A Cistercian Point of View in the Portuguese Reconquista

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This article seeks to explain a rhetorical curiosity, unique in mid-twelfth-century Portuguese historiography, namely an exhortation to massacre, contained in the so called De expugnatione Scalabis, ostensibly an eyewitness account of the conquest of Santarém in Portugal by Christian forces under King Afonso Henriques, in 1147. Highlighted are several contextual elements likely to have been significant in conditioning the origins and production of the text as it survives to us from the library of the great Portuguese Cistercian house of Alcobaça, not least the espousal by the White Monks of progressively hardening attitudes towards those hostile to Roman Christianity in a discourse that reached a peak in the early thirteenth century. Against this cultural background and re-evaluating the evidence for the time of redaction of the Scalabis it becomes possible to suggest an author for the text and to glimpse the operation of timely Cistercian literary, perhaps even liturgical, innovation at a crucial juncture when, for a moment in late 1217/early 1218, the whole of the Islamic Iberian west appeared wide open for immediate Christian conquest.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-142
Number of pages47
JournalThe Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Alcobaça
  • Goswin of Bossut
  • Alcácer-do-Sal
  • Santarém
  • Afonso Henriques
  • Reconquista
  • Cistercians
  • Fifth Crusade
  • Albigensian
  • Crusades


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