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Warfare and the Miraculous in the Chronicles of the First Crusade

Elizabeth Lapina


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Warfare and the Miraculous in the Chronicles of the First Crusade

Elizabeth Lapina

“Taking as a leitmotif a celebrated moment from the narratives of the First Crusade—the appearance of an army of saints during the siege of Antioch—Elizabeth Lapina gradually builds an original and convincing interpretation of crusader psychology and historiography. Her contribution to our understanding of the part played by the Normans in the development of crusade ideology is especially groundbreaking. This is an important and innovative work that is also, from start to finish, a delight to read.”


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In Warfare and the Miraculous in the Chronicles of the First Crusade, Elizabeth Lapina examines a variety of these chronicles, written both by participants in the crusade and by those who stayed behind. Her goal is to understand the enterprise from the perspective of its contemporaries and near contemporaries. Lapina analyzes the diversity of ways in which the chroniclers tried to justify the First Crusade as a “holy war,” where physical violence could be not just sinless, but salvific.

The book focuses on accounts of miracles reported to have happened in the course of the crusade, especially the miracle of the intervention of saints in the Battle of Antioch. Lapina shows why and how chroniclers used these miracles to provide historical precedent and to reconcile the messiness of history with the conviction that history was ordered by divine will. In doing so, she provides an important glimpse into the intellectual efforts of the chronicles and their authors, illuminating their perspectives toward the concepts of history, salvation, and the East. Warfare and the Miraculous in the Chronicles of the First Crusade demonstrates how these narratives sought to position the crusade as an event in the time line of sacred history. Lapina offers original insights into the effects of the crusade on the Western imaginary as well as how medieval authors thought about and represented history.

“Taking as a leitmotif a celebrated moment from the narratives of the First Crusade—the appearance of an army of saints during the siege of Antioch—Elizabeth Lapina gradually builds an original and convincing interpretation of crusader psychology and historiography. Her contribution to our understanding of the part played by the Normans in the development of crusade ideology is especially groundbreaking. This is an important and innovative work that is also, from start to finish, a delight to read.”
“Students and scholars will be very well served by Lapina’s careful attention to detail and placement of the crusader tales of miraculous battlefield interventions within a wider context.”
“This is an impressive piece of work that brings a new level of understanding to our knowledge of the Crusade chronicles. It is impeccably researched and demonstrates a close attention to detail. There are moments of real originality and many insightful observations. Lapina founds her conclusions upon a strongly rooted base of contextual research which allows her to identify moments when the chronicles were drawing upon deep veins of received wisdom dating back to antiquity, and also occasions when they were advancing ideas that were fundamentally new.”
“Whether undergraduates or more advanced researchers, all those studying the First Crusade will very much benefit from this book and I, for one, will read these sources with new eyes having benefited from Lapina’s new perspectives.”
“This is an excellent and rigorous study of what many would see as a niche group of texts. As Lapina has shown, however, these texts were nothing less than medieval efforts to understand the meaning of the crusade. As such, they connected with much more than the events they purported to describe.”
“Lapina takes a fresh look at how the events in Antioch were reported in chronicles (those written by participants in the Crusades and those created by stay-at-home writers in Western Europe immediately afterwards) and chansons de geste.”

Elizabeth Lapina is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.




1 Eyewitnesses of Miracles

2 Supernatural Interventions in the Battle of Antioch: The Origins

3 Hostile Appropriations of Byzantine Saints by the Normans of the South

4 The Normans of the South: From Scourge of God to Chosen People

5 Judas Maccabeus: A Jewish Warrior, a Christian Patriarch, and a Muslim General

6 “The West Prepares to Illuminate the East”






When the news of the capture of Jerusalem on July 15, 1099, reached Europe, the entire Latin world applauded and marveled at the incredible achievements of its soldiers. Robert, a monk in Normandy and author of a chronicle of the First Crusade, claimed that no “more miraculous undertaking” had taken place since the beginning of history, with just one exception: the incarnation. Clearly, there was more to the enterprise for contemporaries of the First Crusade than a military triumph. Even though his statement is exceptional, Robert’s position regarding the First Crusade was not: many others appear to have believed that the crusade spelled one of the greatest gifts—perhaps even the greatest—of God to humanity since the sacrifice of Christ. Guibert of Nogent, also a monk in Normandy and also an author of a chronicle of the First Crusade, claimed that God was the “sole leader” and the “king” of the crusading army: “he brought things from their beginning to their conclusion.” The personal involvement of God in a military campaign instituted a new type of warfare. According to Guibert, “God ordained holy wars in our time, so that the knightly order and the erring mob, who, like their ancient pagan models, were engaged in mutual slaughter, might find a new way of earning salvation. Thus, without having chosen (as is customary) a monastic life, without any religious commitment, they were compelled to give up this world; free to continue their customary pursuits, nevertheless they earned some measure of God’s grace by their own efforts.”

The belief that the exercise of violence could be not only sinless but actually salvific—or, in other words, the notion of penitential warfare—was a radically new development. The Christian Church never advocated absolute pacifism, and in many instances its representatives actively promoted and sometimes even engaged in warfare. However, as two eleventh-century examples demonstrate, in general, the church tended to be cautious about celebrating violence. In 1062, Peter Damian described a land dispute between an abbot and a secular lord: “After the supporters of each had engaged in protected quarrels and threats, both sides at length decided to fight it out.” The abbot, however, forbade his supporters to defend the abbey, but he himself advanced together with his monks, all of them unarmed, toward the enemy lines. The opponent was flabbergasted: when he, “as he had hoped, saw nothing of weapons but beheld something like a heavenly and angelic array approaching, such a dreadful fear of God gripped him and all his men that, dismounting from their horses, they at once threw down their arms, prostrated themselves humbly on the ground, and begged to be forgiven.” In Peter Damian’s eyes, this was a perfect victory, achieved without the display of weapons, let alone bloodshed, but culminating in the repentance of the guilty party. To give another example, soon after the victory of William the Conqueror at Hastings in 1066, Norman bishops issued an ordinance imposing penances on the combatants. Those who had fought for gain had to do penance for seven years. Those who had fought for justice still had to do penance, but for only three years. In stark contrast, there was no stigma associated with the shedding of blood by participants in the First Crusade. On the contrary, the very act of fighting was seen as a legitimate way of serving God. As both Robert and Guibert appear to have believed, this was not a one-time exception but a new opportunity for all present and future knights. Indeed, the conviction that certain wars could be salvific became part of the medieval landscape and reemerged in an ever-expanding number of contexts, both on the frontiers of Latin Christendom and in its hinterlands.

Among the sources that reflect the shift toward the sacralization of warfare that took place during and in the immediate aftermath of the First Crusade, chronicles are the most revealing. No fewer than four participants have left records of the events. In the half century after the capture of Jerusalem, numerous chroniclers and poets used some combination of these four works, as well as other written and oral sources, to produce a series of additional narratives. For the Middle Ages, the existence of such a large assembly of sources—which describe the same events but were written by authors from different backgrounds, living in different countries, displaying or concealing different agendas, and working in different styles—is truly exceptional. The possibility of comparing several narratives of exactly the same events allows one to note omissions, additions, free paraphrases, and shifts of emphasis, all of which make each text unique. Although some of the discrepancies could be either accidental or merely stylistic, others point clearly to the heterogeneity of interpretations. Each narrator of the First Crusade probably hoped that his perspective on the event would become the standard one, superseding all others.

In general, as Gabrielle Spiegel has demonstrated, the “communication of factual information” was hardly ever the goal of the medieval author. Most medieval works of history were also interpretations and arguments, often idiosyncratic and controversial. Chroniclers of the First Crusade like Robert or Guibert, however, stand apart from most other writers of history in the Middle Ages because of their belief, which they must have shared with many of their contemporaries, that God was involved in the enterprise in a much more literal sense than ever before, with the possible exception of the wars of the Israelites. Perhaps even more important, this was the first war believed to have actually transformed the meaning of warfare. But it was not enough simply to say, as Robert did, that the First Crusade was the most important event since the incarnation; it was necessary to prove it. The chroniclers found two ways to adduce proof of the exceptional nature of the crusading enterprise. First, they placed miracles at the center of their narratives. Second, they developed ingenious ways to inscribe the First Crusade in the continuum of sacred history. Although the overarching agendas of most of the chroniclers were the same or similar, both the paths that they chose and the conclusions they reached were remarkably different.

Jonathan Riley-Smith was one of the first historians of the Crusades to argue that at least some of the chroniclers had greater ambitions than just to give an account of what had transpired in the East. More specifically, he questioned the reasons behind the decision of Guibert, Robert, and another chronicler working in Normandy, Baldric of Bourgueil, to rewrite the anonymous Gesta Francorum, the author of which, unlike them, had participated in the enterprise. Riley-Smith claimed that the three later authors considered the Gesta “not theological enough” and strove to give “an intellectual expression” to its “semi-popular ideology.” Indeed, although much medieval historical writing overlapped with theology, the transformative nature of the First Crusade probably made the theological component more central in its chronicles than ever before.

The chasm between the Gesta and the later chronicles, however, was perhaps not as profound as Riley-Smith suggests; the Gesta is only marginally less “theological” than the other works. More significantly, the differences among all of the chronicles, even when they draw upon the same source and their authors come from similar backgrounds, were numerous and noteworthy. These differences allow the modern historian better to appreciate the complexity of the process of sacralization of crusading warfare in the decades of the First Crusade, when a series of explanations competed against one another.

The stakes involved in recording the First Crusade are apparent in the bitterness with which Guibert, Robert, and Baldric criticized the Gesta. Two monks and one monk-turned-bishop were obviously eager to get right what their predecessor, in their opinion, got wrong. The three authors’ decision to rewrite the Gesta might have appeared particularly open to criticism, since the First Crusade was not just any military campaign but, as Robert put it, the most “miraculous undertaking” since the incarnation. The author of the Gesta was thus an active participant in a miracle. But Guibert, Robert, Baldric, and some others who did not take part in the enterprise managed to turn the miraculous nature of the First Crusade to their advantage. As chapter 1 demonstrates, they argued that, in contrast to an ordinary military campaign, the crusade was important first and foremost not because of the facts of what happened on any particular day, no matter how amazing, but because of the inner meaning behind these facts. They minimized the role of eyewitnesses, such as the author of the Gesta, and emphasized that of the examiner or interpreter, who could either reject or accept any testimony that came down to him while also explaining its meaning, including to eyewitnesses themselves. This approach presented historical reality as akin to a biblical text with several (much more important) layers of meaning buried beneath the literal one.

In the eyes of many authors, miracles that occurred during the First Crusade gave the best proof that the the capture of Jerusalem was made possible “neither by created nature nor by the will of the creature but by God alone.” Arguably, the most important miracle of the First Crusade was the intervention of saints in the battle of Antioch of June 28, 1098. In many of the chronicles, the battle of Antioch functioned as a synecdoche for the entire enterprise. Crusaders’ defeat in the battle was almost a certainty, but, thanks to supernatural help, they achieved a resounding victory. According to the Gesta Francorum, three saints, George, Mercurius, and Demetrius, were at the head of a supernatural host that joined the crusaders. Since it became an integral part of crusader lore, it is difficult to appreciate the audacity of the narrative of saints appearing on a battlefield. Yet there could hardly be a more powerful statement regarding the sacred nature of the war. George, Mercurius, and Demetrius were early Christian martyrs who became saints by willingly suffering violence. Here, in contrast, they engaged in active resistance to evil in the form of Muslim troops. To some extent, the two types of resistance, which had heretofore been opposites—one through fighting and another through martyrdom—had now become alternatives. Indeed, the narratives of this miracle complement the attempts made by some chroniclers to equate death on the battlefield with martyrdom.

Desire to represent combat as sacred, whether in participants or propagandists, contemporaries or descendants, is timeless. Behind this desire is a need to believe (and to make others believe) that the carnage has a higher meaning. Throughout history, a claim that some sort of supernatural being—a god, a saint, an angel, a deceased hero—appeared on the battlefield was one of the most effective ways to sacralize warfare. If a supernatural being deigned to join the fray, then there could be no doubt that the fight was worth fighting. There could also be little doubt that any setbacks were temporary and, in the end, that victory was assured.

Although the claim that otherworldly beings took part in warfare is timeless, expressions of that desire changed over time. Carl Erdmann was the first to use narratives of visible interventions of saints as one of the key markers of the degree of sacralization of warfare. Thus, as I demonstrate in chapter 2, despite the visceral nature of the need to believe in divine interference in military encounters, the miracle of supernatural interventions in warfare has a history. In antiquity, references to the visible appearance of supernatural agents were rare. Deceased heroes intervened much more often than gods. Many authors expressed skepticism about stories of visible interventions, although Cicero, after presenting both the believers’ and the skeptics’ side of the argument, refused to pronounce decisively on the subject. Christian narratives of saintly interventions grew out of pagan accounts and in competition with them from the third century on. Attitudes toward warfare developed along different lines in the East and West. In Byzantium, narratives of supernatural interventions on the battlefield multiplied, especially in connection with the titanic struggle against Persia. Erdmann argues that in the West, at least before the Viking invasions, “only rarely do we hear of a saint appearing in battle to protect his church and the faithful.” As numerous studies have demonstrated, Erdmann overstates the “aloofness” of the Latin church toward war. Several Western examples of saintly interventions predate the period of invasions. However, Erdmann is correct in emphasizing the relative importance of the miracle in Byzantium and its resurgence in the West in the context of resistance to the Vikings.

The main difference between the accounts of saints’ intervention in the battle of Antioch and earlier accounts of similar miracles is that earlier narratives tended to be confined to specific local contexts. In contrast, the miracle reported at Antioch came to be celebrated throughout Europe, and its fame long outlived the First Crusade. Perhaps more important, this type of miracle was transferred to a variety of situations, including, for example, the battle of Mons in the First World War.

A rare and radical type of miracle would never have become so widely acceptable had the ground not been prepared for it. Chapters 3 and 4 demonstrate how the crusaders and the chroniclers of the First Crusade actively engaged with some of the direct and indirect precedents for the miracle. The search for the immediate inspiration for the narrative of the miracle leads us to the cultural sphere of the Normans of the South. Thus some of the origins of the impulse to present the First Crusade as a holy war are located in the same cultural sphere. The Normans of the South provide an important missing link between the First Crusade and the two earlier clusters of accounts of the miracle. First, the Normans of the South appear to have made the earliest attempt to “borrow” the miracle from the Byzantines during the invasion of the Balkans by Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemond, the future hero of the First Crusade. Their “borrowing” was not an admission of cultural inferiority but a statement of political superiority. It was a question not just of acquisition on the part of the Normans but also of loss on the part of the Byzantines. While the first attempt by the Normans to “borrow” Byzantine saints left only a faint trace in the sources, the second one seems to have succeeded beyond all expectations. The Normans made this second attempt when Bohemond claimed that Antioch belonged to him and not to the emperor Alexius. In both cases, the borrowing of Byzantine saints was hostile and resembled plundering more than imitation.

Second, the Normans of the South were particularly interested in preserving the memory of saintly intervention in battle in defense of monasteries attacked by the Vikings. Although ethnically, linguistically, and culturally, these Normans had little to do with the Vikings, they and their monastic propagandists insisted that they did. For obvious reasons—military prowess was a cause of pride regardless of the circumstances—their supposed past as ruthless raiders was a crucial component of what made a Norman a Norman, or, in other words, of Normanitas. The Normans appropriated a past that was only tangentially theirs in order to promote an image of themselves as inspiring fear. They did not ignore the stories of the intervention of saints against the Vikings, but they interpreted them as God’s attempt to direct their might toward a more legitimate goal. The Normans emerge as God’s chosen people, as manifested in the interventions both against them and for them. Thus the Normans of the South were not only more familiar than other crusaders with earlier narratives of the miracle of saintly intervention, but they had at least two cogent reasons to appropriate such narratives.

It was not enough, however, for most chroniclers simply to include a miracle or two in their works in order to transform the military campaign in the Middle East into a “holy war.” Many of them felt the need to make sense of this “holy war” by inscribing it in a wider context of sacred history. The chroniclers believed that the First Crusade was fundamentally different from any previous military campaign. At the same time, however, medieval thinkers believed that few things were ever entirely new. Behind the messy reality of history there was a sequence of confrontations between good and evil, right and wrong, order and disorder, justice and crime. Although both good and evil could assume a variety of guises, the struggle, which would end only with the final battle of the Apocalypse, remained the same. Therefore, in order to explain the meaning of the First Crusade, chroniclers searched for biblical precedents of what they perceived as basically the same conflict.

This meant establishing a symmetrical relationship between the First Crusade and other key events of sacred history, narrated in both the Old and New Testaments. Medieval authors (and, in all likelihood, crusaders themselves) perceived three biblical stories as particularly relevant to the crusade. First, they drew comparisons between crusading warfare and the struggles of the Israelites. Second, in many sources, crusaders feature as new apostles, the First Crusade being their new mission. Third, desire for vengeance for the death of Christ was one of the key motivations of crusaders. The present work addresses the first and the second of these symmetries: that of crusaders as the new Jews and that of crusaders as the new apostles. The existence of these symmetries is well known, but the mechanisms of their construction are insufficiently understood.

Although the chronicles of the First Crusade abound with references to the Bible, the Maccabees play an especially significant role. The placement of references to the Maccabees is perhaps even more important than their number, as at least two of the chroniclers explicitly acknowledged the similarities between the intervention of saints in the battle of Antioch and that of angels in the wars waged by Judas Maccabeus. The Maccabees thus play a part in the narratives of the key episode of the First Crusade, when divine intervention was most apparent. As chapter 5 demonstrates, the chroniclers diverge in their use of the Maccabees. In fact, even the two chronicles that cite the Maccabees in connection with the battle of Antioch pursue diametrically opposite goals. Some chroniclers indeed used the Maccabees and other biblical prototypes to endow the First Crusade with sacred meaning. Others, however, found that comparisons of crusaders to the Israelites or, more specifically, to the Maccabees were theologically unsound and even dangerous. They proposed that the crusaders and the Israelites should be compared and contrasted, with both similarities and differences clearly spelled out along the lines of traditional Christian attitudes toward Christianity’s Jewish heritage.

Many chroniclers of the First Crusade positioned the crusaders as heirs of the Israelites, either equaling or superseding their forbears. At the same time, many chroniclers also positioned the crusaders as heirs of the apostles. The aim of chapter 6 is to analyze references to cardinal points, especially to east and west, in order to gain a better understanding of the chroniclers’ attempt to prove that crusaders were “new apostles.” These references are relatively few and are only comprehensible in the context of the tradition of interpreting the interrelations between “the East” and “the West” in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. From the very inception of the binary, “East” and “West” did not denote direction but were cultural constructs. In other words, they were part of the interpretation as much as of the narrative. This is true of the chronicles of the First Crusade as well, which conceived of the relationship between “the East” and “the West” in terms of debt and repayment. As apostles brought Christianity from the East to the West, so crusaders were bringing Christianity back to the East from the West.

<1>The Sources

In recent decades, many of the chronicles of the First Crusade have benefitted from new editions. In addition, a number of scholars have examined the question of the interrelation of these sources and of manuscript transmission, drawing attention both to understudied and, in some cases, utterly ignored sources. These ongoing developments have already transformed and will continue to transform the field of crusader studies. In the present book, whenever possible, I have profited from the most recent editions, but I have not participated in uncovering the history of the production of the narratives of the First Crusade. The following overview serves merely to help the newcomer to crusader studies to navigate the book more easily. The overview includes only the works referred to in the present volume. As a consequence, it does not take into account a large number of rewrites and abridgments, the usefulness of which for the study of the Crusades is gradually becoming more apparent, or, with one exception, the sources composed after circa 1160.

At least four participants in the First Crusade wrote chronicles of the enterprise. The Gesta Francorum et aliorum Heirosolimitanorum is the earliest of the four. The Gesta Francorum’s anonymous author, most probably of southern Norman origin, was likely to have begun working on his narrative during the course of the expedition and to have completed it shortly after the fall of Jerusalem. Historians have long believed that the author was a knight, although most now concur that he was a cleric.

A closely related chronicle, the Historia de Hierosolymitano itinere, is attributed to Peter Tudebode, a priest from Civray in Poitou. The relationship between the Historia and the Gesta Francorum has been subjected to considerable debate. Traditionally, scholars considered the Gesta the earlier version and the Historia its copy. A number of scholars, most recently Jay Rubenstein, have proposed that the Historia and the Gesta are both based on a now lost source. However, Marcus Bull’s recent examination of a heretofore ignored manuscript related to these two chronicles, Peregrinatio Antiochie (St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge 3), has demonstrated that the Gesta is indeed “the earliest surviving narrative telling the course of the First Crusade,” from which the other two, the Historia and the Peregrinatio, as well as many others, descended.

The other two crusader-chroniclers of the First Crusade were Raymond of Aguilers and Fulcher of Chartres. Raymond of Aguilers took part in the crusade in his capacity as a chaplain of Raymond of St. Gilles, count of Toulouse, but he used the Gesta Francorum extensively, especially for the events that had to do with Antioch. Raymond wrote his chronicle certainly before 1105, the year when Raymond of St. Gilles died, and perhaps as early as late 1099.

Fulcher of Chartres, the author of Historia Hierosolymitana, was present at the Council of Clermont in November 1095 and went to the East in the company of Duke Robert of Normandy, Count Stephen of Blois, and Count Robert II of Flanders. In October 1097, he joined Baldwin of Boulogne, future prince of Edessa and later king of Jerusalem. He stayed with Baldwin in Edessa and participated in neither the siege of Antioch nor that of Jerusalem. Fulcher finished the first version of his chronicle by 1106 or 1107. He continued working on it, both rewriting and extending it to cover the history of the early decades of the Latin kingdom, until 1127.

In the first decade of the twelfth century, three monks living in Normandy, Baldric of Bourgueil, Guibert of Nogent, and Robert the Monk, rewrote the Gesta Francorum. Baldric was the first to do so, composing his Historia Ierosolimitana around 1105. Baldric, in turn abbot of the wealthy monastery of Bourgueil and archbishop of Dol, was probably the highest-ranking chronicler of the First Crusade. In addition to the chronicle, Baldric composed poetry that has attracted considerable scholarly attention and a series of saints’ Lives. Baldric was a witness of the event that set the First Crusade in motion, the Council of Clermont in 1095.

The second chronicler in the group, Guibert of Nogent, wrote his Dei gesta per Francos slightly later than Baldric, in 1107–8, and continued to edit it for at least another decade. In modern historiography, Guibert, like Baldric, is more famous for his other works, especially his autobiographical Monodies, than for his chronicle of the First Crusade. While Guibert had only the anonymous Gesta at his disposal when he composed the first version of the chronicle, he later came across Fulcher’s Historia Hierosolymitana. Jay Rubenstein has noted similarities between Guibert of Nogent’s Dei gesta and Albert of Aachen’s Historia Ierosolimitana and has suggested that the two must have heard similar oral accounts.

Baldric’s work survives in twenty-four manuscripts, while Guibert’s is preserved in eight. In contrast, there are no fewer than eighty-four manuscripts of Robert the Monk’s Historia Iherosolimitana. Although the import of these numbers should not be overstated, it is safe to say that Robert the Monk’s Historia was the most widely read narrative of the First Crusade. Robert took part in some of the events that he describes, since, like Baldric, he attended the Council of Clermont of 1095. Although he has traditionally been identified with the abbot Robert of the monastery of Saint-Remy in Reims, there are good reasons to doubt that they were the same person. There is a possibility, though it is also based on insufficient evidence, that Robert went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the wake of the First Crusade. Although Robert relied primarily on the Gesta Francorum, he might have come across Guibert of Nogent’s version as well. Robert completed his chronicle around 1110.

Hystoria de via et recuperatione Antiochiae atque Ierusolymarum is another narrative of the First Crusade based on the Gesta Francorum. In this case, however, the line of descent is not immediately apparent, so a number of scholars, including the chronicle’s editor, Edoardo D’Angelo, advocate a common source. The chronicle survives in only one manuscript, preserved at Montecassino, and was written much later than the three Norman ones, between 1130 and 1153.

Some of the sources based on the Gesta Francorum have produced their own rewrites. One of these likely “thirdhand” narratives, the Historia vie Hierosolimitane, is a composite work written by Gilo of Paris and an anonymous author conventionally called the Charleville poet (so named because the sole manuscript of his work is found in the library of Charleville-Mézières), who added four books to Gilo’s poem and also made a series of insertions and alterations. According to Christopher Wallace Grocock and Elizabeth Siberry, we no longer possess the source or sources used by either Gilo or the Charleville poet and can only note resemblances. Damien Kempf and Marcus Bull have argued, in contrast, that Gilo’s work is based on Robert the Monk’s Historia Iherosolimitana.

Gilo was a cleric in Paris at the time of the writing and went on to become a monk at Cluny and a cardinal in Rome. He probably wrote the Historia in the first decade of the twelfth century and almost certainly before 1120. We know very little about the Charleville poet, although Grocock and Siberry speculate that he must have been a teacher. The Charleville poet mentions King Baldwin I of Jerusalem, who died in 1118, in the past tense, which provides a terminus post quem for his part of the work. The Charleville poet’s decision to rework the earlier text has to do, at least in part, with his desire to glorify Godfrey of Bouillon, the first ruler of the kingdom of Jerusalem, who must have been a local hero (Charleville-Mézières is located within twenty miles of Bouillon).

Orderic Vitalis is another “thirdhand” chronicler. Book IX of his Ecclesiastical History is largely an epitome of Baldric of Bourgueil’s Historia Ierosolimitana. Baldric’s chronicle was Orderic’s only source, even though Orderic mentions Fulcher’s Historia Hierosolymitana in the preface. Although Orderic follows Baldric’s account closely, he also augments it with information drawn from oral accounts. Book X of the Ecclesiastical History is devoted to the crusade of 1101 and the early years of the kingdom of Jerusalem and the principality of Antioch, and it seems to be based exclusively on oral accounts. Both book IX and book X appear to have been written in 1135.

Like Orderic Vitalis, William of Malmesbury also incorporated a narrative of the First Crusade in a much longer work. William’s major work, Gesta Regum Anglorum, covers the period from late antiquity until about 1125. While the focus is on England, William also addresses some of the key events that took place elsewhere, including the First Crusade. In fact, William’s narrative of the crusade is as long as a number of freestanding chronicles, including the Gesta Francorum. William’s account is based primarily on Fulcher’s Historia Hierosolymitana, although he consulted other sources, including Bernard the Monk’s Itinerary and the anonymous Gesta Francorum. He also had an opportunity to consult the participants in the First Crusade and included some of their oral accounts in his work.

Henry, archdeacon of Huntington, also included an account of the First Crusade in a much longer work. Henry’s Historia Anglorum begins with the Roman invasion of England and ends with the coronation of King Henry II of England in 1154. At twenty-five hundred words, Henry’s account of the First Crusade is much shorter than the one found in Orderic Vitalis’s or William of Malmesbury’s works. It traces its lineage primarily to the Gesta Francorum, although it also includes material recorded by other authors, such as Baldric, Ralph of Caen, and William of Malmesbury, as well as some details not found anywhere else.

A series of sources are entirely independent of the Gesta Francorum or other accounts written by participants. Ralph of Caen, the author of the Gesta Tancredi, relied exclusively on oral testimony. Ralph had studied at Caen in Normandy under the tutelage of Arnulf of Chocques, future patriarch of Jerusalem. In 1106, while in the West, Bohemond recruited him to serve as his chaplain. The following year, Ralph accompanied Bohemond to the eastern Mediterranean. Sometime before Bohemond’s death in 1111 and probably shortly after Bohemond’s fiasco during his campaign in the Balkans in 1108, Ralph journeyed to Antioch, where he entered the service of Tancred, the regent of the principality during Bohemond’s absences and, upon Bohemond’s death, during the minority of his son, Bohemond II. Ralph began writing his Gesta Tancredi after Tancred’s death in 1112 and completed it at some point before 1118, when Arnulf, to whom the work is dedicated, died. Although most of the text focuses on the First Crusade, the narrative continues to around 1105.

Abbot Ekkehard of Aura was a member of the Bavarian nobility and a participant in the unsuccessful crusade of 1101. In or shortly before 1117, he finished his Chronicle, which, as the author admits, is largely a revised compilation of earlier sources. An appendix to the Chronicle, the Hierosolymita, is based on a continuation of Frutolf of Michelsberg’s World Chronicle. The continuation, which dates from 1106, has crusading as the dominant theme for the years 1099–1101. The author of the continuation might or might not have been Ekkehard himself.

We know nothing about the author of the Historia Ierosolimitana attributed to Albert of Aachen, except his place of residence, Aachen, and, with a degree of uncertainty, his name, Albert. Albert appears to have composed the first six books early in the twelfth century and the rest sometime in the 1120s and 1130s. The narrative itself continues until 1119. There is no conclusive evidence that Albert used any written sources, but there are similarities between his work and the vernacular Chanson d’Antioche.

Caffaro di Rustico, lord of Caschifellone, stands out among other authors of narratives of the First Crusade in being a Genoese layman. In the summer of 1100, he boarded one of the ships of the Genoese fleet en route to the Holy Land. In 1101, Caffaro made this event the starting point of his Annals of Genoa. Around 1155, Caffaro dedicated a separate work to the Crusades titled De liberatione civitatum orientis, which begins with the discussion of the origins of the First Crusade and ends with the capture of Tripoli in 1109.

It might appear strange to include a vernacular Chanson d’Antioche (Song of Antioch) in the overview of chronicles. However, although different conventions, aims, and patterns of transmission of these two types of sources must be taken into account, they are less different than might at first appear. On the one hand, many of the early chronicles “contain material that reflects closely the conventions of the chanson de geste,” such as, for example, a conversation between a Muslim general and his mother. On the other hand, the Song of Antioch reveals numerous parallels with the chronicles of Albert of Aachen and Robert the Monk. The Song’s recent translators, Susan Edgington and Carol Sweetenham, argue that the author appears to have been using a no longer extant epitome of Albert of Aachen’s work and a copy of Robert the Monk’s. As Edgington and Sweetenham admit, however, we know very little about the genesis of the Song, except that there have been two versions. The tradition of associating the first—oral—version with Richard le Pèlerin and the second with Graindor de Douai rests on shaky foundations. The first version, in some form, was in existence by the end of the twelfth century. The second version, the one that has come down to us, dates from the early thirteenth century.

Although the present work refers to a wide variety of narratives, it privileges the family of chronicles related to the Gesta Francorum. More specifically, it gives more attention to Guibert of Nogent’s Dei gesta per Francos than to any other source. There are two reasons for this. First, as his entire oeuvre makes apparent, Guibert was less concerned than an average medieval chronicler with concealing his opinions. Second, and more important, Guibert was the most accomplished theologian of the chroniclers, so he was able both to push further than the rest the “theological refinement” of the First Crusade and to appreciate the associated problems.