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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

30 March 2007

The Rise and Fall of Paradise

The book I'm currently working on (Pilgrimage of the Heart) is set in 12th Century Spain and southern France, and I am gorging myself on the research.

Society in Moorish Spain in the 12th Century was a rich mixture of Muslims, Arabized Christians known as Mozarabs, Catholics, and Jews. Spain itself was divided into territories regained by the Christians in the north and the Almohad Kingdom of Granada in the south.

Alliances shifted as the struggle between Moors and Christians waxed and waned; many Muslim mercenary forces fought alongside Christian armies, and vice versa. The famous hero El Cid, for instance, once fought on the side of the Moors against Christian forces.

The Knights of Solomon's Temple, or Knights Templar, founded in 1118, was the most respected military order of the time, trusted and admired by both Crusaders and Saracens. The rival Order of St. John, or Hospitalers, never gained either the reputation or the enormous treasure garnered by the Templars, who served as bankers as well as diplomatic emissaries for both Muslims and Christians.

Southern France, or Occitania, in the 12th Century exhibited all the panache of the high middle ages: troubadours and the concept of courtly love, knights and ladies, tournaments and the code of chivalry, literary and cultural traditions that would be passed on into the Renaissance. Immortalized in songs and stories, it is an age we still relish.

Occitania was also a breeding ground for heresies such as the Cathars, and the area was sought by the Templars as a foothold for establishing a Templar presence in Aragon and Castile.

Templars owed allegience to the pope, not the king of France, who wished not only to gain control of lands in Occitania but to promote a crusade against Moorish Spain and drive out the Muslims. France also wanted to crush the Cathars, and to this end, prodded by the pope, the French king launched the bloody Albigensian Crusades to wipe them out.

In Spain, under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, this religious fervor led to the fall of Granada in 1492 and the end of a society in which Muslims, Christians, and Jews had once coexisted.

--Lynna Banning

6 Comments:

Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I'm fascinated by that period, too, Lynna, though pretty ignorant. But I did, some years ago, read a Love in the Western World, by Denis de Rougement, which traces our romantic tradition to the troubadors and courtly love, and traces those to the influence of the Cathars.

I have no idea whether any of that holds water, but I got this wonderful quote from de Rougement, which I used as the epigraph to an erotic novel:

Passion and expression are not really separable. Passion comes to birth in that powerful impetus of the mind which also brings language into existence. So soon as passion goes beyond instinct and becomes truly itself, it tends to self-description, either in order to justify or intensify its being, or else simply in order to keep going.

The symbiosis of passion and self-description seems so human to me, and certainly apposite to the troubadours.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Intriguing Lynna. How much of a challenge is it to write a romance in a period so signficantly different ours? Most people did not read, religion was a fundamental part of life, the needs of many were more important than the needs of the individual. How do you deal with that mind set and make it appealing to 21st century readers?

7:05 PM  
Blogger Lynna Banning said...

Pam--the latest HNS Review has a great review of your new book...
page 32. Or let me know and I copy and send it.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Lynna Banning said...

Mary--writing about 12th century Spain was a challenge because the political situation was extremely complex... but at that time, at least in Granada, literacy was high, along with progress in medicine, literature (translations of the classics by the Arabs), etc.
It was a very "civilized" period, and also a time of relative peace among Arabs, Jews, and Christians.

BUT--it's difficult to make this culture appealing to a 21st Century audience in that we "moderns" don't want to believe that Muslims and Christians got along and even inter-married! My first book set in this era was shot down for this very topic.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Keira Soleore said...

Lynna, thanks for those fabulous excerpts. I've read of Templar activity in France and the Middle East, but not in Spain. What an exciting time period to be writing in!

Arabized Christians known as Mozarabs

I'm really curious to know more about these people. Were these Christianized Arabs, Christians who'd intermarried with Muslim Arabs, or ???

...it's difficult to make this culture appealing to a 21st Century audience in that we "moderns" don't want to believe that Muslims and Christians got along and even inter-married! My first book set in this era was shot down for this very topic.

Oh, Lynna. Such bigotry and stupid censorship from the publishing houses.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Lynna Banning said...

Keira--Arabized Christians known as Mozarabs are Christians who have adopted Muslim dress, culture, etc. but NOT their religion.

About the Templars in Spain: I'm not sure the Templars had a presence, historically, in Spain; MY Templar, however, was raised in Granada, and he returns to his homeland in my first chapter.

3:36 PM  

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