The events of the First Crusade were reimagined and rewritten repeatedly for generations after they took place at the end of the eleventh century. A particular manifestation of medieval Latin Christendom’s fascination with that crusade comes to us in the form of the central trilogy of the Old French Crusade Cycle, the earliest extant version of which appears to have been compiled in the first half of the thirteenth century. These chansons de geste offer a narrative retelling of the First Crusade in three parts which range from a relatively close reimagining of existing prose accounts, to stories of child-stealing monkeys and devil-possessed dragons. This paper will examine stories of miracles and marvels in the Chanson d'Antioche, Chanson des Chétifs, and Chanson de Jérusalem to assess how they articulate ideas of divine agency and consider how and why this may differ from the Latin prose narratives of the previous century. It will also ask what the miraculous of these chansons can tell us more broadly about the priorities and concerns of their intended lay audiences.

 

Beth Spacey is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Queensland conducting research into Latin Christian narratives of the crusades. She has published on miracles and masculinities in a crusading context and her book, The Miraculous and the Writing of Crusade Narrative, was published by Boydell & Brewer in 2020.

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