Kalamazoo 2016 - 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies

Saturday the 14th of May 2016, 13.30-15.00; 15.30-17.00

Sessions 437 & 485 - Bernhard 213 and Bernhard 208

Anne Latowsky

Department of World Languages

University of South Florida



The complicated relationship between Medieval French literature and the Crusades has been an ongoing subject of debate, one that has been enlivened in recent decades by the work of the very recently departed D.A. Trotter, who passed away late in August. In his book Medieval French Literature and the Crusade (1100-1300) (Droz, 1987), Trotter discusses the “fictional prehistory” of the Crusades and notes that the Roman d’Eracle of Gautier d’Arras, written in the early 1180s, could well be seen as crusade propaganda prior to the Third Crusade. But, what does this mean? In the case of the Old French chansons de geste that take place in an imagined Carolingian world, the conflict with the Muslim world certainly plays a role, but the poems are not about Crusading per se. In fact, there even seems to be a marked lack of interest in the Crusades in the genre as a whole, outside of the Crusade songs, of course. What then does it mean to say that crusade propaganda was embedded somehow in an Old French romance? This paper will take up the subject alleged propaganda of the epic portion of Gautier’s romance and compare it to other instances of imagined imperial efforts in the Holy Land, namely those of Charlemagne, and will ask what role they may or may not have been intended to play in the promotion of the crusading efforts of the late twelfth century.




Matthew Gabriele

Department of Religion & Culture

Virginia Tech



By the time we reach Book III of Fulcher of Chartres’ Historia, he has lost his certainty, lost any surety that he understood the meaning of the events of 1095-99. Celestial signs and other omens that accompanied the march of the Franks to Jerusalem were woven into Fulcher’s narrative as signs from God that presaged Frankish victory or (more rarely) defeat. But, by Book III, those omens stood apart. For instance, Fulcher wrote that “in the middle of the month of July a comet began to appear between the east and the north. . . . We strove to discern it for 18 days but left its meaning to the Creator of us all.” Captured in a text about the (recent) past, he (and others) tried to read forward from the present and, ultimately, had to admit their failure. The options were too many. 

In this paper, I will reposition Fulcher’s text as one that ultimately distinguishes between prophecy and apocalypse. R.W. Southern argued more than forty years ago that prophecy and the apocalyptic in the Middle Ages were distinguished by their inevitability. The apocalyptic was inevitable and resulted in a world transformed. Prophecy could fail. This failure, of course, did not mean that prophecy was false but it did mean that the future was contingent. It depended on specific historical circumstances and the fallible human capacity to interpret God’s plan for the world. If we start from Southern’s astute observation, Fulcher’s text reveals the tension about how man could know God’s plan c. 1100 CE. Fulcher learned in Book III, much to his chagrin, apocalypses can only be identified in retrospect.

Bradley Phillis

The Marco Institute

University Of TenneSseE-Knoxville


“Straight Through From the Beginning”: Reading, Devotion, and Paris, BnF lat. 5135A

The recent publication of several new critical editions of crusade chronicles, such as Damien Kempf and Marcus Bull’s edition of the Historia Iherosolimitana of Robert the Monk and Steven Biddlecombe’s edition of Baldric of Bourgeuil’s Historia Ierosolimitana, testifies to the important role that texts (and especially chronicles) play in the study of the crusades. The role of the manuscripts in which these texts are transmitted has been, and continues to be, comparatively understudied. As the landscape of crusade studies changes, however, this also promises to change. Works highlighting the construction and maintenance of crusading memory, such as Nicholas Paul’s To Follow in Their Footsteps, demonstrate the vibrancy of the crusading discourse that existed amongst the European nobility and clergy on the homefront in the wake of the First Crusade. As Cecilia Gaposchkin has shown in her work on crusading liturgy, this discourse included liturgical commemoration and celebration. The study of manuscripts containing crusade-related texts can offer similar insights into other forms of monastic commemoration and celebration. 

Because manuscripts have been seen too often merely as tools for the creation of critical editions of crusading texts, their own importance as texts qua themselves has often been overlooked. This paper explores the implications of reframing one crusade manuscript—Paris, BnF lat. 5135A—as a single text designed to be read devotionally by monks. The manuscript is dominated by the text of Peter Tudebode’s Historia de Hierosolymitano itinere, which occupies some thirty-seven of the its forty, but it also includes a Descriptio Sanctorum Locorum Hierusalem (on which Jesse Keskiaho recently published an article, including a critical edition) and seventeen Marian hymns keyed to the monastic office. These texts suggest that the manuscript was intended to frame the Historia de Hierosolymitano itinere as a devotional text that literally led the monastic reader on an imagined journey from the events of the crusade straight to the holy places themselves, and then provided appropriate liturgical responses to the experience. Such a reading would likely have appealed to the Poitevin monks and clerics for whom Peter Tudebode intended his chronicle, and while the provenance of Paris, BnF lat. 5135A is unknown, it is very tempting to think about it functioning in precisely this way (and in a similar geographic context). 

Though monastic reading is often studied with an eye toward the classroom and scriptorium, it is clear that monks were expected to do a great deal of reading on their own outside of these spaces. In its forty-eighth chapter, for example, the Rule of St. Benedict commands monks to read between the fourth and sixth hours during the summer (and perhaps after dinner, as well) and from morning until the third hour from October until Lent. As Matthew Gabriele pointed out in his discussion of Urban II’s exegetical work, even very difficult books were distributed to the monks for their seasonal reading—it seems reasonable to think that those who were in a position to guide the production of manuscripts intended for them to be read. Benedict’s order that the monks ought to read these books “straight through from the beginning” ought, then, to guide the way that we think about them.

Lauren Mulholland

School of History

Queen Mary University of London


Imagining the Holy City: Troubadour Depictions of Jerusalem during the Crusades, 1100–1300

The development of armed pilgrimage to the East in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries led to an increased engagement with Jerusalem in vernacular lyric and literature. This allowed those who would never travel there to imagine and engage with a city that was considered at the very heart of the world, both physically and spiritually. The imagined Jerusalem has been the focus of much recent scholarly work, with art, architecture, and pilgrimage accounts receiving particular attention. However, depictions of the Holy City in vernacular lyric remain under-examined. This paper analyses representations of Jerusalem in troubadour lyric from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and demonstrates how the crusades informed Occitan perceptions of the city. The paper considers the troubadour corpus as a whole and goes beyond the oft-cited references to Jerusalem in the crusading lyrics. Specifically, the paper discusses how the troubadours use key locations in Jerusalem to allow their listeners to create a mental geography of the city. It also analyses changes in Jerusalem-related terms over time and considers why such changes may have occurred. By looking beyond the established corpus of crusading lyrics, the paper argues that troubadours engaged with and were influenced by the crusades more profoundly than has previously been considered. In conclusion, by closely examining depictions of Jerusalem in troubadour lyric, the paper shows how troubadours interacted with the crusading movement and used it to make the Holy City palpable, known, and relevant to their Occitan audience.






The Last Roman Emperor: uniter of Christendom, conqueror of pagans, and bringer of the New Jerusalem. Recent scholarship has shown how deeply embedded the legend of the Last Roman (or Last World) Emperor was in medieval Europe, including recent works by Matthew Gabriele, James Palmer, and Anne Latowsky. A multitude of interpretations of who this mythical, apocalyptic figure could be allowed it to be placed throughout Latin Christendom temporally and chronologically: Charlemagne, Otto III, and, during the First Crusade, an array of figures.  While Jay Rubenstein has convincingly shown that Godfrey of Bouillon manipulated apocalyptic ideals of Carolingian kingship, linked to the Last World Emperor, in his quest to achieve the kingdom of Jerusalem, there is another figure who similarly, and contrarily, used the same legend to FAIL to achieve the kingdom. That leader was Raymond of Saint-Gilles. 

This paper will argue that the particularly Roman background of Raymond of Saint-Gilles’ homeland, the Bas-Rhone region between Nîmes, Avignon and Arles, bred a specific sense of romanitas into Raymond and his closest followers.  Born into a family known for being on the front lines of Christian-Muslim conflict, the counts of Toulouse, he married into three more recent families known for the same: the counts of Provence, the Sicilian Normans, and the kings of Castile. His intense ambition led Raymond to build a veritable kingdom of southern France, recreating the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis, better known as Provincia Nostra and modern Provence. When the First Crusade was called, given his family ties and his powerful status, it is no wonder Urban II passed through the heartland of Raymond’s realm before the Council of Clermont—from the earliest plans, Raymond was an integral part of the First Crusade. 

All of these factors—romanitas, ambition, a lineage of fighting “pagans,” and Raymond’s integral role in the Crusade—came to a head at the very end of the grand venture, the capture of Jerusalem.  Raymond himself was offered the crown of Jerusalem, a potent apocalyptic moment. To take the crown of Jerusalem, against the will of Raymond d’Aguilers and the associated clergy he records objecting to the idea of a king of the Holy City, allowed two options: one could either take the crown, walk up to the Mount of Olives, lay it down and welcome the New Jerusalem, and thus fulfil the legend of the Last World Emperor; or, alternatively, one could take the crown, sit upon the throne of David, become the fallen king feared by the assembled clergy, and enter the role of the Antichrist. Raymond’s qualifications at the Last World Emperor—linking both Roman and Frank, defender of Christendom past and present, and one of the true leaders of the Crusade—made his possibilities far too real. Understanding his own character, and heeding the warnings of the faction that had carried him to Jerusalem, Raymond turned down the possibility of being the Antichrist. This paper will show that this, rather than any false humility or lack of support, was the cause of Raymond’s rejection of the kingdom of Jerusalem.






As the First Crusaders approached Jerusalem in 1099, the Norman contingent was approached by Hugh Bunel, a onetime petty Norman lord, who, fleeing justice for the savage murder of Mabel of Bellême while she was relaxing after a bath, had many years previously fled away from Western Europe and ‘gone feral’ in the East, first in Norman Italy and Sicily, then the Levant. Seeking to escape the long reach of Norman ducal power, he had learnt the local language, laws, and customs, and lived among Muslims. This fascinating detail, provided by Orderic Vitalis’ Historia Ecclesiastica, serves as a reminder to consider that the dynastic politics and small-scale brutality of eleventh-century Normandy were not fundamentally removed from the sacralized warfare and exotic adventure of the crusading movement, and vice versa. A dynastic family like the Bellêmes, whose lord, Robert, did not join the Norman contingent on the expedition, were nevertheless embroiled in a socio-political scene profoundly touched by the event: their successes, and failures, rested upon those around them.

As part of a new historiographical approach which seeks to integrate the scholarly study of the crusades into mainstream medieval history, this paper follows this rationale of interconnectivity and explores the impact of the crusade upon the Bellême dynasty. Robert of Bellême’s greatest rival for power in his ancestral heartland, Count Rotrou III of Perche, had joined the expedition, and was later lauded by the Chanson d’Antioche as having been one of its great heroes. Robert’s lord, Robert of Normandy, had also become one of the leaders of the crusade. Did Bellême participate at all in a regional response to the call for Crusade in Basse-Normandie? Conversely, did Rotrou, despite his years of absence, capitalize upon his crusading success when he returned to the region, utilizing new networks of allies, his martial reputation, and the support of ecclesiastical institutions? Through a systematic study of all the evidence available, and a re-evaluation of the importance of control of the bishopric of Sées, new light is cast on possible reasons for Robert’s non-participation in the crusade, and on any responsibility it held in his later decline, defeat, and imprisonment.










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