Norwegian Crusade

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Norwegian Crusade
Part of the Crusades (aftermath of First Crusade)
Magnussonnenes saga 2 - G. Munthe.jpg
King Sigurd sails from the country by Gerhard Munthe.
Date 1107-1110
Location Iberia, Balearic Islands, Palestine
Result Decisive Norwegian victory in hit-and-run battles and the siege of Sidon
Territorial
changes
Lordship of Sidon created
Belligerents
Christendom:

Royal Standard of Norway.svg Kingdom of Norway
Armoiries de Jérusalem.svg Kingdom of Jerusalem
 Republic of Venice

Saracens:

Flag of Morocco 1147 1269.svg Almoravids


Fatimid flag.svg Fatimid Caliphate

Commanders and leaders
Royal Standard of Norway.svg Sigurd I of Norway

Armoiries de Jérusalem.svg Baldwin I of Jerusalem
Republic of Venice Ordelafo Faliero

Strength
Norwegians:
~ 5,000 men, 60 galleys[1]
Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown In Iberia, two towns were said to have been extinguished. Also, many were slain in other places.

The Norwegian Crusade was a crusade that lasted from 1107 to 1110, in the aftermath of the First Crusade, led by Norwegian king Sigurd I.[2] Sigurd was the first Scandinavian king to go on crusade to the Holy Land. Not one battle during the Norwegian Crusade was lost by the crusaders.

The journey to Jerusalem[edit]

From Norway to England (1107-08)[edit]

Sigurd and his men sailed from Norway in the autumn of 1107 with sixty ships and perhaps around 5,000 men.[1] In the autumn he arrived in England, where Henry I was king. Sigurd and his men stayed there the entire winter, until the spring of 1108, when they again set sail westwards.

In mainland Iberia (1108-09)[edit]

After several months they came to the town of Santiago de Compostela (Jakobsland)[3] in Galicia (Galizuland) where they were allowed by a local lord to stay for the winter. However, when the winter came there was a shortage of food, which caused the lord to refuse to sell food and goods to the Norwegians. Sigurd then gathered his army, attacked the lord's castle and looted what they could there.

During the journey, the Norwegians encountered a great pirate ("viking") fleet of galleys which were seeking peaceful trading ships to rob. However, Sigurd set his course straight for the pirates and stormed their ships. After a short time all the pirates had been either slain or escaped, and Sigurd acquired eight ships from them.

After this they came to a castle in Muslim Al-Andalus called Sintra (Sintre - present day Sintra, Portugal, probably referring to Colares, which is closer to the sea). They took the castle, and killed every man there, as they had refused to be christened. They then sailed to Lisbon, a "half Christian and half heathen" city, said to be on the dividing line between Christian and Muslim Iberia. There they won their third battle, and acquired great treasures.

Their fourth battle was won in the town of Alkasse (possibly a reference to Al Qaşr),[3] where they killed such a large number of people, the town was said to have been left empty. Here, they looted many treasures.

In the Balearics (1109)[edit]

The route taken by Sigurd I to Jerusalem and Constantinople (red line) and back to Norway (green line) according to Heimskringla. (Legend in Old Norse.)

After another victorious battle against pirates when sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar (Norfasund) they sailed further along the Saracen land (Serkland)[3] into the Mediterranean (Griklands hafi), and arrived at the Balearic Islands. The Balearics were at the time perceived by Christians to be nothing more than a pirate haven and slaving center. The Norwegian raids are also the first recorded Christian attacks on the Islamic Balearic Islands (though smaller attacks certainly had occurred).[3]

The first place they arrived at was Formentera, where they encountered a great number of Blåmenn (Blue or black men) and Serkir (Saracens)[3] who had taken up their dwelling in a cave. The course of the fight is the most detailed of the entire crusade through written sources, and might possibly be the most notable historic event in the small island's history.[3] After this battle, the Norwegians supposedly acquired the greatest treasures they had ever acquired. They then went on to successfully attack Ibiza and then Minorca. The Norwegians seem to have avoided attacking the largest of the Balearic Islands, Majorca, most likely because it was at the time the most prosperous and well-fortified center of an independent taifa kingdom.[3] Tales of their success may have inspired the Catalan–Pisan conquest of the Balearics in 1113–1115.[3]

In Sicily (1109-10)[edit]

In the spring of 1109, they arrived at Sicily (Sikileyjar), where they were welcomed by the ruling Count Roger II, who was only 12–13 years old at the time.

Kingdom of Jerusalem (1110)[edit]

In the summer of 1110, they finally arrived at the port of Acre (Akrsborg)[3] (or perhaps in Jaffa),[1] and went to Jerusalem (Jorsala), where they met the ruling crusader king Baldwin I. They were warmly welcomed, and Baldwin rode together with Sigurd to the river Jordan, and back again to Jerusalem.

The Norwegians were given many treasures and relics, including a splinter off the True Cross that Jesus had allegedly been crucified on. This was given on the condition that they would continue to promote Christianity and bring the relic to the burial site of St. Olaf.

Siege of Sidon (1110)[edit]

Main article: Siege of Sidon (1110)

Later, Sigurd returned to his ships at Acre, and when Baldwin was going to the heathen (i.e. Muslim) town of Sidon (Sætt) in Syria (Sýrland), Sigurd and his men accompanied him in the siege. The town was then taken and subsequently the Lordship of Sidon was established.

The journey back to Norway[edit]

To Constantinople (1110)[edit]

King Sigurd and his men ride into Miklagard by Gerhard Munthe.

After this, Sigurd and his men sailed to Cyprus, where they stayed for a short while, before traveling to Greece and arriving at a Greek port identified as Engilsnes. They stayed here for a while as Sigurd wanted to wait for a sidewind, as the sails of his ships would blow up and look more impressive to the Byzantines.

When they finally sailed into Constantinople (Miklagard) they saw that "over all the land there are burghs, castles, country towns, the one upon the other without interval." The sails of Sigurd's ships were so close that they seemed to form only one enormous sail. All the people of Constantinople came out to see Sigurd sailing into the city, and Emperor Alexios I opened the city port.

To Norway (1110-13)[edit]

When Sigurd was preparing to go back to Norway, he gave all his ships and valuable figureheads to Alexios I. In turn Sigurd received many horses, which he would use to travel home over land. Many of his men stayed behind to take up service with the Byzantines.

Sigurd travelled, in a trip that supposedly would take around three years,[3] through Bulgaria (Bolgaraland), Hungary (Ungararíki), Pannonia, Swabia (Sváva), and Bavaria (Beiaraland) where he met with Emperor Lothar of the Holy Roman Empire (Rómaborg). He later arrived in Denmark, where he was greeted by King Niels, who eventually gave him a ship so that he could sail home to Norway.

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Krag, Klaus. "Sigurd 1 Magnusson Jorsalfare". Norsk biografisk leksikon. 
  2. ^ Riley-Smith, 1986, p. 132
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gary B. Doxey (1996), "Norwegian Crusaders and the Balearic Islands", Scandinavian Studies, 10–1.