Friday, October 30, 2009 10/30/09 - ivanhoe

In today's excerpt - the Crusades, Sir Walter Scott,
and Ivanhoe. The Crusades were perhaps the
most powerful and long-lasting legacy of the Middle
Ages. Reflecting the power of this legacy, in 1819, Sir
Walter Scott's Ivanhoe exploded onto the
European scene, selling millions of copies, leading to
hundreds of staged productions, and reigniting
interest in the imagined chivalry and religious virtue of
the two hundred years of European Crusades in the
Middle East:

"In November 1095 Pope Urban II called upon the
knights of France to journey to the Holy Land and
liberate the city of Jerusalem and the Christians of the
east from Muslim power. In return they would be
granted an unprecedented spiritual reward - the
remission of all their sins - and thereby escape the
torments of Hell, their likely destination after lives of
violence and greed. The response to Urban's appeal
was astounding; over 60,000 people set out to recover
the Holy Land and secure this reward and, in some
cases, take the chance to set up new territories.
Almost four years later, in July 1099, the survivors
conquered Jerusalem in an orgy of killing. While most
of the knights returned home, the creation of the
Crusader States formed a permanent Christian
(or 'Frankish') presence in the Levant. In 1187,
however, Saladin defeated their forces at the Battle of
Hattin and brought Jerusalem back under Muslim
control. The Franks held onto other lands until 1291
when they were finally driven out by the Mamluks of
Egypt to end Christian rule in the Holy Land.

"Crusading was too deeply established within
Catholic Europe to disappear after the loss of the Holy
Land in 1291, [and] the roots laid down by crusading
proved extraordinarily deep, in part because of the
idea's flexibility. In the course of the 12th and 13th
centuries crusades were launched against the
Muslims of Spain and other enemies of the faith such
as the pagan tribes of northeastern Europe (the Baltic
Crusades). ... Crusading offered a platform for knights
to show bravery and integrity. The idea of fighting for
God, the ultimate lord, gave service in crusading
armies a special attraction, although at times knights'
determination to win fame for themselves could cause
them to put notions of honor ahead of the greater
Christian cause. ...

"Perhaps the last crusading battle of note took place
at Lepanto in 1571 where a fleet of Spanish,Venetian
and Military Order vessels defeated the Turks. The
Knights of St John (the Hospitallers) preserved control
over their island outposts of Rhodes, until 1523, and
then Malta, but otherwise crusading subsided. The
advent of Protestantism brought severe judgments on
such a papally-directed concept. ...

"Yet during the 19th century, crusading, or a mutated
form of it, gained new interest in the West. One reason
was the writing of Sir Walter Scott whose tales of
chivalric endeavor in the Holy Land, most particularly
Ivanhoe (1819) and The Talisman
(1832), enraptured audiences across Europe. As a
Calvinist, Scott's view of 'intolerant zeal' was
restrained, but overall he gave a positive impression
of the crusades. Scott's works were translated into
numerous languages and in France alone he had
sold over two million books by 1840. Ivanhoe alone
inspired almost 300 dramas; within a year of its
publication, 16 versions of the story were being
staged across England. ...

"In tandem with these developments, the 19th century
saw a dramatic expansion of European political power
into the Muslim near east, largely at the expense of the
declining Ottoman Empire. France invaded Algeria in
1830 and soon afterwards Spain and Italy, too,
embarked upon North African adventures. Some
looked to the crusades as a forerunner, especially
after France took control of Syria in 1920. Paul Pic,
Professor of Law at the University of Lyon, regarded
Syria as 'a natural extension of France', while in 1929
Jean Longnon wrote that: 'The name of Frank has
remained a symbol of nobility, courage and
generosity ... and if our country has been called on to
receive the protectorate of Syria, it is the result of that
influence.' [Syria remained a French 'protectorate until
after World War II]."

Jonathan Phillips, "The Call of the Crusades,"
History Today, Volume: 59, Issue: 11.


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