Intermarriage in the Crusader Kingdoms

R&I – FS

The Crusades are not typically accredited with religious tolerance. Starting in 1091 C.E. and ending around the end of the 13th century, the Crusades saw an influx of mass migration of Catholics from the west into the Middle East. Despite being notorious for violence the Crusader states were not always at war. In fact there were times when the Crusaders and their descendants found time to make a life for themselves. The only issue was….they didn’t bring any women with them.

The men of the First Crusade were mostly of French, Flemish, Norman and Ital0-Norman stock, and they were all Catholics. After gaining territory in the Middle East they found themselves surrounded on all sides by Muslims, Armenians, and Greek Orthodox. They were thousands of miles away from the lands of their birth and in a completely alien world to the one that they had once known.

What then do they do when they were cold at night? Pray for a nice white Catholic girl to sail across the sea from France to keep them company? Or should they just shrug their shoulders and shack up with the closest woman that was willing? Most chose the latter.

While at home in France, Italy, or among the Normans it would have been seen as nothing short of apostasy for a good Catholic boy to bed up with a Greek or Armenian, there in the Middle East far from the eyes of the French clergy such bedside partnerships were very much normalized by necessity.

Catholic men took in women from the Greek Orthodox Church, Armenian women, and sometimes Christianized women of Lebanese and Syrian descent. Mind you some parts of the Crusader territories lasted from 1091 c. all the way into the 13th century, meaning that large swaths of this territory was around almost as long as modern America itself has been a country. This meant that several generations of intermingling and intermarriage shaped the Crusader territories into becoming something far different from their ancestral French and Norman homelands.

The reason that so many Crusaders and their sons and grandsons were willing to marry outside of their church was partially political. They needed an ally against the surrounding Muslims so a good way to do that was to shack up with the local Christians. But the more important, far pressing reason that these good Catholics were willing to marry outside of the church was simple, they grew cold at night and no good Catholic women were around.

Frenchmen married Greeks. Normans married Armenians. Whites married Christianized Middle Easterners. And the descendants of these admixtures intermarried with each other until several generations of these intermarriages created a motley crew of important men, some of whom later led these territories and became important figures in history. The Crusader territories might have been led by Catholics of French and Norman descent but later they became far more racially mixed than people realize. In a time when intermarriage between different Christian sects might have gotten one ostracized back home in Europe, there, in the Middle East, Crusaders and their descendants were making a habit of marrying outside of their church and outside of their racial makeup.

Some References:

https://cedar.wwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1120&context=wwu_honors

Sex and Marriage between Christians and Muslims during the Crusades

https://etd.ohiolink.edu/apexprod/rws_etd/send_file/send?accession=osu1400115284&disposition=inline

https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/normanedge/All%20other%20stuff/Andrew%20Jotischky,%20%27Franks%20and%20Natives%20in%20the%20Crusader%20States%27.pdf

Some Questions:

  1. Would you be willing to marry outside of your religion or faith? 
  2. Would you ever be accepting of your children marrying outside of the faith that you raised them into? Why or why not? 

Dollarmenu Jesus

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