Fulk of Chartres:
The Capture of Jerusalem, 1099
The final act of the First Crusade was Christian attack on
Jerusalem, which was captured on July 15, 1099. Fulk of Chartres,
the author of this account, participated in the storming of the
city and in the bloody massacre which followed.
Chapter 27: The Siege of the City of Jerusalem
On the seventh of June the Franks besieged Jerusalem. The city
is located in a mountainous region, which is lacking in rivers,
woods, and springs, except the Fountain of Siloam, where there
is plenty of water, but it empties forth only at certain intervals.
This fountain empties into the valley, at the foot of Mount Zion,
and flows into the course of the brook of Kedron, which, during
the winter, flows through the valley of Jehosaphat. There are
many cisterns, which furnish abundant water within the city. When
filled by the winter rains and well cared for, they offer both
men and beasts an unfailing supply at all times. Moreover, the
city is laid out most beautifully, and cannot be criticized. for
too great length or as being disproportionately narrow. On the
west is the. tower of David,. which is flanked on both sides by
the broad wall of the city. The lower half of the wall is solid
masonry, of square stones and mortar, sealed with molten lead.
So strong is this wall that, if fifteen or twenty men should be
well supplied with provisions, they would never be taken by any
army. . . .
When the Franks saw how difficult it would be to take the city,
the leaders ordered scaling ladders to be made, hoping that by
a brave assault it might be possible to surmount the walls by
means 'of ladders and thus take the city, God helping. So the
ladders were made, and on the day following the seventh, in the
early morning, the leaders ordered the attack, and, with the trumpets
sounding, a splendid assault was made on the city from all sides.
The attack lasted till the sixth hour, but it was discovered that
the city could not be entered by the use of ladders, which were
few in number, and sadly we ceased the attack.
Then a council was held, and it was ordered that siege machines
should be constructed by the artisans, so that by moving them
close to the wall we might accomplish our purpose, with the aid
of God. This was done.......
. . .When the tower had been put together and bad been covered
with hides, it was moved nearer to the wall. Then knights, few
in number, but brave, at the sound of the trumpet, took their
places in the tower and began to shoot stones and arrows. The
Saracens defended themselves vigorously, and, with slings, very
skilfully hurled back burning firebrands, which had been dipped
in oil and fresh fat. Many on both sides, fighting in this manner,
often found themselves in the presence of death.
. . . On the following day the work again began at the sound of
the trumpet, and to such purpose that the rams, by continual pounding,
made a hole through one part of the wall. The Saracens suspended
two beams before the opening, supporting them by ropes, so that
by piling stones behind them they would make an obstacle to the
rams. However, what they did for their own protection became,
through the providence of God, the cause of their own destruction.
For, when the tower was moved nearer to the wall, the ropes that
supported the beams were cut; from these same beams the Franks
constructed a bridge, which they cleverly extended from the tower
to the wall. About this time one of the towers in the stone wall
began to burn, for the men who worked our machines had been hurling
firebrands upon it until the wooden beams within it caught fire.
The flames and smoke soon became so bad that none of the defenders
of this part of the wall were able to remain near this place.
At the noon hour on Friday, with trumpets sounding, amid great
commotion and sbouting "God help us," the Franks entered
the city. When the pagans saw one standard planted on the wall,
they were completely demoralized, and all their former boldness
vanished, and they turned to flee through the narrow streets of
the city. Those who were already in rapid flight began to flee
Count Raymond and his men, who were attacking the wall on the
other side, did not yet know of all this, until they saw the Saracens
leap from the wall in front of them. Forthwith, they joyfully
rushed into the city to pursue and kill the nefarious enemies,
as their comrades were already doing. Some Saracens, Arabs, and
Ethiopians took refuge in the tower of David, others fled to the
temples of the Lord and of Solomon. A great fight took place in
the court and porch of the temples, where they were unable to
escape from our gladiators. Many fled to the roof of the temple
of Solomon, and were shot with arrows, so that they fell to the
ground dead. In this temple almost ten thousand were killed. Indeed,
if you had been there you would have seen our feet colored to
our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I
relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children
Chapter 28: The Spoils Taken By the Christians
This may seem strange to you. Our squires and poorer footmen discovered
a trick of the Saracens, for they learned that they could find
byzants [note: a gold coin] in the stomachs and intestines
of the dead Saracens, who had swallowed them. Thus, after several
days they burned a great heap of dead bodies, that they might
more easily get the precious metal from the ashes. Moreover, Tancred
broke into the temple of the Lord and most wrongfully stole much
gold and silver, also precious stones, but later, repenting of
his action, after everything had been accounted for, be restored
all to its former place of sanctity.
The carnage over, the crusaders entered the houses and took whatever
they found in them. However, this was all done in such a sensible
manner that whoever entered a house first received no injury from
any one else, whether he was rich or poor. Even though the house
was a palace, whatever he found there was his property. Thus many
poor men became rich.
Afterward, all, clergy and laymen, went to the Sepulcher of the
Lord and His glorious temple, singing the ninth chant. With fitting
humility, they repeated prayers and made their offering at the
holy places that they had long desired to visit. . . .
It was the eleven hundredth year of our Lord, if you subtract
one, when the people of Gaul took the city. It was the 15th day
of July when the Franks in their might captured the city. It was
the eleven hundredth year minus one after the birth of our Lord,
the 15th day of July in the two hundred and eighty-fifth year
after the death of Charles the Great and the twelfth year after
the death of William I of England.
Fulk (or Fulcher) of Chartres, Gesta Francorum Jerusalem Expugnantium [The Deeds of the Franks Who Attacked Jerusalem], in Frederick
Duncan and August C. Krey, eds., Parallel Source Problems in
Medieval History (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912), pp.
Chapter headings added for the etext version to match the more
modern translation - Fulk of Chartres, A History of the Expedition
to Jerusalem, trans. Frances Rita Ryan, (Nashville: University
of Tennesee Press, 1969)
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(c)Paul Halsall April 1996