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).
from notes by Christopher Page © 1998