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Christopher MacEvitt

Putting “Crusader” Back in the Crusader States: The Kingdom of Jerusalem in Fourteenth-Century Crusade Proposals and Pilgrimage Accounts

The Kingdom of Jerusalem survived for 192 years, sometimes as the dominant political and military force in the region, sometimes as a collection of small mercantile enclaves clinging to the Levantine coast, but always populated by diverse religious and ethnic groups. When the last remnant was conquered by the Mamluks in 1291, western Christians looked back on the kingdom with a mixture of nostalgia and condemnation. Numerous fourteenth-century crusade proposals offered plans which would allow Latin Christians to regain the holy city; yet in doing so, they imagined not the land as it existed in the fourteenth century, or the diverse kingdom that had flourished under Latin rule two centuries earlier. Instead, many imagined a new kingdom, purified of Islamic taint and often of indigenous Christian communities as well, that would be ruled by a king who would also be the head of a united military order—a true “crusader” king. Such accounts were mostly composed in Western Europe, but in the fourteenth century other Latin Christians visited Palestine as pilgrims; they reflected upon what they saw and were told, shaping the perception of the land and its Christian past. This paper will use these two sets of texts to consider the long-term impact of the crusades on western Christian perception of the Holy Land, particularly to explore the perception of indigenous Christian communities, eastern-born Franks, and the legacy of the multi-confessional kingdom of Jerusalem.

Christopher MacEvitt specializes in the history of medieval Christian communities of both the eastern Mediterranean in the later Middle Ages. His book,The Crusades and Christian World of the East: Rough Tolerance (2007), examines the relationship between the Frankish settlers in the Levant and indigenous Christians in the twelfth century, and argues that the interaction that develops is best characterized as “rough tolerance.” He is currently engaged in two book projects: the first examines Franciscan martyrs who died in Islamic lands in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the second explores the image and memory of Jerusalem in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. He holds a BA in classics and medieval studies from Trinity College, and a PhD in history from Princeton University. MacEvitt currently is an associate professor of religion at Dartmouth College.