The Apple of His EyeConverts from Islam in the Reign of Louis IX

The Apple of His EyeConverts from Islam in the Reign of Louis IX

William Chester Jordan

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780691190112

Publisher: Princeton University Press


The thirteenth century brought new urgency to Catholic efforts to convert non-Christians, and no Catholic ruler was more dedicated to this undertaking than King Louis IX of France. His military expeditions against Islam are well documented, but there was also a peaceful side to his encounter with the Muslim world, one that has received little attention until now. This book shines new light on the king's program to induce Muslims to voluntarily convert to Christianity and resettle in France. It recovers a forgotten but important episode in the history of the Crusades while providing a rare window into the fraught experiences of the converts themselves. This book transforms our understanding of medieval Christian–Muslim relations by telling the stories of the Muslims who came to France to live as Christians. Under what circumstances did they willingly convert? How successfully did they assimilate into French society? What forms of resistance did they employ? In examining questions like these, the book weaves a richly detailed portrait of a dazzling yet violent age whose lessons still resonate today. Until now, scholars have dismissed historical accounts of the king's peaceful conversion of Muslims as hagiographical and therefore untrustworthy. This book takes these narratives seriously, and uncovers archival evidence to back them up. It brings these findings to life; setting them in the context of the Seventh Crusade and the universalizing Catholic impulse to convert the world.