Godfrey of Bouillon was one of the principal leaders of the First Crusade.   He was widely known at the time — and thoughout Western history until about the mid-20th Century — as both a pious Christian and a fierce warrior.  He sold all of his landed possessions — which were considerable; he was a very wealthy man — in order to fund an army for the Crusade.  He was not the main commander of the Crusade; a knight named Bohemond was the real military leader and thinker.  But Godfrey’s influence was important because of his reknown as a pious man, which attracted many followers, and because his ferocious military efforts were often key. 

For on example, Godfrey rescued the main line of Crusaders at the Battle of Doryleaum.  This as the Crusaders’ first major skirmish leaving Constantinople, and Godfrey turned what may have been an early, disasterous defeat into a major victory.  Then at Antioch, after the city was liberated, he led the army out of the walls of that city to defeat the Muslim armies that had surrounded the city in order to retake it.  Godfrey personally led the charge that crushed the Muslims and forced their leaders to retreat in haste.  At Jerusalem, Godfrey and his closest men were the first over the walls of the City and their efforts contributed directly to its liberation.

Yet, Godfrey was so religious that other leaders were known to complain that their food became cold because his prayers over dinner took so long, and he refused to claim the crown of a King in Jerusalem after it was liberated, instead taking the more humble title “Defender of the Holy Sepulchre.”

 I wish I understood what happened in the middle of the last century that caused all of these heroes to disappear from our memories.

Some no doubt will ask, “Weren’t there terrible abuses, murders and atrocities during the Crusades?”  Um, has there ever been a war without them?

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