Second Crusade: Towns and Merchants, 1147

Although Pope Eugenius and Bernard of Clairvaux intended their persuasion to influence kings and counts, many other people heard these arguments and began making drastic changes in their lives, freeing themselves to go and give personal help. But this time, the popular Crusade was well organized and did not end in disaster.

To some extent, that’s because all during this period, the power and self-governing wisdom of towns was constantly growing. Towns began in the early medieval years as land set apart from the usual labor contributions that a baron or count expected. The people living on this chartered plot still owed something, but they could give it in cash, as taxes, not as actual days of the week when they must plow fields or dig ditches. Craftsmen flocked to the new towns and organized guilds, and the guilds elected leaders to create a town council. The council elected a Major as executive, or as it’s come to us in English, a mayor. Every few decades, the towns’ governance grew more detailed and stronger. I speculate that there were important changes between 1095 and 1145, and that this is part of why the popular Crusade now actually worked.

Towns all over Northern Europe, crossing many feudal and national boundaries, agreed on a time and place to meet: the first weeks of May, in Dartmouth, England. There, the regional leaders (guild leaders, landowners, and merchants) made an agreement. Each ship would be viewed as a parish, with a priest and regular church services. For each group of ships, a judge was appointed to settle disputes; they were not to tolerate brawling, since this was a pilgrimage. Important decisions would be made by a council of all the regional leaders. Every participant swore an oath to follow this plan.

Also during this 50-year period, they were building larger and deeper-keeled cargo ships in the North Sea. The merchants who helped organize ships for the pilgrims probably chose cogs, which were shorter and more barrel-shaped than the war-ships that we see depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry. It may be that just in the years since Prince Sigurd set out on pilgrimage by ship, the average sea-going vessel had more cargo capacity and less need to stop so frequently.

Because the voyage was planned in such a decentralized way, there’s no master list or record of who went, or why. Most of what we know comes from a history written in Lisbon, Portugal, because the fleet arrived just in time to assist local Christians to complete their reconquest of Lisbon. It wasn’t a big event in English or Flemish history, but it was huge for Lisbon.

A spate of bad Atlantic weather forced the flotilla to slow down and stop. King Alfonso of Leon and Castile sent men to persuade them to help with the siege, instead of passing on. The Pope had recently announced that fighting the Moors in Spain was just as valid as going all the way to the Holy Land. And so the townsmen agreed to anchor their ships and help with the siege. They would be paid with treasure taken from the Moors when the city was captured, with King Alfonso remaining in control of political decisions.

It took four months to bring Lisbon to the point of surrender, and at that point, all or most of the Muslim residents left as refugees to other taifa cities. Some of the pilgrim sailors chose to stay on in Lisbon, rewarded with land or houses. Lisbon’s account suggests that most of them stayed, so it must have been a significant number, who became an important piece of the city’s new Christian identity.

One Mediterranean account suggests that some of them continued to the Holy Land, but we know nothing about how they fared there. Kings usually traveled with chroniclers, but these townsmen and merchants didn’t think of it. Paper technology was still on its way to Europe; after paper was widely available, common people kept records too (which is why we know so much about the Black Death). But in this time, no.

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Fatimid dynasty splits and decays, 1101-1140

The Fatimid dynasty always tried to combine pragmatic secular rule with idealistic religion. The Caliph/Imam was not only the war leader and ruler, he was also the holiest descendant of Ismail.

We’ve already seen one major split among Ismaili fanatics, when the Vizier Afdal promoted younger brother Musta’ali over heir apparent Nizar. During the 12th century, the Nizari Ismailis were mostly in Persia, trying to rebel against Baghdad’s Turkish rule. These Nizaris even took the radical step of composing their holy writings in Persian, not in Arabic.

But in 1132, another split began.

Most Muslims in Egypt accepted Musta’ali’s rule pragmatically, but some believed fervently that the choice of Musta’ali had also been idealistic and holy. When this Imam died, his son al-Amir became Imam after him, so all was still well. In 1130, the birth of an heir-apparent son named Tayyib was celebrated in Cairo. But in 1132, the Caliph-Imam was assassinated. The heir, Tayyib, was no more than two years old.

Hafiz, a half-brother to the dead Caliph, became Regent for baby Tayyib. This kind of plan usually worked out badly in those times. Within a short time, Hafiz declared himself Caliph-Imam, since he too was a son of the previous one. Vizier Afdal and everyone who had charge of baby Tayyib were suddenly assassinated. The Nizari Assassins were a convenient scapegoat, but it’s just as likely that Hafiz merely paid his own killing team. Tayyib vanished from history, first with a legend of being hidden like Moses in a basket, carried to a mosque for safe-keeping. Then, since he was the true Imam even at this young age, he went into “occultation,” the hidden state where true Imams await their future revealing.

Ismailis in Yemen never accepted Hafiz; they were partisans of Tayyib. This was the next big split among Shi’ites: Tayyibi and Hafizi. Hafizi partisans didn’t have a long run, though; the descendants of Hafiz definitely died out, without occultation or mystery, within a few generations. Remaining Hafizi believers made amends to the Tayyibis and just joined them. There is still a Tayyibi Ismaili Shi’ite sect in Yemen.

During the last years of the Hafizis in Cairo, their Vizier tried to solve the three-way power problem by allying with the Crusader Kingdoms against the growing power of Zengi and his heirs. It was the last stand for Arab rule. Turks and Kurds now held Baghdad, Damascus, and much of Persia; they were taking more and more of Anatolia. However much the last Hafizis might be rejected by Tayyibis and Nizaris, they were undisputed as descendants of Ismail, who was a descendant of Mohammed. If these last Fatimids, fractured by idealistic splits, could not hold onto power against the Turks and Kurds, Arab aristocracy was basically over.

Spoiler: As we know, Arab political power only revived in the 20th century, after the First World War, fittingly by means of another “Crusader” alliance. By then, Turkish power had gone through its own cycles of division and decay.

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St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the great persuader

Bernard was a younger son in a noble family of Burgundy. His normal lot would have been war training for knighthood, but Bernard was clearly a scholarly, literary child who preferred the Church, so they sent him to school. As a young adult, he joined a reforming group of monks who wanted to restore holy austerity to monastic life. The house he personally founded, Clairvaux, at first was too austere to maintain even his own health.

Bernard was idealistic to a fault. He persuaded his entire family to become monks; apparently it was difficult for anyone to resist his enthusiasm for long. One of his knightly uncles went to the Holy Land and not only chose to stay but became a founding Templar, probably reflecting his nephew’s influence.

Bernard’s enthusiasm for the monastic orders of knights, particularly the Templars, knew no bounds. He had no cynicism about their whole-hearted devotion to God. He was asked to write the Rule of their order in 1128, dictating what they could own or eat, how often they must pray, and things like that. Since he fully accepted his time’s definition of holiness as rejection of the concrete bodily world, he directed the knights to be strikingly austere. He had grown up in the knightly social class, so he knew well their points of vanity.

He directed, for example, that the Templars keep their hair short. He had seen young knights put too much time into maintaining long hair; you may recall the 1950s “Pageboy” haircut for girls, modeled on images of knights with long curls and bangs. The Templars were also supposed to wash minimally, since a dirty face showed they had been hard at work, and they should be proud of it. Nor could they doll up their horses’ bridles with spangles and jewels, as some knights were starting to do. Their barracks in the Temple (actually al-Aqsa Mosque) should also be as stark as possible, with weapons and saddles as the only decorations. Bernard’s praise of the Templar ideal contributed to its rapid growth in volunteers and donations.

He had two other major public projects in his later years. In 1130, while he was still busy promoting and shaping the Templars, Rome experienced a crisis with two papal elections. A number of cardinals believed the first hasty election at the previous Pope’s deathbed wasn’t in good order, so they held a second election. As with so many such things, the true issue appears to have been rival family factions in Italy, so both Popes had supporters and it became a contest of their relative power. The first-elected one, Innocent II, had to flee to France, while the second, Anacletus, was acting Pope until his death in 1138. Bernard was a passionate supporter of Innocent II. He went from one European capital to another, trying to persuade monarchs and cardinals to support him.

Bernard’s success at this persuasive diplomacy made him the obvious choice for preaching the Second Crusade. The Pope who called for the Crusade was one of his own Cistercian monks, too. Bernard, now an old man in his 50s, traveled again from capital to capital, preaching Crusade to the aristocrats. He was as persuasive as ever, to the point where the Crusade became his personal project. This seemed like a really good idea at the time.



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The Komnenos Family, 1118-1146

The Byzantine Empire was central to all of these events, but we often overlook their role in the Crusader kingdoms since the Franks were so often opposed to the Greeks. The Crusaders acted alone most of the time, after the initial invasion was over.

The Emperor who wrote to the Pope in the 1090’s was Alexios, who remained the ruler throughout the early Crusader kingdom years. Alexios died around the time the Knights Templars were established, during the reign of Baldwin II.

His son John had two older sisters (Anna is famous for having taken notes on the Crusaders), and as it so often went in Constantinople, his succession was not simple or assured. His mother Irene preferred Anna’s husband, a powerful general, over her own sons.  John stole his dying father’s ring and proclaimed himself Emperor John II in public, winning support from the city mob. His sister Anna’s history-writing seems to have been prompted by her surplus of free time after she and her husband were exiled.

John II is remember as The Good or even The Beautiful (ho kallos). He was very pious, and he set out to reverse Byzantium’s recent losses. First he married the Hungarian princess Piroska, renaming her “Irene” after his mother. They had eight children. He reconquered the Balkans and even his wife’s homeland of Hungary. He set out across Anatolia, putting the Turks on the defensive at last. He was never able to push the Danishmend Turks out of the northeast, but he regained control over many other provinces.

The Crusaders sometimes allied with him against Muslim Syria, but as always, they were very ambivalent about the Greek Emperor. In 1142, John announced to King Fulk that he intended to go on a “pilgrimage” to Jerusalem with several hundred of his closest armed friends. Fulk replied that he’d love to have them, but the land around Jerusalem was just so dry, the economy so poor, etc., he really thought that the retinue should be restricted to maybe a dozen. John lost interest, funnily enough.

John’s best friend and vizier was a Turkish boy captured at the siege of Nicaea, back at the start of the First Crusade. They grew up together, though the Turkish boy may have technically been his slave. In this period, with Mamluks ruling cities, slave and friend were not always rigid distinctions.

John’s last acts were an attempt to take back both Edessa and Antioch, which Byzantium had never conceded to the Franks. He died while hunting in Cilicia while he was preparing to besiege Antioch. He seems to have gotten an infected cut, and neglected it until it was too late.

John had two surviving sons, the older Isaac and the younger Manuel, and he chose Manuel to become Emperor, stating the Isaac was not fit by temperament. John’s Turkish best friend/vizier helped by leaving the deathbed quickly to arrest brother Isaac in Constantinople. When Manuel was proclaimed Emperor there, he decided it was okay to release Isaac, but he took the extra safety measure of dipping into the royal treasury to give every house-owner two gold pieces. The city’s citizenry (sometimes known as a mob) was usually the deciding factor in succession. Manuel remained Emperor through the Second and Third Crusades. When the Second Crusaders came through after the fall of Edessa to Zengi, Manuel married the German king’s sister. Guess what he renamed her?

The Komnenoi left another footnote: one of John’s sisters had a son, also John, who converted to Islam and married the Sultan’s daughter. The Sultan probably planned an invasion with this nephew at its head, but it didn’t happen. However, the Ottoman line claims descent from this couple.


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The Rise of Zengi, 1127-1146

Zengi was one of the most successful Turkish lords during this time, and he had a colorful life. Zengi’s rise led directly to the establishment of Saladin as the later Crusaders’ arch adversary, because he became that one strong man who could start ruling more than one city at a time, uniting them into a real kingdom. Baghdad’s Sultan was always still king in name, at this time, so Zengi is known merely as an Atabeg or Governor.

Zengi’s father was beheaded for treason in Aleppo, but oddly, the child Zengi was not stigmatized for it. The governor of Mosul adopted him, and he remained a member of the Turkish aristocracy. In fact, he inherited Mosul from his adoptive father.

Zengi, as Atabeg of Mosul, quickly took over Aleppo as well in 1128. Sultan Mahmud (a Seljuk) recognized his rule and counted on his support against rebels, but after the Sultan’s death, a civil war broke out in which Zengi supported the losing side. Somehow, he held onto his power bases in Mosul and Aleppo as rival Caliphs and Sultans battled all around Baghdad and Damascus for the next five years.

In 1135, the ruler of Damascus offered to give the city to Zengi to save himself from internal plots, but (ironically or predictably) he was actually killed by order of his own mother before he could act. Zengi besieged Homs and Damascus by turns over the next few years, notably getting a Damascus fortress to surrender by promising safe passage—-and then killing them all. Damascus allied with King Fulk of Jerusalem, but Zengi bested him, too. At length, in 1138 Zengi found peace and true love by marrying the mother who had ordered her son killed. With this action, he became the ruler of Homs, but Damascus still escaped him.

1144 was a banner year for Zengi and a disaster for the Crusaders. Zengi besieged Edessa, capturing it on Christmas Eve. The first Crusader state to be established, Edessa was also the first to end. Zengi’s gate-crashing of Edessa was heard in Europe: the fall of a major Crusader city became the formal cause of an official Second Crusade.

Zengi didn’t live much longer. Somewhere along the line, he had enslaved a Frank, probably captured in battle against Fulk, but perhaps from some more roundabout way. He was very fond of his Frankish slave, whose name we know only in Turkish. He didn’t realize the Frank secretly hated him. One night, Zengi was very drunk, and the slave stabbed him to death. He ran to Damascus, thinking he would be welcomed, but instead the governor of Damascus arrested him. The slave was sent to Aleppo, where Zengi’s son Nur ad-Din executed him. And now the mini-empire was Nur ad-Din’s.

Zengi’s strategic significance can’t be lost in the colorful details. The Muslim Empire was always balancing regional and cultural powers against each other, and for a while now, Baghdad’s Middle Eastern-Mesopotamian power base had been too fractured to do any balancing. This left the ideologically radical Ismaili regime in Egypt freedom to range far, setting up Shi’ite communities in Baghdad’s back yard, while also venturing as far north as Jerusalem. The imbalance allowed the Crusaders an opportunity to slip in. If Zengi could unify the Mesopotamian power base, the region might return to its classic power struggles by pushing out the Europeans. After unifying just a few cities, he wiped out one Crusader County. What was next?

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Melisende and Fulk

Melisende was named for the Countess of Rethel, Baldwin II’s mother; it’s a variant of Millicent, an old Germanic compound name. Now it has become the name of a fairy-tale heroine of an opera, so it sounds fanciful, but when Melisende was named, it was probably just a family name.

The difficulty of finding a husband for Melisende lay in the family’s need for a strong war leader who would not only marry her, but also be loyal to her interests. Nothing would really stop a powerful man from marrying her, being crowned, and setting her aside. There was no clear choice among the local lords whose characters and alliances were known. The King of France chose the Count of Anjou, Fulk, a middle-aged man. Fulk was strong enough to hold Jerusalem against enemies and make wise decisions about internal plots and diplomacy. But was he actually too strong? His marriage was pragmatic, and it was soon clear that his marriage with Melisende was a battle of the Titans. Melisende was no traditional French wife; she was used to attending council meetings.

When Melisende gave birth to a son in 1130, her father saw an opportunity to block Fulk from a possible coup against her. First, he decreed that Melisende had sole custody of the infant Baldwin. Second, kings could have their successors anointed and crowned during their own lifetimes. Baldwin II had Melisende, Fulk, and infant Baldwin III crowned as joint monarchs. Fulk took as little notice as possible and began acting as if he were sole king.

After Baldwin II died in 1131, it only got worse. Fulk made it clear in public that he had little regard for his wife or her hereditary rights. In 1134, he took the first steps of exactly what the father had feared: setting her aside to make room for his own family. He began with a splash, publicly accusing her of adultery.

Melisende had always been close to her cousin, another descendant of the Rethel family back in Europe, who was now Count Hugh II of Jaffa. Fulk accused Hugh of treason, specifically of adultery with the Queen. Hugh was convicted by Fulk’s supporters in the council and, to defend himself, went into full revolt. Jaffa allied with the Fatimid governor of Ascalon, and then Fulk besieged it. Fulk did, in fact, win: that’s why he had been imported as a husband for Melisende, after all. He was good at these things.

Hugh was sent into exile, but as he was waiting for a ship to take him, he was suddenly attacked by a French knight from a region suspiciously close to Anjou. Public opinion had never accepted the allegations against Hugh and Melisende; Baldwin II had been a popular ruler who left behind much loyal sentiment. Everyone believed that the assault was an attempted assasination, perhaps because Hugh knew his own innocence and dead men tell no tales.

From that day forward, Fulk lost the power he had been trying to build up. Melisende’s supporters in the council enforced her presence and cooperation with all ruling decisions. Fulk was still needed as a war leader, but he had to become a king consort. He withdrew his allegations against Melisende and accepted living with her again. She had one more son, Amalric, before Fulk’s death in 1143. By the time Fulk died, Melisende had become fond enough of him to seem genuinely grieved by his death. One record of Fulk says he was a cheerful, honest knight who just had difficulty remembering people’s names.

But after Fulk was gone, Melisende ruled alone. Well, technically, with her son Baldwin III. But that’s another story. Melisende is most famous today for her ownership of a Psalter that survived into our times, beautifully decorated and preserved at the British Library.

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Alice, Princess of Antioch, 1126-1136

Alice began her married life conventionally enough by bearing a daughter in the first two years. But her course of life was derailed when Bohemund II died in battle with the Danishmends (the same tribe that had taken his father prisoner in a yurt). They had only been married about four years, and they had only this one child, Constance.

The men around Alice wanted to appoint a male regent for the child Princess until she was old enough to be married to a man who could help reign. But Alice, having grown up watching Melisende being treated like a son, did not see any reason why she could not be a reigning Princess on her own.

Her father, King Baldwin II, saw two very good reasons why not: first, this was a very dangerous neighborhood. He had already chosen to import a seasoned warrior to rule with Melisende, even if his daughters considered Fulk an obnoxious, unnecessary addition. Second, he had an opportunity to exert influence over Antioch, making his kingship more real. He had known Bohemund in the old days; suddenly, Bohemund’s legacy came down to this baby girl, and only Constance’s grandfather could step in and protect her with a regent (right?). He must have known Alice well enough to feel sure that having her ruling would not mean extending his own influence in the least!

Alice attempted three coups, starting right away. She sent a secret message to the Turkish ruler of Aleppo, asking him to ally with her. Her toddler’s hand in marriage was held out as a reward. But Alice’s father had troops in the area; they caught the messenger and actually tortured him. Alice ordered the gates barred against King Baldwin’s entry, but the nobles of Antioch saw no good in defying the King of Jerusalem. They opened the gates, and Alice ran into the Citadel, the one that had originally held out against the Crusaders. King Baldwin sent Alice to live in her two dowry cities; almost certainly, baby Constance stayed in Antioch with her nurse and nanny staff. He appointed Sir Joscelin, now Count of Edessa, to rule Antioch as regent, but the arrangement didn’t last long.

King Baldwin II died in 1131. As Melisende became Queen on her own, Sir Joscelin also died. Alice saw her chance; she came back from her city of Latakia, and seized Antioch again. Joscelin II of Edessa and Pons of Tripoli were willing to ally with her against the new Queen and King in Jerusalem. When King Fulk, Melisende’s husband, tried to go to Antioch to take control, he had to sail from Jaffa since Tripoli would not let him pass by land. Only one minor battle was fought, and the rebel Counts submitted to the new King. Alice was again out of luck, sent back to Latakia.

Alice tried one more time when Constance was about 7. She started negotiating to have the Byzantine Emperor marry the little girl! Remember that first Bohemund had positioned Antioch as Constantinople’s determined rival and adversary. The nobles of Antioch, panicked, told Alice that they were getting a prince from Europe, Raymond of Poitiers, to come marry her—the widow, Alice. The Patriarch played along until Raymond arrived. Then the child was brought into the church and married off. Raymond, a son of the Duke of Aquitaine, was about 21, so it was assumed that he had time to wait for Constance to grow up. In the meanwhile, his legal marriage effectively blocked the very disappointed Alice.

Where was Alice’s maternal feeling all this time? She seems to have had little of it; perhaps her sisters would have said “oh that’s just Alice, you know how she is.” Perhaps it was a trauma response to her husband’s sudden death; perhaps it was a projection of hidden dislike for her husband. In any case, Constance was important as a descendant of Bohemund in a way that Alice, the mother, was not. Once Constance had her own household staff and Alice was sent away, they apparently had limited contact.



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Baldwin’s Feminist Daughters

I’ve described King Baldwin II as a family man, the fact that sets him apart from the other First Crusaders. Coming with the Boulogne brothers as a landless knight, he had inherited Edessa and immediately married Morphia, the heiress of Melitene. When Baldwin came back from his Mosul years as a hostage, their first daughter Melisende was about four years old. Morphia had two more daughters in Edessa, and one more in Jerusalem. Baldwin’s four girls became some of the most edgy women in medieval history.

Let’s start with the youngest, who was born in 1120. She was known as Ioveta (or Yvette) of Bethany, and she became a nun. That sounds dull enough, but wait, there’s more. When little Ioveta was three, she was sent to be a hostage in Shaizar, Syria in exchange for her father’s release after he lost a battle. She stayed there for two years! Can you imagine handing over a toddler as a hostage? When Ioveta was returned, her sisters must have doted on her; in spite of the fifteen years the four girls spanned, they were close all their lives. Melisende the oldest founded a convent at the Tomb of Lazarus in Bethany, and Ioveta became its abbess. She educated Melisende’s granddaughter, future Queen Sibylla, and she was at Melisende’s deathbed. And Ioveta is the most submissive, least interesting daughter.

Alice and Hodierna were born in Edessa around 1110 and 1112, the only two close in age. They would have been about eight and six when their father became King of Jerusalem. It seems likely that one reason Queen Morphia sent little Ioveta to be the hostage was that the older girls were already in marriage negotiations, which could take several years and were usually planned well in advance. It’s possible that her hostage years ruined Ioveta’s marriage prospects, leading to her vocation as a nun.

We know almost nothing about Queen Morphia, except that her family followed Greek Orthodox tradition while being Armenian, and she adopted Roman Catholicism on marriage. We can read in her biography that her husband loved her, since she was not set aside when she bore only girls. Historians of the time said that not only did he angrily reject suggestions of divorce, he delayed his coronation until Morphia could be crowned next to him. We don’t know what in her personality was so compelling, but we can see what she gave her daughters.

Morphia instilled in each one the will to rule on her own, although only Melisende could expect to inherit Jerusalem. Alice and Hodierna would be sent away to be Countesses or Princesses bearing heirs; but that’s not the way they viewed themselves. All of the older girls were willful and wanted to rule alone. They often conspired with each other, even willing to call in hits on the men who were ruining a sister’s life. They never conspired against each other. I think we can give Morphia credit for their strength because if nannies or tutors had shaped them, they would probably have had less loyalty to each other.

In 1126, Alice was married off first, because King Baldwin II was having a hard time choosing a husband for Melisende. Alice went to Antioch, where Bohemund II had just arrived, taking over for the regents who had ruled since his father’s death. Bohemund was 18, Alice about 16.  King Baldwin really hoped it would lead to Antioch’s being pulled into Jerusalem’s direct orbit and tax base.

The King of France was asked to choose a powerful vassal lord to go marry Melisende, and he chose 40 year old Fulk, Count of Anjou. Fulk had himself married young to produce heirs for Anjou, so he had a first family. His grown son Geoffrey had just married Empress Matilda, granddaughter of William the Conqueror. Geoffrey is considered the founder of the House of Plantagenet, one of England’s greatest dynasties. With two sons to rule Anjou for him, Fulk was free to leave, and the King of France may have wanted him to exit the dynastic power struggles of Europe. Melisende was about 24 and had been treated like a co-ruler with her father for a few years. They were married in 1129.

Hodierna wasn’t married off until 1137, when she became the Countess of Tripoli. Her husband was the son of the little 8 year old French Princess who had been sent to marry Tancred! How time flies when it’s all history to us.

And they all lived happily ever after in flowy dresses of silk. Well, the dresses of silk part is true…but their actual stories take some telling.

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Knights of Temple and Hospital, circa 1118

In the first year of King Baldwin II, a knight named Hugues (Hugh, Hugo) proposed the creation of a new monastic order. He had probably come to Jerusalem in 1114, on pilgrimage with the Count of Champagne. Hugues chose to stay and live out his life in the Holy City. He seems to have been part of a small band of unmarried knights from Champagne who all chose to stay.

A word about unmarried knights. It’s my impression that marriage and land went together. Heirs of land were obliged to marry as young as possible to produce more heirs. When a knight became the ruler of land, he was enabled to marry; we often see a knight gaining a title and marrying at the same time (as Baldwin II did). But knights without land often did not marry. The knight’s life expectancy was uncertain, and he had other opportunities for sex.

Unmarried knights were generally attached to a nobleman, the way Hugues and his friends had been followers of the Count of Champagne. Now, the small band of knights who stayed on were, in a sense, unemployed. Hugues’ Big Idea was to have the King create a monastic order for knights, which would give them jobs, a home, and a purpose. They were already poor; being monks made poverty respectable. Their new badge would show two men on one horse!

King Baldwin II granted them al-Aqsa Mosque as their living quarters; it was known as the Temple of Solomon, since it had been built on that foundation. The knights just called it The Temple. In a sense, they took on *policing* Jerusalem, especially with protecting foreign pilgrims in mind. Perhaps some of them had been robbed on arrival, so they knew the need.

In another part of the city, around the same time, another band of landless, unmarried knights gathered at the Order of St. John Hospital. This hospital had been established by merchants from Amalfi, Italy in 1023 when the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was rebuilt. It started as a hostel, but became an infirmary. Now, this small cluster of knights would have a foundation to support them, too, in their role of security guards to the pilgrims and monk-doctors.

Why was there suddenly this need for policing? It may be that when Baldwin I invited Syrian Christians to repopulate the city in 1115, the nature of city life changed dramatically. Underpopulated and barely functioning as an economy, Jerusalem had perhaps been fairly predictable. With new residents who had their boundaries and hierarchies to establish among themselves, crime may have skyrocketed.

Bernard of Clairvaux, the monk who was leading a reform movement at this time, publicly praised the monastic knight orders. Knights were usually wealthy; these knights voluntarily owned nothing and lived in austerity. Bernard’s praise led more knights to travel to the Holy Land and join up, and it also encouraged wealthy lay people to start leaving large donations to the orders. Both orders soon owned vast estates in France, although the individual knights supposedly owned nothing. In time, the Knights of the Temple (Knights Templars or just Templars) and the Knights of the Hospital became very wealthy, powerful organizations. The Hospital Order persists to this day as a sovereign entity on Malta.

But in the early years, we should picture them as they began: small groups of knights, often from the same region or families, who lived frugally in barracks near their stables. There’s no question that they were the embodiment of Cool in 1120. That’s why their orders grew so quickly: they were the hipsters of their day, and the lucky ones were able to say, “I was a Temple Knight before it went mainstream. Remember the old days when we slept in our stables? And only one horse for every two knights! That’s when it was best, now it’s sold out…”

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King Sigurd the Crusader, 1107-13

Norway decided to participate in the Crusade on its own schedule; it was at the outer rim of Christendom, so news arrived there slowly. Pilgrimages appealed to Scandinavians very much, since long voyages were part of their culture. At the time of the Pope’s call, King Magnus Barefoot was too busy conquering portions of Sweden, Scotland and Ireland to respond. But he died in 1103, leaving three sons to rule jointly. A group of scattered would-be Crusaders came back to Norway around this time, telling stories of the great lands to the south and the wonderful victories of the Crusade. There was a lot of popular enthusiasm in Oslo for mounting their own armed pilgrimage.

The three kings were all young, two teenagers and a little child. But they appear to have ruled harmoniously, perhaps because Magnus had left such a sprawling northern empire that there was room for all. Eystein, the oldest, seems always to have been an administrator at home. Sigurd, the second son, campaigned with his father as a teenager and was married to the Princess of Ireland. They decided that Sigurd was the obvious choice to lead a Crusade. It took some more time to build enough spare ships and recruit the men who would go.

Sigurd set out with sixty ships in 1107. They wintered over in England, with Henry I (son of William the Conqueror). In spring of 1108, they sailed south along France’s Atlantic coast, but it was slow going; they had to winter again in Santiago de Compostela. From this point on, the Norwegians began to run into fights. First, they battled pirates. Next, they passed along the coast of Portugal, fighting against apparent Arab holdings including Lisbon.

When the Norwegian ships entered the Mediterranean Sea, they were in the territory of the Taifa of Majorca, made up of the rich Balearic Islands. They fought several battles, though they considered the fortress at Majorca too tough to attack. Norwegian epics recount huge victories at the islands of Formentera, Ibiza, and Minorca.

The Norwegian stories tell how the Moors of Formentera hid with their booty in a cave that was halfway up a precipice. Sigurd attacked it by lowering two ships with ropes until they were level with the cave. The ships’ men attacked the cave with rocks, while more Norsemen climbed up to the cave from below. Then they set a bonfire in the cave’s mouth.

It’s not clear to me to whom the conquered islands and fortresses in Andalusia went. Perhaps Sigurd had found local Christians to set in power, or it may be that he considered it sufficient to kill and plunder. In 1109, the Norwegians arrived in Sicily, where Count Roger II, a boy of 12, welcomed them. At a feast, say the sagas, Sigurd proclaimed the Count to be a King, establishing the Kingdom of Sicily. (Of course, Roger was the young man who should have become the next King of Jerusalem, had King Baldwin I not divorced his mother.)

By 1110, they finally arrived in Jaffa or Acre and rode to Jerusalem.  In Old Norse, the city’s name was Jorsala, and the region was Jorsalaland. Sigurd’s nickname became Jorsalafarer (a step above his Barefoot father). King Baldwin welcomed Sigurd and honored him with feasts and an honorary trip to the Jordan River. Baldwin even gave Sigurd a splinter of the True Cross to take back to Oslo, with the condition that Sigurd should invest the city with its own Archbishop.

It happened that there was a siege the Norwegians could help with, so they joined the other Crusaders at Sidon. To the Norwegians, the whole thing was a walk in the park; they won every battle they started, and their participation quickly reduced Sidon to surrender. The grueling First Crusade experiences of near disaster seem to have skipped Sigurd entirely.

The Norwegians returned by way of Cyprus, where they spent some time, and then Constantinople. Sigurd made a point of waiting to arrive in Constantinople until the right sort of wind would make his ships look most impressive. They were welcomed by the Emperor, who held a sort of Olympic Games in their honor. A lot of Norsemen chose to stay on at this magical city, joining the Emperor’s special Varangian Guard. “Varangian” was the Greek name for Scandinavians or Rus. Unlike Byzantine conscripts, the Varangian Guard had a very high standard of loyalty to the Emperor as they applied the Norse custom of fealty.

Sigurd left his ships in the Mediterranean and traveled overland through Bulgaria, Hungary, and Germany. He arrived home to great fame. His Crusade is most notable for being so easy and successful. He left no impression on the Holy Land apart from the fall of Sidon. His story seems to come from a different book from the rest of the First Crusade hardships and disasters.

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