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Charlemagne also appears in one of the versions of Urban II’s speech calling for the First Crusade. Robert the Monk reported that, Urban called upon the crusaders to look to their past and ancestors for inspiration. He says;

Moveant vos et incitent animos vestros ad virilitatem gesta praedecessorum vestrorum, probitas et magnitudo Karoli Magni regis, et Ludovici filii ejus aliorumque regum bestrorum, qui regna paganorum destruxerunt et in eis fines sanctae, Ecclesiae dilataverunt. Praesertim moveat vos santum Domini Ekkehardi Uraugiensis Abbatis Hierosolymita nach der Waitz’ schen Recension mit Erläuterungen und einem Anhange, ed. Heinrich Haganmayer, (Tubingen, 1877), pp. 121-122.

William of Tyre, A History of the Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, trans. E.A. Babcock & A.C. Krey, vol. II, (New York, Columbia University Press, 1943), p. 64.

Salvatoris nostri Sepulcrum, quod ab immundis gentibus possidetur, et loca sancta, quae nunc inhoneste tractantur et irreverenter eorum immundiciis sordidantur. O Fortissimi milites et invictorum propago parentum, nolite degenerari, sed virtutis priorum vestrorum reminiscimini.100 [Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and inspire your minds to manly Achievements; the glory and greatness of King Charles the Great, and his son Louis, and of your other kings, who have destroyed the kingdoms of the pagans, and have extended in these lands the territory of the holy church. Let the holy sepulchre of the Lord our Savior, which is possessed by unclean peoples, especially incite you, and the holy places which are now treated with ignominy and irreverently polluted with the filthiness. Oh, most valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, do not be degenerate, but remember the valor of your progenitors.] In this short passage, the pope makes a number of important points. First, he refers to Charlemagne as an ancestor of those present at Clermont, immediately connecting them with the glory of an idealized Carolingian past. The reference to Charlemagne also serves as a legitimizing factor for those leading the crusade. Many of the leaders were conscious of the importance of this connection and emphasized their relation to Charlemagne. As Jonathan Riley-Smith writes, “most of the leaders could trace their ancestry back to Charlemagne and three of them, Robert of Flanders, Godfrey of Bouillon and his brother Baldwin, seem to have been particularly conscious of this.”101 In all cases, the connection was neither imagined nor legendary, but actually true.102 The two crusaders were true descendants of Charlemagne’s lineage. The biographer of Recueil des historiens des croisades: publié par les soins de l’Academie impériale des inscriptions et belles-lettres, vol. 3, Speech of Urban II, by Robert the Monk. In Historiens Occidentaux, (England, Gregg Press Limited), p. 728.

Riley-Smith, The First Crusade, p. 112.

Robert’s family line connects to Charlemagne’s through Baldwin I, Count of Flanders in the late ninth century, and known as ‘Iron Arm.’ He was married to the daughter of Charles the Bald, Judith. The family of Godfrey and Baldwin have an even more direct connection to Charlemagne. According to Andressohn “both the paternal and maternal branch claimed descent from Charlemagne, an assertion which seems substantiated.” John C. Andressohn, The Ancestry and Life of Godfrey of Bouillon (Indiana University, 1947), p. 9.

Tancred, Ralph of Caen, stressed the connections to Charlemagne while discussing the establishment of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem, when in 1100 Baldwin, a descendant of Charlemagne, came to sit, as king of Jerusalem, on the throne of David.103 Charlemagne also appears in the Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanourm, an anonymous chronicle/history of the First Crusade. The author, believed by historians to be a participant, described the road the crusaders took to Jerusalem as being built by Charlemagne.

Fecerunt denique Galli tres partes. Vna pars Francorum in Hungariae intrauit regionem, scilicet Petrus Hermita, et dux Godefridus, et Balduinus frater Eius, et Balduinus comes Monte. Isti potentissimi Milites et alii plures quos ignoro uenerunt per uiam Quam iamdudum Karolus Magnus mirificus rex Franciae Aptari fecit usque Constantinoploim.104 [The Franks separated into three armies.

One entered the region of Hungary namely Peter the Hermit, and Duke Godfrey, His brother Baldwin, and Baldwin, the count of Hainault. These most valiant Knights and many others whose name I do not know Traveled the road that Charlemagne, the heroic king Of the Franks, had once caused to be built to Constantinople.] The reference here is to the ‘imperial road’ from Constantinople to Sirmium.

Charlemagne is given credit for deeds belonging to the Roman Emperor. The author has extended Charlemagne’s actions to incorporate deeds from both long before and long after his actual life. There are similar references to Charlemagne and his exploits in Spain in the Pilgrims Guide to Santiago de Compostela. Here again, the creation of the Riley-Smith, The First Crusade, p. 112.

Gesta Francorum et Aliorum Hierosolimitanorum. Ed. Rosalind Hill, (Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., London, Paris, New York, 1962), p. 2.

image of Charlemagne is one of a proto-pilgrim and proto-crusader traveling and fighting in the region. At one point, the Guide reports that;

In sumitate uero eiusdem montis est locus quod dicitur Crux Karoli, quia super illum securibus et dolabris et fossoriis ceterisque manubriis Karolus cum suis exercitibus in Yspaniam pergens, olim tramitem fecit signumque Dominice crucis prius in eo eleuauit, et tandem flexis genibus versus Galleciam, Deo et Sancto Iacobo precem fudit.105 [On the summit of this mountain is a place called the Cross of Charlemagne, because it was here that Charles, setting out with his armies for Spain, once made a road with axes, hatchets, pickaxes, and other implements, and first raised the sign of the cross of the Lord. And then, falling to his knees and turning towards Galicia, poured out his prayer to God and Saint James.] There is a sense here that Charlemagne has paved the way for pilgrims traveling the route, just as he had done for the those traveling on the road to Constantinople. In a later section of the Guide, Charlemagne builds churches and his knights who died in battle are honored.

Item in Landis Burdegalensibus uilla quae dicitur Belinus uisitanda sunt corpora sanctorum martirum Oliueri, Gandelbodi regis Frisie, Otgerii regis Dacie, Arastagni regis Brittannie Garini ducis Lotharingie, et aliorum plurimorum scilicet Karoli Magni pugnatorum, qui deuictis exercitibus paganorum in Yspania trucidati pro Christi fide fuere. Item uisitanda sunt corpora beatorum martirum Facundi scilicet et Primitiui,

Quorum basilicam Karolus fecit. 106

[Then, in the lands of the Bordelais, in a town which is named Belin, one should visit the bodies of the holy martyrs Oliver, Gondebaud, King of Frisia, Ogier, King of Denmark, Arastain, King of Brittany, Garin, Duke of Lorraine, and many other warriors of Charlemagne, who after conquering the pagan armies, were slaughtered in Spain for their Christian faith.

Then, one should visit in Spain the body of the blessed martyrs Facundus and Primitivus, whose basilica Charlemagne built.] A Pilgrims Guide: A Critical Edition: vol. II. General editor Paula Gerson, (Harvey Miller Publishers, London, 1998), p. 26.

A Pilgrims Guide: A Critical Edition: vol. II. General editor Paula Gerson. (Harvey Miller Publishers, London, 1998), p. 64.

There is considerable debate among crusade historians as to the exact nature of the military campaigns in Spain. The Reconquista is not typically placed in the same category as the crusades to the Holy Land. The campaigns in Spain did involve ecclesiastical sanctions, those who participated were granted remission of sins, and the campaigns had an international flavor (French participation). However, the “reconquest lacked the distinctive crusading indulgence, the wearing of the cross, and the intention of delivering the Holy Land.”107 One argument that has been put forth is that after the initial crusades to the East, the Spanish Reconquista began to conform to the ideology of the crusade or in the very least, it became a substitute for a Crusade to the Holy Land. In the mind of many scholars, the twelfth-century campaigns in Spain were crusades in every sense of the term.

There are of course many other parallels between the Reconquista and the Crusades. One such parallel is the image of Charlemagne. The image that was created in the twelfth-century did not distinguish a great deal between the campaigns in Spain and those in the Holy Land. Charlemagne’s role as a member of the knighthood of Christ changed very little depending on the region in which he was being depicted. In Spain, as described in Roland and the Pseudo-Turpin, he defends and conquerors in the name of Christianity. This is also true for Southern Italy in Aspremont or for Jerusalem and Constantinople in the Descriptio.

One of the last sources to invoke the image of Charlemagne and his relation to the Crusades is Ambroise’s Estoire de la Guerre Sainte. This ‘history of the holy war’ was written in the wake of the Third Crusade, at some point between 1194 and 1199. There is Joseph F. O’Callaghan, Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain, (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2003), pp. 19-20.

debate about whether the author, a Norman, was a simple jongleur or an actual cleric.

Gaston Paris argued that the work lacked the sufficient level of learning that would be indicative of a cleric. Indeed the work reflects the ethos and narrative patterns of previous chansons de geste. But, recent studies have revealed a plethora of Biblical themes suggesting something more than popular learning.108 Charlemagne first appears in Ambroise’s Estoire in an early section of the work when the author is discussing ‘Troubles for the Crusaders.’ Intense bickering and disagreement among the leaders the crusaders has created some problems. He says of Charlemagne;

Quant li vaillant reis Charlemaines, qui tant conquist terres e regnes, ala josteier en Espaine Ou il amena la preuz campaine Qui fuvendu al roi Marsille Par Guenelon, don’t France avile; E quant il refu en Sesoigne Ou il fist meinte grant besoigne, E il desconfist Guiteclin, E mist les Senes a declin, Par la force de maint prodome; E quant il mena l’ost par Rome, Quant Agolant, par grant emprise, Fu par mer arivéa Rise, E[n] Calabre, la riche terre; E quant Sulie a l’autre guerre refu perdue e [re]conquisse E Antioche si fud assise, E es granz ostz e es batailles Sor les Turcs e sor les chenailles Don’t tant I ot mortes e mates; L n’avoit esrifs ne barates, Lores a cel tens ne anceis, Qui erent Norman ou Franceis, Qui Peitevin, ne ki Breton, Qui mansel, ne ki Burgoinon, Ne ki Flamenc, ne qui Engleis; Illoc n’I aveit point de jangleis, Ne point de s’entreamponouent Mais tote honors en reportouent; C[il] erent tuit apelé Franc E brun e bai e sor e blanc, E par pechié quant descordouent, E li prince les racordouent, E erent tuit a une acorde, Si que poi I doroit descorde;109 when the valiant King Charlemagne, who conquered so many lands and countries, went to campaign in Spain, taking with him the noble band who were sold to Marsile by Ganelon to the dishonour of France,110 and when he, Charlemagne, had returned to Saxony, where he did may great deeds and defeated Guiteclin,111 Ambroise’s Estoire de la Guerre Sainte, vol. II, trans. Marianne Ailes, (The Boydell Press, Great Britain, 2003), p. 1-2.

Ambroise’s Estoire de la Guerre Sainte, vol. I, text, ed. Marianne Ailes, (The Boydell Press, Great Britain, 2003), p. 137-138.

Reference to Chanson de Roland.

Reference to Jean Bodel’s Chanson de Saisnes, which tells of Charlemagne’s campaign to defeat the Saxons under the leadership of Guiteclin.

bringing about the fall of the Saxons by the strength of many valiant men and when he led his army to Rome, when Agoland, through a great undertaking had arrived at Reggio in the rich land of Calabria,112 when, in another war, Syria was lost and reconquered and Antioch besieged, in the great armies and the battles against the Turks and the pagan hordes, when many were killed then there was neither Norman nor French, Poitevin nor Breton, Mansel nor Burgundian, Flemish nor English;

there was no malicious gossip nor insulting of one another; everyone came back with all honour and all were called Franks, whether brown or red, swarthy or white and when through sin they disagreed the princes brought them back into agreement with each other, and all were of one mind so that disagreement lasted little time.113 They were all called ‘Franks’ because they were all the same in God’s eyes – they were knights of Christ – they were all crusaders. Here, Charlemagne not only acts as an important precedent for holy war and crusading, but also as a unifying force for Christendom. It is also an indication of the importance of the crusade. The crusade cause takes precedence over all other internal quarrels that might exist between crusade leaders.

This is, in part, a reflection of the impact the ‘peace of God’ and ‘truce of God’ movements had on the mentality of churchmen and western chroniclers.

By the end of the twelfth century, Western Christians had staged three major crusades to conquer the Holy Land. They had taken and then subsequently lost control of Jerusalem and most of the Holy Land. During the same period an image of Charlemagne was created and expanded. He had, by the end of the century, appeared in numerous epics, romances, histories, chronicles, and charters.

The image of Charlemagne is used as a broad exemplar for twelfth-century crusading. He used for precedent and propaganda. The legend of Charlemagne became Reference to La Chanson d’Aspremont.

Ambroise’s Estoire de la Guerre Sainte, vol. II, trans. Marianne Ailes, (The Boydell Press, Great Britain, 2003), pp. 145-146.

the ideal to which all the milites christi could strive. In an age of pilgrimage and crusade, it was believed by most that Charlemagne sought to honor and defend Christendom.



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