Post-classical history

Raymond of Aguilers

Participant in the First Crusade (1096-1099) and author of a Latin narrative of the expedition.

Raymond’s purpose was set out in the preface to his work: he was recording on behalf of himself and one Pons of Bal- azun the deeds of the southern French army, led by Raymond, count of Saint-Gilles, and Adhemar, bishop of Le Puy. Although these notables were present at the Council of Clermont and among the first to take the cross in 1095, Raymond’s narrative begins during the journey to Constantinople. The preface was written after the capture of Jerusalem (Raymond refers to the army as victorious); Pons, however, had been killed at Arqah (spring 1099), and so it appears that events were recorded as they happened. Since there is no indication that Raymond knew of the death of Saint-Gilles in 1105, his account was probably completed early in the 1100s. It is probable that he used a version of the anonymous Gesta Francorum for some details, but to all intents and purposes his work is firsthand and independent, ranking in importance alongside the Gesta and Fulcher of Chartres.

Everything known about Raymond of Aguilers derives from his book. He became a priest during the expedition, and he served as chaplain to Raymond of Saint-Gilles, which gave him access to sound information and the councils of the leaders. Yet he was more interested in presenting the count of Saint-Gilles and the southern French in a good light, probably to counter rumors of cowardice circulating in France after the crusade. Above all, Raymond of Aguilers wished to defend the reputation of the relic known as the Holy Lance. He describes himself as one of the first to believe the visions of the pilgrim Peter Bartholomew, which revealed where the Holy Lance was to be found, and relates that he personally joined in the digging for the relic in the cathedral at Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey). His belief was unshaken by the ambiguous outcome of Peter Bartholomew’s ordeal by fire, and his passionate advocacy unbalances his account. Nevertheless, Raymond’s partisanship and his pious credulity are themselves important indicators of popular attitudes.

Raymond’s work usually bears the title Historia Franco- rum qui ceperunt Iherusalem (The History of the Franks who Took Jerusalem), but its twentieth-century editors simply entitled it Raymond’s Liber (book) from his own closing line. The original manuscript does not survive, but there are six copies dating from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the best of which is MS Paris,Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat.14378.

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