by HFH Reuvers


In seventh century Arabia, the prophet Mohammed founded Islam. He said that archangel Gabriel had dictated the Koran to him. Ever since, his followers propagated this religion by force of arms. Even Spain became then an Islamic country. In 732, the Mussulmen were defeated near the French city of Poitiers, but the reconquest of Spain was not to be completed before the fifteenth century. In late medieval times, the Turks were to thrust Islam upon all regions of the Balkan. Only in 1683, they were halted near Vienna. Nowadays, Islam is the main religion in North Africa and West Asia.

A reaction of Christendom couldn't fail to come. In the twelfth century, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and others called up all noble men for the crusades to deliver the Holy Land from Islam. The crusaders founded Christian states in the Middle East. Geoffrey of Bouillon became the first protector of Jesus' holy sepulchre in the kingdom of Jerusalem. However, these little states couldn't maintain themselves against the advancing Turks.
Yet the crusades helped to deepen the contact with the Arabic world. For example, Europe got to know the writings of Aristotle which had only been preserved in Arabic. Saint Thomas Aquinas was to make use of them, and with him began the great flourishing period of scholastic philosophy. But the deepened contact also led to a renewed interest in classical antiquity, and hence to the renaissance.
There also came an economic revival, starting in Italian cities like Genua, Venice and Florence. This gave people courage and energy to discover the world. Men like Da Vinci and Columbus did so, each in their own way. The popes stimulated ecclesiastical art. However, Rome became a bit overadorned now ...