Itinerarium ad partes orientales : Guillaume de Rubrouck (1215-1295)
Concert "Karakorum's Controversy" by La Camera delle Lacrime (Bruno Bonhoure & Khaï-dong Luong)
In Occitania, all is concluded. The crusade against the Albigensians is essentially finished off with the butche- ry at Montségur in 1244. The south of France as we know it now, conquered by the northern barons, is taken over by the Inquisition. The Latin states in the East, which had been the place of so many cultural exchanges, vacillate. Their symbolic heart, Jerusalem, had been lost (4 July 1187), captured by Saladin. Acre becomes the centre of this little strip of Christian territory. Recovered by diplomacy, Jerusalem is lost again in 1244.
It is the imprisonment of the king of France, Louis IX, taken at Fariskur (6 April 1250) which is deplored by Austorg d’Aurillac (c 1225-91) in his sirventes (satirical song) Ai Dieus! Per qu’as facha granda maleza, which opens this concert. So he comes to doubt the Christian faith itself: “I see Christianity totally undermined / I don’t believe that it has ever suffered such a loss / Then is it legitimate that we no longer believe in God / and that we worship Mohammed [...] / Since God wishes, along with the Virgin Mary, / that we be vanquished [...]”. After his liberation from captivity in Egypt, Louis IX goes in person to govern this Christian land from 1250 to 1254. A strong doubt in the Christian faith is also to be found in the dialogue song (tenson) between the troubadours Granet and Bertran de Lamanon, Pos anc no•us valc amors. Bertran is ready to rally to the cause of the Antichrist, since that would enable him to win over his lady. The figure of the Antichrist can be equated with the sultan of Egypt after he recaptures Jerusalem in 1244. Ten years later when these events are still in everyone’s mind, the deputation of William of Rubruck, sent by Louis IX to the great Khan in his capital, Karakorum, belongs to a wild rush to secure alliances with the goal of saving Jerusalem and the Latin states in the East. This all founders definitively with the fall of Acre in 1291.
And on the night of Pentecost in 1254, after the long trek to the court of Möngke Khan, we can imagine that the debate in which William of Rubruck took part concerned not just divine law, but also the way to name Him. The prayer of 72 names of God in Langue d’oc (the language of Occitania), a mirror of the prayer of 99 names of Allah, illustrates this semantic idea. It is a popular text from the end of the twelfth century in which one can detect a strong Hebrew influence. It was used until the twentieth century as a talisman and verbal formula for protection: “car tots homs ho tota femna que los porta sobre si escript, degun mal enemic non li pot dan tener, ni pot perir en aygua ni en fuoc, ni en batalha per sos enemicx non pot esser mort, ni fouze ni tempesta non li pot dan tener”. (For every man who carries the written names on his person, or every woman, no evil enemy can harm them. They will not die by water or by fire. Neither will they be killed in battle by their enemies. Nor can lightning or storm do them ill.)
Didier PERRE, Consultant in Langue d'oc