Visio Pacis, Holy City and Grail: An Attempt at an Inner History of the Grail Legend

Visio Pacis, Holy City and Grail: An Attempt at an Inner History of the Grail Legend

Visio Pacis, Holy City and Grail: An Attempt at an Inner History of the Grail Legend

Visio Pacis, Holy City and Grail: An Attempt at an Inner History of the Grail Legend

Excerpt

The Crusades -- the three fallacies acted upon by Crusaders -- reactions to the catastrophe of 1187 -- the Latin song "Juxta Threnos Jeremiae," -- Ark and True Cross as figura and res -- the Grail as the fruit of defeat -- "spiritual" Jerusalem as a prerequisite for the liberation of "terrestrial" Jerusalem.

The Crusades -- those two hundred years devoted by Western Christendom to conquering, holding, and reconquering the holy shrine of Jerusalem -- are a period that still fascinates, challenges, and baffles modern historians, whether they choose to master the wealth of facts by concerted efforts or by individual enterprise. At any rate, the Crusades themselves can be viewed as one great quest for the "Grail" -- a talisman which at first commits itself into the hands of an angelic leader, is subsequently kept by his descendants, and, upon being lost, causes a new quest, but one that ends in disappointment. No wonder such an historical quest should have engendered a poetic one.

Whatever else their persuasions, historians have to agree that, seen as a whole, the Crusading quest was futile, achieving results diametrically opposite to its intentions: familiarity with the East, secularization, and even unbelief. Cultural gains for the West, mainly in the fine arts and in the art of living, were comparatively meager, and a modern critic wonders whether they could not have been obtained without warfare. There has been a tendency, too, to play down the religious motif. Toynbee calls the Crusades a movement of political and economic expansion; Grousset, an experiment in colonization. Failure has been attributed to a number of similarly down-to-earth causes: to the excessive dispersion of energies in a fivefront war (Toynbee), or to the movement from anarchy to unity among the Saracens (Grousset). Passing judgment on the efforts of . . .

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