During the 12th and 13th centuries, crusading manifested itself in all major fields of medieval written tradition. In addition to historical sources – chronicles, letters, bulls, and charters, penitentials, sermons, canon and secular law etc.– crusading ideology had a further echo in fictional and semi-fictional chansons de geste, hagiographies and genealogical works. This paper considers the character of heresiarch, the arch enemy of Christendom, in vernacular poetry from the early Old French Crusade Cycle, and compares the poems’ view on religious dissenters with the chronicles of the First and Second Crusade. Another text group, western travesties of the Life of Muhammad, will also be discussed as an important connective between crusader fact and fiction.
Sir Thomas Malory’s works include several Saracens, most prominent of which is Sir Palomides. They are clearly defined by their religion: they are named as Saracens, which to Malory means Muslims, and identified as unbaptized, thus not belonging to the church. However, the ethical judgements made about them relies entirely on their adherence, or lack thereof, to the chivalric code and courtoisie. The texts portrays them as heretical or pagan, but as capable of morally right behaviour even before conversion to Christianity.