Under Popes Honorius III, Gregory IX, and Innocent IV, the thirteenth-century papacy opened an unprecedented diplomatic dialogue with the Almohad dynasty in northern Africa. Working in conjunction with members of the new mendicant orders, above all the Franciscans, the Roman Church supported missionary efforts to convert Muslims, but demonstrated an even greater concern with maintaining a “pastoral mission” among Christians living under Almohad authority in Morocco. Such diplomatic outreach, characterized by the papal recognition of legitimate Islamic sovereignty, struck a different tone than the one found in contemporary narratives of Franciscan martyrdom in Morocco or in the language of the crusading movement. Diplomacy, however, did not so much represent an alternative to expressions of religious violence, as a complement to the overall goals and aspirations of the Roman Church to extend the borders of the Christian faith, albeit in this case through a measured dialogue rather than through open conflict.

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