By Dana Cushing
Avista Forum Journal, Vol.20 (2010)
Introduction: Imagine standing before the scaffolding of a church in the mercantile village of Blexen, on the German Atlantic coast. It is the evening of 22 April 1189. In the harbour, three ships of a new design called “cogs” have recently arrived from Bremen, a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor to his loyalists to facilitate their participation in his Crusade. Now unfurling their sails and raising anchor to join these vessels are eight cogs from Lubeck, Oldenburg, and towns along the Wesser, the Elbe, and even the Baltic Sea coasts. Some 470 Crusaders are putting the final touches on two years of preparation, now entrusting their lives to these cogs – made of oak and iron, with strong ropes spun of local moss – tonight setting sail for England, en route to fulfil their sacred vows in the Holy Land.