The Medieval Review 16.07.06

Hurlock, Kathryn, and Paul Oldfield, eds. Crusading and Pilgrimage in the Norman World. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2015. pp. xiv, 234. . ISBN: 9781783270255 (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Andrew D Buck
Queen Mary University of London

This book, which stems from a 2012 symposium, has the aim of examining--for the first time in a single volume--the interplay between the Normans, crusading, and pilgrimage. Its editors, Kathryn Hurlock and Paul Oldfield, set out the rationale and need for such an exercise in their thoughtful and useful introduction. In this, they outline the parameters and problems of "Norman" identity, noting its changeability across time and space, as well as some of the current developments in the scholarly fields of crusading and pilgrimage, particularly issues of motivation, spirituality, and the apparent lack of Norman interest in holy war after the First Crusade. Hurlock and Oldfield then set out the key questions to be examined in the volume--what was unique or different about the Normans and their relationship to crusading and pilgrimage? how and why was crusading and pilgrimage important to the Normans?--and the book's four thematic strands--the Normans and the First Crusade; the Normans and the Crusades post-1099; Pilgrimage; and Crusading and Pilgrimage in Norman narratives. The introduction is generally very effective and provides a wealth of bibliographical references which will be of great use to any scholar looking to explore the field further, although it would have been useful, perhaps, to have also included some hint at the most recent move towards understanding the narrativity and intertextual relationships of crusade sources, particularly those pertaining to the First Crusade.

Part One begins with William Aird's chapter on Norman courage and cowardice on the First Crusade. Aird notes the current historiographical disconnect between scholars who seek to reconstruct the lived experience of timidity in medieval warfare and those who see the courage-cowardice paradigm as a social construction that needs to be seen within the emotional and gendered frameworks of the period. Having done this, what follows is a fairly straight-batted examination of how certain Norman First Crusaders, in particular Stephen of Blois and William the Carpenter, demonstrated cowardice, and what impact this had upon their social standing, namely dishonour and diminished authority. Some interesting points are offered, such as that crusading appears to have created the need for many to renew their reputation for prowess, with honour and status ultimately associated with the fulfilment of the oath, and even that the Normans may have been seen as more likely to flee the field of battle than other participants. While a useful contribution, it would have been stimulating to see more of an interaction with the issues of representation alluded to, particularly in light of Conor Kostick's recent article (which is mentioned in the introduction but not by Aird). [1] Following this is Alan Murray's examination of the crusading career of perhaps the most famous of Norman adventurers: Bohemond of Taranto. This chapter seeks to present Bohemond as a figure who, driven solely by self-aggrandisement, subverted the First Crusade by irrevocably damaging ties with Byzantium, isolating key crusading figures (namely Raymond of Toulouse), and, above all, being a bad crusader. There is no doubting that Murray is correct that Bohemond used the crusade to his advantage, but the tone of this piece sets it on a rather one-dimensional path. In a bid to vilify Bohemond, Murray even attempts to excuse Baldwin of Boulogne, another figure who used the venture to gain lands, noting that his capture of Edessa was in keeping with Urban II's (seemingly formalised and fully communicated to the crusaders) hopes of uniting the Eastern Churches to Rome. Conversely, no such attempt is made to acknowledge those instances in which Bohemond's actions actually saved the crusade, for example at the battle of Dorylaeum and in finding a solution to the dangerous stalemate outside Antioch in 1098. Above all, in describing Bohemond as a bad crusader, this piece both sidesteps the conceptual problems of crusader motivation and how piety and reward cannot be viewed as mutually exclusive (as examined in the introduction), and also overlooks the reality that contemporaries saw him as a hero--which is surely the more important indicator of his perceived value to the venture.

Part Two begins with Joanna Drell's concise discussion of Norman Italy and the crusades. This starts with a thirteenth-century poem lamenting the departure of a Sicilian crusader, which serves as a springboard for her argument that, while southern Italian physical participation in holy war was not particularly extensive, the Norman kingdom was nevertheless at the very heart of the movement. Indeed, through the great migration of peoples through their ports, the Normans here were able to act as facilitators of crusading and pilgrimage by ensuring safe travel to the East and fostering trade--both of which also helped to shape the region's physical and economic landscape. Moreover, they also used the passage of monarchs to improve Sicily's diplomatic status on the European stage. This provides adequate proof that historians must look beyond the crusades themselves to consider the extent of their impact on medieval Europe. Following this is Kathryn Hurlock's discussion of the Norman influence over crusading from England and Wales. In this, Hurlock argues that, with the exception of the First Crusade, Anglo-Welsh interest in crusading was fairly limited before 1187, either due to the lack of leadership or political difficulties (e.g. the civil war of King Stephen's reign), and was often driven by political expediency (such as exile or fleeing the repercussions of rebellion). Furthermore, although dispossessed Anglo-Saxons were prompted to depart east by the Norman Conquest, the Welsh, distrustful of their new neighbours, were less likely to participate. With the Third Crusade, however, England and Wales began to show more of an interest, with increased participation (in part driven by familial crusading traditions imparted by Norman ancestors), as well as greater literary and material interaction with the culture of the crusades (although Hurlock points out that this began earlier with authors like William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon). This is a generally strong piece, although the erroneous dating of the Council of Clermont to 1096 (72), proves slightly problematic, while some of the more interesting examples of English crusading, such as Godric of Finchale, are sadly hidden away in the footnotes (77). The focus then moves away from secular crusading with David Spear's discussion of Normandy's clergy and their involvement in holy war. One of the longer pieces in the volume, Spear offers a wealth of information on the role played by the clergy in facilitating and promoting crusading. Participants, preachers, protectors of crusader lands, diplomats, and even, with figures like William Bona Anima, cogs within the social networks that ensured kinship groups so often crusaded together, Spear shows that the clergy were part of the very fabric of crusading. Likewise, that certain "Norman" characteristics, including eloquence, military intelligence, and a willingness to work with secular rulers, helped certain figures--such as Arnulf of Chocques, Robert of Rouen, and Ralph of Domfront--to forge famous paths for themselves in the East. While secular interest in the crusades dwindled in Normandy, therefore, the same cannot be said for its Church. Both for its prosopographical information and deep research, this is a valuable piece for anyone seeking to understand the wider impact of crusading in northern France. The final chapter of this thematic section is Lucas Villegas-Aristizábal's useful contribution on Norman and Anglo-Norman involvement in the Iberian Reconquest. This seeks to demonstrate the importance of the First Crusade in altering the influence of holy war in Iberia, not necessarily because it changed local rulers' spiritual dedication, but because it led to increased pilgrim and crusader traffic along the coast. Although Normans were known in Iberia before 1095, the papacy's spiritual equalization of the Reconquest with the war in the East meant more were prepared to halt in Iberia for the promise of spiritual and material wealth, even if their traditional propensity for territorial gains was not so forthcoming (with the exception of Robert Burdet at Tarragona). It is recognised that this diminished in the thirteenth century due to internal difficulties for English rulers and because Spanish rulers now sought conquests further inland, but for Villegas-Aristizábal it is clear that, during the twelfth century at least, Iberia was a notable place of Norman and Anglo-Norman crusading.

Part Three begins with Andrew Abram's focused but interesting study on the pilgrimage and crusading activities of the marcher earls of Chester. Abram looks to demonstrate how devotional practices could become entwined with political identity and attempts to legitimise authority. Firstly, he shows that the earls fostered personal ties to Anglo-Saxon saint cults, both as a way of showing continuity and also, through cultural appropriation, of ensuring their power was secured. This was apparently shaped by Norman custom, as they were famed for insinuating themselves upon local cultures, but also by Chester's frontier status, which presented the need for adaptation. The influence of politics is also noted in relation to crusading efforts, as the earls and their followers are presented as intermittent crusaders, only offering wholesale support when their status was secure, such as during the Fifth Crusade. Abram thus demonstrates the importance of examining personal motives and social networks when examining both crusading and devotional practice during this period. Next is Paul Oldfield's excellent examination of the experiences of pilgrims in Norman Italy. In this, it is noted that pilgrimage was intrinsically tied to Norman identity in southern Italy and Sicily, for it was seen as a catalyst for the conquest in some early narratives. Likewise, with the rise of crusading and increased traffic to the East, Oldfield demonstrates that the protection of pilgrims and travellers, especially to Jerusalem, served to legitimise Norman rule and their status as defenders of the faith (despite their general lack of active participation). Pilgrims were not always treated well, however, as abuses were known, and it is evident that the Normans recognised the financial and political benefits of exploiting pilgrimage, such as money spent at local shrines or in the local economy, or the use of crusaders to help settle disputes or contribute to military ventures. Oldfield thus aptly outlines the complex relationship between Norman Italy and the crusading/pilgrim traffic which passed through its lands.

Part Four is headed by Emily Albu's discussion on Antioch and the Normans. Primarily, Albu examines the characteristics of Norman crusaders which she sees as contributing to their success at Antioch. These are foreknowledge of Near Eastern and Byzantine politics and warfare (particularly sieges) through earlier mercenary and military campaigns (the evidence for which is not overtly footnoted), as well as Bohemond's now-familiar "clarity of purpose" (167) which set him at odds with the aims of the crusade but placed him at an advantage over his fellow leaders (who, it seems, exhibited no such acquisitiveness). Somewhat problematic is that Albu appears to use Anna Komnene's Alexiad as evidence for Byzantine foreknowledge of Bohemond's ambitions, despite being written in the 1140s and with a pervading sense of exaggeration designed to promote Alexios Komnenos' prestige in comparison to his successors. [2] In addition, the chapter ends with a somewhat simplistic overview of the history of the principality of Antioch and Bohemond's legacy after 1098, as well as a short discussion on the memory of Antioch, particularly its position as a symbol of "imperial opportunity" (174)--an interesting point but one which, sadly, serves as something of an afterthought. Following from this is Leonie Hicks' insightful, if at times a little jargon-heavy, examination of the role of landscapes in Norman pilgrim and miracle narratives. In this piece, Hicks looks to chart how Norman authors used landscapes, be they familiar or not, to provide context and visual experience to their audiences, primarily in the form of scriptural allusions, often with the purpose of providing moral guidance. Thus, protagonists like monks, dukes, and crusaders were presented experiencing extreme weather, crossing boundaries, or traversing the night, each as a way of better expressing the story to those reading or, more significantly, listening. Hicks' points are interesting and act as an important insight into the performative nature of medieval texts and the alternate purposes which shaped authorial intent. Nevertheless, there are times when there are just too many layers of supposition (for example the unsubstantiated assumption that audiences of Wace's Roman de Rou would have been familiar with the wider genre of romantic and epic tales [186]), while the prose can be a little inaccessible, which may deter some from what is, overall, an excellent piece. The volume's final chapter is Natasha Hodgson's contribution on the issue of competing masculinities on crusade. In this, Hodgson astutely provides a corrective to scholarship which seeks to impose a single ideal of masculinity onto crusading, noting instead that it had different meanings in different contexts. For example, while part of the masculine crusading ideal was military prowess and fearlessness in battle, this was tempered--at least for the leaders--by the expectation of maintaining unity and morale. As such, the wisdom of avoiding conflict, though in the traditional conception thoroughly unmanly, was not seen to detract from a crusader's masculinity (in fact it aided it). Likewise, while crusading churchmen were presented as manfully standing up to military leaders in the pursuit of providing moral guidance, their nonparticipation in physical conflict limited their ability to match secular rulers, as is shown through Arnulf of Chocques' difficult relationship with Tancred of Hauteville. It is also noted that while authors were inherently interested in masculinity, its facets were interchangeable, and could be used to both criticise and praise participants. Although it could be argued that Hodgson's conclusions are not particularly Norman-specific, they are important, and demonstrate the need to place greater emphasis on the fluidity of medieval identity and the benefits to be had of taking a subtle and nuanced approach to the sources.

Overall, this well-presented volume provides a wealth of information for the expert and the inexpert, including a number of maps, a timeline, and an overarching bibliography. While not all the contributions are equally strong, taken as a whole, the chapters and bibliographical materials ensure that anyone coming to this will be given an excellent stepping-stone from which to embark on further research into the interplay between crusading, pilgrimage, and the Norman World.



1. Conor Kostick, "Courage and Cowardice on the First Crusade, 1096–1099,"War in History 20 (2013): 32-49.

2. Paul Magdalino, "The Pen of the Aunt: Echoes of the Mid-Twelfth Century in the Alexiad," in Thalia Gouma-Peterson, ed. Anna Komnene and her Times (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000), 15-43. See also now Penelope Buckley, The Alexiad of Anna Komnene: Artistic Strategy in the Making of a Myth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Copyright (c) 2016 Andrew D. Buck

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