Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 May 2014
This paper seeks to re-examine a knotty problem: the extent and nature of the relation between the crusade movement and the knightly ideal of chivalry. My focus is on the lay, aristocratic culture of the Anglo-Norman world, as revealed by twelfth- and early thirteenth-century vernacular texts, and the study arose from a serious and simple question: round about when and, much more importantly, how did knights stop thinking that, inasmuch as they were knights, they were going to hell?
Certainly a change can be observed. There is no shortage of evidence for aristocratic fears of damnation in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; any number of pious gifts and bequests are recorded with the urgent prayer that they might deflect the wrath of God for the sins of the benefactor and his ancestors. Even more pointedly, hundreds of accounts survive of dreadful dreams and visions, including Orderic Vitalis's memorable story of the priest who encounters the tormented spirit of his dead brother, a knight:
‘… pro peccatis quibus nimis oneratus eram immania supplicia pertuli. Arma quae ferimus ignea sunt, et nos foetore teterrimo inficiunt, ingentique ponderositate nimis opprimunt, et ardore inextinguibili comburunt.’… stupensque sic interrogauit, ‘Vnde tanta coagulatio cruoris imminet calcaneis tuis?’ At ille respondit, ‘Non est sanguis sed ignis, et maioris michi videtur esse ponderis quam si ferrem super me Montem Sancti Michahelis. Et quia preciosis et acutis utebar calcaribus ut festinarem ad effundendum sanguinem, iure sarcinam in talis baiulo enormem, qua intolerabiliter grauatus nulli hominum depromere ualeo penae quantitatem.’