'Enlightened and tolerant of religious difference.' How far does this statement accurately describe Sicily under Roger II and his successors up to 1189?

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'Enlightened and tolerant of religious difference.' How far does this statement accurately describe Sicily under Roger II and his successors up to 1189?

Sicily during this time period was generally a quite accepting place, with Roger II and his successors seeming encouraging increased multiculturalism and acceptance of Greeks, Muslims and Jews. This can be seen in the contrasts of art and culture to Northern Europe and the new laws and administration that were introduced, especially by Roger II. Although Roger was in fact a Norman Christian this did greatly influence the way in which he governed, under this new type of leadership, tolerant of difference, Sicily thrived becoming a modern-like state.

It may be argued that the title statement is accurate of Sicily as at this time even though Roger was a Christian and thus Christianity dominated the island, the art and culture present shows a great tolerance and even reliance on other religions and cultures. As with most middle age Christian kings, many churches were built across the island, however the difference lies within the styling of the churches. Roger merged Muslim and Byzantine art with that of Christianity on several occasion within many prominent and famous buildings. We can see this merging of different artistic ideologies on Roger the II’s coronation mantle, featuring a lion killing a deer, with Arabic lettering surrounding the outskirts. A lion would’ve been alien to Europeans so has must’ve resulted from North African, likely Muslim, contributors. Likewise this can also be seen on the ceiling decoration in the Palatine chapel, Rogers personal prayer space. This shows extreme tolerance for different religions, which was mutually beneficial, so much so that certain historians argue that Roger was in fact a closet Muslim. Great resemblances to Byzantine works can be seen in Sicily such as the image Christ Pantocrator which is almost identical in Cefalu Cathedral and the Hagia Sofia, however Byzantium was also Christian so acceptance of it may not seem too surprising. Instead a key demonstration of religious acceptance comes from Roger the II’s constant use of Islamic symbols such as the eight pointed star. The tolerance of different religions can also be seen from statistics presented by historian David Abulafia, whom suggests that Sicily’s population was 55% Muslim, 5% Jewish and 40% Christian of which remained similar throughout his reign. If Roger had little tolerance this would not be so. Many thrived under Roger’s multiculturalist ideologies, such as the Arabic cotton manufacturing industry.

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Roger the II, is one of the first kings to properly establish new laws and writing them down. These laws may seem lacking in tolerance. The Assizes of Ariano contains a law of Apostasy, punishing those whom abandon the Catholic faith, with little exception. This can be seen as Phillip of Mahdia renounces the Christian faith and as such is burnt at the stake, this is surprising as he was very high up in Roger’s court. However this law was not applicable to those who stayed with their religions and as such many members of the Kings court who kept ...

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