Fear and its Representation in the First Crusade

Fear and its Representation in the First Crusade

By Stephen Bennett

Ex Historia, Vol.4 (2012)

Introduction: This paper argues that depictions of fear were the product of systems of representation in which the First Crusade became the significant manifestation of divine will based on the pure spiritual desires of its participants. It reflected the Church’s changing attitude to war and a desire to influence the military classes. In preaching the First Crusade, Pope Urban II created a synthesis of holy war and pilgrimage, but, by analysing the depiction of fear in histories of the First Crusade, this article supports the position that it was only after the success of the Crusade that a coherent and internally consistent body of thought on crusading developed.

It is a challenge for the modern reader to make the mental adjustments necessary to understand the alterity or ‘otherness’ of people from medieval Europe and their particular understandings of such concepts as space, communication and emotions. Analysis of participants in the First Crusade is particularly complex given that they came from many social groups and cultures. In considering the construction and representation of fear as a physical, material or spiritual trigger in early accounts of the First Crusade, this paper seeks to unlock the interplay between established institutional devotional practice and emerging norms in transmission of crusading. In endeavouring to look into the mental spaces crusaders occupied by considering the representation of fear, it is possible to analyse influences on each writer and how this may have affected the mental mapping of participants in later crusades, as well as the broader development of crusading.

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