As the Seljuk Turks pressed ever closer to the Byzantine Empire, the stage became set for a conflict of faith and political interest which would bathe the known world with blood and create lasting animosities the ramifications of which would be felt through the centuries to the present day. The original ideological mission clearly offered opportunities of the most material kind which were readily apparent to the soldiers of fortune of Northern Europe. What began, for some, as essentially a relief mission quickly acquired a new objective, which because of its inspirational as well as its financial potential soon became its primary one—the taking of the city of Jerusalem, sacred to both religious factions. The First Crusade was to become the precursor of many wars of belief and power between the West and East. It brought to the fore men of great military ability, avarice and influence on both sides. It was a long, hard campaign fought across the Middle East and brought collisions in open battle and the sieges of great cities and citadels—both assaulted and defended. This book chronicles that crusade’s history.
Moreover, on the day of the Ascension of the Lord we began to attack the city on all sides, and to construct machines of wood, and wooden towers, with which we might be able to destroy towers on the walls. We attacked the city so bravely and so fiercely that we even undermined its wall. The Turks who were in the city, barbarous horde that they were, sent messages to others who had come up to give aid. The message ran in this wise: that they might approach the city boldly and in security and enter through the middle gate, because on that side no one would oppose them or put them to grief.<br>
This gate was besieged on that very day—the Sabbath after the Ascension of the Lord—by the Count of St. Gilles and the Bishop of Puy. The Count, approaching from another side, was protected by divine might, and with his most powerful army gloried in terrestrial strength. And so he found the Turks coming against us here. Armed on all sides with the sign of the cross, he rushed upon them violently and overcame them. They turned in flight, and most of them were killed. They came back again, reinforced by others, joyful and exulting in assured (outcome) of battle, and bearing along with them the ropes with which to lead us bound to Chorosan. Coming gladly, moreover, they began to descend from the crest of the mountain a short distance.<br>
As many as descended remained there with their heads cut off at the hands of our men; moreover, our men hurled the heads of the killed far into the city, that they (the Turks) might be the more terrified thereat. Then the Count of St. Gilles and the Bishop of Puy took counsel together as to how they might have undermined a certain tower which was opposite their tents. Men were assigned to do the digging, with arbalistae and bowmen to defend them on all sides. So they dug to the foundations of the wall and fixed timbers and wood under it and then set fire to it. However, evening had come; the tower had already fallen in the night, and because it was night they could not fight with the enemy. Indeed, during that night the Turks hastily built up and restored the wall so strongly that when day came no one could harm them on that side.<br>
Now the Count of Normandy came up, Count Stephen and many others, and finally Roger of Barneville. At length Bohemund, at the very front, besieged the city. Beside him was Tancred, after him Duke Godfrey, then the Count of St. Gilles, next to whom was the Bishop of Puy. It was so besieged by land that no one dared to go out or in. There all our forces were assembled in one body, and who could have counted so great an army of Christ? No one, as I think, has ever before seen so many distinguished knights, or ever will again!<br>
However, there was a large lake on one side of the city, on which the Turks used to send out their ships, and go back and forth and bring fodder, wood, and many other things. Then our leaders counselled together and sent messengers to Constantinople to tell the Emperor to have ships brought to Civitote, where there is a fort, and that he should order oxen to be brought to drag the ships over the mountains and through the woods, until they neared the lake. This was done forthwith, and he sent his Turcopoles with them. They did not want to put the ships on the lake on the very day that they were brought across, but under cover of night they launched them on the lake itself.<br>
The boats were) filled with Turcopoles well decorated with arms. Moreover, at earliest daybreak the ships stood in good order and hastened through the lake against the city. The Turks marvelled upon seeing them, not knowing whether they were manned by their own forces or the Emperor’s. However, after they recognized that it was the host of the Emperor, they were frightened even to death, weeping and lamenting; and the Franks were glad and gave glory to God.<br>
The Turks, moreover, seeing that they could have no further aid from their armies, sent a message to the Emperor that they would willingly surrender the city, if he would permit them to go entirely away with their wives and children and all their substance. Then the Emperor, full of vain and evil thinking, ordered them to depart unpunished, without any fear, and to be brought to him at Constantinople with great assurance (of safety). These he cared for zealously, so that he had them prepared against any damage or hindrance from the Franks. We were engaged in that siege for seven weeks and three days.<br>
Many of our men there received martyrdom, and, glad and rejoicing, gave back their happy souls to God. Many of the very poor died of hunger for the name of Christ, and these bore triumphantly to heaven their robes of martyrdom, crying with one voice, “Avenge, Lord, our blood which has been shed for Thee, who are blessed and praiseworthy forever and ever. Amen.” In the meanwhile, after the city had been surrendered and the Turks had been conducted to Constantinople, the Emperor, more and more rejoiced because the city had been surrendered to his power, ordered the greatest alms to be distributed to our poor.