From Holy War to Peaceful Co-habitation. Diversity of Crusading and the Military Orders
July 14 - 25, 2008

Application deadline for scholarship applications: 14 February, 2008
Application deadline for fee-paying applications: 30 May, 2008

Course Directors: Jozsef Laszlovszky, Medieval Studies Department, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Faculty: Michel Balard, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France
Jochen Burgtorf, California State University, Fullerton, USA
Ronnie Ellenblum, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
John France, University of Wales, Swansea Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UK
Jürgen Sarnowsky, University of Hamburg, Germany
Hugh Kennedy, St. Andrews University, UK
Janus Moller Jensen, University of Southern, Denmark
Alan V. Murray, International Medieval Bibliography, Leeds University, UK


The crusades and the emergence of the medieval military orders was one of the most debated historical issues in the last century. Historical, archaeological, religious studies were dedicated to this problem, and political, economic and military explanations were put forward to highlight and to explain the relatively fast development of the concept of the new type of holy war and the emergence of new power centres (Kingdom of Jerusalem, Latin Empire, etc.). The transformation of the early medieval political and religious system in the Mediterraneum is one of the key historical issues in this context, and the religious confrontations of the Christian and Muslim worlds have been interpreted in many fundamentally different ways since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Recently, major international conferences and monographic studies reinterpreted the whole period and they proposed fundamentally new concepts for the explanation of this religious and military conflict. They represent an extremely wide range of modern ideas of reinterpretation and many complex issues concerning the concept of holy war, as a new type of warfare and interaction between Christian and Muslim societies, regional development patterns in the Holy Land and other crusader states, and the very general concept concerning the clashes of cultures. These very important new historical works were also confronted with contemporary political events and with the most recent religious and military conflicts between the Western world and the Islam. "Nine eleven" and the fundamentalist Islam movement confronted the scholars dealing with the problem of crusades and the military orders that their research agenda is not simply an academic problem, but one of the most difficult political and religious issues of our world. The thought-provoking, or rather provocative essays interpreted the whole issue in the light of recent political agenda, arguing that this entire circle of discussions is only the result of historical retrospective arguments, where modern Western or Islam civilizations want to find their historical justification in a very misleading interpretation on the holy war. In this argument, the peaceful co-habitation, the concept of acculturation is just a modern political agenda, and the crusades and the emergence of medieval military orders is indeed should be seen as a period of cruel wars, terrible destruction and conflicts and confrontations leading to the hostilities of our contemporary world. A fundamentally different explanation and interpretation can be found in several other well-documented and clearly argued studies of scholars, who follow the concept of a gradual transformation and take into consideration the evidence for war and destruction just as the evidence for revival, restructuring or co-habitation. New research methods and approaches (environmental-historical studies, architectural history of military constructions, art historical interpretations of Christian-Muslim interactions) offer a wide panorama on the fast growing published written source material, the archaeological evidence of this period, which fundamentally changed our understanding on the main issues of the period.

Based on these recent studies and the discussions and debates generated by them the summer course wants to focus on these questions and plans to offer an interdisciplinary approach for scholars.

Topics And Course Structure

The SUN course will focus on four major issues starting from a local-regional context of one of the most important power centres of the period (Holy Land, Latin Empire, etc.). Until very recently the main emphasis of research was connected to the religious, political and military aspects of the crusades, but recent studies started to focus on economic, social and environmental issues and on their impact on the areas affected by the early and late crusades (Iberian Peninsula, Baltic region, South-East Europe). The local regional aspect then will be incorporated to a European wide panorama of the period, with the main questions concerning the interactions of different power zones and religious centres. In this part, the interaction of Christian and Muslim societies, the transformation of the idea on holy war and the emergence of the new power centre will be discussed, also in the context of military confrontations, invasions and the arrival new groups (Military orders, assassin, Ottoman-Turks etc.) The third main block of lectures and discussions will focus on the general interpretation of the period on a European-wide basis, and the new research data derived from the archaeological projects in the Holy Land, the Baltic region and South-East Europe. These data will be confronted with the general historical debates mentioned in the introduction. Finally, the afterlife of the crusades and military order sites will be discussed, to what extent this medieval ideology and its archaeological, architectural heritage was reinterpreted, transformed and re-utilised in modern historiography and political ideas.

Course structure and topics for the seminars

1) Crusading warfare: techniques, logistics, military architecture
  1. The emergence of the Holy War and its impact on warfare

  2. Large-distance military expeditions and their logistics: transport, weapons, food and water

  3. Transformation of the military architecture and its impact on the crusades

  4. The impact of the military orders on the crusades - from hospitaller orders to military orders

2) Many views of the crusades - historical sources, literary sources
  1. Pilgrimages to the Holy Land and their transformation during the crusades

  2. Contemporary Christian and Muslim reports on the crusades and the idea of the Holy War

  3. Transformation of the idea of Holy Wars during the Late Crusades and its impact on the Christian-Muslim interaction

  4. Heroes of the crusades and their literary and artistic image

3) Colonization - Co-habitation - Interaction: transformation of the regions affected by the crusades and the military orders
  1. Land exploitation, conflict management

  2. Transformation of the landscape and the environment as the result of the crusades

  3. Colonization and warfare: the impact of the military orders

  4. Natural scientific and archaeological approaches to the understanding of Christian and Muslim interaction

  5. Land colonization and the Baltic crusade

4) Diversity of crusading: Change and interaction in the crusades and the Military Orders
  1. Social structure and its impact on the military orders

  2. Transformation of rural societies in the areas of crusades

  3. Estate management and the accumulation of wealth by the military orders

  4. Financial transactions and the economic background of the military orders

Each lecture will be followed by a seminar discussion and the four blocks will be followed by a workshop-type discussion (round-table) with the participation of all faculty of the block. The course will also include a field trip to visit the medieval monuments at Esztergom (Royal Palace and the Museum of Christian Art) and we will discuss there the role of these monuments on the later development of Esztergom as an ecclesiastic centre in the Middle Ages. Esztergom was a crucial place in the itinerary of crusaders during the 11-13th centuries and very detailed descriptions survived of the palace and the town written by participants of the crusade of Frederic Barbarossa. The excavated remains of the royal chapel and of the royal palace built by Béla III were mentioned for the first time in the documents written by contemporary crusaders. Therefore, the academic field trip to visit these monuments can offer an excellent milieu for the discussion of the crusader movement and on its impact for Central Europe.