Ekkehard of Aurach:
On the Opening of the First Crusade
Ekkehard, a well-known German historian had completed a history
of the world in the year 1101 when he determined to make a pilgrimage
to Jerusalem On his return he entirely rewrote the particulars
of his history relating to the First Crusade, and finally issued
it as a little separate volume called Hierosolymita. His
work is regarded by historical scholars as remarkably painstaking
After mentioning the capture of Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bouillon
and his fellow-crusaders in 1099, Ekkehard continues:
[Some declare the crusade inexpedient] Here I am very anxious
to add certain details concerning these military undertakings,
which are due to divine rather than human inspiration. This I
do for the especial purpose of refuting those imprudent - or,
better, impudent - critics. who, bound by prejudice, take it upon
themselves with insolent lips to blame this novel enterprise,
so necessary to a world that is growing old and nearing its end.
They, like the Epicureans, prefer the broad way of pleasure to
the narrow way of God's service. To them love of the world wisdom
and those who despise it are fools....I, however, since I trust
in the Lord and strive not for present but for future things,
would, although only as an idle spectator yet a kindly well-wisher,
exalt the glorious men of our time who have overcome the kingdoms
of this world and who, for the sake of the blessed Shepherd who
sought the hundredth sheep that was lost, have left wife and child,
principalities and riches, and have taken their lives in their
The many peoples who took part in the First Crusade.
[After Urban had aroused the spirits of all by the promise of
forgiveness to those who undertook the expedition with single-hearted
devotion,] toward one hundred thousand men were appointed to the
immediate service of God from Aquitaine and Normandy, England,
Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Galicia, Gascony, France, Flanders,
Lorraine, and from other Christian peoples, whose names I no longer
retain. It was truly an army of "crusaders," for they
bore the sign of the cross on their garments as a reminder that
they should mortify the flesh, and in the hope that they would
in this way triumph over the enemies of the cross of Christ, as
it had once come to pass in the case of the great Constantine.
Thus, through the +marvelous and unexampled working of divine
dispensation, all these members of Christ, so different in speech,
origin, and nationality, were suddenly brought together as one
body through their love of Christ.
While they were all under one king, Christ, the several peoples
nevertheless were led by their several leaders, namely Godfrey
of Lorraine and his brothers Baldwin and Eustace, Robert of Flanders,
Robert of Normandy, Count Regimund of St. Gilles, Hugh, brother
of King Philip of France, and other warriors of similar energy,
rank, and bravery. Over alll of these the above-mentioned pope
placed Bishop Hademar a man of venerable holiness and wisdom.
To him the pope granted the right to exercise in his stead the
power transmitted by St. Peter to the Roman see of binding and
The West Franks were easily induced to leave their fields, since
France had, during several years, been terribly visited now by
civil war, now by famine, and again by sickness....Among the other
nations, the common people, as well as those of higher rank, related
that, aside from the apostolic summons, they had in some- instances
been called to the land of promise by certain prophets who had
appeared among them, or through heavenly signs and revelations.
Others confessed that they had been induced to pledge themselves
by some misfortune. A great part of them started forth with wife
and child and laden with their entire household equipment.
The Germans at first regard the crusaders as madmen.
The summons, however, failed altogether to reach the East Franks,
Saxons, Thuringians, Bavarians, and Alemannians. This was due
especially to the division between the civil government and the
priesthood, which from the time of Pope Alexander [II] to the
present day has, alas, made us as hated and offensive to the Romans
as the Romans are to us. So it came about that almost the whole
German people were, at the beginning of the expedition, quite
unacquainted with the reasons for it. Consequently the many legions
of horsemen who passed through their land, the hosts of people
on foot, the crowds of country people, women and children, were
viewed by them with contempt as persons who had altogether lost
Those bound for the Holy Land seemed to them to be leaving the
land of their birth and sacrificing what they already had for
a vain hope. The promised land offered no certainty but danger,
yet they deserted their own possessions in a greedy struggle for
those of others. Nevertheless, although our people are far more
arrogant than others, the fury of the Teutons finally gave way
in view of the divine mercy, and after they had thoroughly discussed
the matter with the multitude of pilgrims, they too inclined their
Prodigies announce the coming crusade
Moreover the signs in the sun and the wonders which appealed,
both in the air and on the earth, aroused many who had previously
been indifferent. It seems to us useful to interweave an account
of a few of these signs, although it would carry us too far to
enumerate them all. For example we beheld a comet on the 7th of
October to the south, its brilliancy slanting down seemed like
a sword...A few years ago a priest of honorable reputation, by
the name of Suigger, about the ninth hour of the day beheld two
knights, who met one another in the air and fought long, until
one, who carried a great cross with which he struck the other,
finally overcame his enemy....Some were watching horses in the
fields reported that they had seen the image of a city in the
air and had observed various how troops from different directions,
both on horseback and on foot, were hastening thither.
Many, moreover, displayed, either on their clothing, or upon their
forehead, or elsewhere on their body, the sign of the cross, which
had been divinely imprinted, and they believed themselves on this
account to have been destined to the service of God. Others likewise
were induced, through some sudden change of spirit or some nocturnal
vision, to sell all their property and possessions and to sew
the sign of mortification on their mantles. Among all these people
who pressed into the churches in incredible numbers, swords were
distributed with the priestly benediction, according to new usage,
along with the pilgrim's staff and wallet.
I may also report that at this time a woman after two years gestation
finally gave birth to a boy who was able to talk,; and that a
child with a double set of limbs, another with two heads, and
some lambs with two heads were also born; and that colts came
into the world with great teeth, which we ordinarily call horses'
teeth and which nature only grants to three-year old horses.
Bad men and women join the crusaders
While through these and similar signs the whole creation seemed
to offer its services to the Creator, the watchful enemy, who
takes occasion when others sleep to sow his tares amongst the
good seed, raised up also false prophets and mixed false brethren
and degraded women among the Lord's host under the appearance
of religion. In this way the armies of Christ were defiled not
only through hypocrisy and lies but through shameless uncleanness,
so that the prophecy of the Good Shepherd might be fulfilled,
that even the elect may be led astray.
James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History:
Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), pp.316-318
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(c)Paul Halsall Feb 1996