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

Jay Rubenstein, The Liber Floridus as a Source for the Memory of the First Crusade

The Liber Floridus, assembled by the canon Lambert of Saint-Omer around the year 1120, is one of the most important encyclopedic texts from the Middle Ages. Its themes are diverse, its texts mainly derivative from other sources (though frequently edited and altered in significant ways), its illustrations strikingly original. As its most important editor Albert Derolez recognized, the First Crusade is one of the most important topics in the book, along with Flemish history, eschatology, and the “wonders of the East” more generally.

This paper will offer a sustained analysis of the view of the First Crusade apparent in the Liber Floridus. It will suggest that the view is a fundamentally apocalyptic one, a sense that the crusade and in particular the coronation of kings in Jerusalem was ushering in the seventh and final age of history. It is particularly remarkable that this eschatological interpretation would have survived so long after apocalyptic hopes (generally minimized in current historiography) had supposedly turned into disillusionment, with the failure of the 1101 crusade (or earlier still at the battle of Ascalon, when the spiritual crusade seemingly turned into a more ordinary earthly conflict). A thirteenth-century copy of the Liber Floridus maintains this apocalypticism, only updating it in order to make the prophecies apply to Louis IX.


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