Remembering the Crusades: Myth, Image and Identity

28th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies

Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 29-30, 2008

Jaroslav Folda, Picturing the First Crusade and Commemorating the Fall of Jerusalem

When Jerusalem fell to the First Crusade in July of 1099, this great event was immediately commemorated in Jerusalem in the subsequent years.  And then when Jerusalem fell to Saladin in 1187, this fall of the Holy City stimulated new and different Christian commemorations. Frederick II negotiated a reprieve for the Crusaders with his treaty of 1229 by which free Christian pilgrim access to Jerusalem was regained. But shortly thereafter, in August 1244, Jerusalem fell again to the Khwarismian Turks, who inflicted terrible damage to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The commemorations of Jerusalem thereafter, and especially following the failure of Louis IX to regain the Holy City in his Crusade of 1249-1250 changed to a lament.

What impact did these changing commemorations have, if any, on the illustrations of the First Crusade in the manuscripts of William of Tyre’s History of Outremer, most of which were done after 1250?  Some were codices written and illustrated in the West, but many were done in the Crusader Holy Land.  It is instructive to see what scenes were chosen for illustrations during the time before 1291, as compared to the period after 1291, when the Crusaders had been expelled from the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.  It is remarkable to see how important the positive memory of the First Crusade remained even in these dismal times, when Jerusalem was in Muslim hands and the Crusader States were under relentless attack.  And it is interesting to see how the First Crusade after 1291 could occasionally be celebrated visually with striking images as its legendary stature grew apace.

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