In 1095 Pope Urban II – whose real name was Odo of Chatillon – gave a rousing speech at Clermont in France. He promised forgiveness and pardon for all of the past sins of those who would fight to reclaim the holy land from Muslims and free the eastern churches. So began the crusades – the wars between Christendom and Islam for the Holy Lands in the Levant and by Western Christians against pagan and Orthodox communities in North and Eastern Europe for several centuries from 1096. What were the crusades and how did they give birth to modern European nations? What made the crusaders and their opponents believe faith justified violence, that they fought a just war, a holy war, a jihad?
The music that appears in the show is the Crusader song, Palästinalied. The song, which plays in full at the end of the show, survived with its music and the lyrics (originally in German but here performed in English) are:
Now my life has gained its meaning since those sinful eyes behold.
Sacred land with meadows greening whose renown was often told.
This was granted me from God, to see the land and the holy sod, which in human form he trod.
Splendid lands of wealth and power, I’ve seen many far and near.
Yet of all are you the flower, what a wonder happened here!
That, a maid a child should bear, Lord of all the angels fair, was not this a wonder rare?
Here he was baptised the holy, that all people might be pure.
Here he died betrayed and lowly, that our bonds should not endure.
Else, our fate had been severe, hail oh cross oh thorns and spear! Heathens woe your rage is clear!
- Andrew Latham, The Crusades: A Very Brief History, 1095-1500, via medievalists.net
- Jonathon Phillips, The Crusades – a complete history via History Today
- Jill Claster, Sacred Violence: The European Crusades to the Middle East, 1095-1396 (2009)
- Christopher Tyerman, God’s War: a New History of the Crusades (2006)
- Johan Huizinga The Waning (or Autumn) of the Middle Ages (1923)
Look out for my episode next week when I will discuss some of the signature events and intriguing characters of the Crusades.
In episode 29 on Spotify and Apple podcasts I discuss the amazing cast of characters who appear in the Crusades, and identify the most influential crusader of them all. I also discuss two major events in the crusades – the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 and the Sack of Constantinople in 1204. Then I give my concluding thoughts on the Crusades and its legacy for our culture today, including – do you believe it? – silly love songs.
Other references and credits from the show are:
- Thomas Asbridge, The First Crusade: A New History (2004)
- a very brief quotation from Paul McCartney and Wings, “Silly Love Songs”
- Raimon de Miraval (1180-1215 CE), Bel m’es qu’ieu chant [It please me to sing and be agreeable], taken from this performance
The lyrics of Bel m’es qu’ieu chant are below:
It pleases me to sing and be agreeable,/ since the air is warm and the weather delightful,/ and in the orchards and hedges/ I hear the chirping and warbling/ of the little birds/ among the green and the white and the multicolored/ Then the one who wants/ Love to help him, should strive/ to adopt the behavior of a lover I am not accepted as a lover, but I pay court/ and I do not fear suffering or burden,/ nor do I complain easily or become angered,/ nor do I lose courage on account of arrogance./ However, fear makes me silent,/ for to the fair and high-born lady/ I dare not show or expose my heart,/ which I keep secret from her/ since I have known her great merit Without entreaty and without concession,/ I have experienced grievous torment/ trying to discover how I might seem truthful/ if I set forth her great merit./ For until now no lady born/ of woman has had merit that might/ be worth anything compared to hers./ And I know many a merit highly valued,/ yet hers has vanquished the best. 4. She is willing to be nobly courted,/ and fine conversation pleases her as does joy,/ and she is displeased by the boor/ who turns away from these and acts like a fool;/ but worthy (suitors) are welcome,/ to whom she is so charming/ that upon going out from her presence,/ all praise her more/ than if they were her slaves. I do not believe that the beauty/ of any other lady can ever be compared to hers,/ for the newborn flower of a rosebush/ is not fresher than she (is):well-made and gracefully formed body,/ mouth and eyes the light of the world,/ such that Beauty could never have done/ more for her even if she used therein all of her power,/ so that none remained (for any other ladies). May my Lady not get angry/ if I throw myself upon her mercy,/ for it is not my intention to become unfaithful/ or turn towards an inferior love,/ for I have always wanted the best/ outside and inside my dwelling place;/ and I am not boastful about her,/ for I have desired no more/ than that she receive and greet me graciously. Chanson, go for me and tell the King/ whom joy guides and clothes and nourishes,/ that in him there is nothing improper,/ for I see him just as I want him to be./ Provided that he recovers Montagut/ and returns to Carcassonne,/ then he will be emperor of merit,/ and here the French, there the Muslim/ will fear his shield. Lady, you have always helped me/ so much that I sing on account of you/ I would compose any songs/ until I had given back to you the fief/ of Miraval, which I have lost. But the king has promised me/ that I will recover it before long,/ and my Audiart, Beaucaire./ Then will ladies and lovers be able/ to return to the joy they have lost.https://lyricstranslate.com
Image Credit: Florine of Burgundy (1083–1097) by Gustave Doré in the 19th century