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Fulcher of Chartres

    Fulcher of Chartres a chaplain from Chartres, took the cross, in the year 1095, and joined the army of Count Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Blois, with which he marched through Apulia and Greece, and reached the camp before Nicaea in June, 1097. He remained with the bulk of the crusading army until its arrival in Meerasch, and went thence to Edessa with Count Baldwin, who then commenced his enterprise against that town.  Up to this point his information is good, and frequently most important ; both on particular facts and on the general aspect of affairs. I allude more particularly to his account of the journey through Italy and Greece. He here shows the incorrectness of the impression that the armies had met together in the west of Europe, and that great masses of them had marched towards the East in regularly organized bodies. “ We wandered,” says Eulcher, “ as we could, in April, May, June, until October, wherever we could obtain supplies.” Adhemar had appointed Constantinople as the general rendezvous. Moreover Fulcher’s narrative of the march from Dorylaeum to Eikle is important, and very attractive,* from the great descriptive powers of the writer. His account of the occurrences in Edessa is conclusive, as he was the only eye-witness . It agrees in the main with that of Matthew Eretz of Edessa, who is the next best authority ; whereas both Albert of Aix and Guibert have followed quite different reports .

    Unfortunately Fulcher breaks off here, and turns his attention to the main body of the crusading army, which then seemed the point of most interest. It is scarce credible that a contemporary, living at the distance of only a few days’ journey, should receive such absurdly false accounts. What reliance can be placed on these traditions, when even in a few score years they circulated in the distant West in such wild and uncertain forms ? The chronological sequence of events is lost ; the accuracy of the narrative disappears, and a blind enthusiasm finds vent in miraculous stories. Even here however some few passages are important : such as the account of Tancred’s conquest of Bethlehem, which checks a different report given by Albert of Aix ; Tancred’s plundering of the Temple, and the subsequent negotiations, which are supported by the testimony of Radulph against Albert.

    Eulcher remained in Jerusalem, after a short absence, until the death of Godfrey of Bouillon at Edessa. He then accompanied Baldwin I. to Palestine, and remained there with the King in the same capacity as he had previously been with the Count. From this time his work is most important. Here, where all other eye-witnesses fail, his account is trustworthy, and often full. Let us attempt from this point to determine its general character.

    It is obvious, in the first place, that the author by no means intended to write a history : the work is in reality a diary of his own life, with all the circumstances as they happened ; in which state Gui bert saw it in the year 1108 or 1110, in the West ; though it does in fact come down to 1127. He records what personally concerns himself, and devotes to it more or less space, according to his own individual taste. I will select the first example that occurs to me (to which many might be added); the passage in which he relates Baldwin’s taking possession of Jerusalem. He begins with a vivid description of the march from Edessa : “ Collegit exercitulum suum,” — two hundred knights and seven hundred infantry ; they go from city to city ; the Prince of Tripolis sends bread, wine, wild honey, and mutton to their tents ; at the same time he tells them of an ambush prepared for them near Berytus.

    This they found terribly confirmed, for the narrow and wild passes were occupied by the Saracens. He then describes the battle, and how the Christians were at first unsuccessful. “ We were ill at ease,” says he ; “ we affected courage, but we feared death. I wished myself home again at Chartres or Orleans.” Luckily, however, they fought their way through, and Pulcher devotes many pages to a description of the happy manner in which they brought this adventure to a close. They subsequently reached Kaiphas, which then belonged to Tancred, who, as is well known, was one of the leaders of the opposition against’ Baldwin’s succession.

    Fulcher enters into no explanation of the relations between the two princes. He only says shortly : “ We did not enter Kaiphas, because Tancred was then at enmity with us ; but,” he continues, “ Tancred being then absent, his people sold us bread and wine outside the walls, for they considered us as brothers, and were anxious to see us.” And a little further on : “ As we approached Jerusalem, the clergy and the laity came forth to meet the King in solemn procession ; likewise came the Greeks and the Syrians, with crosses and candles, who received him with joy and honour and loud shouts, and escorted him to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” After this the narrative again becomes very meagre. “The Patriarch Dagobert was not present; he had been slandered to Baldwin, and bore him a grudge ; wherefore he sat apart on Mount Sion until his malice was forgiven.” Not one word explaining the cause and purport of this quarrel.

    No one could suppose that the whole existence of the Christian' kingdom in the Bast was at that moment at stake; nor does he bestow more attention upon the King and his peculiar talent for government. He proceeds :  “ We remained six days in Jerusalem, rested ourselves, and the King made his first arrangements; then we started again. Then follows a detailed and most lively journal .of his travels through the whole southern portion of the kingdom. Later we find a short narrative of the Second Crusade. He was in 1102 with the King during an expedition against Ascalon in Joppa. “There,” he says, “he met several knights who were waiting for a favourable wind, in order to return as speedily as possible to France. They had lost their horses the year before, together with all their baggage, during a march through Rumania.”

    Fulcher’s work has been much used, both by his contemporaries and by subsequent writers. We have already mentioned that Guibert knew the book. Spite of his obligations to Fulcher, Guibert speaks contemptuously of him, without however bringing any specific charge against him. Bartholf de Nangiejo was more grateful : he compiled the ‘ Gesta Expugnantium Hierusalem,’ distinctly acknowledging his authority. 120 Many passages are taken from the * Gesta Francorum,’ not exactly word for word, but they betray their origin. Others, again, are evidently fabulous tales, having no pretence to authenticity. The work is in no way important.

References:

Fulcheri Carnotensis Historia Hierosolymitana (1095-1127), ed. by. Heinrich Hagenmeyer, Heidelberg, 1913.

Fulcher of Chartres, A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem (1095-1127),  trans. by. Francis Rita Ryan, University of Tennessee Press, 1969.

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