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

Natalia I. Petrovskaia, Stranger than Fiction: Literature and the Crusading Mentality in Medieval Wales

In the proposed paper, I would like to present a new approach to the study of the crusading mentality in Wales, a subject that has been deplorably neglected. The few existing studies have been rather narrow in focus. The most immediate examples are R. Bartlett’s Gerald of Wales and P. W. Edbury’s ‘Preaching the Crusade in Wales’, both of which structure the discussion of crusade propaganda in Wales around Gerald of Wales’ Itinerum Kambriae and the preaching tour of 1188 that it describes. The subject matter, however, has been by no means exhausted, and in the present paper I propose to present a way out of the seeming dead end that the study of crusading propaganda in Wales faces with the apparent lack of sources other than Gerald.

My proposed solution is to use literary texts as sources. Not only is the Holy Land mentioned in the work of the poets Elidir Sais (fl. 1195-1246) and Einion ap Gwalchmai (1202-1223), but also in the numerous works translated into Welsh from French in the 13th century (such as the Ystoria de Carlo Magno). There are also references to the east in native prose tales, such as Ystoria Peredur vab Efrawc. The proposed paper will provide an examination of these texts and references, and suggest possible interpretations, taking into account such elements as the provenance and probable origins of the manuscripts they appear in. I will also touch on the role of the Cistercian order in crusading propaganda in Wales (this will have to be mostly based on our one existing historical source – Gerald), and examine that in the light of the order’s potential role in the creation of the major manuscripts of medieval Welsh literature.

In conclusion, I will suggest some possible answers to questions raised, and not, to my mind, answered entirely satisfactorily in Edbury’s article (or since), and, in particular, that regarding the results of the 1188 preaching tour, which, at least as far as the influence on popular imagination is concerned, I believe, and hope to demonstrate, is very much visible in the literature subsequently produced or dissimulated in Wales.


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