Constantine’s Sword, James Carroll

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Constantine’s Sword

By James Carroll

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A few excerpts from the text:

Part 4

Chapter 24

  • First crusade began in northwestern Europe in spring 1096.  First act of belligerence took place in the Rhineland, not Jerusalem, and its target was not the Muslim infidel but the Jewish one.  (237)
  • New practice of secret confession of sins to priest, Latin Christians were obsessed with personal redemption. Urban II’s Clermont summons promised rewards in the after life, including a guarantee of eternal salvation to those who died in the struggle against the infidel. For the first time in Christian history, violence was defined as a religious act, a source of grace. (239-40)
  • Nicaea was the first victory of the Latin crusaders, but their brutality – a thousand other decapitated heads were sent to the Greek emperor as a proof of victory – had to seem ominous to the rescued Byzantines.  (241)
  • 9th century – In both eastern and western Europe, laws were passed to make sure that Jews did not exercise authority over Christians, and restrictions of numerous other aspects of Jewish life were enacted. ………The rights of an evolving feudal system, such as they were even for peasants, were not extended to Jews. Instead, to survive in Europe, Jews had to seek privileges for their extended families. Over time, with the coming of money-based economies, Jewish communities became necessary as financial centers. (243)

Chapter 25

  • The Jews of Trier paid Peter (emissary to the Crusaders), so that he would speak well on their behalf, but the crusaders attacked them anyway. They broke into Jews’ “strong house” and “threw the Torah scrolls to the ground. They tore them and trampled them under foot.” (247)
  • Crusader attacks on Jews throughout the Rhineland that spring amounted to Europe’s first large scale pogroms. (248)
  • The hated Jews of the crusader’s imagination was unrelated to the actual Jews he came upon….The source of Jewish-Christian violent conflict lay entirely on the Christian side of the hyphen – an obvious statement, but not one that can go without saying. The crusaders, suddenly obsessed with the “infidel”, projected onto Jews a fantasy tied to an ancient memory that had little enough to do with the Jews of that bygone era, and nothing whatever to do with Jews as they existed in the crusaders’ time. (249-50)
  • The passionate renewal of obsessive concern for the crucifixion and its paraphernalia sparked attacks on Jews, as if their synangogues in Jerusalem had not also been desecrated during the Islamic occupation. In the Christian millennial fantasy, Jews instantly joined, or even replaced, Muslims as the defiling enemy.  (253)
  • God had become a person, who became a place, which became an object, before which every Christian believer could bow in the form of a locally revered relic. (tie to Holy Lance) (253)

Chapter 26

  • A map of the Rhine region published in the Jewish Encyclopedia shows fourteen “Sites, with Dates, of Anti-Jewish Outbreaks During the First Crusade, 1096.” The dates range from April 17 to July 1. The number of Jews murdered or forced to suicide in those weeks is estimated by scholars to have been as low as 5k or as high as 10k, perhaps a full third of the Jews living in northern Europe.  (257)
  • The crusaders unleashed, storming through the city, looking for “the circumcised.” Jews who had eluded crusaders, or bribed them during the early phase of the Rhineland incursion, had been succeeded, especially in Speyer and Worms, by Jews who were murdered in cold blood. By the time of Mainz, crusader ferocity was at its speak, fueled by a cross-inspired righteousness, for, as the chronicler recounts it, they declared of their Jewish prey, “You are the children of those who killed our object of veneration, hanging him on a tree; and he himself had said: ‘There will yet come a day when my children will come and avenge….(261)
  • Crusaders thought they were ushering in the messianic age by forcing Jews to convert or die, while Jews believed that the long-awaited messiah would come more quickly because of their willing act of self-sacrifice. In both cases, suffering and death had taken on new power as sources of salvation. (263)
  • The massacre of Jews in the Rhineland was an event of little or no significance in the Christian chronicles, although such sources confirm that it happened. But the Rhineland catastrophe would be a lasting marker in the mind of Judaism. (266)