Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades

Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades

Jonathan Phillips

Language: English

Pages: 464

ISBN: 1400065801

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


From an internationally renowned expert, here is an accessible and utterly fascinating one-volume history of the Crusades, thrillingly told through the experiences of its many players—knights and sultans, kings and poets, Christians and Muslims. Jonathan Phillips traces the origins, expansion, decline, and conclusion of the Crusades and comments on their contemporary echoes—from the mysteries of the Templars to the grim reality of al-Qaeda. Holy Warriors puts the past in a new perspective and brilliantly sheds light on the origins of today’s wars.

Starting with Pope Urban II’s emotive, groundbreaking speech in November 1095, in which he called for the recovery of Jerusalem from Islam by the First Crusade, Phillips traces the centuries-long conflict between two of the world’s great faiths. Using songs, sermons, narratives, and letters of the period, he reveals how the success of the First Crusade inspired generations of kings to campaign for their own vainglory and set down a marker for the knights of Europe, men who increasingly blurred the boundaries between chivalry and crusading. In the Muslim world, early attempts to call a jihad fell upon deaf ears until the charisma of the Sultan Saladin brought the struggle to a climax. Yet the story that emerges has other dimensions—as never before, Phillips incorporates the holy wars within the story of medieval Christendom and Islam and shines new light on many truces, alliances, and diplomatic efforts that have been forgotten over the centuries.

Holy Warriors also discusses how the term “crusade” survived into the modern era and how its redefinition through romantic literature and the drive for colonial empires during the nineteenth century gave it an energy and a resonance that persisted down to the alliance between Franco and the Church during the Spanish Civil War and right up to George W. Bush’s pious “war on terror.”

Elegantly written, compulsively readable, and full of stunning new portraits of unforgettable real-life figures—from Richard the Lionhearted to Melisende, the formidable crusader queen of Jerusalem—Holy Warriors is a must-read for anyone interested in medieval Europe, as well as for those seeking to understand the history of religious conflict.

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into the heartlands of Islam. Their rationale was simple: they had a divine mandate to rule the world; if people surrendered, they were spared, they paid tribute and were incorporated into the Mongol dominions. If someone resisted then, as an opponent of the word of God, they deserved annihilation. In February 1258 the Mongol armies entered Baghdad and in a sack of the most gargantuan proportions they obliterated centuries of culture and learning; the Mongols claimed 200,000 died, some Persian

the city of Lille in northern France to attend a sumptuous banquet and to hear his plans. Thirty-five artists were employed to decorate the chamber and, to ensure that the world knew of this splendid occasion, the duke ordered official accounts of the feast to be distributed. The report noted: There was even a chapel on the table, with a choir in it, a pasty full of flute players. A figure of a girl, quite naked, stood against a pillar . . . she was guarded by a live lion who sat near her. My

Lebanon and an estimated eleven thousand Christians were killed. By July the trouble had extended to Damascus and a mob tore through the Christian quarter pillaging, raping, and killing the inhabitants. One eyewitness wrote of seeing hundreds of dogs who had died of a surfeit of human flesh; the district, which included churches, a monastery, and consulates, was utterly devastated. A writer in Le Correspondant suggested that this had been part of a Muslim conspiracy that planned to “exterminate

her kindred. She was most elegantly garbed in a beautiful dress from which trailed, according to their traditional style, a long train of golden silk. On her head she wore a golden diadem covered by a net of woven gold, and on her breast was a like arrangement. Proud she was in her ornaments and dress, walking with little steps of half a span, like a dove or in the manner of a wisp of cloud. God protect us from the seduction of the sight. Before her went Christian notables in their finest and

appalling and horrific experience. While the struggle at Acre had been extraordinarily hard there is no doubt that the massacre of so many prisoners in such a terrible fashion ratcheted up the religious intensity of the conflict considerably. Over the next few months, any crusaders—men or women—unfortunate enough to fall into Muslim hands were summarily executed—this need for vengeance demanded an outlet.43 Within Acre itself, boredom had taken hold of the crusaders. Churchmen complained that

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