Bill Maher recently stirred up a shitstorm by suggesting there was something wrong with the Muslim world when books, movies, and cartoons incite riots and provoke Muslims to threaten the authors' lives (and in the case of Theo van Gogh, threats became murder.) and that Muslim countries generally treat women poorly. Maher was called all manner of things including Islamophobic, racist, and a bigot.
Well, Maher's got nothing on the medieval author of The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela
. I've been reading about medieval Iberia and the book includes some excerpts from this work which was written around 1140. As the title indicates, it's a guide for people making a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. According to the text, it was nearly as popular a destination for pilgrims as Rome or The Holy Land which makes one wonder why there's this myth that medieval folks didn't travel far from their homes.
The author is an anonymous Frenchman who informs travelers of which rivers are safe to drink, what towns are to be found on the route, and about the natives as well. Whoever the author is, he really didn't like the Navarrese. (Navarre is or was a region in north-central Spain.) I mean he really, really didn't like the Navarrese. He begins by noting that "These people, in truth, are repulsively dressed and they eat and drink repulsively." It gets worse.
...when the Navarrese are warming themselves, a man will show a woman and woman a man their private parts. The Navarrese even practice unchaste fornication with animals...He even offers libidinous kisses to the vulva of woman and mule.
A Frenchman decrying oral sex?! Forsooth! Up to this point in the book, at least, not even the Jews are described so harshly. Sure, they are said to be greedy and untrustworthy but at least they didn't practice cunnilingus.
Oh, but here's the best bit:
This is a barbarous race unlike all other races in customs and in character, full of malice, swarthy in color, evil of face, depraved, perverse, perfidious, empty of faith and corrupt, libidinous, drunken, experienced in all violence, ferocious and wild, dishonest and reprobate, impious and harsh, cruel and contentious, unversed in anything good, well-trained in all vices and iniquities, like the Geats and Saracens in malice, in everything inimical to our French people.
The author does concede that the Navarrese are good warriors on the battlefield so they're not all bad.
Labels: History, Iberia, Medieval