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Lecture Series

The Crusades

20, 22, 27, 29 November, and 4 December 2012
Image of the Lecture

The participants summarise their talks

  • The world that created the Crusades
    José Enrique Ruiz-Doménec

    Once the year one thousand was passed, and after verifying that the terrors of the millennium were unfounded and the world had not come to an end, a few assemblies of bishops in southern Europe proclaim that the "peace of God" is the most valuable good of society. This way, they faced the feudal nobility, and particularly their confidence men, the knights, who had made war their reason of life. This moral conflict quickly became a a political dispute. The situation further escalated with the reform of the Church sponsored by the pope Gregory VII, the "Gregorian Reform", which caused a strong confrontation between the secular power, represented in the figure of the emperor Henry IV, and the ecclesiastic power, represented by the pope himself, and which caused the Canossa event where the former was submitted to the power of the later. With this climate it was attempted to find a an ideal that would combine the interests of the nobility and the church, and this ideal were the crusades, where the church sanctified war as a way of life, as long as this was done in the name of faith. This way, the "matamoros" (Moor killer) knights like Roldán, the hero of the "chansons de geste" that carries his name, became knights of Christ, “milites Christi”, embracing the cross and launching the long enterprise of conquering the Holy Land.

  • The first Crusade as an archetype
    Carlos de Ayala
    The crusade is phenomenon popularly attractive. There is much written about it, and even more spoken. With this presentation we only pretend to focus the theme of the traditional meaning of the crusade, the one that we have named the first crusade, the reference over which the following ones are measured. This way, it is this first crusade experience the one that allows us approaching in a better way to the richness of concepts and realities that are hidden behind it. And for this, we will try to have a better knowledge of the possible intentions and comprehend the phenomenons that its own protagonists were. In this sense, the papal speech of Clermont -in which, by the way, the word 'crusade'  is not pronounced, simply because it was born much later than the capture of Jerusalem- offer us fundamental keys.
  • Saladin and the conquest of Jerusalem
    Mercedes García-Arenal
    The figure of Salah al-Din Yusuf, Kurdish official in the service of the sultan of Syria Nur al-Din, and later in the service of the Fatimids sultans of Cairo, who became the lord of Egypt, and later of Damascus and Aleppo, after conquering Jerusalem in 1187 and founding the Ayyubid Empire. A figure surrounded by controversy in his time, would end up becoming a hero of Islam for posterity. For his adversaries,  the Eastern Franks, he was a matter of curiosity: in the sources of the 12th century he was initially represented as an unscrupulous adventurer, especially due to the absence of fidelity for his sovereigns and the military blows he gave to the crusaders. But little by little, the knightly traits and a shared ethos with Christians and Muslims predominated, and thid is what is highlighted by the 13th century Christian sources, following the crusades, who even provide the figure with an aspiration to a Christian death. Regarding the arabic sources, in those of the 13th century he is presented as the ideal prince capable of establishing a unified power, champion of Islam, and defeater of the Franks. But it is at the beginning of the 20th century when Saladin becomes a hero for the contemporary causes of Islam. In this presentation we will attempt to make a historical review of the figure of Saladin and, at the same time, examine the mythical characteristics (in this case, of different sign) that reached both the Western countries and the Middle East.
  • Richard the Lionheart and the third Crusade
    José Luis Corral

    Richard I, king of England, is one of the most controversial characters from the Middle Age. Prince, knight, troubadour, lover, king and hero, he became the protagonist of one of the most attractive literature legends and deeds of the medieval times. Richard I, better known as "Lionheart", is considered in the collective imagination of Europe as a mythical hero, a fabulous king who left the kingdom to battle in the Crusades, and returned to recover it against the ambition of his brother John Lackland. But how was Richard Lionheart in reality?: the the chivalrous and noble king of strong personality and deep convictions, as drawn by the legends, or the futile, mediocre, inane and fickle monarch that some books of history present? What was his roll in the Third Crusades and his relationship with Saladin, the champion of Islam?

    Regardless of the grey areas in his biography, the historiography, and especially the literature, have exalted his figure like few other sovereigns, and most of the chroniclers and English national historians have transformed him into one of the country's great myths, presenting him as brave king who fought the muslims in Holy Land, and as the fair monarch who finished the "foreign control" of the Normans to recover the "national authenticity" of the Anglo-Saxon, this is, the English king par excellence, the moral heir of the legendary Arthur of Britain.

  • The legacy of the Crusades
    Franco Cardini

    The most recent studies, done starting from the famous historical-sociological summary of Alphonse Dupront, oblige is to reconsider the history of the crusades, definitely leaving behind the scheme inaugurated by Michaud in the beginning of the 19th century, and getting rid of the misunderstandings on the debate between institutionalist thesis (that separate crusades using a canonical numeration, supported by the historiographic tradition of the 14th and 15th century, in a deterministic way, preceded by "pre-crusades" and followed by "post-crusades"), the evolutionists-continuists (the "eternal crusade" like a East and West confrontation), and the ones of "emergency" in the style of Paul Alphandéry (the crusade that left "armed to the teeth, like Athena from the head of Zeus" pictured by the ecclesiastic reform of the 11th century).

    To reconsider and redefine the phenomenon of the crusade beyond each of the "crusade expeditions", it is necessary on one side to keep in mind the canonical pontifical formalization of the concept of crusade, but on the other, we have to abandon the damaging adhesion to a scheme that uses as a model the itinera hierosolymitana of the 11th to 13th century, and do a review avoiding the temptation of formal normalizations (for example, the one that has made the crusades to be considered for a long time as a "deviation" against the Catarrhs or against the Baltic pagans), that spans across a wider Euro Mediterranean geopolitical environment than the one traditionally proposed by historiography, and that takes into consideration the Braudelian longue durée. Due to all of this, it is necessary to re-read the parallel, and many times interlaced, experiences of the Syria-Palestine crusade and the events of the so called Recapture, and recover for the history of the crusades also the modern dynamics of the conquest of overseas and the wars against the Ottomans.

Fundación Juan March
Castelló, 77 – 28006 MADRID – Spain
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