Christian Society and the Crusades, 1198-1229

Christian Society and the Crusades, 1198-1229

Christian Society and the Crusades, 1198-1229

Christian Society and the Crusades, 1198-1229

Synopsis

During the thirteenth century, the widespread conviction that the Christian lands in Syria and Palestine were of utmost importance to Christendom, and that their loss was a sure sign of God's displeasure with Christian society, pervaded nearly all levels of thought. Yet this same society faced other crises: religious dissent and unorthodox beliefs were proliferating in western Europe, and the powers exercised, or claimed, by the kings of Europe were growing rapidly. The sources presented here illustrate the rising criticism of the changing Crusade idea. They reflect a sharpened awareness among Europeans of themselves as a community of Christians and the slow beginnings of the secular culture and political organization of Europe.

Excerpt

The following selections from the several chronicles which describe the Fourth Crusade illustrate the wide range of views which even contemporaries had of the remarkable events which occurred between 1202 and 1207. Villehardouin and Robert de Clari offer the views of westerners of high and low rank, Gunther illustrates the craze for relics which possessed the crusaders once inside Constantinople, and the brief selection from Nicetas illustrates the Byzantine impression of the fall of the city.

Geoffrey of Villehardouin was born around 1155. He was connected by birth and marriage with many of the nobility of Champagne, participated in the tournament of Ecry in 1199, and went to Venice to negotiate with the Venetians for the transportation of the members of the Fourth Crusade. Having participated in the sieges of Zara and Constantinople, Villehardouin remained in the newly founded Latin Empire and was given estates in the Peloponnesus. He died around 1213. His point of view in his narrative is uniformly an aristocratic one, and his is the best account of at least the "official" attitude of the Crusaders during their remarkable adventures on the Adriatic and the Bosphorus. the best modern edition of Villehardouin is that of Edmond Faral, Villehardouin: La Conquête de Constantinople, 2 vols. (Paris, 1938). There is a complete English translation by Sir Frank Marzials , Memoirs of the Crusades by Villehardouin and De Joinville (New York, 1958). See also Jeannette M. A. Beer, Villehardouin: Epic Historian (Geneva, 1968).

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