Friday, June 17, 2022

Godfrey of Bouillon

Godfrey (c.1060 - 18 July, 1100) was the second son of Eustace II, Count of Boulogne, and therefore was not in line for much inheritance. His godfather, however, was Godfrey the Hunchback, Duke of Lower Lorraine. The Duke had no children, and named Godfrey his heir. The old Duke died in 1076, leaving Godfrey the duchy--if he could keep it.

Lower Lorraine was an important buffer between France and Germany, but that made it important to a lot of people. In 1076, Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (of the Investiture Controversy) wanted there Lower Lorraine for his son, confiscating it and leaving Godfrey with Bouillon and the land around the cities of Antwerp and Breda. Godfrey's land was also being nibbled at by his aunt Matilda of Tuscany, his cousin Albert III of Namur, and a couple others. His brothers, Eustace and Baldwin, supported him, and eventually he won the Lower Lorraine back by 1087.

Having a larger territory made it possible to gather a larger force to join the First Crusade, which set off in August 1096. Godfrey mortgaged his estates to the bishops of Liège and Verdun, and he and his brothers led a group of 40,000 overland to Constantinople.

"Crusade fever" sparked a new wave of antisemitism. While passing through Mainz, word went out that Godfrey had vowed to avenge the Crucifixion by eliminating all Jews. Emperor Henry prohibited this, and one report (written 50 years later) says Godfrey relented after the Jewish communities of Mainz and Cologne each paid him 500 marks (1 mark=8 ounces of either gold or silver).

The army reached Jerusalem in June 1099 (after many other events and encounters). On 14-15 July, they got over the walls using siege towers made from lumber from Italian ships, intentionally dismantled for the purpose. Godfrey was one of the first to enter the city. They had left home three years earlier, but they had set foot in Jerusalem (after conquering other towns along the way), and could claim success.

The next step was to determine how to rule the new Christian kingdom of Jerusalem. Godfrey was chosen to rule (after Raymond of Toulouse, the oldest and most experienced warrior of the Crusade had turned it down), and chose to be Calle Defender of the Holy Sepulchre rather than king. Among other acts, Godfrey endowed the Jerusalem hospital.

What we know of the Crusades comes to us from various chronicles. They do not always agree, and their general reliability must always be examined very carefully. Tomorrow we'll look at a couple accounts of the First Crusade.

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