THE CRUSADES by Zoe Oldenbourg
Kirkus Star


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A brontosaurian work, staggering in the sheer quantity of material gentled and illumined: in the miraculous reconstruction of a time and place dimmed by myth and legend, often distorted by scholarly or religious bias. After a considerate introduction to the curious yet familiar ways of our Western medieval ancestors, Miss Oldenbourg travels rapidly in the ranks of the First Crusade. Pope Urban II in order to relieve the shaky position of the Byzantine Empire and possibly to drain off some futile feudal wars in the West, set forth a plan which suddenly reconciled the peculiar warlike mystique of the Western Germanic and Scandinavian ""barbarians"" with Christianity's Heavenly Vision. Now at last their martial code of loyalties and love of war had a religious focus --they would serve the Supreme Lord in ridding the city of defilement by pagans. Jerusalem was indeed captured, and a remarkable reign by Frankish lords was continued for over eighty years, during which time jealousies, feuds, temperate and intemperate alliances, even concluded with the Turks themselves under the brilliant leadership of the famous Saladin, set up a unique climate in which East and West met head on. As an alien virus, invading a civilized and cultured East, the Crusader's tumultuous aggression gave rise to unexpected antibodies. Christian fought Christian, the Byzantine Empire eventually weakened fatally, and Islam was united. Gradually the Western princes turned again to their own concerns and the Four Crusades became again the vision.... A brilliant book, stirring with a difficult, compassionate, a generous humanity.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1966
Publisher: Pantheon