Normans and led them to victory over the superior Saracen force.43
When the crusaders finally made their way to Palermo and defeated the Muslim garrison, their first act was to reconsecrate the Church of St. Mary, which the Muslims had used as a mosque for over two hundred and forty years, and hold mass there with the city's Greek Archbishop. This was a very momentous occasion, for the Normans had restored to Christian hands one of the most populous, prosperous, and culturally rich cities in the Mediterranean.44 Amatus reports that yet another apparition graced the thanksgiving mass: a choir of angels sang in the church, and a heavenly light illuminated the mass.45
There are several reasons for questioning whether or not the Norman conquerors of Sicily were indeed as motivated by piety as Amatus and Malaterra claim. For one thing, the Normans by no means unequivocally hated the Muslims. They gained their first foothold on the island by allying with one Sicilian emir, Ibn at-Timnah, to fight against another Sicilian emir, Ibn al-Hawas.46 They never tried to force the Sicilian Muslims to convert to Christianity--such a policy would never have succeeded, and it certainly would have made the task of governing the island impossible. The Normans could not risk provoking the Muslims into declaring a jihad in retaliation for the Christian holy war. Both Robert Guiscard and Roger went on to employ Saracen mercenaries in their forthcoming campaigns. Moreover, these accounts come from authors who intended to eulogize the Normans, for they wrote for Norman audiences and were employed by Norman patrons. Thus the authors were significantly biased in the way they
43. Ibid. 2.33.
44. Norwich, 176f., 183.
45. Aime 6.20.
46. Norwich, 135.