Sunday, January 15, 2006


They are a Northern Irish football club and a New Zealand provincial rugby team but most notably they are military expeditionists who went off in search of Christian glory in a series of invasions of the Holy Land in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.

They went there to capture or re-capture Jerusalem from the Muslims (not the ‘Moslems’ a wrong, bad word.) The word crusade itself is derived from the French ‘crossade’ from old French ‘crois’ (cross) from Latin ‘crux’ and influenced by Spanish crusada from the verb ‘crucer’ to take up the cross.

The first crusade was formed as a direct result of the perceived threat to the Byzantine empire by the Seljuk Turks. The emperor in Constantinople asked Pope Urban II in 1095 for a contingent of mercenaries to retake Anatolia with the suggestion they could then move on to liberate Jerusalem. A Christian jihad was authorised. Four armies came together, one each from Lorraine, Normandy, Apulia and Flanders. They took Jerusalem in 1099. They proceeded to defend their newly conquered territory with new Frankish states defended by castles, Knights Templar and Hospitalers. The Krak des Chevaliers near Tripoli, Lebanon (the castle is across the border in Syria) is the best preserved of the Crusader castles.

Because of sustained attacks by Muslims, a second crusade was called for in 1147. They crashed to defeat in Anatolia. Salah al-Din (1137-1193) united the Islamists and overran Jerusalem.

The armies of the third crusade 1189-91 included the Kings of France and England and they took Acre, Tyre and Jaffa but were unable to retake Jerusalem. The fourth crusade (1202-1204) was a shambles as Christians fought Christians. The Doge of Venice forced them to divert to attack Zara on the Adriatic.

The fifth Crusade (1218-1221) also failed but the new Holy Roman emperor Frederick II acquired Jerusalem by a political settlement. He also instigated the sixth Crusade (1228-1229) and negotiated a ten year truce restoring Jerusalem to the Franks. He crowned himself King of Jerusalem in 1229 but it fell again to the Turks after a row between the Templars and the Hospitalers.

The seventh crusade 1248-1250 and the eight crusade in 1270 were the last hurrahs. The Turks retook all Eastern possessions and left the lasting legacy of a final split between Latin and Orthodox Christianity.

Behaviour at the Edge of Time
I want to be your action stunt double
you can be yourself right up to the edge of conversation
then as it all turns nasty and mad
I jump out of the telephone jackboot
throw away my disguise
I look you in the eyes and say
“I’ll do it from here”

You stare, pull your head back and laugh
Jackanape, put back on your false eyes
I’ve seen your double visions and
I’ve met your credit cards
How can you imitate my madness
when you are too often safely sane
Avoiding it from here

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