Friday, December 12, 2008


December 12, 1098:

First Crusade: Massacre of Ma'arrat al-Numan - Crusaders breach the town's walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants. After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism.

The First Crusade played an important role in establishing the background for 'Cadfael', a Welsh monk who served as a soldier and sailor before taking up the cowl.

Here's what Wikipedia offers up with regards to Cadfael's past in the First Crusade:

The Crusades form an important part of the backdrop to the books. There are Cadfael's own memories of his crusading life, which occur in virtually every one of the books, and the circumstances of Olivier's early life. [Toobworld note: Olivier was Cadfael's son by Mariam, a Muslim woman.]

In addition, most of Cadfael's knowledge of herbs and medicine was learned in the East, from more sophisticated sources than he would have found in England. (In the TV version of "Virgin in the Ice", when Cadfael is treating a gravely wounded brother, the best remedy another brother can suggest is bleeding, which Cadfael scorns).

Also, several of the books feature returning crusaders who have central roles in the plot, while in others there are characters who depart England on the way eastwards. All of these crusading characters are depicted as sterling, model knights, brave and chivalrous, and the crusading enterprise itself is invariably regarded by all characters as a most noble and worthy cause.

There is occasional mention of acts of cruelty committed in the course of the Crusades. In conversation with a fellow crusader, Cadfael remarks, "After the killing that was done in Jerusalem, of so many who held by the Prophet, I say they deserved better luck against us than they had." In adding that his companion was never accused of brutality, he implicitly passes judgment on the Crusades as a whole ("The Leper of Saint Giles"). While on various occasions Cadfael makes remarks showing him not pleased with such brutalities, the references are rarely specific. Cadfael (as all other characters) never casts any doubt on the morality of carving out a Christian kingdom in the Muslim East and maintaining it by force; indeed, it would have been anachronistic to have him express such doubts.

However, his experience of the Crusades didn't lead to bigotry. Cadfael remembers Mariam, a Muslim woman as "well worth the loving," and had many other profitable friendships with Arabs and Muslims. His companion from "The Leper of Saint Giles", who spent many years as a captive of the Fatimid Egyptians, agrees, saying he always found his hosts "chivalrous and courteous," who gave him medical help and supported him in his convalescence.

Toby O'B

I covered the First Crusade in the daily Tiddlywinkydinks back in January of this year.........

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