November 22, 2019
ROME — Pope Francis trotted out a scene from the 11th-century French epic poem La Chanson de Roland this week to prove Christians have tried to convert Muslims by the sword, just as Muslims have done to Christians.
“A scene from The Song of Roland comes to me as a symbol, when the Christians defeat the Muslims and line them up in front of the baptismal font, with one holding a sword,” the pope told an Argentinian interreligious dialogue group Monday.
“And the Muslims had to choose between baptism or the sword. That is what we Christians did,” he declared.
It did not take long for the French themselves to cry foul, reproaching the pontiff both for besmirching one of their most beloved pieces of epic literature and for using a fictional narrative to illustrate a point about how Christians supposedly behave.
“La Chanson de Roland is obviously not a historical chronicle of events, but an epic poem, a chanson de geste, the oldest and most complete manuscript, written in Anglo-Norman, and dates back to the early twelfth century, four centuries after the facts it is supposed to recount,” wrote Vini Ganimara Thursday for the French Catholic news site Riposte Catholique.
The Song of Roland was indeed inspired in part by a historical event, namely Charlemagne’s expedition to Spain in 778, Ganimara observes, but this expedition to Spain was actually undertaken at the request of several Muslim governors of Spain, in rebellion against the Emir of Cordova.
This article was posted: Friday, November 22, 2019 at 5:08 am