03.09.07, Phillips and Hoch, The Second Crusade

Main Article Content

Sophia Menache

The Medieval Review baj9928.0309.007


Phillips, Jonathan and Martin Hoch, eds.. The Second Crusade: Scope and Consequences. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2001. Pp. xxii, 234. ISBN: 0-7190-5711-6.
ISBN: 0-7190-5710-8.

Reviewed by:
Sophia Menache
Univ. of Haifa

On 24 December 1144, 'Imad ad-Din Zengi, the Muslim leader of Aleppo and Mosul, captured the Christian city of Edessa in Northern Syria. The collapse of the first crusader principality in the Levant was the driving force behind the Second Crusade, which took place two years later. Following the initiative of Pope Eugenius III (Quantum predecessores, December 1145), the crusader armies left Europe under the leadership of Kings Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany. However, the Second Crusade, as it materialized, was to a large extent the result of the preaching of Bernard of Clairvaux, the Cistercian monk who, as Joshua Prawer has claimed, succeeded in turning the military expedition into "a pilgrimage for the salvation of souls."

This collection of essays is based on papers presented at four sessions of the International Medieval Congress of the University of Leeds (1998) on the 850th anniversary of the crusaders' attack on Damascus (11 July 1148). In contrast to the multifarious, sometimes even incongruent nature of collections of this kind, the editors have succeeded in bringing a harmonious picture of the Second Crusade, which has received relatively little scholarly attention. Still, the scarcity of narrative sources, which has been a main obstacle to research, has been balanced in recent years by the translation and reediting of important sources, such as the anonymous Conquest of Lisbon, The Journey of Louis VII to the East by Odo of Deuil, many of Bernard de Clairvaux's letters, and some chronicles written in the Iberian Peninsula. As a result, new perspectives of research, as well as new questions, have arisen. The Second Crusade no longer appears as a mere military defeat in the East, but as a pan-Christian effort on a variety of fronts, first and foremost the Iberian Peninsula and the northeastern regions of Europe. This review will not attempt to summarize the various and many issues raised in the present volume, but will provide a general perspective while underlining the most original contributions.

The short preface by Giles Constable [x-xiii]--whose article on the Second Crusade (Traditio 9 (1953): 213-279) has since become a classic--gives a good and precise abstract of the different articles while stressing their inter-connection.

The editors' "Introduction" [1-14], as well, places the different chapters in their historical context and shows the evolution of the crusade into a three-pronged assault against the enemies of Christendom. A short historiographical survey precedes the evolution of the crusade, with special emphasis given to the preaching of Bernard of Clairvaux and his extraordinary influence on contemporary audiences.

Jonathan Phillips's article, "Papacy, Empire, and the Second Crusade" [15-31], focuses on the contribution of the Germans to the crusade in its widest geographical scope; namely in the Holy Land, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Baltic. After reviewing crusading motivation in Germany, in particular the impact of Henry II's canonization on the minds of contemporaries, the author concludes that "Conrad and the Empire had a more positive, logical and fundamental position in the crusade than generally believedIThe Germans provided the largest of the crusading armies to the Levant and their king was recognized--certainly by Muslim and Greek sources-- as the most important figure from the West to take part." [15] Phillips thus questions the pope's alleged reservations about the participation of Germans in the crusade and considers the preaching of Bernard of Clairvaux in Germany to be an integral part of apostolic plans. In a stimulating review of "The Papacy and the Second Crusade" [32-53], Rudolf Hiestand investigates the weight of the crusade on Eugenius III's policies in general, and on the future of the papacy and this pontificate in particular. Although Hiestand agrees with the prevailing view that "the Second Crusade was without doubt the central event in the pontificate of Eugenius III," he brings some "second thoughts". Against the personal involvement of Urban II in the First Crusade, there is no mention of Eugenius's crusading sermons, whether in Italy, France, or Germany, thus giving Bernard of Clairvaux complete monopoly. "Of course, Eugenius III was the author of the crusading appeal . . . [but] He failed to involve himself in the most important part: the preaching. The Second Crusade was not Eugenius III's but Bernard of Clairvaux's crusade." [37] In contrast with Urban's view of the crusade as a papal enterprise, which gave ample maneuvering room to the Eastern Emperor, Eugenius saw the crusade as a military enterprise under the responsibility of Western monarchs [40]. Still, the many failures in the Levant encouraged sharp criticism of the papacy and brought papal leadership into question. "In this way the Second Crusade proved to be a turning-point for the position of the papacy in the medieval world." [47]

Susan Edington examines the text-tradition of Albert of Aachen's Historia (1095-1119) [54-70] in order to establish its degree of influence on Bernard de Clairvaux and the papal call for a new crusade. She finds supporting evidence of the dissemination of Albert's Historia in Germany and, in parallel, an emerging consciousness of the continuity of the crusades, while linking the first and second military enterprises Outremer.

Matthew Bennet inquiries into the "Military Aspects of the Conquest of Lisbon, 1147" [71-89]. Two contemporary reports, De expugnatione Lysbonensi and the so-called "Lisbon Letter" provide important information with regard to the conduct of the Christian armies up to the final stages of the siege: Between 144 and 200 ships gathered at Dartmouth in May 1147, a fact which per se called for major planning and tactical co-ordination. Contrary to the widespread premise of an Anglo-Flemish expedition, Bennet describes the wide geo-political range of the crusaders, from Flanders, the Rhineland, Boulogne, Normandy, Scotland, and England. We learn much about the allies' cooperation, the technological tactics used by both besiegers and defenders, and the final plunder of the city.

The seven-month siege that brought about the conquest of Tortosa (30 December 1148) provides another example of the achievements of the crusaders in the Iberian Peninsula. Nikolas Jaspert [90-110] stresses the fact that the papacy "considered the Iberian peninsula as only one front of a large-scale offensive, which was waged simultaneously on the coasts of the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic." [91] Notwithstanding the crusader impetus that brought Tortosa under Christian rule, its citizens soon integrated into the Catalan frontier while keeping a multicultural essence, with Jewish, Moslem, and newcomer Christians living together thus disjointing themselves from the Holy Land.

Carole Hillenbrand investigates the career of 'Imad ad-Din Zengi [111-132], the conqueror of Edessa and father of Nur ad-Din. Born into a noble family, Zengi lost his father at an early age, so he had to pave his way to prominence among the Turkish commanders and Seljuq princes by his own merits. Most of Zengi's early activity centered on the areas of the Seljuq Empire east of the Euphrates, especially in Mosul and Baghdad; however, he was gradually drawn into Levantine affairs, with Syria in the forefront of his military efforts. Although Zengi's victory at Edessa caused him to be viewed as the first protagonist of the Moslem counter- attack against the Franks, it seems that this was a by- product of his campaign against Damascus. Putting into question Zengi's original strategic plans, Hillenbrand succeeds in reconstructing the personality of the Muslim leader in all his cruelty and violence. This perhaps explains Zengi's murder at the age of 62, an event suffused in the same atmosphere of treachery and conspiracy that characterized his whole life.

The Vers del lavador (February 1149?) [133-149] provides a literary reflection of the Second Crusade as perceived by Marcabru, one of the earliest troubadours in southwestern France and northern Spain. Linda Paterson analyzes Marcabru's powerful exhortation to take part in the Reconquista as a manifestation of the anxiety that spread in Christendom from the misfortunes of the crusaders in the Levant, but followed by a sense of satisfaction after the Christian victory at Tortosa. The term lavador (washing-place) implies in this regard a kind of purgatory, an intermediate category between Heaven and Hell; thus the effects of the crusade in cleaning (purgation) the effects of sin and in ensuring absolution.

Timothy Reuter [150-163] questions the anti-Greek sentiments commonly assumed in historical research in the aftermath of the Second Crusade. Research into the letters and movements of both Louis VII and Conrad III upon their return to Europe, reveals, instead, a growing consciousness of the need for a new crusade along with a greater awareness of the critical situation of the Latin strongholds in the Levant.

Kurt Villads Jensen [164-179] investigates the effects of Eugenius's call for the crusade in Denmark, where it caused a dynastic change. One of the competing lines of the royal dynasty, the Valdemarians, indeed brought about the resignation of the king, Eric the lamb, and gained royal power while building up the fundaments of what may be called a 'crusading state' (1146). Under the patronage of Saint Canute, military confraternities proliferated in the 1150's; their main goal was to conduct naval raids against the pagans in the Baltic region.

The title of Martin Hoch's paper, "The Price of Failure: The Second Crusade as a Turning-Point in the History of the Latin East" [180-200], hints at the long-range implications of the Second Crusade. The geo-political arena of the Levant in the mid-twelfth century favored the consolidation of a unified Moslem front against the Franks; in parallel, the Second Crusade undermined the former identification of Western Christendom with the crusades, thus justifying the conclusion that: "Perhaps ironically, the cataclysmic defeat of the Latin Christians in 1187 resulted from the very strategic scenario that the Syrian campaign of the Second Crusade, the Latins' last effort to gain Damascus, had been meant to forestall nearly four decades earlier." [195]

Further research on the Second Crusade thus confirms its substantial influence on the development of the crusader movement, on the one hand, and the acceptability--one may say decadence--of papal crusader leadership, on the other. Notwithstanding the conquest of Tortosa and Lisbon in the Iberian Peninsula, the disastrous defeats in the Levant, coupled with the lack of success in the Baltic, created a general sentiment of despair and dissatisfaction. This situation cast a shadow on the future of the crusades, the effects of which became evident on the Horns of Hattin forty years later.

The collection of essays edited by Jonathan Phillips and Martin Hoch has succeeded in providing a clear synthesis of the main episodes connected with the Second Crusade. In this regard, the exclusion of Bernard of Clairvaux seems at first glance rather singular. On the other hand, the many monographs, collection of studies, and articles devoted to the Cistercian monk in recent years may have amply justified such an omission. An up-to-date bibliography, both primary and secondary, presented according to the different topics, personalities, and events, closes the volume. Three maps, on Western Europe and the Iberian Peninsula, the Wendish Crusade, and the Levant, illustrate the geographical background. Perhaps because of budget limitations, however, the maps are quite minimal; the map of the Wendish Crusade, for instance, requires effort by those unfamiliar with the topography of the Scandinavian Peninsula.

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Author Biography

Sophia Menache

Univ. of Haifa