Crusade Propaganda and Ideology: Model Sermons for the Preaching of the Cross

By Powell, James M. | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2001 | Go to article overview

Crusade Propaganda and Ideology: Model Sermons for the Preaching of the Cross


Powell, James M., The Catholic Historical Review


Crusade Propaganda and Ideology: Model Sermons for the Preaching of the Cross. By Christoph T Maier. (NewYork: Cambridge University Press. 2000. Po. viii, 280.$59.95.)

Sermon literature presents difficult problems to the historian. Even though sermons are among the most abundant of medieval sources, only a small amount of this vast literature has found its way into print. This is even more true for the sermones ad status, which deal with specific groups of people, for example, women, merchants, crusaders, etc. Until now, the most accessible crusade sermons were those edited by Penny J. Cole in her fine monograph, The Preaching of the Crusades to the Holy Land, 1095-1270, which contained editions of four crusade sermons. Christoph T Maier, already known for his Preaching the Crusades: Mendicant Friars and the Cross in the Thirteenth Century, has now edited and translated seventeen model sermons by such important figures as James of Vitry, Eudes of Chateauroux, and Humbert of Romans. He has also written a lengthy introduction, which will prove very helpful to students and others new to crusade sermons who use this collection.

What is especially important to note is that sermons were seldom written down as they were delivered. The term "model sermons" used here refers to the practice of editing sermons so that they could be made available to other preachers, and not even only to those who were going to preach on the same topic. Thus the first sermon of Eudes of Chateauroux bears the title: "Sermo in conversione Sancti Pauli et exhortatio ad assumendam crucem." This sermon was designed to be preached on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul or to those about to take the cross. Of course, the two events might occur together. The preacher wove the two concepts, conversion and crusading, together. Some of these sermons are directed to recruiting participants in the crusades; others were designed to confirm recruits in their decision.

But students must exercise great care in using sermons in their research. They are seldom of much use for factual information, though there are occasional nuggets. In the present collection, for example, there are few references to specific points. But, in his first sermon, Eudes of Chateauroux is critical of those who ridiculed the poor and unarmed who took the cross on the grounds that they would merely use up supplies. He argues that they can make a valuable contribution. His sermon also notes that the pope wants the incomes of churches to be used to support clerics on the crusade for a period up to three years. …

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