Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Forgotten Crusaders: Poland and the Crusader Movement in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Forgotten Crusaders: Poland and the Crusader Movement in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

Article excerpt

The Forgotten Crusaders: Poland and the Crusader Movement in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. By Mikolaj Gladysz. [The Northern World: North Europe and the Baltic, c. 400-1700 AD, Peoples, Economies and Cultures,Vol. 56.] (Leiden: Brill. 2012. Pp. xxv, 433: $243.00. ISBN 978-9-004-18551-7; ebook 978-9-004-22336-3.)

The title describes the situation exactly-whereas most medievalists are aware of the Scandinavian and German crusades in the Baltic, they know nothing about the Polish contributions. Indeed, this was a troubled era for the Polish kingdom-the division of the dynastic lands had led to endless rivalries; the Mongols sacked Cracow; Lithuanian pagans ravaged frontier regions; and the Teutonic Knights, pushing along the Baltic coast, became too strong to expel or even tame. Chronicle entries were sparse, and documents were not informative. No wonder Polish crusading efforts were forgotten.

This is not a book for beginners.There is no narrative, no drama, no translations of the many Latin citations. Medievalists, on the other hand, will find it extremely valuable. Mikolaj Gladysz is good at analyzing papal documents calling for volunteers and contributions to the crusading cause, and in describing the role of Polish churchmen in furthering them.

Gladysz argues that Polish crusading efforts reflected the growing interest in Western culture and chivalric practices. This means that although there were few crusaders in the twelfth century, there were ever more in the thirteenth century. The first significant participation in expeditions to the Holy Land, both in men and money, was the Fifth Crusade that foundered in Egypt. …

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