At the time of the inception of the crusade movement, Latin was the near-universal language of reading and writing throughout western Europe. Latin was thus the dominant medium of primary sources until the end of the Middle Ages, although from the late twelfth century, such texts also began to be written in the main vernacular languages, notably French and German. The linguistic character of narrative, documentary, and other sources thus stood in marked contrast to that of imaginative, that is nonfactual, literature with crusade themes, in which the predominant linguistic vehicles were French, Occitan (Provençal), Middle English, Middle High German, Middle Dutch, and other vernaculars. The number of individual sources potentially relevant to the various aspects of crusading is simply too vast to allow an exhaustive treatment in the scope of an encyclopedia. This entry, therefore, concentrates on the most important and accessible sources specifically devoted to crusade expeditions and associated settlement.
It is usual to divide primary sources into different generic categories. Narrative sources of the crusades can be understood as comprising prose (or very rarely, verse) accounts of the crusading expeditions and settlement in the countries of the Near East, Greece, and the Baltic region. There survive a great number of chronicles, histories, and biographies specifically devoted to such themes, often composed by eyewitnesses, whose testimony is usually to be preferred to that of those more removed from the events they describe in space or time. However, the number of narrative accounts relevant to the crusades is vast and goes far beyond works with specific crusading themes. Particularly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the crusades were regarded as so important that they were treated in a vast range of works, and so important information can often be obtained from texts not specifically devoted to crusading or settlement, such as universal histories (histories of the world from the Creation up to the writer’s time) or annals of particular cities or regions.
The success of the First Crusade encouraged the writing of histories that were more elaborate and engaging than previous chronicles. Moreover, participants who wrote histories of the First Crusade were conscious that they were describing an unprecedented event, and the writers in western Europe who took up their stories emphasized the importance of divine intervention in ensuring success. This interpretation of events was to present difficulties to those who wanted to record later expeditions, since all of them fell short of expectations. Thus there is considerable variation in coverage and quality among Western sources for the different crusades. Furthermore, before the end of the twelfth century, a single writer dominated the field: William of Tyre, whose Chronicon, written in Outremer using a wealth of earlier materials, displaced its exemplars and formed the basis of secondary history writing on the crusades through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Enlightenment, only being challenged in the nineteenth century. The critical study of Western sources began with Heinrich von Sybel (1817-1895), a pupil of the great historian Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886). Sybel’s History of the Crusades appeared in 1841. Thereafter, critical editions of many Western sources began to appear, notably those produced by Heinrich Hagenmeyer between 1877 and 1913. Many of the Western texts edited for the series Recueil des historiens des croisades (1841-1906) have now been superseded by better editions.
Documentary sources include charters, diplomas, letters, privileges, and similar texts. The most common form of documentary source in the Middle Ages was the charter, which was essentially the written record of a legal transaction, such as the sale or gift of property, or concession of rights. Since charters were important to document such property and rights, the majority of those that survive derive from versions or copies originally held by the recipients of such transactions rather than the issuers or donors. Charters survive in various forms: originals, contemporary copies, confirmations (often issued by higher authorities), and authenticated copies (usually known by the Latin terms vidimus or inspex- imus) made by notaries or other officials. Particularly where the recipients were ecclesiastical institutions, such as religious orders or individual monasteries or bishoprics, a common practice was to compile cartularies: these were collections of individual charters and other documents copied into manuscript volumes or parchment rolls, to provide a consolidated record of the recipient’s property and rights.
A significant number of charters have come down to us that were issued by departing or potential crusaders, recording acts intended to raise funds for their journeys or to make pious donations for the benefit of their souls or those of their families. Such documents provide valuable information about the financing of crusades, but also about the motivation and state of mind of crusaders, as well as family traditions of crusading. Charters, which have a greater immediacy, and also record more prosiac information than narrative sources, are also fundamental to the study of the histories and societies of the states founded by the crusades in Outremer, Greece, and the Baltic region. Particularly valuable in this context are the extensive collections of charters relating to military orders such as the Hospitallers and other ecclesiastical institutions based in the Holy Land, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Letters can also be considered as belonging to the category of documentary sources. These include diplomatic correspondence as well as private communications, such as letters sent home by individual crusaders. Many of these have not survived in their original form, but have been transmitted as quotations or reports embedded in narrative sources. Other types of letters had a more public relevance and, in some cases, a legal status. This applies particularly to papal letters dealing with the crusades (often known as bulls). These were the means used by the papacy to proclaim and regulate crusades: they generally set out the cause and aims of a new crusade and specified the various spiritual and temporal privileges to be gained by crusaders. Another type of letter with a specific, crusading-related content was the appeal for military assistance sent by monarchs and ecclesiastical leaders in Outremer, directed to popes and Western rulers. Such appeals became more frequent with the major Muslim military encroachments on the Frankish states by Nur al-Dīn and Saladin in the second half of the twelfth century Treaties and contracts also give important information on the organization, course, and outcomes of many individual crusades. Important examples are the Treaty of Adrianople (1190), which regulated relations between Byzantium and Frederick I Barbarossa during the Third Crusade; the Treaty of Venice (1201), the fateful agreement between the Venetian Republic and the leaders of the Fourth Crusade that determined the terms for the transport and provisioning of the expedition to the East; and the Treaty of Christburg (1269), which ended the first great rebellion of the native Prussians against the rule of the Teutonic Order.
Apart from these main categories, there are numerous other types of sources relating to the crusade movement, Outremer, Frankish Greece, and the Baltic lands. These include crusade sermons, law codes, genealogies, financial records, the rules and customs of military orders, and inscriptions. Although most narrative sources specifically devoted to the crusades are available in good editions and, in most cases, translations into English or other modern European languages, documentary and other sources are much less accessible, particularly for the later Middle Ages, where as many are dispersed among different archives and still remain to be edited.
Three participants wrote about their experiences in the course of the expedition that culminated in the capture of Jerusalem in 1099: the anonymous author of the Gesta Fran- corum, Raymond of Aguilers, and Fulcher of Chartres. All three were clerics writing in Latin, but each accompanied a different contingent of the crusade, and so there are differences of perspective. However, they are to some extent interdependent, Raymond and Fulcher having apparently used the Gesta Francorum. This last work was also reproduced with some variations by Peter Tudebode and the Historia Belli Sacri, both of which preserve scraps of original information. The Gesta Francorum was more thoroughly rewritten by three authors, all French Benedictine monks, early in the twelfth century. Guibert of Nogent retitled his work Dei Gesta per Francos, a change that expresses his didactic purpose; book 7 contains valuable information unique to Gui- bert. Baldric of Dol’s alterations to the Gesta were mostly stylistic. He was the chief source for the account of the expeditions of 1096 and 1101 given by the Anglo-Norman monk Orderic Vitalis, who added details from oral sources and biographical detail about Norman participants in the expeditions. Robert, a monk of Rheims, was both the least adventurous adapter and the most influential; his text was widely copied. The original Latin version exists today in more than 120 manuscripts, and at least four German translations were made in the later Middle Ages. Robert’s influence may be discerned in texts as disparate as the works of Henry of Huntingdon and Gilo of Paris.
Four other chroniclers also wrote accounts of the First Crusade early in the twelfth century. Ekkehard of Aura was a participant in the Crusade of 1101, traveling with an army from German territory. The Genoese annalist Caffaro also sailed to Outremer in 1101, and his Annals, as the work of a layman, record interesting detail. Radulph of Caen, who arrived in Outremer in 1108, wrote the Gesta Tancredi, which, as its title suggests, celebrated the exploits of Tancred, later prince of Galilee and regent of Antioch. This work is extant in a single manuscript, written in very idiosyncratic Latin. However, the longest and most detailed account of the First Crusade and of the first twenty years of settlement in Syria and Palestine was written by Albert of Aachen, a cleric from the German Rhineland. Since Albert never traveled to Outremer, there has been much discussion of his sources and veracity. Nevertheless, he has proved himself indispensable to later historians, from William of Tyre in the twelfth century to Steven Runciman in the twentieth. One virtue of Albert’s Historia Iherosolimitana is that he presents a version of the instigation and preaching of the crusade that was evidently current in his region and features the charismatic preacher Peter the Hermit. Albert gives the fullest account of the so-called People’s Crusade of 1096, including the massacres of the Jews in the Rhineland cities. Later he centers his story on Godfrey of Bouillon and his brother Baldwin. Thus his focus is quite different from and independent of the eyewitness accounts.
There are two vernacular accounts of the First Crusade that have been thought to incorporate authentic and original material, but both must be dismissed: that contained in the Chronicle of Zimmern has been shown to be a sixteenth- century fabrication, while the Old French Chanson d’Anti- oche was composed in the last quarter of the twelfth century and any authentic material cannot be distinguished from later additions with any security.
There is a small but significant corpus of letters sent by participants of the crusade to recipients in the West. Some of these can be regarded as essentially diplomatic correspondence, such as the famous Laodikeia Letter sent by the leaders of the crusade to the pope in September or October 1099. Others, such as those written by Anselm of Ribemont and Stephen of Blois, have a more private character. However, all are important for their information on the atmosphere in the crusade army and events and conditions in the course of the march.
Fulcher of Chartres was not an eyewitness to the culminating events of the First Crusade because he was with Baldwin of Boulogne in Edessa. However, when Baldwin became king of Jerusalem in 1100, Fulcher was at his side, and for the next twenty-seven years he wrote the best-informed account of the Frankish settlement of Outremer. Albert of Aachen provides supplementary and sometimes contradictory detail for the years to 1119, based apparently on the testimony of returning travelers. Quite independently, the official known as Walter the Chancellor wrote the Bella Antiochena, a history of the wars fought by the principality of Antioch against the Turks of northern Syria between 1114 and 1122.
The texts of Fulcher and Walter were used by William of Tyre, the outstanding chronicler of life in the Latin East in the twelfth century. In addition to his surviving Chronicon, which deals with the history of Palestine and Syria from the reign of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius up to 1184, he is also known to have written another work, now lost, which was a history of the Islamic world up to his own day. For the Chronicon’s account of the period before his own lifetime, William was dependent on other writers, but after the late 1120s he provides a well-informed account of the affairs of the kingdom of Jerusalem. His influential history was translated into French and attracted continuators, whose accounts are important for the end of the first kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1187) and the thirteenth century. The “Latin Continuation” is generally thought to give a sober and reliable account of events. An interrelated group of continuations in Old French were written in France and are usually known as the Eracles, while the Chronique d’Ernoul was written in Outremer and at some time attached to the French translation of William. Events leading up to the battle of Hat- tin (1187) and Saladin’s subsequent conquests are described in a short but detailed work known as the Libellus de expug- natione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum expeditione, and in two narratives by the theologian Peter of Blois, the Passio Reginaldi and the Conquestio de dilatione vieIerosolimitane, as well as in other works of more general character. Insights into the topography and society of the Holy Land can be gained from the travel accounts of pilgrims such as John of Würzburg, Saewulf, and Nikulas of Munkethvera.
For the thirteenth century, there is a notable corpus of legal texts, written in Old French and collectively known as the Assizes of Jerusalem (Fr. Assises de Jérusalem), while the genealogical compilation called Lignages d’Outremer (first version from around 1268/1270), gives important genealogical and prosopographical information on the nobility of Outremer and Cyprus, although its accuracy can often be questioned for the earlier twelfth century.
Regarding the end of Frankish settlement with the fall of Acre in 1291, there is only one eyewitness account: the Gestes des Chiprois, written by the “Templar of Tyre,” who was not in fact a Templar, though as secretary to the master of the order he was well placed to describe events. Marino Sanudo the Elder based his account on the Gestes. Two works accused the garrison of Acre of cowardice, and even treachery, but the author of neither was present during the siege: the anonymous author of De excidio urbis Acconis, and Thaddeus of Naples who called his account Hystoria dedes- olacione civitatis Acconensis.
The conquest of much of Syria and Palestine by Saladin in 1187 and the final loss of Outremer in 1291 meant that a large number of the archives of these countries were lost. There survive a considerable number of documents of the kings of Jerusalem, the princes of Antioch, and the counts of Tripoli. However, there are only a handful of documents from the county of Edessa, while the only baronial archive to survive was that of the lordship of Joscelin III of Courtenay (the so-called seigneurie de Joscelin), which was taken over by the Teutonic Order when it acquired the lordship from Joscelin’s heirs in 1220. The vast majority of the documents and letters that survive relate to the military orders or the other main ecclesiastical institutions: the Hospitallers, the Templars, and the Teutonic Order; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; and the abbey of Our Lady of Jehosaphat in Jerusalem. A large number of the documents relating to Outremer are not yet available in full-text editions, and the historian is still dependent on the calendar of documents in digest form provided by Reinhold Rohricht in his Regesta Regni Hierosolymitani (1893-1904).
The success of the First Crusade engendered a large number of histories; the failure of the Second ensured it would be less well recorded. For the expedition to Outremer, there are three main narrative sources: Odo of Deuil’s De Ludovici VIIpro- fectione in Orientem, Suger’s Life of Louis VII, and Otto of Freising’s Gesta Friderici, which is a good example of how historians did not like to write about failure. From the point of view of the Franks of Outremer, William of Tyre is important, less for narrative content, since the Second Crusade happened during the period of his absence from the Levant, but because he took pains to seek out information that might help to explain the expedition’s failure. An interesting development in Second Crusade studies is a new understanding of the crusade as an advance on three fronts: against the Turks in the Levant, against the pagan Slavs in northern Europe, and against the Moors in the Iberian Peninsula. The last campaign is recounted in the work known as De expugnatione Lyxbonensi and in the “Teutonic Source,” now more generally known as the “Lisbon Letter.” These two texts are largely in agreement as to the events of the campaign in Portugal, though the De expugnatione incorporates theological discussion. The expedition against the Slavic tribes to the east of the river Elbe has also been established as part of the papal master plan, and so the only chronicle to describe this in detail, by Helmold of Bosau, should be added.
The part played by King Richard I of England in the Third Crusade, as well as its comparative, if qualified, success, ensured that it would be celebrated in historical narrative. An important source is the Itinerarium peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi. This has some disputed relationship with the “Latin Continuation” of William of Tyre. Ambroise, who claimed to be an eyewitness of many of the events he described, wrote a long poem in Old French. Anglo-Norman writers who were well informed about some part of the crusade are Roger of Howden, who traveled with the fleet to Outremer, returning in 1191; Richard of Devizes, whose informant traveled with the royal party as far as Sicily; Ralph de Diceto, whose chaplain went on the expedition and provided him with information; Ralph of Coggeshall, who names his informants; and William of Newburgh, whose account is well-informed and who may have used the “Latin Continuation.” Only one source takes the French perspective: the Gesta Philippi Augusti of Rigord, while several German chroniclers recorded the exploits of Emperor Frederick I until his death in Asia Minor. The best known of these accounts is the Historia de expeditione Friderici imperatoris, whose author is unknown but traditionally called Ansbert. The voyage of a Danish-Norwegian fleet, which arrived much later than the other contingents, is described in the Historia de profectione Danorum in Hierosolymam, composed by a monk of the Norwegian monastery of Tønsberg. A short text known as the Narratio de primordiis ordinis Theutonici gives an account of the foundation of the German hospital at Acre (1190), the institution that was converted into the Teutonic Order eight years later.
Geoffrey of Villehardouin’s Conquête de Constantinople has long overshadowed all other works: the author was at the center of the events and recorded them in engrossing detail. His authoritative and “top-down” account has its counterpart in Robert of Clari’s view (with the same title) from the ranks of poorer knights: it is partial and unreliable but occasionally gives information, particularly about attitudes, that serves to correct Villehardouin. The Devastatio Constanti- nopolitana, thought to be the work of a participant from the Rhineland, complements these two sources: it conveys accurate data, but also the disillusionment of the poorer crusaders. Three sources celebrated the triumphal return of their heroes with relics that were seen as proof of divine favor: Gunther of Pairis, whose work reads as an apologia for his patron Abbot Martin; the Anonymous of Halberstadt’s defense of his bishop, Conrad; the Anonymous of Soissons’s account of the translation of relics to his church. These three accounts are relevant to the study of mentalities relating to the Fourth Crusade. Finally, the Gesta Innocentii III is an uncritical biography of the pope, but preserves innumerable details that would otherwise be lost.
There are fewer narrative accounts of the subsequent Latin settlement in the Empire of Constantinople and Frankish Greece. Villehardouin’s account is continued for the reign of Emperor Henry by his court chronicler, Henry of Valenciennes. For the Frankish states of central and south ern Greece in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the key text is the Chronicle of the Morea, which exists in French, Aragonese, and Italian versions, as well as Greek. The Assizes of Romania (Fr. Assises de Romanie) represent the legal customs of the Frankish states.
There are three works specifically devoted to the crusade against the Cathars of southern France. Peter of Les Vaux-de- Cernay was a nephew of the bishop of Carcassonne and witnessed many of the events he describes in his Historia Albi- gensis. Peter wrote (in Latin) from the point of view of the crusading knights, and the narrative effectively ends with the death of his hero, Simon of Montfort, in 1218. The vernacular Chanson de la Croisade albigeoise had two authors: the first, William of Tudela, supported the papacy and the French campaign, though not without some reservations; the second, anonymous writer was wholeheartedly opposed to the crusade and the intervention of the northerners. As an entertainment intended for a lay audience, the poem is very different in tone from Peter’s Historia, but where the two narratives cover the same ground they are in substantial agreement. The major difference relates to Simon of Montfort, whom the anonymous poet depicts as villain rather than hero. The third source is the Chronica of William of Puylaurens, who was a southerner and also notary for the Inquisition. He covers events more briefly as part of a chronicle of the years 1146-1272.
Much of the early Danish involvement in the Baltic region is described by the chronicler Saxo Grammaticus, but by far the most important source for the early crusades to Livonia is the chronicle of the German priest Henry of Livonia.
Most of the other narrative sources dealing with the Baltic Crusades were the work of authors associated with the Teutonic Order, and written in High German or Low German: the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle (Ger. Livlündische Reim- chronik), the Altere Hochmeisterchronik, and the chronicles of Nicolaus von Jeroschin, Hermann von Wartberge, Wigand von Marburg, Johann von Posilge, and Bartolomaus Honecke; the main Latin narrative after Henry of Livonia is the chronicle of Peter von Dusburg, a priest of the order. There are also various unique types of source relating to the military campaigns of the Teutonic Knights. These include the records of payments to mercenaries (the Soldbuch) as well as some 100 different so-called Litauische Wegeberichte, descriptions of routes to be taken by campaigns against Lithuania, compiled on the basis of information provided by scouts and other local informants. There are extensive edited collections of documents for both Prussia and Livonia, as well as a large number of archival sources, only partly published, in the collections of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PreuBischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin.
The popular expeditions of the later Middle Ages, such as the Children’s Crusade (1212), and the First and Second Shepherds’ Crusades (1251 and 1320), which were largely composed of the poor and uneducated, did not produce specific records. They are described in some narrative sources, although the information these yield is often sketchy and elliptical. Oliver of Paderborn’s HistoriaDamiatana is the most important account of the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221); it may be supplemented by the letters of James of Vitry and the universal chronicle of Alberic of Troisfontaines (who also gives information on the Fourth Crusade and the Albigen- sian Crusade).
The Crusade to the East of Louis IX of France (1248-1254) is described in John of Joinville’s life of the king, Livre de saintes paroles et des bons faiz nostre saint roy Looÿs. Joinville accompanied Louis to the East, and his narrative is both well informed and vividly readable. However, he did not join the king’s crusade to Tunis (1270), and his account of this expedition is much less detailed. Guillaume de Machaut’s verse history, La Prise dAlixandre, is the main source for the capture of the city of Alexandria in Egypt by King Peter I of Cyprus in 1365. Important information on the Mahdia Crusade (1390) and the Crusade of Nikopolis (1396) is given by chivalric biographies in French of two of the major participants: Jean Cabaret d’Orville’s life of Louis of Bourbon (the Chronique du bon Loys de Bourbon) and the anonymous Livre des Fais describing the career of Jean II Le Meingre, Marshal Boucicaut (which also describes the marshal’s expeditions to Prussia in 1384 and 1385).
Finally, mention should be made of a new genre that came into being after the loss of Syria and Palestine to the Mamlûks, which culminated in the fall of Acre in 1291. This genre consisted of treatises or memoranda setting out projects or strategies relating to the recovery of the Holy Land (Lat. de recuperatione Terrae Sanctae) which is often used as a generic name for them. From the late thirteenth century, a large number of such works were produced and circulated, varying considerably in their practicality and influence. Some of the best-known examples were composed by Fiden- zio of Padua, Marino Sanudo Torsello, Philippe de Mézières, Bertandon de la Broquière, Ramon Llull, and Pierre Dubois.