SOLDIERS OF THE FAITH: Christians and Moslems at War by Ronald C. Finucane

SOLDIERS OF THE FAITH: Christians and Moslems at War

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A competent, compact survey of Crusader themes--not the nine official Crusades and parallel expeditions--for the general reader. Finucane (Miracles and Pilgrims, The Miracle-Working Corpse) begins with a rapid ""overview""--liable to leave the novice a bit breathless--of Christian-Muslim conflict from Tarik's invasion of Spain in 711 to Pins II's pathetic last stab (1459) at enlisting volunteers to save the Christian East. He then discusses the process of recruiting for the Crusades: apart from the genuinely pious souls inflamed by Urban II's famous speech at Clermont, there was a motley crowd of adventurers, sinners doing involuntary penance, outright criminals, and a terrifying horde of savage proletarians called Tafurs. He writes graphically about the often nightmarish journey to the Holy Land--thousands dying along the way from starvation, disease, shipwreck, and murderous differences with their fellow Christians. Also, about the conditions of battle--mounted noblemen stood a much better chance than plebeian foot soldiers of saving their skin (and of being ransomed rather than butchered if caught); about the supposed laws of chivalry--after Richard the LionHearted butchered some 3,000 defenseless Muslim captives in 1191 quarter was seldom given (and not too often before then); and so on. Finucane has some noteworthy things to say about the rabid prejudice on both sides--the outrages visited by the Crusaders on the Jews (of Worms, Mainz, Jerusalem, and elsewhere), and by Crusaders and Muslims on women--and about the gradual exhaustion of the crusading ideal. The best one-volume treatment of the subject is still Hans Eberhard Mayer's The Crusades (Eng. trans., 1972), but Finucane's little work makes a handy companion piece.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's