The Mental Imagery of Eastern Christianity and Islam According to Western Travel Descriptions during the Second Half of the 16th Century

Project title: The Mental Imagery of Eastern Christianity and Islam According to Western Travel Descriptions during the Second Half of the 16th Century

Project code: PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0628

Contract: 25/2017

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ionuț-Alexandru Tudorie

ABSTRACT: Religious otherness is of key importance for the understanding of the relationships between different cultures and mentalities. Our research will address and analyze the way in which the images of Eastern Christianity and Islam are constructed in the diaries and travel descriptions of Western Christian peregrines to the Ottoman Empire, especially Constantinople, during the second half of the 16th century. The travelogues we intend to analyze belong to clerics or diplomats pertaining to various European Christian cultures and denominations (Roman-Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed, Anglicans) and document the history of mentalities, religious otherness and the construction of cultural patterns.

The Western mental images of the Eastern Christians and Islam seem to be marked by prejudice, clichés and stereotypes. The novelty of this investigation lies in our attempt to go beyond the structural approach to otherness, which is focused on social-cultural elements, and instead dwell on religion and the investigation of the other’s beliefs, as identity markers. Thus, this timely investigation will offer a substantially new contribution to the ongoing dialogue on religious identity and social integration. The research methodology will employ concepts put forth by F. Hartog (rhéthorique de l’altérité), R. Koselleck (asymetrische Gegenbegriffe) or P. Burschel (duale Grundmuster), which will be critically examined. Based on Tzvetan Todorov’s typology of the relationships with the other we will carry out our research along three lines: praxeologically (closeness or distancing from a foreigner, delimitation or adaptation), axiologically (value judgments such as good / bad, attractive / unattractive) and epistemologically (knowledge / lack of knowledge, acquaintance / lack of acquaintance). The research will be interdisciplinary, starting from the investigation methods of the history of mentalities and of cultural relationships, historical anthropology, and ecclesiastical history.


Principal Investigator:


Dr. Ionuț-Alexandru Tudorie is Lecturer of Byzantine History and Church History at the University of Bucharest. He holds a PhD in Theology and another one in History, both granted by the University of Bucharest. During the recent academic years he was selected as a post-doc fellow by Institut für Byzanzforschung (Vienna) / Romanian Academy (2011-2012), Woodrow Wilson Center / Romanian Cultural Institute (2012), Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (2014), New Europe College (2014-2015), and Central European University (2016-2018). His publication list includes: L’Apport des Assomptionnistes français aux études byzantines: une approche critique. Actes du colloque de Bucarest, 25-27 septembre 2014, édités sous la direction de Marie-Hélène Blanchet et Ionuț-Alexandru Tudorie, coll. Archives de l’Orient Chrétien 21, Paris: Institut français d’études byzantines, 2017; Autoritatea imperială în criză: Mihail VIII Paleologul (1258-1282) și raporturile Statului bizantin cu Biserica [Imperial Authority in Crisis: Michael VIII Palaiologos (1258-1282) and the Relations between the Byzantine State and the Church], Brăila: Editura Istros, 2016 [review in: Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik, 67 (2017), pp. 274-275 (Mihai-D. Grigore)]; Vasile-Adrian Carabă, Ionuț-Alexandru Tudorie (eds.), Dinamica vieții intelectuale în Bizanțul Paleologilor (1261-1453) sub influența polemicii [The Dynamics of Intellectual Life in Palaiologan Byzantium (1261-1453) under the Sign of Polemics], București: Editura Universității din București, 2014.

Experienced Researchers:

daniel_proiect (1 of 1)Dr. Daniel Benga is professor for Liturgics, Patristics and Church History at the Institute for Orthodox Theology of the Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich. He wrote two PhD Theses on the issue of the relationships between the Lutheran Reformers and the Orthodox Church in the 16th century: The Great Reformers and the Orthodox Church. Contributions to the Typology of the Lutheran-Orthodox Relationships in the 16th Century (Bucharest, 2003); David Chytraeus (1530-1600) as Rediscoverer and Researcher of the Eastern Churches (Wettenberg, 2006). His publication list includes: David Chytraeus (1530-1600) als Erforscher und Wiederentdecker der Ostkirchen. Seine Beziehungen zu orthodoxen Theologen, seine Erforschungen der Ostkirchen und seine ostkirchlichen Kenntnisse, VVB Laufersweiler Verlag, Wettenberg, 2006; Marii reformatori şi Biserica Ortodoxă. Contribuţii la tipologia relaţiilor luterano-ortodoxe din secolul al XVI-lea, Editura Sophia, Bucureşti, 2003; Cred, mărturisesc și aștept viața veșnică. O istorie teologică a Simbolului Niceo-Constantinopolitan, Editura Basilica a Patriarhiei Române, București, 2013; „Die Diaspora der Orthodoxen Kirchen in Europa. Ein geschichtlicher Überblick”, în: Ostkirchliche Studien, Band 62 (2013), pp. 318-331; „Eine kurze Auswertung des Theologischen Dialogs aus der Sicht der Rumänischen Orthodoxen Kirche”, în: Martin Illert and Martin Schindehütte (Hrsg.), Theologischer Dialog mit der Rumänischen Orthodoxen Kirche. Die Apostolizität der Kirche. Heiligkeit und Heiligung, (Beihefte zur Ökumenischen Rundschau, Nr. 97), Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig, 2014, pp. 32-42; „Die Reformation Martin Luthers widerspiegelt in der orthodoxen Theologie”, Review of Ecumenical Studies, 9 (2017), pp. 346-359.

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Dr. Vasile-Adrian Carabă is Lecturer at the University of Bucharest (Romania), Faculty of Orthodox Theology. His main focus is the History and Spirituality of the Byzantine Empire. He received his PhD degree at the University Martin Luther Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, Department for Oriental Studies (The Christian Orient and Byzantium). The last research Project (Project Leader): Dinamica vieții intelectuale în Bizanțul Paleologilor (1261-1453) sub influența polemicii (The Dynamics of the Intellectual Life in Palaiologan Byzantium (1261-1453) under the Influence of Polemics). Publications: “Als „amicus Plato“ genauso wichtig wie die Wahrheit war. Die Beteiligung von Kardinal Bessarions Freunden an dessen Plato-Aristoteles-Streit gegen Georgios Trapezuntios”, în: Martin Tamcke (ed.), Partnerschaft, Freundschaft, Dialog. Beiträge zum internationalen Symposium am Lehrstuhl für Ökumenische Theologie und Orientalische Kirchen- und Missionsgeschichte der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen vom 20. bis 22. Juni 2015, Lit Verlag, 2016, pp. 93-102; Vasile Adrian Carabă & Ionuţ Alexandru Tudorie (coord.), Dinamica vieţii intelectuale în Bizanţul Paleologilor (1261-1453) sub influenţa polemicii, București: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, 2014, pp. 27-212; “Ausdrucksformen der byzantinischen Symphonia am Beispiel des Hofzeremoniells”, în: Mihai D. Grigore, Radu Harald Dinu & Marc Zivojinovic (eds.), Herrschaft in Südosteuropa Kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Perspektiven, Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2011, pp. 135-154.

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Dr. Sebastian-Laurențiu Nazâru holds a PhD in Theology and another one in History, both granted by the University of Bucharest. He is Assistant Professor of Church History at the University of Bucharest – Faculty of Orthodox Theology and editor (starting from 2008) of Studii Teologice (Theological Studies)the review of Romanian Faculties of Orthodox Theology. He was research assistant in two projects: Blessed are the Peacemakers. Christianity and Security from The Sermon on the Mount to September 11 Attacks and The Dynamics of Intellectual Life in the Palaiologian Byzantium (1261-1453) under the Influence of Polemics. Mr. Nazâru’s publications include: Mucenicia Brâncovenilor. O analiză a surselor istorice, București: Ed. Cuvântul Vieții, 2014; Martiriul Sfântului Antim Ivireanul. O nouă lectură a surselor istorice, București: Ed. Cuvântul Vieții, 2017; “Viața unui sfânt dincolo de vălul hagiografiei”, in Ignatie Diaconul, Viața Patriarhului Nichifor al Constantinopolului, București: Ed. Cuvântul Vieții, 2017, pp. 9-107. His research interests include: Christian-Muslim Relations, Byzantine anti-Islamic polemics, Byzantine iconoclasm, and the hagiography of the iconoclastic period.

ovidiu_proiect (1 of 1)Dr. Ovidiu Olar is Senior Researcher (CS III) at the “N. Iorga” Institute of History of the Romanian Academy (Bucharest) and Associate Researcher of the Chair  in History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (Ruhr-Universität Bochum). He holds a PhD in history, awarded by the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris), in 2015; the thesis was entitled La boutique de Théophile. Les relations de Kyrillos Loukaris (1570/2-1638) avec la Réforme. Apart from Loukaris, the (in)famous Greek “Calvinist Patriarch” of Constantinople, Ovidiu is interested in the religious reforms and in the confessional “Cold War” of the 17th century, as well as in the history of political ideas. His publications include: “« The Father and His Eldest Son ». The Depiction of the 1667 Muscovite Palm Sunday Procession by the Metropolitan of Gaza Paisios Ligaridis and its Significance”, Revue de l’Histoire des Religions 235/1 (2018), pp. 5-36; “Corruption and Anticorruption in the Romanian Principalities: Rules of Governance, Exceptions, and Networks, Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century”, in Ronald Kroeze, André Vitória & Guy Geltner (ed.), Anticorruption in History. From Antiquity to the Modern Era, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 225-238 (text), 366-371 (notes); “Orthodoxy and Politics: The Patriarch Nikon of Moscow, the Prince Mihnea III Radu of Walachia and the Great Church of Constantinople”, in Ines G. Županov & Pierre Antoine Fabre (ed.), The Rites Controversies in the Early Modern World, Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2018, pp. 233-263.

bogdan_proiect (1 of 1)Dr. Bogdan Tataru-Cazaban holds a PhD in Philosophy (History of Ancient and Medieval Thought) and a MAs in Orthodox Theology, both granted by the University of Bucharest. He is senior researcher at the Institute for the History of Religions (Romanian Academy). His main research interests cover comparative history of angelology, patristic and Byzantine intellectual history, the relations between monotheist religions. His recent publications include: Corpul îngerilor. Fragmente dintr-o istorie a ierarhiilor cerești (Humanitas, 2017) and „Les anges des nations dans le christianisme des premiers siècles. Continuité et métamorphoses” (première partie), in collaboration with Miruna Tătaru-Cazaban, in Archaeus. Etudes d’Histoire des Religions / Studies in the History of Religions, XIX-XX (2015-2016): Twenty Years of History of Religions in Bucarest, 1996-2016, ed. Eugen Ciurtin, București, 2016, pp. 49-85. He translated into Romanian Saint Augustine (Humanitas, 2004; Editura Institutului Biblic şi de Misiune Ortodoxă, 2010), Boethius (Polirom, 2003), Hugo of Saint-Victor (Univers Enciclopedic, 2005), E. Lévinas (Humanitas, 2006), Nicholas of Cusa (Humanitas, 2008), R. Klibansky, E. Panofsky and F. Saxl (Polirom, 2002).

Junior Researchers:

mihai_proiect (1 of 1)Drd. Mihai Faur is PhD student at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology (University of Bucharest), where he researches a thesis on the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (963-969). He holds both a BA (2013) and an MA (2015) in Theology granted also by the Faculty of Orthodox Theology. Mr. Faur’s research interests are anchored in the field of historical theology, in general, and of the fields of history and spirituality of the Byzantine Empire and of the Eastern Christian Studies during the medieval and early modern times, in particular.

octavian_proiect (1 of 1)Drd. Octavian-Adrian Negoiță is PhD student at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology (University of Bucharest) where he researches a thesis on The Anti-Islamic Discourse as Reflected in the Early Modern Greek Apologetical and Polemical Literature against Islam (16th – 18th Centuries). Mr. Negoiță holds a BA in Orthodox Theology (2013) and another one in Classical Philology (2015), both granted by the University of Bucharest. He also holds two MAs; the first one in Medieval Studies (2015), granted by the University of Bucharest, and the second one in Comparative History (2017), granted by Central European University (Budapest). During his studies he attended several conferences in Oxford, Budapest, Birmingham and Ioannina. He was awarded research and travel grants by The Classical Association (London), University of Birmingham, Dumbarton Oaks (Washington DC), Oxford University, and Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies (CEU, Budapest). Mr. Negoita conducted two research projects as principal investigator: The Anti-Islamic Discourse as Reflected in the Greek Apologetical and Polemical Treatises against Islam (XVIth-XVIIIth Centuries) and The Status of the Orthodox Greek Communities of the Ottoman Empire during the Age of Confessionalization (XVIth-XVIIth Centuries), both projects financed by UEFISCDI. His research interests include the fields of Christian-Muslim Relations, Byzantine/post-Byzantine-Ottoman Studies, Christian-Muslim-Jewish polemical literature, and Eastern Christian Studies during the medieval and early modern times in the Mediterranean.




July 12 – August 14, 2017: Ionuț-Alexandru TUDORIE – Research Study Trip at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection [Harvard University]. During the time spent in Washington DC, the Principal Investigator explored several Western diaries mostly written by French travelers, having as main secondary literature two excellent monographies: Y. Bernard, L’Orient du XVIe siècle a travers les récits des voyageurs français. Regards portés sur la société musulmane, Paris 1988; F. Tinguely, L’Écriture du Levant à la Renaissance. Enquête sur les voyageurs français dans l’empire de Soliman le Magnifique, Genève 2000.

October 24 – November 22, 2017: Ionuț-Alexandru TUDORIE – Research Study Trip at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection [Harvard University]. Starting from the PhD thesis by Inge Peschel (Die Darstellung des Osmanischen Reiches in der deutschsprachigen Reiseliteratur des 16. Jahrhunderts, Wien 1977), the Principal Investigator researched the German travelogues of the second half of 16th century (paying a special attention to Stephan Gerlach, Salomon Schweigger, and Hans Dernschwam).

December 11, 2017: Research Team meeting – Research Institute of the University of Bucharest / Humanities. The main target of this first daylong research team gathering was focused on a discussion regarding the targeted objectives of the research team (strategies regarding the participation to different international conferences, publications as separate articles and collective volume, etc.). This part was followed by updates provided by each member of the team related to their research interests and a Q&A session after every short presentation.


April 4, 2018: Research Team meeting – Research Institute of the University of Bucharest / Humanities. The second daylong meeting of the research team was meant to provide the agora for a preliminary discussion of the findings by Vasile-Adrian Carabă (on Leonhard Rauwolf) and Octavian-Adrian Negoiță (on Ottoman ceremonies through the Western travelers’ eyes). The two reach presentations were followed by a lengthy session of Q&As that provided for the lecturers several new perspectives to correlate their findings with a broad picture of Western travelers to Constantinople in the second half of the 16th century.

May 8 – 25, 2018: Bogdan TĂTARU-CAZABAN – Research Study Trip at the Vatican Library. The aim of this research trip was to investigate the Italian catholic milieu of Guillaume Postel’s works in order to highlight his specific contribution to the Constantinople imagery in the West. His travel description as a member of the embassy sent to Constantinople by Francis I, De la republique des Turcs, et là ou l’occasion s’offrera, des meurs et loy de tous Muhamedistes, 1559, provide a more complex view that any other French travellers’ description of Constantinople in the 16th Century: Jacques Gassot (Le Discours du voyage de Venise à Constantinople, 1550), André Thevet (Cosmographie de Levant, 1554), Pierre Gilles (De Bosporo Thracio libri III, 1561 and De topographia Constantinopoleos, 1561-1562) and Jean Chesneau (Voyage de Paris en Constantinople, vers 1566-1574). Postel’s utopian project of universal peace, having as a background radical apocaliptic beliefs present in the Italian milieu, include a stimulating perspective on Constantinople-Istanbul as an inter-religious place where traces of Christian past were interwoven with expressions of a new Muslim identity. A paper (L’image de Constantinople et du monde musulman chez Guillaume Postel) and an article (Between East and West. Constantinople imagery according to the French Travellers in the 16th Century) will benefit from this research trip.

June 13 – July 31, 2018: Ionuț-Alexandru TUDORIE – Research Study Trip at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection [Harvard University]. The Diary by English organ-builder Thomas Dallam about his trip to Istanbul in 1599-1600 to the court of Mehmet III, and by extension the information provided by the English travelers to Constantinople in the second half of the 16th century, was the main research objective of the Principal Investigator during his third study trip to Washington DC.

August 1 – 31, 2018: Ovidiu OLAR – Research Study Trip at the Ruhr-University in Bochum. The aim of the research trip was to collect data on the Jesuit missionary Giulio Mancinelli SJ and the Anglican scholar John Covel. The secondary literature on Mancinelli is scarse: Pietro Pirri, “Lo stato della Chiesa ortodossa di Costantinopoli e le sue tendenze verso Roma in una memoria del P. Giulio Mancinelli S.I.”, in Miscellanea Pietro Fumasoni-Biondi I, Rome 1947, pp. 79-103; Vincenzo Ruggieri, “Constantinopoli vista da P. Giulo Mancinelli S.J. (1583-1585)”, Revue des Etudes Byzantines 60 (2002), pp. 113-131; Andrei Pippidi, “Sous le regard d’Occident. La mission de Mancinelli à Constantinople et en Moldavie”, in Leonidas Rados (ed.), Interferenţe româno-elene (secolele XV-XX), Iaşi 2003, pp. 165-174; Pierre-Antoine Fabre, “La misión como visión del mundo. Las autobiografías imaginarias de Giulio Mancinelli (1537-1618)”, in Perla Chinchilla & Antonella Romano (eds.), Escrituras de la modernidad. Los jesuitas entre cultura retórica y cultura cientifica, Mexico 2009, pp. 177-203. On the contrary, a recent monograph by Lucy Pollard analyzes Covel’s approach to classical culture [The Quest for Classical Greece. Early Modern Travel to the Greek World (London 2015)]. Two presentations will benefit from this research trip (21 October 2018 – Bucharest – N. Iorga Institute of History of the Romanian Academy: “Un misionar iezuit prin Valahia și Moldova – Giulio Mancinelli SJ (+1618)”; 2 November 2018 – Bucharest – The Annual Colloquium of the Romanian Society for Byzantine Studies: “Reverend Dr. John Covel’s Map of Constantinople (1675-1677)”).

September 5, 2018: Research Team meeting – Research Institute of the University of Bucharest / Humanities. The third daylong meeting provided the floor for three lectures: Bogdan Tătaru-Cazaban (on Guillaume Postel), Ovidiu-Victor Olar (on John Covel), and Daniel Benga (on German travelers to the Levant during the second half of the 16th century). The second part of the meeting was dedicated to a brainstorming session on the 2019 project conference (date; venue; list of guest speakers; the needed interconnection between the targeted topics in order to provide a comprehensive overview on the research main idea).

September 19 – 21, 2018: Octavian-Adrian NEGOIȚĂ – Conference presentation at Turkologentag, 2018: The 3rd Convention on Turkic, Ottoman and Turkish Studies, University of Bamberg. The title of the presentation was: “Muslim Religious Practices in the Western Travel Descriptions of the Second Half of the Sixteenth Century”.

October 22, 2018: Ovidiu OLAR – Conference presentation at Institute of Universal History “Nicolae Iorga” [Romanian Academy of Sciences]. The title of the presentation was: “Un misionar iezuit prin Valahia și Moldova: Giulio Mancinelli SJ (+1618)” [A Jesuit Missionary in Walachia and Moldavia: Giulio Mancinelli SJ (+1618)].

November 2, 2018: Ovidiu OLAR – Conference presentation at the Second Annual Conference of the Romanian Society for Byzantine Studies, The Romanian Society of Byzantine Studies, Bucharest. The title of the presentation was: “Reverend Dr John Covel’s Map of Constantinople (1675-1677)”.

October 19 – 31, 2018: Bogdan TĂTARU-CAZABAN – Research Study Trip at Bibliothèque byzantine, Institut de civilisation byzantine, Collège de France, Paris. The aim of this research trip was to put into a larger historical framework the French travellers perceptions of Constantinople during the XVIth Century. I studied the complex relations between West and Byzantine Empire during the XIVth-XVth centuries in order to identify affinities and changes concerning the empirical and, at the same time, erudite perspective we can find in the Diaries of French travellers. The focus of my research remained Guillaume Postel’s De la republique des Turcs, et là ou l’occasion s’offrera, des meurs et loy de tous Muhamedistes (1559), which I compared with some other of his works that provide common points regarding the East in general and the Muslim world, especially the comparison between the Bible and the Quran (Alcorani seu legis Mahometi et Evangelistarum concordiae Liber, 1553). A particular attention was paid at the historical context in which Postel wrote and tried to promote his visionary and apocalyptical work.

December 13, 2018: Research Team meeting – Research Institute of the University of Bucharest / Humanities. This daylong meeting was divided into two parts: the morning session provided the opportunity for Sebastian-Laurențiu Nazâru to discuss his findings about the French traveler Pierre Bellon; the afternoon session was dedicated to a lengthy conversation on the 2019 project related outcomes (conferences; articles collective volumes). The list of the proposed speakers for the 2019 project conference was reviewed and new names were added.