Holy War and the home front : the crusading culture of Berry, France in the eleventh through thirteenth centuries

CrusadesHoly War and the home front : the crusading culture of Berry, France in the eleventh through thirteenth centuries

Christopher Kenrick Gardner

The University of Edinburgh: M. Litt Thesis (1993)


Le Berry, in the geographical centre of France, developed its own “crusading culture” that both affected the ideas of the people living there and effected new institutions and traditions in that society pertaining to the crusades. This culture evolved through the symbiotic influences of, for example, pilgrimage, church-building and crusade preaching. The interplay of such forces and events made itself felt throughout Latin Christendom, and sometimes Berry did not differ greatly from other areas. Often, however, it built churches, hosted councils or witnessed popular movements that marked it from these other regions. Both the ubiquitous and the specific manifestations of the crusading culture in central France are worth studying because culture is as much about the mundane as it is about the extraordinary. Culture is built upon “the very material of our daily lives, the bricks and mortar of our most commonplace understandings, feelings and responses.” The term “cultural history” is not used here as a nebulous incantation to allow the inclusion of any possible shred of evidence, but rather to define the diverse manifestations of the crusade as found in central France from the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries.


The term “holy war” in the title is used to denote those expeditions which contemporaries felt were justified by divine sanction and which usually had some component of the older theme of pilgrimage. Norman Housley defines the “‘pluralist’ school of crusade historians” as those who, building upon the work of Jonathan Riley-Smith, argue that popular movements and those not immediately directed toward Jerusalem still were understood by most contemporaries as crusades and should be called as such today. I have enrolled in this school because contemporary references to participants from Berry in the Albigensian crusades describe them as taking part in an iter or peregrinatio, and Rome offered a full indulgence for them until 1213.

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