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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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Juan Manuel, El Conde Lucanor I


We only need to probe a little deeper also in the history of medieval Spanish history and literature to discover relevant examples of narratives or poems with some indication of toleration. A great example would be the famous heroic epic poem, El Poema de Mío Cid, from ca. 1100 or slightly later. The theme there has nothing to do with religious conflicts, as much as the protagonist, Ruy Díaz, also known as Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid, or el Campeador, fights against any Muslims who threaten him. Ultimately, the loss and reclaim of his honor is at stake, and El Cid makes every effort possible to cleanse his public standing in face of evil opponents who have maligned him at the royal court. But he does not slaughter the civic population indiscriminately, whether they are Muslims, Christians, or Jews. Having conquered the town of Castejón, for instance, he takes a hefty booty, basically plundering the city, but eventually he has to leave to avoid a confrontation with King Alfonso’s army. In that situation, however, he does not turn to massive slaughter; instead, he encourages his men “Let’s leave these Mors in peace: we’ve taken their money” (stanza 25, p. 37).116 From a moral and an ethical standpoint, the really evil characters are some of the Christian lords, especially the two Carrión brothers, whom the ignorant king later allows to marry El Cid’s daughters. Those evil men then only abuse their wives...

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