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Fighting for the Cross

Fighting for the Cross: Crusading to the Holy Land

Norman Housley
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Fighting for the Cross
    Book Description:

    In a series of massive military undertakings that stretched from 1095 to 1291, Christendom's armies won, defended, and lost the sacred sites of the Holy Land. Many books have been written about the Crusades, but until now none has described in detail what is was like to take part in medieval Europe's most ambitious wars. This vividly written book draws on extensive research and on a wealth of surviving contemporary accounts to recreate the full experience of crusading, from the elation of taking up the cross to the difficult adjustments at home when the war was over.

    Distinguished historian Norman Housley explores the staggering logistical challenges of raising, equipping, and transporting thousands of Christian combatants from Europe to the East as well as the complications that non-combatant pilgrims presented. He describes the ordinary crusader's prolonged years of difficult military tasks, risk of starvation and disease, trial of religious faith, death of friends, and the specter of heavy debt or stolen homelands upon arriving home. Creating an unprecedented sense of immediacy, Housley brings to light the extent of crusaders' sacrifices and the religious commitment that enabled them to endure.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15039-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. viii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Norman Housley
  5. 1 CRUSADING IN THE EAST, 1095–1291
    (pp. 1-21)

    In August 1095 men bringing in the harvest in the Rhône valley witnessed the spectacular sight of a papal entourage on the move. Pope Urban II had crossed the Alps from Italy to visit his native land. It was a momentous journey because medieval popes rarely travelled outside Italy. Urban’s itinerary was extensive and his agenda was packed, including the investigation of the French king’s adultery. Yet this tour of southern and central France is remembered today for a single sermon that Urban preached in the open air at Clermont in the Auvergne on 27 November 1095. His subject was...

    (pp. 22-53)

    In 1195 Conrad of Wittelsbach, the archbishop of Mainz, appealed to the Germans to embark on a new crusade to the Holy Land. Despite the fact that just five years had passed since the German army that set out on the Third Crusade had disintegrated with appalling loss of life following Barbarossa’s death in the River Saleph, Conrad enjoyed much success. Crusading was at the height of its popularity. The chronicler known as ‘Pseudo-Ansbert’ commented that nothing could hold the Germans back from responding anew to the call of the cross. He remarked with wonder that none of the many...

    (pp. 54-80)

    People who took the cross were under no illusions about the massive effort of will that crusading demanded. King Louis VII of France wrote in 1149 that the eastern Church was subjected to daily attacks by the Saracens and appealed to ‘us westerners’ for help; but providing that help was both laborious and costly.¹ Forty years later Peter of Blois fleshed out Louis’ generalization. He exhorted the Third Crusade’s leaders to send ahead reliable agents who would assemble food supplies, assess the perils in store, prepare for the sea crossing and evaluate the enemy’s strength.² Fifty years on and English...

    (pp. 81-110)

    When thinking about the issues that faced crusaders making their way to the East it’s hard not to focus on the great expeditions. But it’s important to bear in mind that many men and women took the cross outside the context of the numbered crusades. This was particularly the case between 1099 and 1187, though it applied also to the thirteenth century. In 1244 it was estimated that there were about 100 pilgrim knights or footsoldiers in the Holy Land.¹ For some decades after 1099 the difference between pilgrimage and crusade was slender; writing about the year 1113, Fulcher of...

    (pp. 111-147)

    ‘A grave report has come from the lands around Jerusalem and from the city of Constantinople … that a people from the kingdom of the Persians, a foreign race, a race absolutely alien to God … has invaded the land of those Christians, has reduced the people with sword, rapine and flame and has carried off some as captives to its own land.’¹ The ‘foreign race’ that Robert of Reims was referring to in his version of Urban II’s Clermont sermon was the Turks. They were a nomadic people who actually originated in Central Asia, not Persia, though in 1095...

    (pp. 148-177)

    In the treatise about crusade preaching that he wrote in the mid-1260s, Humbert of Romans included an eccentric passage depicting a crusader defending himself before Christ on Judgement Day. ‘Lord, you were on the cross one day for my sake, and I have been on it for your sake for many days and have suffered many torments.’¹ Humbert’s point was not to play down crucifixion but to play up crusading. He was saying that crusading was such an extended ordeal that the crusader who had fulfilled his vow would have nothing to fear from a just God. As we saw...

  11. Plates
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 178-207)

    ‘We shall seize heaven by violence, because “since the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence” [Matthew 11:12], And what could be more violent than using penitence to win something that’s barred to us by human nature and God’s justice?’¹ Peter of Blois wrote this extraordinary comment at the time of the Third Crusade. It’s an emphatic reminder that crusading was a penitential activity, and that medieval penance was extrovert in character. No way of showing devotion was regarded as too extreme by men and women who were desperate to prove to God that they...

  13. 8 SARACENS
    (pp. 208-237)

    In 1290, after almost two centuries of crusading to the East and just months before Acre fell, a European author known as ‘the Clerk of Enghien’ wrote that ‘in foreign nations they are not a bit like they are here. You know truly that the Oriental is quite otherwise than we are.’¹ This perception of difference runs through nearly all descriptions of the Muslim enemy. At times attempts were made to find parallels for what was observed, but they sprang from the hope of understanding the radically unfamiliar by reconfiguring it in terms of the well-known. A good example was...

    (pp. 238-261)

    Travelling for its own sake had a poor reputation in the Middle Ages. It was associated with fickleness and vanity, and a charge constantly laid at the door of pilgrims and crusaders alike was that their real motive wasn’t devotion but restless curiosity born out of idleness, a notorious ploy of the devil. Inhabitants of the cloister in particular distrusted travel, seeing it as an insidious temptress working on their fellow religious.¹ The anonymous annalist of Würzburg was probably not alone in disparaging people who went on the Second Crusade ‘for the sake of learning about strange lands’.² In reality...

    (pp. 262-289)

    ‘What man of spirit can hesitate for a moment to undertake this journey when, among the many hazards involved, none could be more unfortunate, none could cause greater distress, than the prospect of coming back alive?’ This bit of ‘up and at ’em’ bravado was allegedly voiced by a Welsh nobleman and crusader called Gruffydd on the eve of the Third Crusade.¹ It was in tune with the machismo that often accompanied recruitment, but, as we’ve seen, this August 1914 mood of adventure soon gave way to deep homesickness. Some crusaders may have viewed their venture in apocalyptic terms that...

    (pp. 290-292)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 293-327)
    (pp. 328-337)
    (pp. 338-340)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 341-357)