- Juan de Segovia and the Fight for Peace: Christians and Muslims in the Fifteenth Century by Anne Marie Wolf
A monograph that could resume, complete, and ultimately replace the Franciscan scholar Dario Cabanelas Rodríguez’s ground-breaking dissertation Juan de [End Page 917] Segovia y el problema islámico (Madrid, 1952) has long been awaited. Anne Marie Wolf’s Juan de Segovia and the Fight for Peace fulfills this need. Building on her PhD dissertation (University of Minnesota, 2003), Wolf provides new insights in this book, in particular on Segovia’s use of the Bible and his original call for peace between Christianity and the Islamic world. Here, Wolf carefully follows the theologian’s interest in Islam and the Qur’ān from his years at the University of Salamanca as a student and professor (1407–33) and his service as a leading member of the conciliarist party at the Council of Basel (1433–49) to his exile at the Aiton monastery in Savoy (1450–58). The book consists of an introduction, five chapters, and an epilogue, followed by an appendix of Latin texts.
In an accessible way, Wolf succeeds in illustrating the complex nature of Segovia’s interreligious thought, which resulted in a harsh critique of the crusade and his support for intellectual debates, the use of reason, and moral examples as a peaceful means to convert Muslims. The study of Segovia’s biography and literary production is well entwined with relevant events and intellectual movements such as the environments of Salamanca and Basel, the debate on the crusade in Spain, and the Diocese of St. Jean de Maurienne both before and after Segovia’s death (relevant archival documents from Chambéry are examined [pp. 131–33]). Wolf properly stresses the fact that religious patterns rather than secular and humanistic attitudes toward the Orient were at the core of Segovia’s worldview (pp. 131, 179, 187). The theologian’s arguments are proven by excerpts from his writings on Islam such as his university repetitiones, the extensive treatise on peaceful conversion drawn up after the fall of Byzantium (De gladio divini spiritus in corda mittendo Sarracenorum), his letters on Islam written to distinguished European churchmen, and the preface to the trilingual edition of the Qur’ān he promoted alongside ‘Īsā ibn Ğabīr in 1455–56.
The author adds two particularly relevant contributions. First, a careful study of Segovia’s teaching in Salamanca that considers the two extant repetitiones (the one held in 1427 deals extensively with the secta Mahumeti) together with a series of documentary proofs from the university Bulario and Cartulario (pp. 39–46). Second, an overview is provided of his intertwined experiences in Basel, where he coped with interconfessional matters (the Hussite heresy, the Greek delegation), and the development of his writings on Islam (pp. 109–14, 127–28). In this regard, Wolf makes coherent use of Segovia’s Historia gestorum generalis synodi Basiliensis (little studied to date) to further explore his interreligious thought (esp. pp. 113–14, 156–57). During and after the Basel years, indeed, he found a series of Qur’anic copies and drew from his interconfessional and diplomatic commitments to reason through closely intertwined solutions concerning peace, temporary coexistence, and peaceful conversion (pp. 178–79, 188). In such a well-balanced mosaic, scholars may notice a missing tessera: Segovia’s Liber de substancia ecclesie (Aiton, after 1449), which reflects his theological experience in Salamanca and Basel. Since this work’s original theory of the Church reveals an intriguing perspective on salvation history, it is unavoidable when discussing the earthly role of Islam and its spiritual destiny according to Segovia’s vision. This and other research developments might favorably [End Page 918] represent an attractive aim for future scholars, as Wolf suggests in concluding the book (p. 231).
If the monograph had ended here, one could have simply hailed a brilliant...