The Crusades: Motivations, Administration, and Cultural Influence

Rachel Rooney with Andrew Miller

What were Western Christian religious beliefs, political relationships, and personal values during the Middle Ages? How did the motives, organization, and effects of the Crusades change over time? How have writers from the eleventh century on criticized the Crusaders’ goals and actions?

Introduction

The Crusades were a series of religious and political wars fought between 1096 and 1291 for control of the Holy Land. Pope Urban II initiated the First Crusade (1096–1102) in order to aid the Christian Byzantine Empire, which was under attack by Muslim Seljuk Turks. As a result of this crusade, Europeans captured Jerusalem in 1099. Muslims quickly unified against the Christian invading and occupying force and the two groups battled in subsequent wars for control of the Holy Land. By 1291 the Muslims firmly controlled Jerusalem and the coastal areas, which remained in Islamic hands until the twentieth century.

The crusading movement involved men and women from every country in Europe and touched upon almost every aspect of daily life, from the Church and religious thought, to politics and economics. It also found its way into the arts, as patrons and artists from diverse backgrounds and traditions were brought together to create new forms of expression. Frescos, mosaics, sculptures, and even coins reflected a blend of Western (Latin/Catholic) and Eastern (Byzantine/Eastern Christian) traditions. Crusaders appeared in histories as well as in French and German epic poetry from the twelfth century, such as the Chanson d’Antioche, an account of the 1098 siege in Antioch.

The crusading movement involved men and women from every country in Europe and touched upon almost every aspect of daily life, from the Church and religious thought, to politics and economics.

Christians understood the Crusades as a path to salvation for those who participated. As the French monk Guilbert of Nogent wrote in his twelfth century chronicle of the Crusades, “God has instituted in our time holy wars, so that the order of knights and the crowd running in its wake… might find a new way of gaining salvation. And so they are not forced to abandon secular affairs completely by choosing the monastic life or any religious profession, as used to be the custom, but can attain in some measure God’s grace while pursuing their own careers, with the liberty and in the dress to which they are accustomed.” Those who “took up the cross” were recipients of both spiritual and earthly rewards. The spiritual reward was the indulgence, or the forgiveness, of sins. The earthly rewards included plunder from conquest, forgiveness of debts, and freedom from taxes, as well as fame and political power. Crusaders did not only fight for control of the Holy Land; they also worked to secure the Church’s power in Europe. Like the wars against the Muslims, these conflicts were promoted by various popes in Christ’s name and led by crusaders who took vows and received special privileges and indulgences. The “enemies” of the Church in Europe included people who were not Christians. It also included Christians who were labeled heretics, that is, people who challenged the official teachings of the Church or who questioned the pope’s power and authority.

Millions of people, Christian and non-Christian, soldiers and noncombatants lost their lives during the Crusades. In addition to the enormous loss of life, the debt incurred and other economic costs associated with the multiple excursions to the Middle East impacted all levels of society, from individual families and villages, to budding nation-states. The wars also resulted in the destruction of cities and towns that lay in the crusaders’ wake. In his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon refers to the Crusades as an event in which “the lives and labours of millions, which were buried in the East, would have been more profitably employed in the improvement of their native country.”

Beginning in 1095 with Pope Urban II’s proclamation and concluding, according to some historians, with Napoleon’s conquest of Malta in 1798, the Crusades had a lasting impact on European and Middle Eastern culture and politics that still continues to this day. The following documents offer insight into the religious and social motivations and benefits for undertaking a crusade, as well as a glimpse into the more mundane administrative details required to make this transcontinental excursion to the Holy Land. They also suggest how the Crusades were both commemorated and criticized in literature and history for centuries after they had ended.

Please consider the following questions as you review the documents

  • What were Western Christian religious beliefs, political relationships, and personal values during the Middle Ages?

  • How did the motives, organization, and effects of the Crusades change over time?

  • How have writers from the eleventh century on criticized the Crusaders’ goals and actions?

The Call to Crusade

In the years approaching the twelfth century, some Christians began to believe that an individual’s thoughts and meditations—in addition to one’s actions—were an important indicator of piety and goodness. Devout Christians increasingly pursued religious pilgrimages, or journeys, to the places where Jesus lived, died, and was buried. At the time of the First Crusade, the Church taught that an individual’s sins could be remedied, at least in theory, by acts of penance that demonstrated remorse and a desire for forgiveness. As communications through Central Europe improved, and Italian trade in the Mediterranean increased, more Western European people than ever before could journey or make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and seek penance for past sins. The First Crusade, proposed by Pope Urban II in 1095, was undertaken by many as a devotional act of pilgrimage.

A literal transcription of Urban’s words at Clermont does not exist, however there are multiple recorded versions of the speech. This version was written by the priest Fulcher of Chartes, who was most likely present when Urban spoke at Clermont. Fulcher of Chartes traveled to Constantinople during the First Crusade and witnessed the events that he describes in his famous chronicles.

Questions to Consider

  1. What task does Urban II place before the Christian people of Europe? What is the spiritual purpose of this task? What is the political purpose?

  2. What is the “twofold reward” for undertaking this task? What punishments could result from inaction? Who will receive these rewards or benefit from them?

  3. What does Urban, or the Church as a whole, stand to gain by the Crusades? How will the Crusades affect the pope’s or the Church’s in Europe and the world?

“Speech of Urban II at the Council of Claremont, November 26, 1095”

Pope Urban II. From Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History Vol. 1, No. 2, 1897.

Image of Speech of Urban II at the Council of Claremont, November 26, 1095

Pope Urban II’s call for crusade to the Holy Land as recorded by Fulcher of Chartes, a priest who was thought to be present at the speech. His famous chronicle documents events he witnessed during the First Crusade to Constantinople.

Metadata Details
Item Type Book Section
Title Speech of Urban II at the Council of Claremont, November 26, 1095
Publication Title Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History Vol. 1, No. 2
Short Title Speech of Urban II at Claremont, 1095
Book Title Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of History
Creator Pope Urban II
Publication Date 1897
Volume Vol. 1, No. 2
Pages pp. 4–5
Call Number F 30 .67
Location General Collections 2nd floor

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Christian Devotion and Reward in the Crusades

The Church promoted taking the cross and going on to the Holy Land as a demonstration of Christian love and devotion to God. Likewise, knights were taught that to be a good Christian knight, one must undertake acts of love and charity. Among these acts of charity were “Love of God” and “Love of Neighbor.” Defending the Holy Land and protecting Christians in their time of need were seen as acts of loving one’s neighbor. Bernard of Clairvoix, commenting on the Muslim victories in the Holy Land wrote, “If we harden our hearts and pay little attention… where is our love of God, where is our love for our neighbor?” While there were additional motivations for taking up the cross—opportunity for economic or political gain, desire for adventure, and the feudal obligation to follow one’s lord into battle—to become a soldier for Christ was to express total devotion to God. According to historian Jonathan Riley-Smith, taking up the cross was based on Christ’s statement: “Whoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14. 27). Underscoring this belief, priests encouraged participation in the Crusades by praising acts of devotion to God and invoking fear of the last judgment for failure to act.

Popes and kings granted special privileges to crusaders to reinforce this message. Initially, Pope Urban II promised forgiveness of sins to those who took up the cross. However, as the wars continued, Church and political leaders found that they had to promise additional benefits, beyond the spiritual, to encourage participation. These benefits included forgiveness of debts and interest payments, protection of property and family, even different courts of justice for those crusaders who commit criminal acts.

The following documents include an account of the privileges granted to crusaders by Pope Eugene III and a poem portraying the Crusades as the ultimate act of Christian devotion.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to Pope Eugene III, what types of actions will the Church take on behalf of crusaders?

  2. Review the privileges granted to crusaders outlined in this document. Hypothesize the types of problems encountered by families when a member went on crusade.

  3. How does this document reveal the relationship between Church spiritual and secular (non-religious) authority?

  4. What is the message of the poem “You Who Love with True Love”?

  5. The poet writes, “A sensible merchant spends money from his purse.” What is implied by this line?

  6. According to the poem, what is promised to those who take up the cross? What lies ahead for those who procrastinate?

  7. How does a Christian’s devotion to God compare to the feudal relationship between a lord and vassal?

Privileges Granted by Eugene III

Eugene III. From Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of History, 1894.

Image of Privileges Granted by Eugene III

Church and, sometimes, secular leaders granted crusaders both spiritual and earthly privileges in exchange for their participation. Pope Eugene III granted these privileges to crusaders in 1146.

Metadata Details
Item Type book section
Title Privileges Granted by Eugene III
Publication Title Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of History
Short Title Privileges Granted by Pope, 1146
Creator Eugene III
Publication Date 1894
Call Number F 30 .67
Location General Collections 2nd floor

You Who Love with True Love

From Les chansons de croisade [Songs of the Crusades], by Joseph Bédier and Pierre Aubrey. 1909.

Image of You Who Love with True Love

In this work, written circa 1189, an anonymous poet writes of crusading as the demonstration of an individual’s love of God.

[I.] You who love with true love, awake! Sleep no more! The lark tells us know that the day is here And tells us in her songs That the day of peace has come Which God, in his great tenderness, Will give to those who for love of him Take the cross and for their burden Suffer pain both night and day. Then he will see who truly love him.

[II.] Anyone deserves to be condemned Who has deserted his lord in need. So will he be, remember it well. He will have much pain and much insult On the Day of our Last Judgment When God his sides, palms and feet Will show bleeding and wounded. For even he who has done his best Will be so sore afraid That he will tremble, whether he wants to or not.

[III.] He who was put on the cross for us Did not love us with a simulated love. He loved us like the finest friend And lovingly for us Carried with so much anguish The holy cross very gently Between his arms, before his breast, Like a gentle lamb, simple and devout. Then he was nailed with three nails Painfully through his hands and through his feet.

[IV.] I have heard it said proverbially, ‘A sensible merchant spends money from his purse;’ And, ‘He has a fickle heart Who sees what is good and chooses what is evil’. Do you know what God has promised To those who wish to take the cross? God help me, a very fair wage: Paradise, by firm promise. He who can gain his prize If mad if he waits until tomorrow.

Translated in Louise and Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades: Idea and Reality 1095–1274. London: Edward Arnold, 1981. pp. 89–90.

Image of You Who Love with True Love

[V.] For us there is no tomorrow, We can be sure of that. Many a man imagines that he has a very healthy heart And four days later he can no longer prize Either all his goods or his knowledge When he sees that death holds him on a rein, So that neither foot nor hand Can he move to shake it off or remove it. He leaves his feather-bed and takes to the straw litter, But realizes his mistake too late.

Translated in Louise and Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades: Idea and Reality 1095–1274. London: Edward Arnold, 1981. pp. 89–90.

Metadata Details
Item Type book section
Title You Who Love with True Love
Publication Title Les chansons de croisade [Songs of the Crusades]
Short Title You Who Love, 1189
Publication Creator Joseph Bédier and Pierre Aubrey
Publication Date 1909
Language Middle French
Call Number Y 7684 .08
Location General Collections 2nd floor

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Images of the Crusades

British interest in the Crusades increased following the translation of Italian poet Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata (“Jerusalem Delivered”) into English in 1600. In 1639 Thomas Fuller, an English historian, published the first, modern, full-length account of the Crusades in English. Three more editions of his four-volume History of the Holy Warre appeared within the next decade. Fuller researched his subject extensively, drew on numerous sources, and included maps and a supplemental commentary in his history. Fuller was sharply critical of the papacy for promoting the Crusades and devoted nine chapters of The History of the Holy Warre to describing their failure.

The first document below is the frontispiece of the first edition of Fuller’s history. A portrait of Baldwin, King of the Crusader state of Jerusalem (1100–1118), appears on the top left of the image and, to the right, a portrait of Saladin, the Muslim sultan who defeated the crusaders and captured Jerusalem in 1187. The image below the portraits shows the crusaders’ advance and retreat between Europe and Jerusalem, and the words, “We went out full but returned empty.” The Latin phrase Vestigia pauca retrorfum in the upper right of the image means “few lived to return home.”

British publisher Henry George Bohn included the second image below as the frontispiece to his Chronicles of the Crusades. Bohn writes that the image is a reproduction from a fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript. It portrays an event in 1270, when three French knights “were accosted by three Saracen knights requesting baptism.” While the Frenchmen spoke with the Saracens (or Muslims), they were attacked, and “sixty Christians were slain before the infidels were put to flight.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Fuller’s illustration is a map of the Third Crusade. Describe the various groups that are represented here. Who is taking this journey?

  2. Describe the two men portrayed at the top of the image. How do you interpret the meaning of the text surrounding the portraits?

  3. Explain the symbolism of the two buckets at the top of the image. What is implied by the phrase “We went full but returned empty”?

  4. Describe the image of “Crusaders & Saracens in Conference.” How do the French knights and the Muslims appear? What do their clothes and postures convey?

  5. Why do you think this event—in which Muslims who appeared to embrace Christianity acted as decoys before a military assault—seemed significant to historians of the Crusades?

The Historie of the Holy Warre

Thomas Fuller. From The Historie of the Holy Warre, 1639.

Image of The Historie of the Holy Warre

Fuller used multiple sources in this first full-length account of the Crusades published in English. The Latin phrase Vestigia pauca retrorfum near the upper right means “few lived to return.”

Metadata Details
Item Type Book
Title The Historie of the Holy Warre
Short Title Historie of the Holy Warre, 1639
Book Title The Historie of the Holy Warre
Publisher Cambridge
Creator Thomas Fuller
Publication Date 1639
Call Number Case folio F 095.309
Location Special Collections 4th floor

Crusaders & Saracens in Conference

From Chronicles of the Crusades: Being Contemporary Narratives of the Crusade of Richard Coeur De Lion ... and of the Crusade of St. Louis, by Henry G. Bohn. 1848.

Image of Crusaders & Saracens in Conference

This frontispiece portrays Muslims in 1270 approaching French knights, stationed near Tunis, to request baptism. While they talked, the Muslim army launched a surprise attack against the Christians.

Metadata Details
Item Type book section
Title Crusaders & Saracens in Conference
Publication Title Chronicles of the Crusades: Being Contemporary Narratives of the Crusade of Richard Coeur De Lion ... and of the Crusade of St. Louis
Short Title Crusaders & Saracens, 1848
Publication Creator Henry G. Bohn
Publication Date 1848
Call Number D151 .C55 1848
Location General Collections 2nd floor

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Logistics of a Crusade

While anyone could join in a crusade, it became clear in later crusades that success often depended on having well-qualified personnel on the battlefield. Those best prepared came from the warrior classes: the knights, heavy cavalry (armored front-line troops), and support personnel such as bowmen, foot soldiers, and siege engineers. Other strategic personnel included those with special skills, including priests who were literate and could perform church rituals as well as administrative tasks, merchants who controlled the supplies, surgeons, and members of the crusader lord’s household staff. In later crusades, sailors were crucial as the journey to the Holy Land involved sea voyages. However, the knights were the core of the crusading forces and it was under their leadership that the armies were organized.

Participating in a crusade became widely accepted as an important feature of knightly behavior. Deciding who would go on crusade was dictated by the social and political structure of the region. If a king “took up the cross” or undertook a crusade, it was assumed that those in his circle would be obligated to join him out of political loyalty or duty to him, rather than as an expression of religious devotion. As one knight observed in Jean de Joinville’s account of the Crusades, “if we do not take up the cross, we shall lose the favor of the king; if we do take it, we shall lose God’s favor, since we shall not be taking it for his sake, but through fear of displeasing the king.”

Kinship also influenced participation in a crusade. It was common for sons to accompany fathers, brothers to go with brothers, or uncles with nephews. The decision of which family members would take up the cross, and which would remain behind was often made collectively. The family members who remained behind were tasked with the maintenance and administration of the family property and position.

The Crusades, like all wars, were extremely expensive. For example, Louis IX spent an estimated 3,000,000 livres, or 12 times his annual income, on his first crusade in 1248 until his return in 1254. Expenses included provisions for Louis and his household, wages for the knight and soldiers, replacement and purchase of horses, mules and camels, shipping, gifts to crusaders, and Louis’ ransom after he was taken prisoner by the Egyptians in April 1250. Individual lords were also expected to contribute toward the costs of the crusade and ransom. Paying for the war was a continual concern for all those involved. Though there was the opportunity for plunder, the costs of the crusade were rarely offset by the captured treasure.

The following document identifies the knights who accompanied Louis IX on his first crusade (1217–1221) and describes their terms of agreement. It was published in the nineteenth century as an appendix to an English edition of Jean de Joinville’s Life of Saint Louis, which Joinville completed in 1309. Joinville was a counselor and close friend to the king. He led a successful effort to have Louis canonized (or deemed a saint) by the Catholic Church after Louis’ death in 1270.

Questions to Consider

  1. What information does this list record? Why was this type of record keeping necessary?

  2. What does the document tell you about the organization and logistics of a crusade?

  3. How does it reflect lessons learned from previous crusades?

“A List of the Knights Who Accompanied Saint Louis on His Expedition to Palestine”

Henry G. Bohn. From Chronicles of the Crusades: Being Contemporary Narratives of the Crusade of Richard Coeur De Lion ... and of the Crusade of St. Louis, 1848.

Image of A List of the Knights Who Accompanied Saint Louis on His Expedition to Palestine

The names and terms of agreement of the knights who accompanied Louis IX of France on his first crusade (1248–1254).

Metadata Details
Item Type Book Section
Title A List of the Knights Who Accompanied Saint Louis on His Expedition to Palestine
Publication Title Chronicles of the Crusades: Being Contemporary Narratives of the Crusade of Richard Coeur De Lion ... and of the Crusade of St. Louis
Short Title Knights Who Accompanied Louis, 1217
Book Title Chronicles of the Crusades: Being Contemporary Narratives of the Crusade of Richard Coeur De Lion
Publisher London
Creator Henry G. Bohn
Publication Date 1848
Pages pp. 532–533
Call Number F 095 .099
Location General Collections 2nd floor

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Critical Perspectives on the Crusades

The following poems offer critical perspectives on the Crusades from writers who lived through them. The first document, below, is an excerpt from Jean de Joinville’s Life of Saint Louis (published as Lord de Joinville’s Memoirs of Louis IX, King of France in this 1848 English edition). Joinville accompanied Louis IX of France on his first crusade (1217–1221) and was captured alongside the king when the Egyptians defeated the Christian army at al-Mansura, Egypt, in 1250. Joinville attributed these words to the Muslim poet Essahib-Giémal-Edden-Ben-Matroub.

The second poem below was composed in 1267 by a trouvère known as Rutebeuf. Its original French title is “La Disputation du Croisé et du Décroisé,” or “Argument between Crusader and Non-crusader.” Trouvères were poets and minstrels working in northern France during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. While their poems and songs primarily focused on the theme of courtly love, the trouvères turned their attention to the Crusades as well. This witty minstrel flourished during the reign of Louis IX, to whom many of his works are dedicated. At the time this poem was written, people began to question the value of participating in a crusade. However, Louis had already decided to go on his second crusade (1269–1272), much to the unhappiness of his wife, many of his ministers and members of the clergy, and even some of his subjects. Rutebeuf did not want to anger the monarch by criticizing his plans, and possibly risk the loss of his patronage, so he presented the argument about taking up the cross in a dialogue form. Louis IX died in Tunisia in 1270 during this second crusade.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the Muslim poet Essahib-Giémal-Edden-Ben-Matroub portray Louis IX’s attempt to conquer Egypt in the name of Christianity? How might a crusader, who believed the conquest of the Muslims was God’s will, respond to this poem?

  2. This account, critical of crusader actions, appears in a European text. What point does the author want to make by including this account? What does the poem’s inclusion reveal about changing attitudes toward the Crusades?

  3. What criticisms of the Crusades does Rutebeuf present in his poem? What is the non-crusader’s attitude toward the clergy?

  4. How does the crusader defend his actions? Do the two speakers agree on any points?

  5. Do you think the poet favors one perspective over the other? How would you characterize his attitude towards the Crusades? Why might the poet feel this way?

“Words for the King of France”

Essahib-Giémal-Edden-Ben-Matroub. From Chronicles of the Crusades: Being Contemporary Narratives of the Crusade of Richard Coeur De Lion ... and of the Crusade of St. Louis, by Henry G. Bohn. 1848.

Image of Words for the King of France

A Muslim poet’s response to Louis IX’s unsuccessful war on Egypt and defeat at al-Mansura in 1250, from Jean de Joinville’s Life of Saint Louis.

Metadata Details
Item Type Book Section
Title Words for the King of France
Publication Title Chronicles of the Crusades: Being Contemporary Narratives of the Crusade of Richard Coeur De Lion ... and of the Crusade of St. Louis
Short Title Words for the King, 1250
Book Title Chronicles of the Crusades: Being Contemporary Narratives of the Crusade of Richard Coeur De Lion
Publisher London
Creator Essahib-Giémal-Edden-Ben-Matroub
Publication Creator Henry G. Bohn
Publication Date 1848
Call Number F 095 .099
Location General Collections 2nd floor

“The Crusaders”

Rutebeuf. From The History of the Crusades, for the Recovery and Possession of the Holy Land, by Charles Mills. 1820.

Image of The Crusaders

This thirteenth-century poem, originally written in French, offers contrasting views on the merits of crusading.

Image of The Crusaders
Metadata Details
Item Type Book Section
Title The Crusaders
Publication Title The History of the Crusades, for the Recovery and Possession of the Holy Land
Short Title The Crusaders, 1267
Book Title The History of the Crusades, for the Recovery and Possession of the Holy Land
Publisher London
Creator Rutebeuf
Publication Creator Charles Mills
Publication Date 1820
Volume Vol. 2
Pages pp. 458–460
Call Number F 095 .578
Location General Collections 2nd floor

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A Scottish King's Last Request

The fourteenth-century writer John Barbour has been called the father of Scottish poetry. Inspired by the French trouvères and their poems of romance and chivalry, Barbour celebrated the deeds of the Scottish king Robert the Bruce and his companions in this poem, completed in 1375.

Robert the Bruce was born in 1274, and descended from Scots, Gaelic, and English nobility. In 1304 Bruce’s father died and gave him a viable claim to the throne. Two years later, Bruce met with his rival John Comyn at Greyfriars Church in Dumfries. A fight broke out, daggers were drawn, and Bruce killed Comyn near the Church altar. To commit murder in a church was seen as sacrilege and a mortal, or serious sin. The Pope excommunicated Bruce, but the Bishop of Glasgow in Scotland absolved (or forgave) him and made plans for Bruce to quickly take the throne, which he did in 1306. Edward I, King of England, challenged Bruce’s claim to the Scottish throne, and the battle for Scottish independence continued until 1328 when the English king confirmed Scotland as a unique and independent kingdom with Robert at its head.

In his quest for Scottish sovereignty, Bruce made a sacred vow that, if God would grant Scotland freedom from English rule, he would take up the cross. Bruce died on June 7, 1329, without making the journey. However, before his death, he asked that his heart be removed and carried in battle “against God’s foes” on a crusade to the Holy Land, with eventual burial in Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This gesture was his penance for breaking his sacred vow to go on crusade during his lifetime and to atone for his past sins, including the sacrilegious murder of John Comyn in the Greyfriars church.

Bruce’s preserved heart was placed in a silver heart-shaped casket, which Sir James Douglas, his loyal subject, then carried on a chain around his neck. When a planned international crusade failed to occur, Douglas and his company of soldiers sailed to Spain where Alfonso XI of Castile was mounting a campaign against the Moorish (Muslim) kingdom of Granada. Douglas was killed in battle in 1330, and his body and the casket containing Bruce’s embalmed heart were left on the field. However, they were found and conveyed back to Scotland and, in accordance with Bruce’s written request, his heart was buried at Melrose Abbey in Roxburghshire, Scotland.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does Robert Bruce’s final wish that his heart be taken to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem reflect the importance of the Crusades to medieval people?

  2. How does the passage demonstrate the importance of oaths and vows? What role does loyalty play in the story? How do these values relate to the Crusades?

The Bruce, Being the Metrical History of Robert the Bruce King of Scots

John Barbour. From The Bruce; or, the History of Robert I. King of Scotland, by John Pinkerton. 1790.

Image of The Bruce, Being the Metrical History of Robert the Bruce King of Scots

John Barbour, called the father of Scottish poetry, completed this poem on the life of Robert the Bruce, king of Scotland, in 1375. This edition is based on a manuscript dated 1489.

Therefore presently he sent letters to the lords of his country and they came as he bade them. Then before these lords and prelates, he made his testament, and to many religious bodies he gave money in great quantity for the saving of his soul. He provided right well for his soul, and when this was done, he said, “Sirs, so far as the day is gone with me that there is only one thing left, that is, without fear to meet death, as every man must needs do. I thank God that He has given me space to repent this in life…”

Translated by George Eyre-Todd (http://www.electricscotland.com/history/brucendx.htm).

Image of The Bruce, Being the Metrical History of Robert the Bruce King of Scots

“… for through me and my wars there has been a great spilling of blood, and many an innocent man has been slain. Therefore I take this sickness and this pain as reward for my trespass.”

“My heart was firmly fixed, for the saving of my sins, to make a crusade against God’s enemies when I should come to prosperity. And since He now takes me to Him, so that the body cannot fulfill the device of the heart, I would that the heart, wherein that resolve was conceived, were sent thither. Therefore, I pray you, every one, that among you ye choose one who is honest, wise, doughty [fearless], and a noble knight of his hand, to carry my heart against the enemies of God, when my soul and body shall be parted. I would that it were brought there worthily, since God will not that I have the strength to go thither.”

Translated by George Eyre-Todd (http://www.electricscotland.com/history/brucendx.htm).

Metadata Details
Item Type book section
Title The Bruce, Being the Metrical History of Robert the Bruce King of Scots
Publication Title The Bruce; or, the History of Robert I. King of Scotland
Short Title Robert the Bruce, 1489
Creator John Barbour
Publication Creator John Pinkerton
Publication Date 1790
Language Middle English
Call Number Case Y 185 .B218
Location Special Collections 4th floor

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Selected Sources

Riley-Smith, Jonathan, and Louise Riley-Smith. The Crusades: Idea and Reality, 1095–1274. London: Edward Arnold, 1981.

Riley-Smith, Jonathan. “Crusading as an Act of Love.” Journal of the Historical Association 65 (June 1980): 177–192.

Riley-Smith, Jonathan, ed. Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades. 2001.

Harf-Lancner, Laurence. “Rutebeuf Chantre de la Croisade? La Disputation du Croise et du Decroise.” Synergies 2 (2007): 19–28. http://ressources-cla.univ-fcomte.fr/gerflint/Inde2/laurence.pdf.

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Digital collection created in conjunction with Andrew Miller and Katie Sjursen’s History Channel seminar, “Religion, Propaganda, and War: Medieval and Modern Understandings of the Crusades,” on December 10, 2010.

This collection was last updated