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Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades: A Short History: Extract

In this extract from Riley-Smith’s account written for a general readership, we again see the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders.

Jerusalem was, like Antioch, far too large to be surrounded. The crusaders at first concentrated most of their strength against the western wall, but then divided their forces between the western section of the northern wall, where Robert of Normandy, Robert of Flanders, Godfrey of Bouillon and Tancred took up positions, and Mount Zion to the south, where Raymond of St Gilles, bitterly at odds with Godfrey over the desertion of Tancred and probably of others of his following, took his post. For a time the siege went badly, despite the arrival of Genoese and English ships at Jaffa, and an expedition to the north into Samaria, which provided wood and other materials for the construction of two siege-towers, a battering-ram and some catapults. Meanwhile news arrived of the march of an Egyptian relief force that everyone, not least the garrison of Jerusalem, had been expecting. On 8 July, following the instructions transmitted by a visionary, a great penitential procession of crusaders wound its way from holy place to holy place outside the city walls and gathered to hear sermons on the Mount of Olives. The 14th was spent filling in the ditch to the south and by evening Raymond of St Gilles’s tower was closing on the wall, but on the 15th Godfrey of Bouillon’s men, who had switched their point of attack eastwards to level ground slightly to the east of the present-day Herod’s Gate, succeeded in bridging the gap between their tower and the wall. Two knights from Tournai were the first across, followed by the Lorrainers. The trickle became a torrent as crusaders poured over the wall and through a breach already made by the ram, some making for the Temple area and some beyond, down to the south-west corner where the Muslims defending against Raymond of St Gilles withdrew. Jerusalem was given over to the sack.

Jonathan Riley-Smith The Crusades: a Short History (Cambridge University Press 1987) p.34

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