The Right Coast

May 03, 2005
By Maimon Schwarzschild

The mediaeval crusades gave us freedom, democracy, the rule of law, the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, the Neighbourhood of Boston, and the self-adhesive 37-cent stamp? I like those things too -- well, most of them. But the crusades, in their time, were riots of thuggery, mass psychosis, and murder. Here are a few source references on the crusader massacres of Jews throughout Europe. (Here is an account, written at the time, of the massacre of the Jews by crusaders in Mainz, Germany.) The relatively few crusaders who actually reached Palestine were probably even worse. They committed wholesale murder when they succeeded (briefly) in capturing Jerusalem. The slaughter there was on an equal opportunity basis: Moslems, Jews, and Orthodox Christians; men, women, and children.
Raymond of Aquilers reported that he saw 'piles of heads, hands and feet' on a walk through the holy city. Men trotted across the bodies and body fragments as if they were a carpet for their convenience. The Europeans also destroyed the monuments to Orthodox Christian saints and the tomb of Abraham.
Barbara Tuchman's fascinating book "A Distant Mirror" gives a detailed character portrait of one French brigand-aristocrat involved in the later crusades -- the Sieur de Coucy: a drunk, hot-tempered kid with a lot of armed followers.

I really don't think Tom Smith's mom would have liked the Sieur -- or most of his fellow-crusaders.