Juan de Segovia and the Fight for Peace
Christians and Muslims in the Fifteenth Century
Juan de Segovia (d. 1458), theologian, translator of the Qur'ān, and lifelong advocate for the forging of peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims, was one of Europe's leading intellectuals. Today, however, few scholars are familiar with this important fifteenth-century figure. In this well-documented study, Anne Marie Wolf presents a clear, chronological narrative that follows the thought and career of Segovia, who taught at the University of Salamanca, represented the university at the Council of Basel (1431–1449), and spent his final years arguing vigorously that Europe should eschew war with the ascendant Ottoman Turks and instead strive to convert them peacefully to Christianity.
What could make a prominent thinker, especially one who moved in circles of power, depart so markedly from the dominant views of his day and advance arguments that he knew would subject him to criticism and even ridicule? Although some historians have suggested that the multifaith heritage of his native Spain accounts for his unconventional belief that peaceful dialogue with Muslims was possible, Wolf argues that other aspects of his life and thought were equally important. For example, his experiences at the Council of Basel, where his defense of conciliarism in the face of opposition contributed to his ability to defend an unpopular position and where his insistence on conversion through peaceful means was bolstered by discussions about the proper way to deal with the Hussites, refined his arguments that peaceful conversion was prefereable to war. Ultimately Wolf demonstrates that Segovia's thought on Islam and the proper Christian stance toward the Muslim world was consistent with his approach to other endeavors and with cultural and intellectual movements at play throughout his career.
“A theologian, translator of the Qur’an and lifelong advocate for forging peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims, Juan de Segovia was a prominent thinker in fifteenth century Europe. The author presents a chronological narrative that follows the thought and career of Segovia, who departed from the dominant views of his day to advance arguments he knew would subject him to criticism.” —Notre Dame Magazine
“Wolf’s study of Juan de Segovia deftly weaves together the Castilian’s education, career as a staunch conciliarist, and peaceful approach to Islam . . . . In Wolf’s atmospheric and meticulous study, Segovia remains compelling as a scholar who drew upon his personal experience, biblical study, and conciliarist politics to form a peaceful response to a problem that persists even today. It is certain to become essential reading for scholars of premodern Christian-Muslim relations.” —Renaissance Quarterly
“Ann Marie Wolf’s new book is a much-needed study that approaches Juan from a fresh perspective . . . . Juan de Segovia and the Fight for Peace is an engaging and important contribution to intellectual and ecclesiastical history of the fifteenth century. Wolf portrays the Spanish theologian’s struggle for peace between Christians and Muslims vividly and affectionately. Anyone who is interested in interfaith dialogue in the late Middle Ages cannot afford to miss this book.” —Parergon
“Wolf’s study has many merits, such as its meticulous presentation of Juan de Segovia’s pivotal experiences as a scholar in Salamanca and as a member of the Council of Basel and its approach to the secular priest’s grounds for his future perspective regarding non-Christian populations.” —Sixteenth Century Journal
“Anne Marie Wolf’s analysis of the life and thoughts of fifteenth-century Castilian conciliarist and Church reformer Juan de Segovia is an accessible and engaging intellectual history of a figure that historians have traditionally found difficult to classify. Wolf’s book constitutes an excellent contribution to our growing understanding of the range of Christian perceptions of Islam in the later Middle Ages—a topic which, as she points out, remains far less studied and understood than Christian portrayals of Judaism in that era.” —American Historical Review
“There is a great deal to admire about this book as an intellectual biography. Wolf writes in pellucid prose. She carefully navigates between earlier scholarship on Juan de Segovia, the Christian polemical tradition against Islam, and the social history of Christian-Muslim interaction.” —Speculum
“Wolf provides new insights in this book, in particular on Segovia’s use of the Bible and his original call for peace between Christianity and Islamic world. Due to its keen interpretation of Segovia’s life and works, it shall remain at the core of this research field for a long time to come.” —The Catholic Historical Review
"This is an important book in linking medieval with modern thought and efforts to create understanding between Christianity and Islam. . . . Anne Marie Wolf has mastered Segovia’s writings, and she also presents the reader with recent work not only on Segovia but also on his larger theological context and place in church history. . . . Wolf succeeds in presenting a believable and sympathetic portrait of a European thinker who has either been ignored or slighted in his afterlife." —The Journal of Religion
“What makes Wolf’s approach a new and innovative one is her attempt to combine Juan de Segovia’s role as a participant, discussant, and historiographer of the Council of Basel (1431-1449) and as a leading Christian and theologian in fighting Islam, and to explain [his] attitudes towards matters of ecclesiology . . . and interreligious dialogue . . . as two sides of the same coin. This a priori hypothesis is turned into an a posteriori proof by Wolf’s detailed and well-written analysis.” —Medievalia et Humanistica
“Wolf deserves credit for tackling with admirable thoroughness and insight this obscure and complex personality, and for shedding further light on the complex currents of religious thought that characterized the Christian West at a time of increasing anxiety and conflict with Muslims, both at home and abroad.” —Renaissance and Reformation