Norman Housley

title.none: Slack, Crusade Charters, 1138-1270 (Norman Housley)

identifier.other: baj9928.0203.002 02.03.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Norman Housley, University of Leicester,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2002

identifier.citation: Slack, Corliss Konwiser. Crusade Charters, 1138-1270. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2001. Pp. xxx, 229. ISBN: 0866982396.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 02.03.02

Slack, Corliss Konwiser. Crusade Charters, 1138-1270. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2001. Pp. xxx, 229. ISBN: 0866982396.

Reviewed by:

Norman Housley
University of Leicester

Investigating the motivation and frame of mind of early crusaders to the East inevitably involves studying the charters issued in their names before departure as they set about raising funds, putting their financial affairs in order, and attempting to ensure that past misdeeds would not detract from the value of their penitential exercise. Charter evidence is problematic, but scholars like Marcus Bull, Giles Constable and Jonathan Riley-Smith have shown that it can be relatively reliable and highly revealing. All too few of these charters have been available in the past outside a select group of research libraries, and this collection of 31 recording gifts made to Premonstratensian abbeys between 1138 and 1270 is therefore very welcome. The volume has been thoughtfully planned. The charters cover the full range of the nobility from the counts to 'Thomas, knight of Leez' (no. 23), though the crusade activities of the remarkable Coucy lineage are prominent throughout and provide continuity. Each charter is printed both in the original Latin and with a facing page translation, while for those wishing to test their palaeographical skills reasonably legible photographs are supplied in the case of six. For each charter there follows a summary and copious notes dealing with technical terms, locations and individuals. These notes are wide-ranging: the editor provides as much information as she can on the families involved and their links with religious houses. This is not dry detail but interpretative comment. Take one example: the charter issued on behalf of Simon de Chavigny, a vassal of the Coucy family, in 1210 by the bishop of Soissons (no. 25). Simon presents two fields to Premontre in exchange for 120 livres which he needs for his crusade expenses. Slack suggests that Simon's transaction was due "not only to a desire to raise money for an expedition, but to the kind of effort at rapprochement with the church which was characteristic of the relationship between the Coucys and Premontre. As a conjecture, this charter could be added to the list of so many in this collection which show an original gift to the order contested by an heir, who eventually decides to make his peace by taking a crusade vow and restoring the contested property." This is an interesting and valid comment, based on much recent research by the editor and others.

Simon de Chavigny was setting off to fight not in the East but in the Albigensian Crusade, and one strength of the collection is that three documents relate to that enterprise. No. 26 should not really be in the collection at all since it is not a charter but a letter from the abbot of Premontre, Gervase, commissioning a Premonstratensian canon called Guy to act as preacher for the crusade. But is useful to have it translated since Gervase's letter, and the longer letter from Arnaud Amalric accompanying it, give excellent insights into the Catholic viewpoint about the Cathars. Regrettably, no. 29, another Albigensian Crusade charter, contains a definite mistranslation, "crucesignatus pro succursu ecclesie Albigensis" ("signed with the cross for the relief of the church of Albi") being rendered as "signed with the cross for the crusade against the Albigensian church".

This an attractively presented book, a welcome addition to Arizona's Texts and Studies series. Scholars of the crusades and of the relationships which French aristocratic families built up with religious houses will find the collection useful. It is likely to be valued most, however, by teachers of these and allied subjects. They will find in the charters and the accompanying apparatus a way of leading their students into a wide range of issues relating to religious devotion, social textures and economic mechanisms in this period. From this point of view the facing page translation is particularly laudable as it enables one to enter painlessly into the very heart of the phraseology used. A paperback edition is therefore eagerly awaited.