Women in the era of Crusades

What comes to mind first when we think of the Crusades on? Armored knights who wear huge red cross on their breasts. We always just think of men, never think of women, although women also played an important role in the era of the Crusades. The Crusader wars, not only the role of women has changed, but also created new women ideal. There were women who, after their husbands took the cross and traveled to the Holy Land, mainly cared about the administration of estates. The women’s social role and reputation in the Middle Ages was far greater than was thought previously.

Anna Komnéné historiographer

The woman, who written the story of the Crusades

Anna Komnéné Byzantine princess (1083-1153) was the first woman who started to write stories. Philosophy had been dealt with women – Diotima, or Hüpatia Heloise – but the historiography was a man profession. Anna was her father’s the eldest and favorite child and she always strove to gain the imperial throne. In 1118 she has an unsuccessful conspiracy against her brother – II. Jóannész Komnénosz emperor -, who denounced the movement, and the  sent Anna to a monastery, where she had enough time to thinking about what happen in Byzantium and the world. The first crusade – in addition to family history – a very important feature in stories of Anna. The princess hated the Church of Rome. The princess hated the Church of Rome. Anna thought  the Latin  Knights bring threat to Byzantium, and therefore condemned the movement. Crusaders marching through the country, can cause damage. Anna could see it well:  in 1204  Venice under the pretext of the crusades struck blow the biggest to commercial rival, Constantinople.

The Christian queen, who harmed to the Crusaders

Queen Mélisende (1105-1160), daughter of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem, who co-reigned with his father. While for example the French monarchy was inconceivable that a woman or a sick king occupies to the throne , in Jerusalem this wasn’t problem. Mélisende was a very independent personality. In 1129 she got married with V. Fulques d’Anjou and they co-reigned with together, but the queen was issued on behalf of herself provisions. After her husband death Mélisende her  young son instead reigned, but when the son came of age in 1145, she didn’t renounce the throne.  III. Baldwin quietly tolerated it, but in 1152 asked his mother  a division of the kingdom. Mélisende agreed: she became the queen of areas of Judea and Samaria, while her son reigned over the northern part of the kingdom. However Baldwin soon be extending its influence throughout the country, and his mother closed the tower of David in Jerusalem. This woman domination caused internal strife which harmed to the Crusaders. The Muslims began to attack and they gained back large areas from the Christians. After Mélisende’s death, in the Crusader States no allowed that a woman inherit the throne for centuries.

Aquitaine Eleanor the first "Crusade tourist"

The first “Crusade tourist”

Aquitaine Eleonora was born in 1122. His father, IX. William was the first troubadour of the Middle Ages. The lord taught his daughter to arts that she became  well-educated, independent woman. In 1146 was proclaimed the Second Crusade. Eleonora decided to accompany her husband, VII. Louis.  Eleonora’s “crusader tourism” didn’t leave good memories behind. In 1189 when the Third Crusade started, the Pope’s edict banned that women join to  the army.  In the era of the Crusades was born a new woman ideal. The troubadour arts was in relationship with the christian movements. While the lords of castle away from home with their knights until  the poorer knights who could not travel to the Holy Land courted theirs wifes.  A “distant love” (amor de lonh) was a sense of unfulfilled love song which they felt towards these women. Then developed a “romantic love”, which is still held up. The “unattainable woman” and “unfulfilled love” was created by the myth of the troubadour. The other inspiration was a cultural connections with the Arab world. Next to the classical poetry and  court culture the Arabic poetry impressed  the troubadour arts too.

Written by Ilona Kaszanyi

Reference: Rubicon 2006/10 (Sághy M.: Nők a keresztes hadjáratban)

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