Christian Society on the Second Crusade: Religious Practices in the De expugnatione Lyxbonensi

Christian Society on the Second Crusade: Religious Practices in the De expugnatione Lyxbonensi

Paper by Susanna A. Throop, Ursinus College

Given at the 2011 Haskins Society Conference, Boston College

Professor Throop is currently researching crusading religious practices, which have traditionally focused on religious practices at home, or at the beginning of a crusade, such as the practice of taking the cross. Most sources don’t talk about daily religious practices during the crusade.

Throop examines an Anglo-Norman account of the conquest of Lisbon in 1147, De expugnatione Lyxbonensi, to see what religious practices we see in the text, including lay piety and the implications for crusading.

The De expugnatione Lyxbonensi was written in 1147/8 by an eyewitness of the Second Crusade, when Lisbon captured in 1147 during a campaign led by Afonso I. The author was clerical and Anglo-Norman, and may even have been a Papal Legate.

Some of the religious practices found in the text include:

– regulations that the Crusaders set up for themselves
– prayers said during a storm at sea
– threat of excommunication for those
– pre-skirmish absolution and blessing
– construction of two churches during the siege
– weekly masses and daily distribution of eulogio (bread) during the siege
– blessing of a siege tower
– post-victory processions and circuits of the city and rites of purification

Throop finds that one of the main themes of this work was the importance of creating and maintaining a Christian community, remarking that social and religious practices play both a vital role in both describing and achieving this community”

In the text, unity and community were meant to be maintained through appropriate division/diversity and representation. For example, in the rules set up by crusaders we see divisions set up between men and women, different nations, as well as creating their own representatives. These social structures and religious practices were meant to work together for both individual and communal goals. When Lisbon falls, the crusaders agree to send just a few men into the city to loot it, but some groups send in extra men, breaking the agreement – the text criticizes these actions.

Lay piety was meant to be directed by the Church – piety standards was high, and to be under observation of the church officials there. As Throop notes, there author believes the crusaders need to have ecclesiastical leadership, with the laity participate by following their guidance.

Throop finds that the purpose behind the De expugnatione Lyxbonensi was not just to promote crusading, but also to promote the reform of lay ideals, on crusade and at home. The author saw that crusading was part of a effort to advance a more perfect Christian society. However, since this text was not widely-dispersed, it probably had little influence on religious thinking in the 12th century.

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!