+ Real Crusades History +

+ Real Crusades History +

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Homes for Crusaders: Domestic Architecture in the Crusader States

It is still commonplace (at least in fiction and Hollywood) to depict medieval homes, as unhygienic, cold, dark and gloomy. One problem, of course, is the tendency to assume that houses hardly changed over a thousand years of history and to imagine the homes in Norway were no different from those on Sicily. In reality, medieval architecture was highly sophisticated produced not just wonders of ecclesiastic architecture from the splendors of York Cathedral to the sublime beauty of Fontfroid Abbey, but also luxurious and comfortable domestic structures. Below Dr. Schrader provides a look at domestic architecture in the crusader states.

The Bishop of Oldenburg, traveling to the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1212, was stunned by the luxury of the residences of the elite. According to Sir Steven Runciman in his "Families of Outremer," Oldenburg was particularly impressed by the Ibelin palace in Beirut:

Its windows opened some on the sea, some on to delicious gardens. Its walls were paneled with plaques of poly-chrome marble; the vaulted ceiling [of the salon] was painted to resemble the sky with its stars; in the center of the [salon] was a fountain, and round it mosaics depicting the waves of the sea edged with sands so lifelike that [the bishop] feared to tread on them lest he should leave a foot mark.

Unfortunately, nothing of this palace remains today. 

The same is true of the Lusignan palace in Nicosia, but Volume 4 of A History of the Crusades: The Art and Architecture of the Crusader States, Hazard, Harry W ed. provides the following summary:

The royal palace, adjoining the church of St. Dominic, seemed to travelers the finest in the world. Its great throne room, its balconies, its golden ornaments, its tapestries, pictures, organs, and clocks, its baths, gardens and menageries suggest the most sumptuous of medieval residences. (p. 175)

Interior courtyards with fountains and gardens were regular features of medieval residences. The cloisters of contemporary monasteries may provide a hint of what they looked like. Here Fontfroid in Southern France -- origin of many crusaders.
While both the above passages refer to palaces (baronial and royal respectively), the following is a more general commentary on Frankish domestic architecture in the crusader states. Writing after the re-conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187, Ibn-Khallikan wrote:
"the infidel had rebuilt [Jerusalem] with columns and plaques of marble...with fair fountains where the water never ceased to flow--one saw dwellings as agreeable as gardens and brilliant with the whiteness of marble; the columns with their foliage seemed like trees." (quoted in Hazard, p. 138.)

A close-up of the capitals in the crusader cloisters at Bethlehem. (Photo by the author)
Yet only scattered fragments of this sophisticated urban secular architecture from the crusader period have survived into the present. Even these remains have largely been obscured by the changing styles and functions of that altered the appearance of crusader structures almost beyond recognition in subsequent centuries. 

However, descriptions such as those cited above as well as systematic analysis of the archeological evidence enables us to imagine a great deal. As a novelist writing about the crusader kingdoms, I am compelled to utilize all existing sources, both written and archaeological — and then add a hefty dose of imagination. What follows is a short survey of the key elements that would have defined an urban dwelling in the crusader kingdoms.

Due to a general scarcity of wood, the basic building material in the Middle East in the crusader period was stone and/or brick. The latter, and often the former, was plastered over and whitewashed, both inside and out, or faced with marble in the case of important and representational buildings. The floors of poorer dwellings were either beaten earth or cut out of the bedrock, while upper floors were plaster. In wealthier homes the floors were usually flagstone on the ground floor, marble or mosaic. Courtyards were usually paved with cobbles.

The basic building block of houses in the Holy Land were vaults. Barrel vaults were the easiest and most fundamental building block and could be stacked on top of one another at perpendicular angles for several stories. A good example of this is the Hospitaller Castle of Kolossi. Below are three images of vaulted chambers: one an upstairs chamber from the Hospitaller castle at Kolossi, one a cellar from the Byzantine/Crusader castle of St. Hilarion, and the third showing a wine or oil press in the ground-floor chamber, something very common in the crusader kingdoms.

Groin vaults and rib-vaults, however, was also common, particularly in larger structures such as palaces, monasteries, customs houses, and the like. Here is an image of beautiful vaulting from Bellapais Monastery on Cyprus.

Most houses in the crusader states appear to have had at least one, and in urban areas -- particularly in the 13th century -- as many as three upper floors. The upper floors were often reached by means of an external stairway over a arch (see photo below), or by means of internal wooden stairs or even ladders through trap doors. In larger, rural structures, stairs could also be built into the thickness of the walls. Bellow are pictures of exterior stairs from Kythera, which are similar to what is describe in crusader urban architecture.

Most buildings in the Middle East were crowned, then as now, by flat roofs (that might be decoratively crenelated) that often provided additional living or work space in the form of a roof-top terrace that could be shaded from the sun by canvas awnings, or a vine arbor. Whether used as a terrace or not, rooftops almost always collected rain water in a cistern.  Indeed, even the poorest and smallest of urban dwellings had cisterns, often several. All had settlement tanks to help purify the water.  Water could be pumped from these tanks to the kitchens or latrines. 

Many urban dwellings would have been built around one or a series of courtyards. These in turn contained cisterns or sometimes wells, kitchen and formal gardens, or working space, depending on the wealth of the occupant. The courtyard below in Jerusalem has many medieval elements and does not look so very different from what it could have looked like in the 12th century.

The courtyard in the next photo is from the Hospitaller headquarters in Acre. It is an example of a more spectacular, 13th century courtyard and only relevant for public buildings, but it is indicative of style, taste and crusader capabilities.

Poorer residents, who could no afford a house large enough to surround one or more courtyards often shared a communal courtyard. Around a courtyard, several dwellings were clustered, all with access to the common courtyard.  

Despite the prevalence of courtyards, Frankish houses were not inward-looking. Unlike their Arab contemporaries, the houses of the rich had beautiful balconies and logias that looked out over the streets from the upper stories. The roof of the logia in urban areas might be supported either by an arcade or by pillars. Some of these pillars were reclaimed Roman pillars, employed in a new function, but the Franks were skilled at producing pillars themselves and the capitals of these were famous -- even among their enemies -- for the lifelike quality of their decoration. In rural settings the logia could be even more dramatic as in the example below from St. Hilarion on Cyprus.

The working class on the other hand had workshops and store fronts that opened onto the street at ground level. 

Doors throughout the Frankish territories from the mid-12th century until the end of Frankish rule were usually made by a wide, slightly pointed arch. This arch, borrowed from the Arabs before the beginning of true Gothic architecture in the West, was the dominant, indeed iconic, shape of crusader architecture. Poorer dwellings or secondary doors, however, could be square.

Windows could be either arched or square, with the Romanesque forms of “double-” or “triple-light” windows as common in the Holy Land as in the countries of the crusaders’ origin. Below are two examples of windows from St. Hilarion and Krak de Chevaliers respectively.

Because there were major glass producing centers in the crusader states (notably Tyre and Beirut), window glazing was more common in the crusader states than in the West, a fact supported by both archaeological finds and descriptions. Right is an example of crusader glass manufacture. While the context is different, this glass demonstrates the very high quality of the industry generally.

Archaeological evidence suggests the Franks used both plate glass and round glass set in plaster (the latter being presumably much cheaper and more common) for their windows. Below left is an example of the round glass technique used here in the Templar Church in Famagusta, Cyprus.  The same technique is still in use today, right on Kythera.


As the description at the start of this essay indicated, interior d├ęcor could include poly-chrome marble, but mosaics and glazed tiles may also have been used. Certainly, a wide variety of crusader glazed pottery has been found, using cream colors, yellows, greens and blues. The pottery gives us some indication of what colors and motifs could have been used on floor and wall tiles, although the evidence is lacking. Below is an example of crusader pottery.

However, we also know that the Turks and Saracens were very fond of brilliant blues and turquoise tiles in later centuries, and these may also have been available to the crusaders. At least I like to imagine it so! Below is an example of modern tile work just to hint at the possibilities.

As for mosaics, the description at the start of the article is perhaps the best indication of quality and the fact that life-like motifs were possible in the crusader era. However, we should not forget that mosaics floors were very common in the Roman and Byzantine periods, and the many crusader residences in fact dated from earlier periods and retained these older tiles. Below is a picture of tiles that date back the 4th century AD and were allegedly commission by St. Helena. Particularly under the influence of the Byzantine brides of Baldwin III and Amalric I, Byzantine styles and artists were welcomed and employed in the crusader kingdoms. They would easily have produced tiles similar to this example from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Last but not least, as the contemporary written descriptions stress, no description of urban architecture in the crusader states (at least for the “upper crust”) would be complete without reference to gardens. Frankish elites oriented their houses so that their (glazed) windows looked out at either views (such as the ocean) or gardens. The Holy Land offered a variety of beautiful vegetation from trees such a palms and olives, lemons and pomegranates, to flowers such as hibiscus and oleander. Frankish gardens would have been beautiful indeed.  So to conclude, here is a picture of a garden in the crusader church of St. Anne in Jerusalem today.

Dr. Helena P. Schrader holds a PhD in History.
She is the Chief Editor of the Real Crusades History Blog.
She is an award-winning novelist and author of numerous books both fiction and non-fiction. Her three-part biography of Balian d'Ibelin won a total of 14 literary accolades. Her most recent release is a novel about the founding of the crusader Kingdom of Cyprus. You can find out more at: http://crusaderkingdoms.com

In all Dr. Schrader's novels daily life as portrayed as accurately as possible, which includes portraying domestic architecture as it was -- from the cross vaulted ceilings to the mosaic or marble floor, from the loges to the gardens. 

       Buy now!                                       Buy now!                                         Buy now!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Jews in the Crusader States

Everyone has heard how the crusaders slaughtered all the inhabitants of the Jerusalem when they captured the city by storm on July 15, 1099. Among the dead were allegedly the entire Jewish population of Jerusalem at the time.  We also know that long before the first crusaders reached Jerusalem, in 1096, Jewish communities in the Rhineland were attacked and massacred mercilessly, and that all subsequent crusades were likewise accompanied by greater or lesser outbreaks of violence against Jews in Western Europe. It may therefore come as a surprise that Jews in the crusader states themselves suffered no persecution. On the contrary, by the end of the 13th century, the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem had become home to a flourishing community of Jews and a major center of Talmudic studies. 

How was this possible and how did it come about?

Although Robert Chazan[i] traces the roots of anti-Semitism to the start of the 11th century, when the Jews were complicit in the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher by the Fatimid caliph in 1009, there is strong evidence that the crusades intensified anti-Semitic feelings among large portions of the population of Western Europe. Daniel P. Franke[ii] rightly points out that the Popes ― right into the 15th century ― maintained a policy of tolerance, quoting from a papal bull in 1120, which states:

We decree that no Christian shall use violence to force [Jews] into baptism while they are unwilling and refuse… Moreover…no Christian shall presume to wound their persons, or kill them, or rob them of their money… Furthermore, while they celebrate their festivals, no one shall disturb them in any way.[iii]

Yet the very fact that 23 popes of the 12th to 15th centuries felt compelled to re-issue this directive underlines the fact that violence against the Jews continued across Western Europe. Certainly the attacks on Jews by the first crusaders spread from Speyer to Worms, Mainz, Trier, Metz, Regensburg, and Prague.  Some historians argue they were not confined to the German-speaking world, but also spread to France. Certainly, England saw a terrible outbreak of violent anti-Semitism in association with Richard I’s coronation in 1190. King (Saint) Louis IX went so far as to elevate Jewish persecution to state policy, although there were less spontaneous acts of violence against them than elsewhere in Europe. So why not in the Holy Land itself?

The initial contact between crusaders and Jews had been bitter. The Jews actively supported the Muslim defenders of Jerusalem, Haifa, and other cities of the Holy Land. When these cities fell to assault, the Jews were massacred along with the Muslim defenders; when the cities agreed to terms, they were allowed to withdraw with their portable goods and chattels. Within ten years, most Jews, who were predominantly urban-dwellers, had been driven out of the territories held by the crusaders. In Jerusalem itself, a ban prohibited Jews from ever re-settling in the Holy City.

Yet there is ample evidence of the fact that the Jews remained or returned to other cities ― or never left at all. Records show there were large Jewish communities in Tyre and Acre, smaller communities in Ascalon and elsewhere.  Furthermore, there were two dozen villages occupied entirely by Jews in Galilee, between Tiberias and Nablus.

Even more astonishing and significant: the First Crusade sparked a Jewish messianic movement.  According to Prawer, “in some communities the Jews sold their property and waited for the Messiah who would bring them to Jerusalem.” [iv] Certainly, the establishment of the crusader states and regular trade and pilgrimage traffic between the Holy Land and Western Europe allowed European Jews to undertake the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other sacred places in the Holy Land.  The pilgrim traffic to the crusader states included a significant portion of Jews ― and like their Christian counterparts, many of these chose to stay in the Holy Land after they arrived.

They were encouraged to do so not merely by the proximity to their holy sites, but by the prevailing atmosphere of tolerance in the crusader states ― in sharp contrast to the situation “at home” in Western Europe. Precisely because the Frankish elite was a minority in the crusader states, they were dependent upon the cooperation and contribution of a variety of native inhabitants. The majority of these were other kinds of Christians ― Melkites, Maronites and Jacobites, Armenian, Abyssinians and Copts ― but there was also a large Muslim population. People in the Holy Land had to learn to deal with all of them; Jews were just one more “flavor” in the mix.

This social tolerance was underpinned by the laws of the crusader states that did not discriminate against Jews either. Rather, Jews were treated the same way as Muslims and non-Latin Christians in that they were allowed to retain their own laws and customs, living according to their own traditions and celebrating their festivals and rites without interference. In consequence, there were rabbinical courts in both Acre and Tyre (and possibly Tiberias), and Palestine in the crusader period was one of only three centers in the world for Talmudic Study.

Furthermore, the Jews continued to pursue respected professions such as medicine, and took part in commercial activities. There is no evidence that they were required to wear distinctive clothing or live in segregated communities, although it is almost certain that, like the remaining Muslim population, they were subject to additional taxes.

In addition, there was still a large Samaritan population. (Note: Samaritans accept only the first five books of the Hebrew bible as divinely inspired.) Although many Samaritans had been driven into exile across the Middle East, the center of Samaritan worship and scholarship was located in Nablus, and this was where the largest Samaritan population was concentrated in the crusader era. The Samaritans appear to have flourished under crusader rule and a large number of Torah scrolls produced by Samaritans have survived, suggesting a flourishing of activities rather than the reverse.

To be sure, the Jews welcomed Saladin’s victories because he allowed Jews to re-settle in Jerusalem, but within a few decades the situation there had become too precarious. In 1229, the Sultan al-Kamil handed Jerusalem back to Fredrick II Hohenstaufen for ten years, and the Emperor immediately re-imposed the anti-Jewish ban. The Turkoman invasion of 1244 resulted in the sack of Jerusalem, and the Mongol raids of the 1260s made life in and around Jerusalem dangerous. Yet tellingly, the Jews moved not further east to Damascus and Aleppo, but rather preferred to live in the remaining crusader cities, notably Tyre and Acre.

As a result, from the second quarter of the 13th century until its fall, Acre became a vibrant Jewish center, a “cross-section of the different communities of the Diaspora. The leading elements were Jews from Spain and from northern and southern France, in addition to eastern Jews, whether Palestinian-born or from neighboring Moslem, countries…Here a Talmudic academy continued the tradition of the French Tosafists, whereas rabbi Salomon Petit expounded the Kabbala and Spanish Jews continued their own tradition.”[v]

Tragically, despite Islam’s vaunted “tolerance” for Judiasm, this Jewish center and the entire Jewish community that fed and surrounded it were exterminated mercilessly by al-Ashraf Khalil when he captured Acre in 1291.

Discover the crusader states, including their general tolerance for other religions, in Dr. Schrader's award-winning series set in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the late 12th century:

       Buy now!                                       Buy now!                                         Buy now!

[i] Chazan, Robert. “1007-1012: Initial Crisis for Northern European Jewry,” in Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 38/39. 1970-1971, p. 101.

[ii] Franke, Daniel P.. “The Crusades and Medieval anti-Semitism: Cause or Consequence” in Seven Myths of the Crusades. Editors Andrea, Alfred J. and Andrew Holt. Hackett, 2015

[iii] Franke, p. 61

[iv] Prawer, Joshua. “Social Classes in the Crusader States: the ‘Minorities” in A History of the Crusades Volume 5: The Impact of the Crusade on the Near East. Editors Hazard, Harry M. and Norman P. Zacour. University of Wisconsin Press, 1985, p. 97.

[v] Prawer, p. 101.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Aimery de Lusignan 2: King and Founder of a Dynasty

 Today Dr. Schrader continues the remarkable story of Aimery de Lusignan.

In 1188, with almost all of what had once been the Kingdom of Jerusalem under his control, Saladin released the Lusignan brothers. Guy promised never to take up arms against Saladin again, and he may also have promised to deliver the remaining strongholds of his former (nominal?) kingdom to the enemy. Whatever the terms were, Guy did not respect them, and we can assume that Aimery followed his lead.

Guy and Aimery (in the company of the Templar Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort) went to Antioch, the only Crusader kingdom that was still more or less in-tact and there raised some 700 knights and 9,000 other ranks to continue the fight against Saladin and re-capture his lost Kingdom.  Meanwhile, Guy and Aimery’s older brother, Geoffrey, had arrived from the West and was in Tyre. Guy, naturally, headed for the last free city of his kingdom with his new force of knights and men. However, the man commanding the defense of Tyre, Conrad de Montferrat, refused to admit him. Guy de Lusignan was persona non grata in his own kingdom!

Geoffrey de Lusignan, however, knew that a major Western force under the command of the Kings of England and France was collecting in the West and would eventually arrive. He advised Guy to “take action.” It was obvious to Guy’s elder brothers, both Geoffrey and Aimery, that Guy would lose the last shreds of respect and support if he did nothing. So Guy went with his knights and men to lay siege to Acre — the most important port of his former kingdom, which had been surrendered without a fight by Joceslyn de Courtney after the Battle of Hattin.

It was an apparently futile gesture, but one that attracted the support of almost any fighting man who was not prepared to accept defeat and every armed Christian who was not prepared to abandon the Holy Land. Holding on to Tyre was critical for survival, but the task was too defensive for many men’s tastes — and there was only so much anyone could do there. So although Guy started his siege of Acre with roughly 10,000 men, the Christian camp around Acre grew steadily, swollen by “armed pilgrims” that set out from the West to recover the Holy Land without waiting for the organized crusade. Guy’s forces soon reached an estimated 30,000 men of which 2,000 were mounted (knights, squires and turcopoles). Key to Guy’s success was support from the Pisan fleet and, later, Danish and Frisian ships as well, which enabled the besiegers to retain lines-of-communication and supply with the West and Antioch.

On Oct. 4, 1189, the Christians made an assault an Acre when Saladin himself was in the city assessing the situation. In a day long battle close to 5,000 Christians were killed including (finally) the Templar Grand Master Gerard de Rideford, who shared much of the blame for the disaster at Hattin. Yet while they failed in their objective, they also convinced Saladin that his forces were too weak to drive them away either, and an 18 month stalemate ensued — punctuated by sporadic attacks. Whenever the Christians attempted to take Acre, the Saracens surrounding them would attack from the rear, forcing them to return to their camp and trenches.

Meanwhile, conditions in the Christian camp deteriorated and morale plummeted. In 1190, disease took the lives of Queen Sibylla and her two daughters by Guy — their only off-spring. With them died Guy’s sole claim to the throne of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the Third Crusade was approaching, led by Richard I of England and Philip II of France. Despite past frictions between the Plantagenets and Lusignans, Richard the Lionheart threw his weight behind Guy de Lusignan’s — now weaker than ever — claim to the throne, and (predictably) Philip II of France backed Guy’s rival, Conrad de Montferrat, who had married Sibylla’s younger sister, Isabella, and claimed the crown of Jerusalem through her.

With the forces of the two kings and Richard the Lionheart’s leadership, the siege of Acre was brought to a successful conclusion: the Saracen garrison surrendered and the Christians re-occupied the city. Philip of France then promptly sailed back to France (to make trouble for Richard), but the barons and burghers of Outremer remained vehemently opposed to Guy. By 1192 Richard the Lionheart was forced to admit that Guy was untenable as King of Jerusalem any longer. He recognized Isabella as the rightful Queen of Jerusalem and her husband (first Conrad de Montferrat and then Henry of Champagne) as King.

But this is where things get interesting for the Lusignans. On his way to the Holy Land, Richard I had conquered Cyprus. This immensely wealthy island which had long been part of the Byzantine Empire had been seized by a self-proclaimed “Emperor,” whose tyrannical policies had so alienated his subjects that they welcomed and cooperated with Richard of England. Intent on rescuing the Holy Land, however, Richard had not wanted to retain the island for himself and had instead sold it to the Knights Templar. They, however, had proved such oppressive and unpopular overlords that by April 1192 the entire island was in rebellion against their rule.  The Templars, recognizing that they did not have the resources to subdue the island and fight for the Holy Land, returned the island to the King of England.

By now Richard knew that his younger brother John and the King of France were scheming to rob him of his inheritance in England and France. He had no more time for or interest in Cyprus than the Templars did. So he sold it to Guy de Lusignan!

That was all very well for the King of England, but the fact was that with the entire population now up in arms against the rule of the crusaders, Guy first had to re-conquer the kingdom he had bought. He set off with what few supporters he still had. Curiously, at this stage his brother Aimery did not accompany him. Aimery remained behind in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, where he was still technically Constable. It was a bad move. The new king, Henry of Champagne, was clearly suspicious of his loyalty and when he sided with the Pisans, who Henry suspected of plotting against him, he was promptly imprisoned.

According to Peter Edbury in his history The Kingdom of Cyprus and the Crusades, 1191 – 1374,  Aimery’s arrest “evoked protests from some prominent figures in the kingdom….” This supports my earlier thesis that — in contrast to Guy who seems to have been singularly adept at making enemies — Aimery was still popular among his adopted countrymen. The fact that King Henry gave in to the protests and released Aimery on the condition that he surrender the office of Constable suggests that Aimery’s supporters were very influential indeed. I can’t help but suspect that they included Balian d’Ibelin, who was King Henry’s de jure father-in-law (he was married to Queen Isabella’s mother). Balian was the leading baron in Henry of Champagne’s kingdom — and Aimery’s wife was Balian’s niece. Aimery duly surrendered his office of Constable of Jerusalem and promptly went to Cyprus to assist his brother Guy in taking control of his new lordship.

Less than two years later, Guy de Lusignan was dead. Notably, he designated his elder brother Geoffrey — not Aimery who had been with him so long and through so much — as his heir. The record is far too sketchy to know why, but there may have been tension between the brothers all along. Aimery’s support of his brother, as I noted before, was not necessarily indicative of genuine approval of his policies or actions but rather the imperative of family loyalty and self-interest. Fortunately for Aimery, Geoffrey de Lusignan had no interest in Cyprus. So Guy’s vassals chose Aimery as his successor.

Within three years of becoming the Latin/crusader overlord of Cyprus, Aimery had established peace on the island, set up a Latin ecclesiastical hierarchy alongside the Orthodox one (evidently following the model in the earlier crusader states that allowed the inhabitants to follow their own faith), and raised Cyprus to the status of a kingdom. Thus while Guy de Lusignan was “Lord of Cyprus,” Aimery was “King of Cyprus.” He obtained the dignity of kingship by offering to do homage for Cyprus to the Holy Roman Emperor. This was to cause trouble for his successors and lead to a bloody civil war a generation later, but Cyprus remained a Kingdom for nearly 300 years — ruled by the direct descendants of Aimery de Lusignan. (For more detail on the establishment of Lusignan rule on Cyprus see: http://schradershistoricalfiction.blogspot.com/2017/07/an-empty-island-waiting-to-welcome.html)

Nor was that the end of his astonishing life. In 1197, his first wife, Eschiva d’Ibelin died having given him six children, three of whom had lived to adulthood. The eldest surviving son of this marriage, Hugh, would in due time inherit the Kingdom of Cyprus. When Henry of Champagne died in the same year, however, Aimery was selected as the fourth husband of Queen Isabella of Jerusalem, allegedly with the “almost unanimous” support of the barons and bishops of the rump-state of Jerusalem.

Aimery promptly concluded a five year truce with the Saracens that gave the kingdom much needed breathing space to retrench and consolidate itself. He also named Balian d’Ibelin’s son John to his old position of Constable of Jerusalem — an exceptional mark of favor for a young man not yet 20 and one presumes more a gesture of gratitude to his father than a mark of confidence in one so young.  (John was later to swap the constableship for the lordship of Beirut.)

In 1204, with the Fourth Crusade diverted to Constantinople, Aimery concluded a new truce with a six year duration. This gave his kingdom the peace it needed for economic recovery, but he did not live long enough to enjoy it.  In February 1205, his son by Queen Isabella — the only son she ever had — died, and Aimery followed him to the grave within two months, Isabella shortly afterwards.  The crown of Cyprus passed to his son Hugh, and the crown of Jerusalem to Isabella’s oldest surviving child, her daughter Maria of Montferrat.

Aimery de Lusignan was King of Cyprus for eleven years and King of Jerusalem for eight — twice as long as his brother Guy had been. To both kingdoms he had brought stability and peace. His reign was looked back upon by subsequent generations as one of justice and prosperity — in both kingdoms. 

Dr. Helena P. Schrader holds a PhD in History.
She is the Chief Editor of the Real Crusades History Blog.
She is an award-winning novelist and author of numerous books both fiction and non-fiction. Her three-part biography of Balian d'Ibelin won a total of 14 literary accolades. Her most recent release is a novel about the founding of the crusader Kingdom of Cyprus. 

You can find out more at: http://crusaderkingdoms.com 

Aimery's role in establishing the Lusignan dynasty on Cyprus is the focus of "The Last Crusader Kingdom."

Saturday, March 31, 2018

REVIEW: "The Crusader States" by Malcolm Barber

At the start of each month + Real Crusades History + brings you a review of a book relevant to the crusades or the crusader states. Today Dr. Schrader recommends the seminal work by Professor Malcolm Barber.

Far more has been written about the crusades than the states they established and supported.  Yet it was the threat to the Christian states that justified every crusade after the First. Furthermore, the crusader states were catalysts for a number of key developments in Western Europe from dramatic improvements in shipping to the exchange of goods, technology and ideas with Constantinople and the Arab/Turkish world.  Indeed, historian Claude Reignier Condor wrote at the end of the 19th Century that: “…the result of the Crusades was the Renaissance.” (The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099 to 1291 AD, The Committee of Palestine Exploration Fund, 1897, p. 163.)

Professor Malcolm Barber is a distinguished scholar who has already produced seminal works about the Templars and Cathers. In this long overdue work Barber provides a comprehensive history of the crusader states rather than the sporadic crusades. It is meticulously researched and documented, as one would expect from a professor of history, and as such is an invaluable reference work for anyone interested in the period and indeed in the West’s presence in the Near East.

Whereas histories of the crusades invariably focus on military campaigns and so on “aggression,” Barber reminds us that the crusader states themselves were builders rather than destroyers. Barber concludes his comprehensive history by noting that: the crusaders “pragmatic approach to the challenge of providing for defense, administration and economic development produced political entities which resist stereotyping…and predetermined models.” He furthermore stresses that their accomplishments cannot be reduced to military conquests but also “entailed the rebuilding and embellishment of the holy shrines” and notes that they “ultimately produced their own independent and vibrant culture.”

Barber draws on a wide range of primary and secondary sources in Latin, Arabic, French, and German, and his bibliography alone is a treasure trove for the historian.  However, the very detail of his account tends to slow the pace and complicate the flow of the narrative. This is more a reference or a research resource than a good read. 

Dr. Helena P. Schrader holds a PhD in History.
She is the Chief Editor of the Real Crusades History Blog.
She is an award-winning novelist and author of numerous books both fiction and non-fiction. Her three-part biography of Balian d'Ibelin won a total of 14 literary accolades. Her most recent release is a novel about the founding of the crusader Kingdom of Cyprus. You can find out more at: http://crusaderkingdoms.com