The Christian Crusades

I.33. Original 1555 Edition Supplement
English Verse Translation
Prés d’un grand pont de plaine spatieuse,
mer [Lat. pontus] Near a great sea, upon a spacious plain.
Le grand lyon par force Cesarées

The great Lion with imperial might
Fera abbatre hors cité rigoreuse,

shall mount an assault outside a determined city.
Par effroy portes luy seront reserées.
ouvertes [Lat. resero]
Because of fear the gates shall be opened to him.

Source: Probably the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, describing the siege and capture of the port city of Acre by Richard the Lionheart in July, 1191. Richard arrived in June, 1191, to a city that had been under siege for almost two years and still not showing any signs of yielding. So, together with Philip Augustus, Richard took over the leadership of the Imperial forces and placed his balista (siege engine) in a trench outside of the city walls. He then proceeded to bombard the garrison's main tower with stone missiles until it collapsed. Fearing that the walls were soon to be breached, Saladin agreed for the besieged muslims to surrender the city, rather than be killed by the sword. Once the terms of surrender were agreed by both Richard and Philip, the Turks left the city, allowing the Christians to freely enter through the open gates.

II.24. Original 1555 Edition Supplement
English Verse Translation
Bestes farouches de faim fluves tranner: [lat. tranare] Like wild beasts famished the rivers they'll ford,
Plus part du camp encontre Hister sera le Danube Towards the Danube looms the greater fight:
En caige de fer le grand fera treisner,
In an iron cage will be dragged their lord,
Quand Rin enfant Germain observera le jeune Rhin While the German, the young Rhine has in sight.

Source: The De Varietate Fortunae of around 1430 by the leading Renaissance humanist, researcher of ancient texts and Apostolic secretary Gianfrancesco (or Giovanni Francesco) Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), better known as Poggius, starkly contrasting the fates of two prominent warring rulers. After utterly defeating an anti-Ottoman Christian crusade under King Sigismund of Hungary at the battle of Nicopolis on the banks of the Danube in 1396, and thereby striking terror into western Europe, the Sultan Bayezid I (also known as Bajazet) was defeated in turn by Tamerlane the Great (also known as Timur) near Ankara in 1402 when he over-confidently encroached on the latter's domains in Anatolia. In Poggio’s words, Tamerlane ‘took the ruler alive and lugged him all over Asia Minor enclosed in a cage like a wild beast as a public spectacle and to show what Fortune can do.’ He died shortly afterwards. Sigismund, meanwhile, who had only just escaped his defeat at Nicopolis by the skin of his teeth, went on to become King of Germany in 1411, and in 1414 called for and personally attended a major church Council (of which Poggio himself was official secretary) at Constance, at the very source of the Rhine, designed to heal the Great Western Church Schism.

II.77. Original 1555 Edition Supplement
English Verse Translation
Par arcs feuz poix & par feuz repoussés:
Repulsed by burning pitch, by fire and bow,
Cris, hurlemens sur la minuit ouys.
Of shouts and screams is heard the midnight sound.
Dedans sont mis par les ramparts cassés
Through broken walls within they’ll seek to go,
Par cunicules les traditeurs fuis.
The traitors flee through tunnels underground.

Source: A slightly misconstrued reading of the account in the 13th-century Historia Albigensis by Pierre des Vaux-de-Cernay of the contemporary siege by Count Simon de Montfort of Termes in the year 1210. The ‘Crusaders’ attacking the ‘heretics’ in the town were repeatedly driven back and their siege engines set on fire, until they raised a great shout when they discovered that the defenders were escaping by night. Vaux-de-Cernay’s account has evidently given Nostradamus the impression that they were doing so via the crusaders’ own saps, or tunnels: ‘One day, on the feast of St Cecilia, the Count had a trench carefully excavated and covered with hurdles to allow sappers to approach the wall and undermine it. The Count spent the whole day preparing the trench without breaking off to eat, and as night approached – it was the eve of the feast of St Clement – he returned to his tent. The enemy in Termes, with the intervention of Divine clemency and the help of the Blessed Clement, were seized with fear to the point of utter desperation. They at once ran out in an effort to escape. The men of our army saw what was happening, raised a great shout, and began to run hither and thither in order to capture the fugitives.’

III.22. Original 1555 Edition Supplement English Verse Translation
Six jours l’assaut devant cité donné: sonné Six days before the town they’ll sound th’ assault,
Livrée sera forte & aspre bataille:
Then battle shall be joined both strong and grim.
Trois la rendront & à eux pardonné:
Three who it yield shall pardoned be sans fault,
Le reste a feu & sang tranche traille.
The rest ’midst blood and fire cut limb from limb.

Source: Possibly the Gesta francorum et aliorum Hierosolymytanorum of around 1101, describing the siege of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade. The attack proper, which began six days after the army had ritually processed around the city barefoot to the sound of trumpets somewhat after the manner of the biblical siege of Jericho, lasted just over a day, and was ferocious in the extreme. The inhabitants were impartially slaughtered, the Jews burnt to death in their main synagogue. Apart from those commandeered as slaves, only the city's Arab governor, Iftikhar ad-Daula, and his bodyguard were spared after they had shut themselves in the Tower of David and from there negotiated with Raymond de St Gilles, Count of Toulouse, to surrender the city.

III.35. Original 1555 Edition Supplement
English Verse Translation
Du plus profond de l’Occident d’Europe,

In occidental Europe’s deepest part,
De pauvres gens un jeune enfant naistra,

To poorest folk a little child is sent
Qui par sa langue seduira grande troupe:

Who’ll seduce a great troop by speaker’s art
Son bruit au regne d’Orient plus croistra.

His fame shall spread unto the orient.

Source: A so far unidentified account of the famous Children's Crusade of 1212, which is said to have first began in the Rhineland and Lower Lorraine. Apparently a ten year old peasant boy called Nicholas, from the Rhineland, preached the Children's Crusade at Cologne and is said to have recruited more than 20,000 children to his cause. When the pilgrims reached Genoa, many of the girls were taken into brothels and others were taken as servants. Those boys who reached the orient were all sold as slaves to the Mohammedans; some were carried to Alexandria; some to Bujeiah; some to Baghdad; in Baghdad eighteen of them were put to death because they would not abjure the Christian faith.

III.61. Original 1555 Edition Supplement English Verse Translation
La grande bande & secte crucigere
A mighty Christian sect, a major band,
Se dressera en Mesopotamie:
Within Mesopotamia shall stand:
Du proche fleuve compaignie legiere,
A lighter force beyond the flood nearby
Que telle loy tiendra pour ennemie.
Such tenets shall as hostile ones decry.

Source: Possibly William of Tyre’s Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, later translated as the 12th-13th century Chronique d’outremer, or Livre d’Erades or Lime du conquest, describing the foundation of the four Middle Eastern Crusader States (Edessa, Tripoli, Jerusalem and Antioch) after the success of the First Crusade and capture of Jerusalem in July 1099. Of the four, Edessa – by far the largest – had been extended southeastwards into Mesopotamia by 1118. In 1128 Zengi, the Atabeg of Mosul, took the town of Aleppo, on the other side of the Euphrates, and established it as a major centre for Islamic resistance that was to become a major threat to the Crusader states in the region.

III.84. Original 1555 Edition Supplement English Verse Translation
La grand cité sera bien desolée
The noble city shall be desolated,
Des habitans un seul ny demeurra:
Of its inhabitants not one remain.
Mur, sexe, temple, & vierge violée,
Age, sex and creed, and virgins violated,
Par fer, feu, peste, canon peuple mourra.
By sword, fire, plague, decree, the people slain.

Source:  The graphic description of the infamous siege of Béziers on 22 July, 1209 during the course of the Albigensian Crusade – Perhaps referenced from Guillaume de Puylaurens: Chronique 1145-1275/Chronica Magistri Guillelmi de Podio Laurentii. Uniquely, of those who remained in the city, neither their age, nor sex was spared, regardless of their creed. The chilling words of papal legate Arnaud have remained associated with the event ever since -- 'Tuez les tous, Dieu reconnaîtra les siens' ('Kill them all! God will know His own!'). In the course of the massacre, the crusaders hammered down the doors of the city's churches, killing everyone inside. In the church of St Mary Magdalene alone, 7000 women, children and elderly were slaughtered. Finally, the whole city was put to the torch. Meanwhile it is worth noting in this case the unconventional meanings of 'peste' and 'canon' in the last line: 'peste' was often used at the time of the Albigensian crusade, to refer to the heresy of the Cathars, and while a 'canon' can, of course, be a weapon of war (in English, 'cannon'), it is most likely referring to the Papal Decree of 1208, which declared the crusade against the people of Languedoc, by offering the lands of the heretics to any who would fight.