number of other short poems, mostly from northern France. There are poems by Adam de la Halle from Arras, Jehan Bodel, also from Arras, Richart de Fournival from Amiens, Baudoin de Condé from the Hainaut, and many others. The manuscript contains 275 folios, 212 of which with texts originating from the province of the Picardie. Our anonymous poet dedicated his work to the Count of Artois, perhaps Robert II (September 1250–11 July 1302),95 which seems to indicate that he was in his service.96 Robert was famous not only for his outstanding military abilities and numerous victories in major battles, but also for his great dedication to the arts, as best reflected by the massive expansion of the illustrious gardens of Hesdin, decorated with fountains and automata, artificial ponds, hydraulic apparatuses, mechanical devices, and the like. It was only fitting for this major patron of the arts also to sponsor literature and poetry.97

In a way, this poem might not even fit into our anthology because of the strongly xenophobic approach, i.e., the anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish slant, if not open hostility. The poet expressly condemns Islam and Judaism and identifies Christianity as the only true religion. However, he also formulates great fear that the Christian religion is on a retreat and has lost critical ground, both in the Holy Land and in...

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