5.6. The Turkish doom

5.6. THE TURKISH DOOM

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 caused a deep feeling of insecurity and various theological reactions within Christianity. God’s plans for the Church seemed to be grim. In De pace fidei the German Nicolaus Cusanus appreciated that the end of the world would happen sometime between 1700 and 1734, probably through the destruction of Christianity by the Ottomans.617 The Dominican Giovanni Nanni da Viterbo had a different opinion; in Tractatus de futuris christianorum triumphis in turcos et saracenos from 1480 he debated the issue of identifying Muhammad with the Antichrist, concluding that Christians would reclaim the lost territories through their own efforts or through Christ’s intervention. The Ottoman Empire was the seventh angel of the Apocalypse and the pouring of the vial of wrath, while the Turkish military successes were a necessary divine punishment for Christian unfaithfulness.618 Same as Viterbo, Luther saw the Ottomans as a “plague” sent by God to punish Christians:

“A time, and times, and half a time.” I do not know whether it refers to the Turk, who began to rule when Constantinople was taken, in the year 1453, eighty-five years ago. If I calculate a time to be the age of Christ (thirty years) this expression would mean one hundred and five years, and the Turks, would still have twenty years swing to come … I believe that the angels are all up in arms, are putting on their harness, and girding their swords about them. For the last judgment draws nigh, and the angels prepare themselves for the combat, and to strike down Turk and pope into the bottomless pit. … The predictions of the apocalypse are accomplished already, as far as the white horse. The world cannot stand long, perhaps a hundred years at the outside. … The Turk will go to Rome, as Daniel’s prophecy announces, and then the last day will not be very distant.619

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4.1.2. The demonization of Muhammad

4.1.2. The demonization of Muhammad

The lack of information about the mysterious and mystical East outlined an erroneous image of the “great enemy” in Western Europe. Christians had a precarious image of Islam because their only intention was to dismantle it, not to understand it. Accordingly, the similarities between the two religions were explained in the worst light possible, while Muhammad turned into in a veritable dark legend, being depicted as a heretic, false prophet, renegade cardinal or founder of a violent religion.249

Christianity gained additional information about Muhammad in the 11th century due to the crusade or the Mozarabs of Spain such as Petrus Alphonsi. Later, during the 12th century, Peter the Venerable managed to obtain a translation of the Quran in Latin and a collection of information about Muhammad, so that the Christian scholars may doctrinarily refute the Islamic teachings. For Peter the Venerable Muhammad was not the Antichrist, but the successor of the heretic Arius of Alexandria and the precursor of the Antichrist. This wretched triad – which copied the Holy Trinity – had begun with Arius the heretic and the Arian heresy,

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2.1. The religious decadence and the beginning of the conflict with Islam

2. THE APOCALYPSES OF THE FIRST MEDIEVAL PERIOD

2.1. THE RELIGIOUS DECADENCE AND THE BEGINNING OF THE CONFLICT WITH ISLAM

The dissolution of the Western Roman Empire threw Western Europe into chaos, causing regress on all plans. The Middle Ages started brutally; during the Early Middle Ages (500-1000 AD) Europe had to endure the highest waves of migratory people, a decrease of population, the lowest level of commerce since the Bronze Age, a drastic decrease of resources, of the standard of living and of the level of culture. But the collapse of the empire left a political and administrative void that, in one way or another, had to be covered. There was an acute need for a unifying system that could revive the Roman organization, but the only thing that could gain the obedience of the people in that context, no matter the language, skin color and culture, was the belief in divinity. So, the only institution capable to impose itself in Western European society at the beginning of the Middle Ages was the church. The problem was that the filling of this void of power came at a price: the extension of the institutional features. While in the southeastern part of Europe the Byzantine Empire performed further on the role of regional stabilizer and protector of the church, in the western part of the continent the institution of the church was forced to assume a dual role: a political and a religious one. This meant that the religious structure copied the political one. The need for centralization granted authority to the Bishopric of Rome over the other Western bishoprics, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Papacy.

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