The Flowers of Chivalry Slay Goliath. Defining and Confronting Evil in the Early Crusader Sources

Image of the First Crusade

The Flowers of Chivalry Slay Goliath. Defining and Confronting Evil in the Early Crusader Sources

By Sini Kangas

Paper given at the 11th Global Conference: Human Evil and Wickedness (2010)

Image of the First Crusade

Introduction: This paper considers the definitions of evil in the twelfth- and early thirteenth-century sources of the crusades. Research material consists of crusader chronicles and vernacular poetry, the so-called First Crusader Cycle and its continuations. I will first give a brief account of the historical background of crusading and then turn to more specific questions of the medieval ideas related to evil and vice in crusading context. In this setting, the concept of sin is crucially important. The discussion will conclude with some further remarks on sacred violence as a medieval tool for confronting and resolving the powers of evil.

What is crusading all about?

The crusade (1095-) is the earliest western prototype of publicly acknowledged meritorious warfare. It is a sub-category of religiously justified warfare under the general title of just war, which is fought defensively under the leadership of the highest religious authority for the protection of Christendom against the forces of evil. The high medieval institution was regulated by the canon law and distinctive religious practices as well as special privileges, out of which the most important is the indulgence.

In medieval terms, crusade was perceived as an armed pilgrimage to liberate the Holy Land and support the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099–1291). The primacy of the pilgrim ethos, especially during the early years of crusading, lead great numbers of non-combatants to participate in the expeditions alongside professional soldiers. In the European history of ideas, crusading had an integrating effect.

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