Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Crusader Castle

Hooked on the crusades after visiting a chain of crusader castles in Syria I dusted off Zoe Oldenbourg's tome on the subject. The last time I was seduced by this time period was probably 30 years ago and the book is satisfyingly yellowed along the edges (published in 1966). The notes I made in the margins are not too different than I would make today so my opinion of these terrible wars hasn't changed much.

During the first crusade, approximately 10,000 soldiers swooped down on Jerusalem and wiped out 40,000 people many of whom were women and children. It was a massacre and in two bloody days, the "soldiers of Christ slaughtered everyone in their path." Jews were shut up in synagogues and set on fire. There's ton of background information offered as to why this Christian army was worked into such a bloody frenzy for those two days,  July 15 and July 16th, 1099, but it was as bad or worse as any religious war has ever been.  When there were few left to kill and the streets of Jerusalem were literally running with blood the barons got together at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and celebrated a mass. 200 yards outside, the last souls still standing were being savagely killed by the soldiers, "wading in blood and trampling on corpses. Knight and barons were praying and weeping for joy as they received the blessing of priests, among the candles and smell of incense. At the gates of paradise.  Jerusalem was delivered. The faithful everywhere in the West were overflowing with joy."

And for the next 200 years it was one crusade after another. Abdul and I are in the pictures because Richard was the photographer that day. 

Krac de Chevaliers is one of the most renown crusader castles, extolled by Paul Theroux as the epitome of the dream castle of childhood fantasies of jousts and armor and pennants. It was the outpost of the Knights Hospitaller for a while but later they were displaced by a blood thirsty bunch who held the countryside in hostage for decades. It was impenetrable in its day and it's claimed that 2000 people could live inside for years when it was under siege. The crusaders finally lost it through trickery...brains win over brawn once again. 


  1. And I thought the killings in Rhuwanda and Darfur were bad. The incidents from those and the Crusades sound all too familiar. What's with these people??

  2. And this is only one of the many reasons I'm not religious.
    P.s. What Paul Theroux book are you talking about? I thought I had read all his books. I want to read this one.

  3. The Paul Theroux quote was in my Lonely Planet guide for Syria. I'm not sure it came from one of his books.
    Religious fervor is responsible for so much slaughter. It's horrible. They create a hell on earth.