In Juan de Segovia’s writings on Islam drawn after the fall of Byzantium (1453), experience and memory overlaps continuously resulting in the ultimate evidence of the author’s call for the peaceful conversion of Muslims. In his letters to Nicholas of Cusa (1454) and Jean Germain (1455), Segovia relies on experience to demonstrate the uselessness and ineffectiveness of the Crusades and the preaching activities in Islamic lands. Moreover, he provides a detailed account of a three-day oral dispute with a Muslim scholar held in Medina del Campo almost thirty years before (1431) to underline the need of establishing rational dialogue with Muslims. Experience, however, has not to be exclusively referred to the temporarily limited time of the author’s life. On the one side, Segovia negatively points to the endeavors of Christian preachers and crusades who failed in their missions; on the other side, he positively recalls the rational teaching of the Apostles aimed at converting heretics and Judaizers. In this paper, I shall show how these persistent and multifaceted uses of experience radically differentiates Segovia from contemporaries such as Enea Silvio Piccolomini or Juan de Torquemada with respect to Christian missions towards non-Christian believers.
The anti-Islamic writings of two late 13th-century Dominicans, Riccoldo da Montecroce and William of Tripoli, both of whom spent years living among Muslims, are unique for juxtaposing positive descriptions of Muslim praxis with strong criticisms of Islam. How did these descriptions, clearly rooted in concrete memories of personal experiences, affect their respective arguments against Islam? Were the remembered experiences of these two friars affected by – or did they have an effect on – the overall missionary strategy of the Dominican Order at this time?
If someone writes an important work, do you remember the person or the message? I will highlight three instances of Riccoldo’s reception before 1440 that point to the latter. The missionary is silently quoted, abbreviated, and plunged into new contexts, thereby partly retaining, partly reshaping his message. The three examples are the Tractatus contra Alchoranum by Petrus de Pennis, written probably in the late 14th century, a part of the Epitome bellorum sacrorum, compiled in 1422 and the fragment De conditionibus legum by John of Ragusa (c. 1437). These different ways of making use of Riccoldo’s work show strategies of remembering and reforming knowledge, especially in the Dominican order.