Anatomy of a Crusade: The De Expugnatione Lyxbonensi and the Lisbon Crusade of 1147

Anatomy of a Crusade: The De Expugnatione Lyxbonensi and the Lisbon Crusade of 1147

By Kevin Mummey

Ex Post Facto: Journal of the History Students at San Francisco State University, Vol.15 (2006)

The Conquest of Lisbon painting by Alfredo Roque Gameiro (1917)

When at last they took the city [Lisbon] and routed the barbarians, the King of  Galatia asked the crusaders to give him the unoccupied city. As allies they had first divided the booty among them. So was established there a colony of Christians which subsists even to the present day. Of all the works which the crusading army did, this alone proved successful. – Helmold of Bosau

Helmold of Bosau’s subdued footnote concerning the siege of Lisbon is detailed in comparison with other contemporary notices. The attack on Lisbon by Flemish, Lotharingian, and Anglo-Norman crusaders in 1147 has only recently begun to receive the attention it deserves. In 1936, C.W. David produced an invaluable critical edition of the De Expugnatione Lyxbonensi (The Siege of Lisbon, hereafter DEL). In addition, present-day work by Johnathan Phillips and Harold Livermore has brought the event into a clearer focus. In 1990, Livermore successfully identified the author of the DEL as the Anglo-Norman monk Raol, and this overlooked historian is the concern of this study. The DEL is essentially a historical narrative interspersed with speeches. This paper will argue that the author crafted the speeches largely after the fact, and that Raol was able to graft ecclesiastical crusade theory onto the siege. In effect, he was able to marry a military success to the growing body of crusade propaganda. These speeches, when disentangled from Raol’s narrative, reveal the tensions that existed in twelfth-century society between the celestial ideal and the temporal reality. This essential tension existed not only in the intellectual realm. An examination of the language of the DEL and  its historical context reveals that this dichotomy is multi-layered. It is present in the entire Second Crusade, in the politics of the Reconquista, and in the formation of the state of Portugal. The tension between the ideal and the actual is heightened at the siege itself, and it is in the complex and disparate motives and actions of the crusaders, and in the author of the DEL, that one may better understand the world of the Second Crusade. After reviewing the historical background of the siege, this study will discuss the manuscript itself. It will then look at the narrative and the set pieces, and conclude with a discussion of Raol’s purpose and its importance for the Crusades, both in the twelfth-century and the present.

An examination of the historical processes that led up to the siege of Lisbon helps to explain the success of 1147. The capture of Lisbon was a key success in the formation of the Kingdom of Portugal. Bernard Reilly has pointed out that “moderns tend to assume that the appearance of a separate and autonomous Portugal was natural and inevitable.” This was hardly apparent in the twelfth century. The same author has pointed out that “the county of Portugal had never been more than an administrative convenience of the kingdom of Leon-Castilla, the “land around Oporto….” In the 1090s, Alfonso VI placed his son-in law Raimund of Burgundy in the path of the ascendant Almoravid army. By 1094, the cities of Badajoz, Sintra, and Lisbon had fallen, and the defense of the north had passed to the founder of the royal house of Portugal, Henry of Burgundy.

Click here to read this article from San Francisco State University

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