The name Jerusalem means ‘vision of peace’, or so medieval writers believed. Their longing for that peace was directed towards both Jerusalem in Palestine and to the heavenly Jerusalem, ‘where God shall wipe away all tears’. Devotion to the Holy City found its keenest expression in acts of pilgrimage, and the most momentous pilgrimages were the armed expeditions, undertaken at papal behest, which we have come to call (in accordance with later medieval usage) the ‘crusades’. Prophecies from Christian lands predicted that there would be universal peace and harmony after a successful crusade to Jerusalem, with the Ishmaelites (that is, the Saracens) conquered and all people living in harmony. This was a ‘vision of peace’ indeed.
This recording assembles songs and plainchants that may be connected in various ways with the crusades of the classic period, roughly 1180-1240. The polyphonic and French-texted items probably originated in the heartland of the crusading enterprise, northern France, during those decades. Luget Rachel iterum probably laments the loss of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, but could have been composed at any time in the five decades after that event. Chanterai pour mon coraige, with its insistent reminder that a crusader is technically a pilgrim (pèlerin), evokes the human cost of crusading from the woman’s point of view; so does Jerusalem! grant damage me fais, a poem surviving without music but performed here with a melody newly composed in the thirteenth-century High Style so that this striking poem may not languish in silence for ever. Jerusalem se plaint et li pais joins the chorus of voices claiming that the clergy are misappropriating crusading funds and that crusaders who renounce their vows to take the Cross are damnable. Passionate criticism of the clergy is often to be found in medieval writings designed to urge Westerners to a new crusading venture.
Some items express forms of devotion, especially devotion to the Virgin, which gave a sheen to much crusading enterprise. Hac in die Gedeonis is an example; Jerusalem accipitur is another and may be connected with one of the military orders active in the Holy Land. The four-part motet In salvatoris nomine/Ce fu en tres douz tens/In veritate/VERITATEM, a piece with the kind of dissonant and tangled texture so characteristic of the four-part Ars Antiqua motet, combines a poem of Marian devotion, a love song and biting criticism of the clergy. The three-voice conductus Luto carens et latere, with its unusual rondeau-like form, recalls the comparisons made by contemporary chroniclers between the crusaders, travelling through hostile territory, and the Israelites passing safely over the Red Sea.
The importance of anti-Semitism in the crusading spirit – and indeed in devotion to the Virgin – is reflected in three conducti, O levis aurula!, Veri vitis germine and Congaudet hodie celestis curia. The first seems to be a dialogue between Christ and the Jews – an unusual ploy in the repertoire of medieval texts set to music – while Veri vitis germine and Congaudet hodie express the anger and contempt bred in Christians by the Jews’ denial of Christ. The antiphon Invocantes Dominum (including the Psalm Deus, qui venerunt) is specified by an early Sarum Missal as a processional antiphon for Rogationtide in time of war. Such chants help to explain why very few specifically crusading plainsongs were ever composed for use in the Latin liturgy. The texts already available in Missal and Antiphoner were copious and suggestive, deeply expressive of joy and despair; these texts, the changing moods of the liturgical year, and the wealth of variation in ceremonial provided Latin Christians with a means to express and magnify any fortune or misfortune, the triumphs and losses of the crusades among them.
The Te Deum belongs here as the chant repeatedly associated in crusading chronicles with celebration and thanksgiving for victories, miraculous cures, successful elections to the episcopacy, and so on. A special place is occupied by the Gradual and Alleluia for Easter Day, Hec dies quam fecit Dominus and Pascha nostrum, familiar chants from the Roman rite which are edited here after the versions in a Sacramentary produced in the workshop of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, probably between 1128 and 1130. This is the music of the colonizing Roman Church, exported from what had long been the heartland of the Roman obedience, northern France, to the new Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, established in 1099.
Luto carens et latere
According to the thirteenth-century chronicler William of Armorica, ‘the Lord has the power to free the Holy Land from the hands of the infidels since he had the power to lift up the sons of Israel from the stones’. This was a fundamental conviction of crusading, chroniclers sometimes comparing the Christian armies on the move to the Israelites journeying from Egypt and passing over the Red Sea. This three-voice conductus is written in a dance form, closely akin to the musico-poetic forms of the Old French rondets de carole and perhaps an allusion to the dance of Miriam and her sisters after the Red Sea crossing in Exodus 15:20: ‘And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.’ Like William of Armorica, the poet alludes to the enforced manual labour of the Israelites in captivity with ‘mud and brick’.
Jerusalem! grant damage me fais
In this song the longing for Jerusalem becomes a wounded disdain for the Holy City, expressed by a woman whose lover has embarked for a crusade. To save this remarkable poem from silence – it has survived without the music it was clearly intended to have – the editor has composed a setting in the style of a grand chant. The attribution in the unique source to the trouvère Gautier d’Epinal (died c1271) has been generally rejected.
Jerusalem accipitur contains several phrases which seem to glimmer with crusading meanings. Note especially the reference to Mary doing combat (‘Mary, while you do battle …’). This is not unparalleled, for milito is the verb often used in Christian Latin to denote the life of the devout in this present world and the good works which accompany it, but the phrase is intriguing nonetheless. Most of the military religious orders chose Mary as one of their patrons, and she is the titular patron of the Teutonic Knights (whose full name is ‘The Brothers of the Hospital of St Mary of the Germans in Jerusalem’). This poem might therefore have some connection with one of the crusading orders, and it may even be that the ‘temporal hall’ mentioned in the third verse refers not only to the Church Militant but to some specific religious foundation, for many of the chapels and churches of the Templars, for example, were dedicated to the Virgin. The last verse refers to the usual position of Jerusalem in medieval maps, placed in the centre of the earth in accordance with Psalm 74:12 (Authorized Version numbering): ‘For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth’. Following a long tradition, the poet explores the fourfold interpretation of Jerusalem, both as a place (on earth and in heaven) and as a name, meaning ‘vision of peace’. With a show of learning not rare in conductus texts, he uses the conventional scheme of the four senses of Scripture (also employed in exactly this context by John Cassian): the historical sense (the plain sense of the words); the tropological sense (referring to the state and progress of the soul); the allegorical sense (relating to the deeds of Christ); and the anagogical sense (referring to the last things). Each of the four interpretations of Jerusalem is related to Mary, again in a systematic way: Mary as city; as a faithful soul; as initiator of the Church Militant, that is to say the Church on earth until the Last Judgement; and as queen of the Church Triumphant, namely the Church in Heaven.
The Te Deum, with its intoxicating, repetitive melody and ecstatic accumulation of praise, is the great celebratory Hymn of the medieval Latin church, often mentioned in chronicles of the crusades. These sources frequently refer to the ringing of bells during the Te Deum, a manner of performance which, in the crusader kingdom established in 1099, was not just a continuance of a performance practice often associated with sequences on the most festive days, but was also an assertion of Latin Christian identity, powerfully invested in the bell. As Latin chroniclers often remark, the Orthodox Church and the religion of Islam do not use metal bells.
O levis aurula!
The rise of anti-Semitism in Latin Christendom appears to be directly involved with the crusading movement, especially the First Crusade, preached by Urban II at Clermont in 1095. Christian soldiers, passing through the Rhineland on the way south, were inclined to regard the Jews in the cities they encountered as enemies of Christ comparable to the Saracens. Why travel several thousand miles to combat the enemies of the Messiah, they argued, and ignore his crucifiers when they were to be found en route? Such confounding of Jews and Saracens was not rare. It causes no great surprise, for example, to find a medieval Welsh chronicle declaring that, in 1188 [sic], ‘the Saracens and the Jews came to Jerusalem [and] took possession of the Cross …’; the reference is to Saladin’s capture of Jerusalem from the Christians in 1187. Anti-Semitism is often expressed in the Latin texts of the conductus repertoire in the form of apostrophes to ‘wretched’ or ‘cruel’ Judea. Veri vitis germine includes a notable example. In the eyes of Christian clergy, especially the most learned, the obduracy of ‘cruel’ Judea was deeply disturbing, for the Jewish renunciation of Christ was not some provincial or passing heresy; it was rooted in traditions of thought and scholarship already some two millennia old, nurtured throughout Europe by rabbis who were in a better position than most Latin Christians to know how the books of the Old Testament should be construed according to the literal sense of the Hebrew. O levis aurula! is an unusual expression of Christian contempt, for it seems to present a dialogue between Christ and the Jews (or so it is interpreted here). Veri vitis germine and Congaudet hodie sharpen the Christian call to the Jews by placing it in the context of Christ’s nativity, the moment when the Old Law is fulfilled and the New Law comes to replace it. Anti-Semitism is a vital thread in the civilization of the later Middle Ages, and committed performance of unexpurgated texts is one way to remind and warn modern audiences that this was so. If audiences gain aesthetic pleasure from such performances, so much more keen the reminder and so much more potent the warning.
Hac in die Gedeonis
The crusades in the Mediterranean were not the only armed ‘pilgrimages’ of Western knights. During the long process of extending the boundaries of Latin Christendom into the East, Livonia (something like the modern republics of Latvia and Estonia) was claimed as ‘Mary’s Land’ by those involved in the struggle, as opposed to ‘Christ’s Land’ (that is to say Jerusalem and the Terre sainte). The purpose of the name ‘Mary’s Land’ was to draw funds and manpower towards a project which, for the Papacy as for many Western magnates, did not possess quite the same urgency or spiritual numen as the crusades in the East, but the term ‘Mary’s Land’ may also serve to illustrate the importance which the cult of Mary could assume in all crusading enterprise. The Marian devotion of two major military orders, the Templars and the Teutonic Knights, has already been mentioned (see note on Jerusalem accipitur). The Virgin is reported to have appeared three times during the First Crusade. As Riley-Smith remarks: ‘Our Lady was beginning her association with crusades and with violence, which was to be a particular characteristic of devotion to her in the central Middle Ages.’ This included violence against Jews, for the histories of medieval anti-Semitism and of Mary’s cult show some distressing points of convergence. Gideon’s fleece, which was moistened with dew when all the surrounding ground was dry, was interpreted during the Middle Ages as a prefiguration of the Virgin moistened by celestial dew, that is to say impregnated by divine agency (Judges 6:37-8).
Guiot de Dijon Chanterai pour mon coraige
With its candid references to loss and sexual longing, this poem is a reminder of the human cost of crusading. There were emotional ties to be broken, perhaps for ever, both to loved ones and to inherited ancestral lands; there were expiatory donations to be made to local religious houses for the securing of Masses and prayers; resources had to be mustered, at great expense, for long-distance travel on a war footing. A crusade was not a project to be joined by impoverished opportunists seeking land and booty, but by knights of substance with lands, households and prudent marriages either made or pending (see lines 17-20). This song is remarkable, but not without parallel, for its expression of a woman’s loss of her lover to a crusade (lines 43-44 probably allude to pregnancy) but the author was almost certainly male. Chanterai pour mon coraige is either anonymous in the sources or is attributed to Guiot de Dijon. Guiot is a man’s name, a diminutive form of Gui. There is one attribution, in MS C, to a ‘Dame de Fayel’, but the attributions in chansonnier C are often unreliable, and ‘Dame de Fayel’ is the name of a fictional character in the well-known Old French Roman du Chastelain de Couci et la Dame de Fayel.
In salvatoris/Ce fu en tres douz tens/In veritate/VERITATEM
The three lengthy texts of this four-voice work (one voice is untexted) may be paraphrased thus: [Quadruplum]: In the name of the saviour, let us be zealous in singing the praises of Mary. O lily, protectress of sinners, beseech your son that he remove all guilt. [Triplum]: In May, I went into an orchard and saw a beautiful girl listening to the birds singing. Then all the birds ceased and sat in a circle around her, and the nightingale sang: ‘Lady, I will die if I do not have your love.’ [Motetus]: Truth is buried among the clergy; the masters are puffed up with their own glory; O God of vengeance, look down upon this iniquity!
The Mass of Easter Day in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, c1130
The supposed sites of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection were both contained under the roof of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and therefore the Easter Day liturgy must have possessed an extraordinary power for the Franks, both clergy and congregation alike, when they experienced it within those walls (see notes on the Gospel). The leaves of the Sacramentary from the workshop of the Holy Sepulchre, now in Cambridge, employ delicate northern French neumes on staves ruled in red (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 49). The leaves have been dated to 1128-30 by Jaroslav Folda (The Art of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, 1098-1187 (Cambridge, 1995), pp.100-105, with illustrations).
Under the year 1229 the continuator of William of Tyre’s chronicle mentions certain details of the Easter Day liturgy as it was celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, served by a staff of canons. The deacon sang the Gospel from a marble lectern, called Le Compas, placed in the middle of the choir. When he reached the word ‘crucifixum’, he turned towards Calvary, whose supposed site lay to the right of the high altar as viewed from the choir; at ‘surrexit, non est hic’ (‘he is risen, he is not here’) the deacon turned and pointed with his finger to the Sepulchre, placed at the opposite end of the church from the high altar. All over Latin Christendom in the Easter Day liturgy some use was made of an appointed place in the church called the ‘sepulchre’, together with quasi- or fully-dramatic stagings of the visit to the tomb. In the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem these stagings and gestures were distilled to a quintessence – a simple turn of the head and a pointing with the hand – as if the actual sites of Christ’s Passion nearby overwhelmed any more theatrical response.
Veri vitis germine: For commentary see O levis aurula!
Huon de St Quentin Jerusalem se plaint et li pais
Crusade sermons, both in ‘market place and church’ (see the third verse below) promised indulgence to crusaders, the pardon of line 25 below, and usually summoned potential crusaders to take pity on the plight of Christians compelled to live in lands controlled by Moslems, as in this song. Biting criticism of certain sections of the clergy was another commonplace of such preaching. In 1215 the papal legate Robert Courson called for a crusade in France, as he had been licensed to do, ‘saying foul things about the clergy and misrepresenting their way of life to the people’. His criticisms were so severe that the French King, Philip Augustus, and the French clergy complained to the Holy See. Courson’s theme was no doubt that Christendom could not expect God to bless a crusading enterprise unless the clergy were free from all contamination of sin. Whatever the objections to his charges may have been, this argument was universally accepted throughout the crusading period. The wealth and financial dealings of the higher clergy attracted frequent comment; many observed that money could be raised for crusading by reducing the superfluous wealth of churches, by reducing the number of canons in the wealthier chapters and by turning the value of their prebends over to crusading ventures. There were frequent charges of misappropriation of funds. The claim that the clergy have played Ganelon to God’s Roland, refers to the supreme traitor of medieval French literature (see the Song of Roland).
Luget Rachel iterum
The text of this two-voice conductus is almost certainly connected with the desire to liberate Jerusalem or to stabilize Christian control there. By long tradition, Rachel and her sons were interpreted in the West as a prefiguration of the Roman church and the community of the faithful, her spiritual sons. The imagery of Rachel lamenting because she had (as yet) no sons (Genesis 30:1-2) could therefore be used by Popes when, as head of the Roman Church, they addressed the clergy and magnates of Latin Christendom in the hope of stirring their consciences and energies afresh with the imagery of a childless and so forsaken Church. Such language figures prominently in the bull Rachel suum videns, issued by Gregory IX in 1234, a call to the French, and then to the clergy of all provinces, for a new impetus of action and conscience concerning the fate of Jerusalem. The imagery of the deserted city in the following conductus, derived from Lamentations, is used in the monophonic conductus Crucifigat omnes which is incontrovertibly associated with some moment in the crusading fortunes of the West.
Invocantes Dominum / Psalm: Deus, qui venerunt
An early Sarum Missal specifies the antiphon Invocantes Dominum, with the Psalm Deus, qui venerunt (Psalm 79 in the Authorized Version numbering), for Rogationtide processions in time of war, and it is possible to imagine many occasions when these texts might have been employed with reference to crusading fortunes. For example, in 1185 the Patriarch of Jerusalem came to England to seek military aid, offering King Henry II the crown of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in return. Henry eventually declined this offer on 18 March. The situation in the Latin Kingdom was now so serious that a procession in the three days of intercession, fasting and prayer before the Feast of the Ascension might have seemed timely, especially as memories of the Patriarch’s visit some weeks earlier would still have been fresh in the minds of the English clergy. The texts of Invocantes Dominum and of Psalm 79 seem both eloquent and precise when read in such a context. Psalm 79 was often used in crusade preaching.
Congaudet hodie celestis curia: For commentary see O levis aurula!.
Hildegard of Bingen O Jerusalem
This sequence, one of Hildegard’s finest and most rhapsodic, is addressed to St Rupert, the patron of Hildegard’s monastery on the Rupertsberg, but it wonderfully expresses the longing for the city of Jerusalem, both on earth and in heaven, which animated the crusading movement.
Christopher Page © 1998