Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some Thoughts on Book 9, Gesta Francorum

Book 9 was full of visions and supernatural events starting with the fire from the sky that fell into the camp of the Turks and filled them with terror to the Spear of Destiny and the celestial army rescuing the Crusaders.
Raymond of Aigulers also wrote a chronicle of the First Crusade and was an eye witness. He wrote more fully than Anonymous did about the finding of the Lance. Twelve men were instructed to dig for the Lance, just as there were twelve apostles. Peter Bartholomew jumped in to help and became the 13th. At the Last Supper, Judas Iscariot was the 13th guest and so this might not have helped Peter's case later on since the bishops and priests already distrusted his visions because he was a layman and not a 'company man'. Peter told Raymond that he was afraid to tell anyone about his visions because he thought they would think he was making it all up to get more food. Peter had his vision before Stephen the priest but, when the priest also said that a miracle would happen in five days, it granted some legitimacy to Peter's vision.
Anna also wrote about the finding of the lance but she said it was a nail and she thought it was Peter the Hermit who found it. Constantinople had, at the time, its own lance so the authenticity of the relic could be questioned. There are several lances that claim to be 'the lance'. The Hapsburgs had one that they bought from the Byzantines. It has been recently tested and, while the spear itself is not old enough, the nail attached to it is and could therefore be a genuine relic.(article on it here) The Lance found in Antioch disappeared after the war and Raymond thought the Arabs seized it although, if Anna is correct and it was a nail, perhaps the Hapsburgs got both the Byzantine lance and the nail from Antioch.
The day after these visions were revealed, Raymond wrote that a star broke into three parts and fell into the camp of the Turks. This would probably be the fire that fell from the sky. It likely did terrify the Turks. What a omen on the eve of battle! I think I would turn around and go home.
Raymond wrote that the arrows of the enemy were unable to pierce anyone around him as he personally bore the Lance into the battle but he did also mention a light shower of rain. Since a friend has suggested that the celestial army was fog descending from the mountain, this might support her hypothesis. Raymond did not write of the army and Anonymous did not say he saw them with his own eyes.
The three saints who were leading the celestial army were St. George, St. Mercurius and St. Demetrius. St. George should need no introduction to anyone. He is the knight who slew the dragon and who was the patron saint of England. Some might be surprised to learn that he was a Roman in the army of Diocletian and living in Palestine. His feast day is April 23. St. Mercurius is not as well known. He appears to have been a Scythian born in Cappadocia in the Roman army under Decius, his Arab name means 'holder of two swords' which makes me wonder if he is connected to Balan in any way. His feast day is November 11 in the West. St. Demetrius is from Thessalonia or was killed in Thessalonia. He was another Roman soldier, persecuted under Diocletian or Galerius. His story is not well known but his feast day is October 26. All three make excellent military miracle workers since they were all soldiers in their day.
Last but not least, I find it interesting that the emir who was charged with guarding the citadel would surrender to no one but Bohemond. Considering the slaughter that was inflicted on Jerusalem's population which fell without Bohemond being there, it was probably a wise choice and speaks well of Bohemond. The Crusaders pursuing the fleeing Turks at Antioch thought they did well when they found the Turks' women in the tents and only stabbed them all, rather than rape them first and then stab them; but Bohemond had probably already returned to the city and he could not stop what the armies under the other leaders were doing anyway.
The image above was snagged from Wikipedia Commons and is supposed to be the spear that was found at Antioch and is now at a monastery in Echmiadzin in Turkey.

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