Leprosy

Leprosy was one of the scourges of the Middle Ages–not so much because of scale, but because when a person caught it, their community cast them out.  The lazar house in the Brother Cadfael books, St. Giles, plays a significant role in the series.  In the movie, Kingdom of Heaven, Baldwin IV of Jerusalem is portrayed as a leper, which is historically accurate.  He ruled from 1174 to 1185.  The man who recognized he had the disease (instead of the Baron played by Liam Neeson) was William of Tyre, later Read More…

The Knights Templar

In the beginning: “Immediately after the deliverance of Jerusalem, the Crusaders, considering their vow fulfilled, returned in a body to their homes. The defense of this precarious conquest, surrounded as it was by Mohammedan neighbours, remained. In 1118, during the reign of Baldwin II, Hugues de Payens, a knight of Champagne, and eight companions bound themselves by a perpetual vow, taken in the presence of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, to defend the Christian kingdom. Baldwin accepted their services and assigned them a portion of his palace, adjoining the temple of the city; hence their title “pauvres chevaliers du temple” (Poor Knights of the Temple). Poor indeed they were, being reduced Read More…

The First Crusade

The Crusades, Christendom’s attempts to win back the Holy Land and Jerusalem, began in 1095 with the First Crusade.  The Muslims had taken Jerusalem in 1076. Pope Urban incited the Christians of Medieval Europe with the words: “Christians, hasten to help your brothers in the East, for they are being attacked. Arm for the rescue of Jerusalem under your captain Christ. Wear his cross as your badge. If you are killed your sins will be pardoned.” The Crusaders had to follow an overland route to Constantinople, where they gathered in preparation Read More…